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Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam charged with ‘terrorist murder’

Salah Abdeslam and an accomplice left the Brussels hospital where they were treated overnight for gunshot wounds sustained during their arrest

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French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said Saturday that Belgium will hand over top Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam to France in no more than three months.

“The definitive decision... should be taken within 60 days of his arrest or 90 days if he lodges an appeal,” Urvoas said in a statement.

An investigating judge has formally charged Abdeslam with “participation in terrorist murder and participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation,” a Belgian prosecutors statement said.

“He is cooperating with Belgian justice,” the suspect’s lawyer, Sven Mary, told reporters in Brussels.

Abdeslam and an accomplice left the Brussels hospital where they were treated overnight for gunshot wounds sustained during their arrest, the city mayor said.

“The two terrorist suspects have left the Saint-Pierre hospital,” Yvan Mayeur wrote on Twitter, without saying where they were taken.

Abdeslam, 26, and four other suspects were arrested on Friday in the gritty Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. During the raid, he was lightly wounded in the leg, prosecutors said.

French President Francois Hollande, in Brussels for an EU summit, hailed the arrests saying Paris would request Abdeslam’s extradition from Belgium “as rapidly as possible.”

A man using false papers in the names of Amine Choukri and Monir Ahmed Alaaj was also charged with terrorist murder. As
Choukri, he was documented by German police at Ulm in October when he was stopped in a car with Abdeslam

A third man in the house was charged with belonging to a terrorist organization and he and a woman were charged with concealing criminals.

Police had sought Abdeslam since he called two acquaintances in Belgium in a panic hours after the attacks to have them come collect him and bring him home. Suspected to be as far away as Syria, it seems he was in Brussels all or most of the time.

Security agencies’ difficulties in penetrating some Muslim communities, particularly in pursuit of Belgium's unusually high number of citizens fighting in Syria, has been a key factor in the inquiry, along with arms dealing in Brussels.

Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up during the Paris attacks and was buried discreetly on Thursday in a Brussels cemetery.

The arrests leave only one known suspect still on the run, Mohamed Abrini, who was filmed with Abdeslam two days before the attacks at a petrol station on a motorway close to Paris.

(with Reuters and AFP)