Police believe Abdeslam, 31, was the only attacker to survive Nov. 13, 2015, when nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck bars and restaurants, the Bataclan concert hall and the Stade de France sports stadium. French police say a suicide belt belonging to him was found unexploded after the attacks.
Abdeslam, whose brother was among the suicide bombers, has refused to speak to investigators about the attack. He appeared in court wearing a black short-sleeved shirt, black trousers and sporting a long black beard.
Asked by the presiding judge, Jean-Louis Peries, to identify himself, Abdeslam said that the only divine being was Allah and that the Prophet Muhammad was his messenger. Asked to state his profession, he declared he was “a fighter for Islamic State,” in a reference to the Islamic State terror group.
Nineteen other suspects are accused of helping provide guns and cars or of playing a role in organizing the largest ISIS attack in Europe. Six will be tried in absentia, including five who are presumed dead. Involving some 330 lawyers and over 1,800 plaintiffs, the trial scheduled to last until May is costing the French government millions. For the survivors, it will be their first opportunity to face down their attackers.
American Helen Wilson, 55, from Los Angeles, was at the Bataclan the night of the attack with her boyfriend, Nick Alexander. Wilson was shot in both legs.
Alexander was shot in the stomach and died in her arms as the gunmen continued their massacre. She said she was testifying despite years of post-traumatic stress disorder, recurring nightmares and severe bouts of depression.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure my voice is heard and that his voice is heard and that all of those other people that are no longer with us are heard through me,” Wilson told NBC News during a recent interview. (NBC)