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Washington (AFP) - The United States on Tuesday designated a leading suspect in last year’s jihadist attacks on Paris, Salah Abdeslam, as a “global terrorist” under US law.
The order, announced by the State Department, freezes any assets held by Abdeslam in US jurisdictions and forbids Americans from doing business with him.
“Belgian-born French citizen Salah Abdeslam is an operative for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” it said, using a former name of the Islamic State group.
The US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control separately confirmed that Abdeslam’s name has been added to its list of specially designated foreign nationals.
The 26-year-old was arrested on March 18 in a police raid on a hideout in the Brussels district of Molenbeek and is due to be extradited to France.
He is accused of being a surviving member of a gang that launched a series of attacks on civilian targets in Paris on November 13 last year that left 130 dead.
French officials believe Abdeslam was the driver of a car that brought attackers to the Stade de France sports stadium just north of Paris.
“Authorities found his DNA both on a discarded suicide belt and along with traces of explosives in a Brussels apartment,” the State Department said.
“Abdeslam stated after his arrest that he planned on conducting a suicide bombing outside of the Paris soccer stadium, but had ‘backed out.’”
Four days after he was arrested, the Belgian capital was struck by coordinated Islamic State suicide bombings at an airport and a metro station.
The suspects in these attacks are alleged to have links to Abdeslam and the Paris attacks cell.
Khalid El Bakraoui, who blew himself up at the metro, rented a flat in Brussels where Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found.
And one of the two airport bombers, Najim Laachraoui, drove to Hungary with Abdeslam in September.