Bataclan massacre: Would-be suicide bomber in Paris terror attacks to die behind bars

Salah Abdeslam was given a life sentence without parole in France's biggest ever terror trial, as Correspondent Lucy Watson reports from Paris

The only surviving attacker from the 2015 terrorist massacre at the Bataclan theatre and other sites in Paris has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

That is the most severe sentence possible in France, and very rare - it has only been delivered four times in France, for crimes related to rape and murder of minors.

Salah Abdeslam was the chief suspect in an exceptional trial over the 2015 attacks claimed by the Islamic State group, which killed 130 people and injured hundreds more with some left with life-changing injuries.

The judge in a special terrorism court on Wednesday found him guilty of murder and attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise.

His explosives vest malfunctioned, dismissing his argument that he ditched the vest because he decided not to follow through with his attack, the court found.

Abdeslam, a 32-year-old Belgian, was the lone survivor of a team of Islamic State extremists who carried out the attacks. The other nine either blew themselves up or were killed by police that night.

The massacre was the deadliest peacetime attack in French history.

A woman pays respect to the victims outside the Bataclan concert hall in 2015. Credit: AP

Of the defendants besides Abdeslam, 18 were handed various terrorism-related convictions, and one was convicted on a lesser fraud charge.

One was cleared.

Some were given life sentences and others walked free after being sentenced to time served. They have 10 days to appeal.

The other defendants were accused of helping create false identities, transporting the attackers back to Europe from Syria or providing them with money, phones, explosives or weapons.

At least one of the defendants is accused of a direct role in the March 2016 bomb attacks in Brussels, also claimed by the Islamic State group, which killed more than 30 people and injured over 200 others.

Only 14 of the defendants were in court, including Abdeslam, who was the only one tried on several counts of murder and kidnapping as a member of a terrorist organisation. All but one of the six men convicted in absentia are presumed killed in Syria or Iraq, and the other is in prison in Turkey.

Arthur Denouveaux, who survived the Bataclan massacre, appeared tired but relieved the trial was over.

“I hope to be able to put the word ‘victim’ into the past,” he said.

“When things like this happen you have no repair possible. That’s why you have justice,” he said, even if “justice can’t do everything.”

He added: “It puts an exclamation point at the end of it.”

During the trial, Abdeslam proclaimed his radicalism, wept, apologised to victims and pleaded with judges to forgive his “mistakes.”

What happened?

On Friday, November 13, 2015, France was playing a friendly football match against Germany with then-president François Hollande and then-chancellor Angela Merkel in attendance.

At the Bataclan concert venue, the American band Eagles of Death Metal were playing to a full house.

The theatre has now reopened. Credit: AP

Three explosions happened outside the football ground with the sound of the first suicide bombing at 9.16 pm barely carried over the noise of the stadium’s crowd.

Soon after a squad of gunmen opened fire at several bars and restaurants in another part of Paris.

At 9.47 pm three more gunmen burst into the Bataclan, firing indiscriminately.

Ninety people died within minutes. Hundreds were held hostage – some gravely injured – inside the concert hall for hours before Mr Hollande, watching people covered in blood make their way out of the Bataclan, ordered it stormed.

In all there were six distinct attacks carried out by 10 people, Abdeslam was the only survivor after his suicide vest malfunctioned.

In his own testimony, Abdeslam claimed he had chosen not to detonate the explosives.

The American band the Eagles of Death Metal were playing in the theatre at the time of the attack. Credit: AP

He fled to his home city of Brussels and hid there for months until he was arrested in March 2016.

In response to the attack, France declared a three-month state of emergency and brought in harsh counter-terrorism measures - most of which were soon made into law.

In Belgium, the government tightened its border with France and soon put Brussels under lockdown after it was learned the Islamic State group cell responsible for the attack had links to the city.

The same cell was responsible for the March 2016 terrorist attack on Brussels which struck key transport hubs in the city and left 32 people dead.