PARIS, French intelligence authorities believe Salah Abdeslam, a main suspect in the Islamic State’s coordinated attacks in Paris, has successfully escaped to Syria.
Abdeslam, 26, is the 10th and only living suspect directly involved in the Paris attacks that killed at least 130 people and injured hundreds more. A manhunt was launched for Abdeslam soon after the attacks in France and Belgium, but he could not be found.
CNN reported a source close to the investigation and a counterterrorism source said French intelligence believes Abdeslam is already in Syria.
Ali Oulkadi, a man currently held in connection to the attacks, apparently picked up Abdeslam and a friend at a subway stop in suburban Brussels the day after the attacks.
“He did not know it was Salah and did not recognize him immediately when he arrived because he was wearing a cap,” Oulkadi’s lawyer, Olivier Martins, told CNN. “In the car, Salah told him that his brother, Brahim, had killed people in Paris and had blown himself up. For my client, a childhood friend of the two brothers, it was a shock, He could not understand it and could not think clearly.”
Martins said Oulkadi has not done anything wrong.
“He was in Brussels during the evening of Friday, November 13th, has no criminal record and is absolutely not radicalized,” Martins said. “When he learned that Salah was wanted, he should have gone to the police and told his story, but he was scared and didn’t get the right advice at the time.”
Abdeslam’s car was stopped three times after the attacks, including near the Belgian border, but police let him go because he was not wanted at the time.
Abdeslam is also linked to a suicide bomb vest that resembles those used in the deadly Islamic State Paris attacks, empowering suggestions that a possible fourth attack could have taken place.