Parisians express relief, want justice after Abdeslam arrest

What We Know About Paris Suspect Salah Abdeslam
What We Know About Paris Suspect Salah Abdeslam

PARIS, March 19 (Reuters) - Parisians expressed relief on Saturday after Belgian police arrested Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in November's Islamic State attacks on Paris, in what France's interior minister called a blow to the militant group.

Abdeslam, 26, the first suspected active participant taken alive, was questioned by police on Saturday after spending the night in hospital with a slight leg wound and will be presented to magistrates later in the day.

He was captured after a shootout in Brussels on Friday afternoon during a raid on an apartment in Abdeslam's home neighborhood of Molenbeek.

Photos from the shootout and raid in Brussels:

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"Currently in police custody with four individuals, Abdeslam will have to answer to French justice for his acts," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after an emergency cabinet meeting in Paris.

"It is an important blow to the terrorist organization Daesh in Europe," he said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed 130 people.

On Saturday, a trickle of people came to a makeshift memorial in Paris that has engulfed the monument at Place de la Republique, near the scene of much of the bloodshed, to pay their respects to the victims.

"When we see the horrible things that took place here in our city, it's really a relief," said Emilien Bouthillier, who works in the neighborhood where many of the attacks took place.

"I can't wait for Belgium to transfer and return him to France so he can be tried the way he should be so justice will be served. That way, I hope, these horrors won't be reproduced ever again."

Another Parisian, Thomas Primet, said he felt the need to come back to Republique to pay tribute to the victims.

"It means one less terrorist at large. And of course, knowing he needs to be punished in order, not to avenge, but to bring justice for all these deaths," he said.

Abdeslam's elder brother, a Brussels barkeeper who shared a checkered history of drugs and petty crime, blew himself up outside a Parisian cafe on Nov. 13, but the role of the younger man in the killings is unclear.

Michaela Illikova from the Czech Republic, who was in Paris for business, said she saw Abdeslam's capture as an opportunity for France to turn the page.

"I'm more thinking about all those guys who are suffering, sleeping in Paris' streets. I think it's much more important, at least for us, who are not so influenced by the attacks. I think the humanity behind all that is really much bigger than this," she said.