PARIS (Reuters) - An object believed to be an explosive belt was found on Monday in a town south of Paris, near where a phone used by suspected assailant Salah Abdeslam was detected on the night of the attacks, a source close to the investigation said.
Abdeslam, whose brother blew himself up in the Paris attacks, has been on the run since the assault that killed 130 people in the French capital on Nov. 13 and is the focus of a massive manhunt.
French investigators initially believed Abdeslam had been in a black Seat Leon car that was used in the shootings at restaurants and cafes in the 10th and 11th districts of the capital.
A source close to the investigation said, however, that Abdeslam’s mobile phone was detected after the attacks in the northern 18th district of Paris, near an abandoned Renault Clio car that Abdeslam had rented.
The source said there was now a “strong suspicion” he had been driving the Clio rather than being in the Seat.
Furthermore, when Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, it said it had targeted the Stade de France soccer stadium, the Bataclan concert hall, the 10th and 11th districts - as well as the 18th district.
Since there were no explosions or shootings in the 18th, investigators are now wondering whether there was a failed, or aborted, attack, the source said.
Abdeslam’s phone was detected later on Nov. 13 by a mobile phone mast in Chatillon in the south of Paris, near Montrouge where the suspected explosive belt was dumped.
But the source said it was too soon to say whether the object had been in contact with Abdeslam.
“The thesis that he abandoned (the attack) is just coming from people who brought him back (to Belgium). But we don’t know why. Maybe he had a technical problem with his explosive belt, for example,” said a police source.
Reporting by Chine Labbé and Gerard Bon; writing by David Clarke; editing by Giles Elgood