LONDON: Belgian public broadcaster RTBF released an interview on Tuesday with the alleged kingpin of the Paris terror attacks that was recorded when he was fleeing France in the aftermath of the 2015 massacre.
RTBF reporter Charlotte Legrand had interviewed drivers in 2015 when police were inspecting identity cards and searching cars at checkpoints between France and Belgium shortly after the attacks.
Legrand, not knowing at the time who they were, interviewed “three young men of North African origin.” They were Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect behind the attacks, and his two accomplices who were in a car crossing one of the checkpoints.
Abdeslam and 19 others are accused of planning and carrying out the 2015 attacks on the Stade de France, bars, restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall that killed 130 people and injured 490 others.
“I don’t remember the make of the car, or the color,” Legrand said. “There were three young men inside it who looked very tired; their faces looked worn. The one in the back was wrapped up in a kind of puffa jacket or duvet.”
The men were “not particularly friendly, but they answered my questions while their identity cards were being checked,” Legrand remembered.
At the time of the interview, Abdeslam’s name was not yet circulated to police and the men were allowed to continue on their way.
“As soon as they got their papers back, they cut the conversation short and wound up their window,” she added.
At the time, Legrand edited the 90-second video featuring the interview with the three men and thought no more of it until details of Abdeslam’s flight, with accomplices Mohamed Amri and Hamza Attou, began to emerge.
“When we started to see the CCTV pictures from the petrol station where Abdeslam stopped with Amri et Attou, our suspicions began to grow,” she said.
Their suspicions were confirmed when Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels in 2016.
Abdeslam, along with 14 other suspects, are set to appear in France’s biggest-ever criminal trial on Wednesday.