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This is what a ‘Suicide bomber’ thinks before and after, according to surviving assailant

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The last surviving assailant of the 2015 Paris attacks told a court on Wednesday that suicide bombers won’t think twice about blowing themselves up if they don’t get any leniency for having second thoughts.

Salah Abdeslam, a 32-year-old Moroccan-born French national, said he vowed allegiance to Islamic State barely 48 hours before the terrorist massacres, which claimed 130 lives and were the deadliest tragedy to strike post-war France.

“I wanted to say today that I did not kill anyone and I did not hurt anyone,” he said in a brief speech to the court before his first cross-examination on Wednesday.

“Not even a scratch.”

“It’s important for me to say this because since the beginning of this case, people have not stopped slandering me,” he said, adding: “I’m not a danger to society.”

He went on to say that the court was making a mistake by trying to “make an example” of him by threatening him with a life sentence.

Former mechanic and bar manager: He is thought to be the only member of the group of men who killed people at six restaurants and bars, a concert hall, and a sports stadium on November 13, 2015, still alive today.

At the trial, which was attended by hundreds of plaintiffs and victims’ relatives, he attempted to disassociate himself from the team of deceased assassins, claiming that he had a last-minute change of heart.

“In the future, when someone gets in a metro or a bus with a suitcase stuffed with 50 kilogrammes of explosives, and at the last minute decides ‘I’m not doing this,’ he will know that he can’t because otherwise he will be locked away or killed,” he said.

The man labeled “France’s number one public enemy” has claimed that he abandoned his suicide vest in a Paris neighborhood rather than blow himself up during the assaults. It appears to have malfunctioned, according to investigators.

However, Abdeslam stated in court that he decided not to use his suicide vest, putting to rest the notion that it had malfunctioned.

“When you’re in isolation, you say to yourself: ‘In truth, was I right to pull out or should I have gone all the way?’” he asked. “You say to yourself: ‘I should have set this thing off.’”

“There are lots of people in the dock who changed their minds.  The (victims) in those terraces, I was like that, I went to cafes, I wore perfume, I had a moment of doubt when it came to blowing (myself) up,” he told the court.

He escaped to Molenbeek, the Brussels neighborhood where he grew up, to elude a massive manhunt.

The trial has entered a new phase, in which the 14 defendants present are being questioned after four months of hearings. Six more people are being tried in their absence.

Only Abdeslam has been charged with murder, attempted murder, and hostage kidnapping.

Since his arrest in March 2016 in Belgium, he had given little away about his objectives.

His few interjections have been religious or to proclaim that he and his co-defendants were “treated like dogs” in prison.

At times, he appeared to provoke the judges from the dock. When asked about a trip he took to Greece, where he is alleged to have met with other conspirators, he said he was simply on vacation.

Prosecutors have previously proved that he spent much of his childhood in nightclubs and casinos as a pot-smoking devotee.

He told the court that he was attracted to Islamic State because of his compassion for Syrians, not because of any religious beliefs, and that the West forced its norms and ideals on others.

“For us Muslims, it’s humiliating,” he said.

He underlined that Islamic State had targeted Paris in order to force then-President Francois Hollande, who has testified, to stop French military deployments in Syria and Iraq.

“It’s his fault that we are here today,” he claimed.

Judges are looking for information on his brother Brahim, who went to Syria in early 2015 and blew himself up in a pub during the Paris attacks on Friday night, as well as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the putative mastermind, who was slain by police a few days later.

Abdeslam called Abaaoud his “first friend” and expressed his desire to “see him soon.”

Families of the victims had little prospect of discovering the motives for the murders of unarmed individuals.

“When I look at him, it’s just a feeling of incomprehension. How could he do what he did, what they did?” Philippe Duperron, whose son was slain when the attackers stormed the Bataclan concert hall, told France 2 television on Wednesday.

“What could explain it? But once again, I think this trial will end without us being able to understand,” he said.

Arthur Denouveaux, a survivor of the Bataclan tragedy, said he wanted to know how someone might come to the decision to wear a suicide vest.

“How do you become radicalised so quickly while going unnoticed by everyone?” he said.

On Wednesday, Abdeslam told the court that people became kamikazes “in stages,” but “you can make a suicide bomber in 48 hours.”

On Wednesday, Abdeslam’s mother, sister, and ex-fiancee were scheduled to testify, but the presiding judge informed the court that they would not be attending, without providing any information.

The mother and sister filed letters to the judge, pleading with him not to be convicted of crimes “he didn’t do.”

“I don’t want my son to pay for those who blew themselves up,” wrote the mother.

His ex-fiancée claimed she had no ties to the family, which had never shown regret for his ties to terrorism.

His co-defendants are accused of providing logistical support, planning the attacks, and supplying weapons, among other things.

So far, two people have exercised their right to remain silent.

The trial is still ongoing.

Image Credit: AFP

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