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Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam faces terrorism charges

By Marilyn Malara   |   March 19, 2016 at 9:24 AM

BRUSSELS, March 19 (UPI) -- Salah Abdeslam, the primary suspect linked to last year's Paris attacks, was charged with terrorism-related offenses a day after his capture.

The elusive suspect, who has been on the run for several months since November's attacks, has been charged with participation in terrorist murder and participation in the activities of a terrorist group, BBC reported.

Abdeslam, 26, is reportedly cooperating with authorities but his lawyers say they will fight his extradition to France, which French president Francois Hollande told reporters after his capture Friday is expected to happen swiftly.

"I know the Belgian authorities will respond quickly and favorably to our request for extradition," he said at the time.

Belgian and French prosecutors are reportedly coordinating a legal exchange other than extradition, ABC News reported. The alternative method would allow Belgium to hand over Abdeslam to France without government involvement.

Earlier Saturday, the terror suspect was released from the hospital after sustaining a leg injury in the Belgian counter-terrorism raid that led to his capture.

He appeared in Brussels courtroom to begin answering questions about his involvement in November's terrorist attacks, the Washington Post reported. Abdeslam is thought to be the last living direct participant of the attacks.

Belgian prosecutors have identified the second captured suspect from Friday's raid as Monir Ahmed Alaaj -- also known as Amine Choukri. He was also hospitalized and treated for injuries.

Three others -- family members said to have hid Abdeslam in their home -- were among the rest detained, Belgian Federal Prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt told reporters. Their names were released as Abid A, Sehan A, and Djamilla M.

"The fight against the terrorist threat continues," said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel duirng a meeting Saturday, according to the Post. He said between 300 and 400 investigators have been working to locate Abdeslam since he eluded authorities following the attacks.

Investigators believe Abdeslam helped transport suicide bombers to their posts ahead of the Paris attacks on Nov. 13 2015.

On Friday, authorities announced traces of his DNA including fingerprints were uncovered inside a Brussels apartment in the Forest area of Brussels. Abdeslam was suspected of escaping the raid, which took place Tuesday and left another suspect dead and three officers injured. He was captured this week alongside Alaaj during a shootout in Molenbeek, reports confirmed.

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