LONDON: Daesh terrorists responsible for the 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people have said they abandoned plans for a similar attack in London because of Britain’s “more advanced secret service” and “better surveillance.”
One man currently on trial in France over his role in the Bataclan attacks admitted to traveling to Britain to carry out reconnaissance on potential sites for massacres.
Mohamed Abrini, a 36-year-old Belgian who is also said to have been involved in attacks in Brussels in March 2016, admitted in pre-trial interviews that he had scoped out Old Trafford, soccer team Manchester United’s home stadium, and the Arndale shopping center in Manchester.
Abrini is among 20 people who are due to go on trial on Wednesday for their alleged membership of a terrorist cell responsible for the attack on the Bataclan music venue and other sites across Paris in November 2015. If found guilty, they are likely to face jail terms of multiple life sentences.
Abrini also visited Birmingham and toured the Bull Ring & Grand Central, the largest shopping center in the UK.
However, he said there were “no plans for an attack in London, Birmingham or Manchester” because Britain has a “more advanced secret service” than France.
“Better surveillance,” he added, meant that a “commando operation” as seen in Paris was far less likely to succeed, according to prosecution papers.
The trial of the 20 men suspected of involvement in the 2015 attacks will be the biggest criminal trial ever held in France, and is expected to last at least nine months.
Salah Abdeslam, 31, is also being tried and is the last surviving member of the suspected 10-man suicide squad that carried out the attacks.
Abdeslam was meant to detonate a bomb on his person outside the French national soccer stadium, where the team had been playing Germany, but he instead threw his suicide belt in a bin as the other members of the groups were attacking cafes across Paris and the Bataclan concert hall with guns and bombs.
Abdeslam was found in Brussels after a four-month manhunt that ended in a shootout between him and police.
Just days after his arrest, suicide bombers attacked Brussels airport and the city’s underground rail network, killing 32 people.
Of the 20 believed to be involved in the Paris attacks, six will be tried in their absence because five are presumed dead in Iraq or Syria, and one is in prison in Turkey.