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What we know so far about Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam

March 19, 2016 at 5:56 PM EDT
Following a dramatic police raid and shootout in Brussels, one of the key suspects in last year's Paris terrorist attacks and the first to be captured alive is in custody in Belgium. To discuss the ongoing police investigation, Paris Correspondent for the Associated Press Lori Hinnant joins Alison Stewart via Skype.

ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: One hundred thirty people were killed in the Paris attacks and dozens were injured.

Joining me now for more on the ongoing investigation via Skype from Paris is “Associated Press” correspondent Lori Hinnant.

Lori, let’s talk about where they found the suspect.  What evidence brought investigators to Molenbeek?

LORI HINNANT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, the first clue really that came on Tuesday, when police carry out what they thought was going to be a routine search of an apartment and instead opened the door to gunfire.  And as one man fired on them, two others fled, possibly three, and it is believed one of them may have been Saleh Abdeslam.  They’re not entirely sure.  What they did know is that they have come upon something entirely unexpected.  That ultimately led them to the hideout in Molenbeek, the same neighborhood of Brussels where Salah Abdeslam was raised.

ALISON STEWART: During the four-month investigation, can you tell us a little bit about the coordination between the Belgian and French authorities?

LORI HINNANT: Well, the two states have been coordinating very closely, and there were actually French police on the team that raided the apartment on Tuesday.

ALISON STEWART:  Do we know any details about Abdeslam’s role in the original attacks?

LORI HINNANT: His role has been something of a mystery.  What he do know is just announced today by the Paris prosecutor who said that Abdeslam has told investigators that he was supposed to blow himself up at France’s national stadium along with three other suicide attackers but he had second thoughts.

We know that he was key in all of the logistics and he drove thousands of miles across Europe over the summer and early fall to put the team into place that carried out the attack.

ALISON STEWART:  What can you tell us of the second person that was taken into custody?

LORI HINNANT: We know almost nothing about the second person taken into custody, other than he like Salah Abdeslam was charged with terrorism-related offenses today.

ALISON STEWART: Are there any indications where the investigation will go from here?

HINNANT: Well, right now, the French and the Belgian authorities are sorting out an extradition request, France would very much like to have him in Paris to answer questions about the attack that killed 130 people and still have left the city very, very tense.

Belgian authorities and French alike both want to know who Salah’s network was.  And the question is, is more the logistics of how he was kept hidden in Molenbeek for so long and how else may have been involved in the attacks, either the planning or possibly even carrying them out, who else might remain at large?  Because they say that they are quite certain that others involved in the attack or with knowledge of its planning are still at large.

ALISON STEWART: Lori Hinnant from “The Associated Press” — thanks so much.

LORI HINNANT: Thank you.