Hollande to meet Paris attack victims after suspect captured

21st March 2016, Comments 0 comments

French President Francois Hollande was set to hold his first formal meeting with victims of the November 13 attacks in Paris on Monday, three days after Belgian police captured key suspect Saleh Abdeslam.

Georges Salines, the head of one victims' group, 13 Novembre: Fraternite et Verite (November 13: Fraternity and Truth), said Hollande would be quizzed on his strategy for fighting the Islamic State jihadist group, which claimed the assault.

"What is being done to prevent future attacks? What are France's international goals, what is being done to eliminate IS?" asked Salines, whose daughter was among those killed at the Bataclan concert hall.

Hollande's office on Saturday announced the long-delayed meeting with five victims' associations formed after the attacks that claimed 130 lives and injured hundreds.

It said the president and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have been in regular contact with victims and their families -- and Hollande has met with them previously at ceremonies -- but this is the first formal sit-down.

The dramatic capture of Abdeslam, one of the organisers of the attacks, in a Brussels raid on Friday "made the meeting all the more timely," said an aide to the president.

Salines said the Elysee Palace had turned down several requests for a meeting. "More spontaneity would have been appreciated," he said, ironically.

The Elysee said there were plans to create a permanent office to help and liaise with victims.

Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French citizen, is thought to be the last surviving member of the 10-man jihadist team that carried out the Paris attacks.

Victims' groups said they were relieved he was captured alive to face justice.

Sven Mary, a lawyer for Abdeslam, launched a legal fight on Sunday to block his extradition to France.

Mary also said his client would lodge a legal complaint against a French prosecutor who divulged the details of the first interrogation with the suspect to journalists on Saturday.

"I don't understand why a prosecutor in Paris has to communicate at this stage on an investigation in Belgium," Mary told the newspaper Le Soir on Sunday.

Abdeslam "is worth gold. He is collaborating, he's communicating, he is not using his right to remain silent," Mary said.

Paris prosector Francois Molins on Saturday told reporters Abdeslam had played a "central role" in planning the attacks at the Bataclan concert hall, national stadium and several bars and restaurants.

Molins said Abdeslam had told interrogators he had wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France before changing his mind.

An explosives-filled vest was later found in southern Paris in an area where he had been, according to mobile phone signals.

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© 2016 AFP

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