Even though he was strapped with explosives and headed toward a Paris cafe in a carefully-planned terror attack, 31-year-old Ibrahim Abdeslam "did not mean to kill anyone" and likely detonated his suicide vest because of "stress," Abdeslam's family told a Belgian newspaper Nov. 15.
Abdeslam targeted cafe Comptoir Voltaire, about a mile southeast of the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, France, in one of seven coordinated and timed attacks on Nov. 13. Although Abdeslam's vest detonated prematurely, according to French authorities, and no one was killed in the Comptoir Voltaire blast, the other six attacks claimed 129 lives and left more than 350 people injured, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Abdeslam's mother professed her son's innocence outside their home in Molenbeek, Brussels, while speaking to the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws through her nephew, who served as interpreter.
Killing civilians "was not his plan, that's for sure," she told the Belgian paper, according to the Daily Mail. "The fact that his suicide belt exploded without killing anyone says a lot."
While Ibrahim Abdeslam died when he detonated his explosive charge, his 26-year-old brother Salah Abdeslam slipped across the border into Belgium and has managed to evade authorities so far, the Daily Mail reports. He's the target of a wide-ranging manhunt, with authorities distributing his image to news outlets in the hopes of generating leads.
During the interview on their doorstep, the family told Het Laatste Nieuws that both brothers spent "a long time" in Syria, the center of ISIS activity, and they admitted that the brothers had been radicalized. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks the following day, praising the terrorists for conducting "a blessed attack on Crusader France."
Molenbeek, the town the Abdeslam family calls home, has been described as a "jihadi hotspot" and a "den of terrorists," according to the Daily Mail. Ibrahim and Salah's other brother, Mohamed Abdeslam, was arrested on Nov. 14 and was questioned by police before he was released without charges. He also said he was unaware of the extent of his cousins' radicalization.
The Abdeslam family said they didn't know the brothers were willing or capable of involvement in a terrorist attack.
"We were really surprised that Salah was involved," their mother said. "Ibrahim was different. We did see that he had been [radicalized], at least in part. But not so much that we ever thought he would commit an atrocity like this."
She added that she was sure her son "did not mean to kill anyone."