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The lone survivor of the jihadist cell that killed 130 people in Paris six years ago said on Wednesday France “knew the risks” of attacking jihadist targets in Syria, as he spoke again a week after the start of the trial of the worst post-war atrocity in France.
“We attacked France, targeted its population, civilians, but there was nothing personal,” said Salah Abdeslam.
“(The president) Francois Hollande knew the risks he was taking in attacking the Islamic State in Syria,” he said, referring to the then French president’s decision to authorize strikes against the Islamic State in Syria. extremist jihadist group in Syria.
His calm statements contrasted sharply with the outbursts he made in the early days of the trial which opened last week, where 19 other people are also charged in the largest trial in modern French legal history.
It was the first time at trial that Abdeslam had addressed the court with leave of the judges.
Many onlookers, including the families of the dead and the 350 or so physically injured, cried or hugged each other as Abdeslam spoke on his 32nd birthday.
He insisted that he and his co-defendants were not “terrorists, jihadists, extremists” but “Muslims” – “This is genuine Islam,” he said .
>> Attacks of November 2015: Parisians remember a night of terror at the opening of the criminal trial (Part 1 of 2)
“They often say I’m provocative, but that’s not true, I want to be sincere,” Abdeslam said. “My goal is not to hurt anyone.”
Abdeslam was one of 10 jihadists deployed to spread terror in Paris on the night of November 13, 2015, with suicide bombings and mass shootings.
The group struck first at the Stade de France stadium north of Paris, where three men blew themselves up.
Soon after, another team attacked bars and restaurants in the heart of the capital while three others stormed the Bataclan concert hall.
>> Attacks of November 2015: Parisians remember a night of terror at the opening of the criminal trial (Part 2 of 2)
Nine assailants blew themselves up or were shot dead by police.
Abdeslam, who threw his faulty explosives vest in a public trash can, was captured four months later after a shootout with police in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, where he grew up.
The marathon trial will last until May 2022, with 145 days of scheduled hearings involving around 330 lawyers and 300 victims.