By Rory Mulholland, Paris1:08PM GMT 29 Nov 2015
A ringleader of the Paris terror attacks bought electric detonators weeks from a fireworks company which may have been used by the suicide bombers involved in the massacre.
Salah Abdeslam, who is now on the run, bought around 10 detonators from the retailer in Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône, north of Paris, after asking repeatedly about their reliability, Le Parisien newspaper reported.
It said the store owner phoned the national terror hotline when wanted posters with the 26-year-old suspect’s photo were circulated after the attacks to say that a man resembling him had visited the store the month before.
A source told the newspaper that Abdeslam, who returned to Brussels after the attacks that left 130 people dead, had to provide proof of identity before entering the high-security premises, which is covered by CCTV cameras, and that he had presented his driving licence.
Police sources confirmed that investigators had been contacted by the store but would not say whether the man who bought the detonators was indeed Abdeslam.
“Investigators are examining this element. We will see if it can be confirmed,” a source said.
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Le Parisien said the devices allegedly bought by the suspect were battery-operated detonators that when ignited produce a flame varying in length, depending on the model, from two to eight centimetres.
They may have been used by the Friday 13 attackers in Paris, eight of whom blew themselves up after the coordinated assaults on cafés, the Bataclan rock venue and the national stadium.
Police this week found what appears to be a suicide vest dumped in a bin in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge.
The object was found without a detonator in an area near where Abdeslam was traced to on the night of France’s worst-ever terrorist crime.
The suspect may have intended to blow himself up but abandoned the plan, although it is unclear why.
French-born Abdeslam, who had been living in the Molenbeek area of Brussels known for its links to the jihadist movement, is known to have hired cars and hotel rooms for the suicide attackers using his own credit card.
His brother Brahim blew himself up in the Paris attacks after walking into a café and detonating his explosive vest.
Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, said this weekend that nearly 1,000 people have been barred from entering France since border controls were put in place just after the terror attacks.
He said that nearly 15,000 police, gendarmes and customs officials were manning France’s frontiers, notably the borders with Belgium, where the three teams of attackers started their deadly journey.