The suspected sole surviving gunman from 2015 attacks in Paris has come close to admitting his role in the carnage in a rare statement to investigators in which he justified the killings, reports said on Friday.
Salah Abdeslam, in custody in France over the November 2015 attacks that left 130 people dead, has refused to cooperate with French judges ever since his arrest five months after the atrocities.
But on Thursday, he recorded a statement in which he parroted the propaganda of Islamist extremist groups such as Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, a sports stadium and bars in the French capital.
“We don’t attack you because you eat pork, you drink wine or you listen to music, but Muslims defend themselves against those people who attack us,” Abdeslam said, according to the RTL and France Inter radio stations.
They quoted a lawyer, Jean Reinhart, who is representing the victims of the attacks and has access to the case files.
“Put your anger to one side and think about it a few minutes,” Abdeslam said in comments addressed to the dead and injured. “You are suffering from the mistakes made by your leaders.”
In April, a Belgian court sentenced Abdeslam, a French national of Moroccan origin, to 20 years in prison over a gun battle with police in his hometown of Brussels where he was arrested in March 2016.
At the opening of his trial, Abdeslam defied his judges, claiming to place his “trust in Allah and that is all”.
Abdeslam was a pot-smoking delinquent in the crime-ridden district of Molenbeek in Brussels until he became radicalised by Islamic State propaganda around his 25th birthday in 2014, investigators believe.
His Belgian lawyer revealed in 2016 that he had never read the Koran and said he had “the intelligence of an empty ashtray.” He has been held in solitary confinement in France ahead of a trial which is expected in 2019.