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France

Slow progress two years after Paris attacks

media Among the 10 jihadists who wreaked havoc on the French capital on November 13, 2015, the only survivor is Salah Abdeslam (top row, second left), who is refusing to talk to investigators. BELGA/AFP/File / by Benjamin LEGENDRE

Two years after the terror attacks on Paris nightspots that left 130 people dead, seven people are in custody in France while key figures remain at large and may be dead.

Among the 10 jihadists who wreaked havoc on the French capital on November 13, 2015, the only survivor is Salah Abdeslam, who is refusing to talk to investigators.

The probe into the Paris bloodbath, which was planned in Belgium, overlaps considerably with an investigation into attacks on the Brussels airport and metro four months later that claimed 32 lives.

Key witness silent

Abdeslam's capture in Belgium and transfer to France in April 2016 has not been the boon investigators had hoped for, since the 28-year-old petty criminal-turned-jihadist has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Against all expectations however, he has said he wants to appear at a trial in Brussels to face charges of attempted murder of police officers during his arrest in the Belgian capital, but there too he may refuse to answer questions.

Most members of the jihadist cell responsible for both the Paris and the Brussels attacks have been killed or arrested.

Requests have gone out across Europe as well as to Turkey and north Africa in an effort to piece together the network that enabled the conspirators to infiltrate the flow of migrants into Europe in the summer of 2015 and plan attacks ordered by the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Fifteen suspects have been charged or are being sought with arrest warrants.

Belgium-France nexus

Six people besides Abdeslam are in custody in France including two men suspected of having been selected to take part in attacks: Adel Haddadi, an Algerian, and Muhammed Usman of Pakistan.

The two men, who travelled from Syria along with two of the jihadists who attacked the national stadium on the outskirts of Paris, were arrested in Austria a month after the carnage.

Three associates of Abdeslam accused of helping him flee to Belgium the day after the Paris attacks and a man accused of providing fake IDs to the jihadists are also being held in France.

Five suspects are in custody in Belgium who are also wanted for trial in France. One of them, Mohamed Abrini, dubbed "the man in the hat" from CCTV video at the Brussels airport, was transferred briefly to France in January to be charged.

Jawad Bendaoud, who lodged Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abbaoud, will be tried along with two other defendants in a regular criminal court instead of France's special terror court early next year.

A suspected logistician for the November 13 attacks, Mohamed Bakkali, was arrested in Belgium and is wanted in France.

He was charged Tuesday in Brussels over an August 2015 attack on a Paris-bound Thalys train that left two passengers injured.

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