BRUSSELS: Belgian authorities decided Thursday to extradite Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam to France, as bomb-damaged Brussels airport said it was ready to reopen although flights would not resume immediately.
Abdeslam, the sole surviving suspect in the November terror attacks in Paris which killed 130 people, was arrested in Brussels on March 18 after four months on the run as Europe’s most wanted man.
Four days after his arrest, the Belgian capital was struck by coordinated Islamic State group bombings at the airport and a metro station carried out by suicide attackers with links to Abdeslam and the Paris attacks cell.
Abdeslam’s lawyer said that his 26-year-old client had agreed to be transferred to France under a European arrest warrant, clearing the way for a fast-track extradition.
“What Salah Abdeslam wants to make known is that he wants to cooperate with the French authorities. These are the words he wants to make known,” lawyer Cedric Moisse told reporters in Brussels.
Abdeslam’s arrest was considered a rare success in Belgium’s anti-terror fight, although he was found within a short distance of his family home in the Molenbeek district of the capital. He has refused to talk since the Brussels bombings.
“As Salah Abdeslam had declared to agree to be transferred to France, a federal magistrate took his formal declaration today… The transfer is possible,” the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
“Belgian and French authorities will now consider jointly on how to proceed further in the execution of the transfer,” the statement added.