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Salah Abdeslam May Have “Chickened Out” Of Paris Attacks

One week after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and Salah Abdeslam is still nowhere to be found

Nov 20, 2015 at 4:43 PM ET

French officials said on Friday that the whereabouts of the eighth suspected attacker from last week’s massacre in Paris remain unknown. But there is no shortage of theories about where he might be and why he’s still alive while seven of his alleged accomplices, including the so-called mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, are dead. One of those theories is that he’s not just running from authorities, but from ISIS, as well.

Salah Abdeslam was last seen hours after the attacks when authorities say he called on two friends from Brussels to pick him up in Paris and help him escape. Police stopped Abdeslam, Hamza Attou and Mohammed Amri at a border check on Saturday morning, but they were allowed to drive on because authorities did not yet know about Abdeslam’s alleged involvement in the attacks. That was the last confirmed sighting by authorities. His name and image have since been widely distributed throughout Europe and much of the world. Attou and Amri were taken into custody and charged on Tuesday with aiding a suspected terrorist.

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Before his friends picked him up, authorities said Abdeslam walked around Paris for seven hours after the attacks, which took the lives of 130 people and wounded scores more. Officials believe that this is a sign that he had no exit strategy from the city, and that perhaps he wasn’t expecting to survive the attack, or that he changed his mind at the last minute.

“Nothing [in Abdeslam’s movements] answers the description of a pre-planned escape,” a French police source told The Independent. “It is possible he panicked or chickened out of killing himself. It is possible that he was disgusted by what he had been involved in or that his explosive suicide belt failed to detonate.”

The Independent cites a Belgian blog that claims that a friend of Abdelslam’s said he was contacted by Abdeslam as recently as Tuesday. The friend claimed Abdeslam regretted his role in the attack and now fears that ISIS is after him for not completing his mission. No law enforcement officials have substantiated this claim.

There are other claims that Abdeslam is hiding out in his hometown of Molenbeek, a suburb in Brussels with a large Muslim population. A surveillance image that depicts a person who looks like Abdeslam wearing a long wig and glasses was reportedly captured in Molenbeek, which has come under fire since the attacks for its reputation as a “haven for Belgian jihadis.

On Friday, Belgian authorities said they had new information about Abdeslam’s whereabouts. However, they said, that information “cannot be shared at this stage.”