France attack suspect admits killing, police make link to Syria

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Man Decapitated in France Attack


The suspected Islamist who attempted to blow up a French chemical plant on Friday has admitted killing his manager beforehand, a source close to the investigation said on Sunday, as police linked the suspect to a militant now in Syria.

Yassin Salhi, 35, told detectives he had killed Hervé Cornara in a parking area before arriving at the plant in Saint Quentin-Fallavier, 30 km (20 miles) south of Lyon, where he tried in vain to cause a major explosion.

Police found the 54-year-old victim's decapitated body and head, framed by Islamic inscriptions, at the plant, which is owned by the U.S. firm Air Products. There were no other casualties.

Examination of one of Salhi's mobile phones revealed that he had taken a picture of himself with the severed head before his arrest and sent the image to a Canadian phone number. Canadian authorities said on Sunday they were assisting the investigation.

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The phone number belongs to a French national, known by his first name Sebastien-Younes, who has been in Syria since last year, the same source said, confirming media reports. His last known location was the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.

According to other French media reports, Salhi told police he had argued with Cornara and with his own wife before the killing. One of their work colleagues, quoted on the website of the television station i-Tele, also said the two men had clashed days earlier after Salhi dropped a pallet of fragile equipment.

The suspect, whose wife and sister were released on Sunday after two days of questioning, is said by French security services to have associated with hardline Islamists over more than a decade, and had previously been flagged by them as a potential risk.

See photos from Friday's attack:

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Friday 6/26 ISIS-related attacks (Kuwait, France, Tunisia)
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France attack suspect admits killing, police make link to Syria
Police officers investigate at a plant where an attack took place, Friday, June 26, 2015 in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, southeast of Lyon, France. A man with suspected ties to French Islamic radicals rammed a car Friday into an American gas factory in southeastern France, triggering an explosion that injured two people, officials said. The severed head of a local businessman was left hanging at the factory's entrance, along with banners with Arabic inscriptions, they said. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
French security and emergency services gather at the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
French police and firefighters gather at the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
French police and firefighters secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZE (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
Investigating police officers work outside the plant where an attack took place, Friday, June 26, 2015 in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, southeast of Lyon, France. French authorities say one person has been beheaded in an attack and explosion at a gas factory in the southeastern part of the country. Officials say banners with Arabic writing were found near the body. Authorities have opened a terrorism investigation. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Police officer block the area where an attack took place, Friday, June 26, 2015 in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, southeast of Lyon, France. An attacker with suspected ties to French Islamic radicals rammed a car into a gas factory Friday in southeastern France, and a severed head was staked on a post at the entrance, officials said. France immediately opened a terrorism investigation. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Riot police officers block the area where an attack took place, Friday, June 26, 2015 in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, southeast of Lyon, France. A man with suspected ties to French Islamic radicals rammed a car Friday into an American gas factory in southeastern France, triggering an explosion that injured two people, officials said. The severed head of a local businessman was left hanging at the factory's entrance, along with banners with Arabic inscriptions, they said. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Police officers guard the road leading to a plant where an attack took place in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, southeast of Lyon, France, Friday, June 26, 2015. A man with suspected ties to French Islamic radicals rammed a car Friday into an American gas factory in southeastern France, triggering an explosion that caused injuries, officials said. The severed head of a local businessman was left hanging at the factory's entrance, along with banners with Arabic inscriptions, they said. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
French police secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZE (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti security personnel and medical staff carry a man on a stretcher at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack, which it claimed was spreading Shiite teachings among Sunni Muslims. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti men react over a body at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack, which it claimed was spreading Shiite teachings among Sunni Muslims. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Worshippers react after a deadly explosion claimed by the Islamic State group during Friday prayers at the Imam Sadiq Mosque in Kuwait City, Friday, June 26, 2015. A Kuwaiti paramedic and a human rights activist say that more than a dozen people have been killed and dozens more have been wounded in an attack on the Shiite mosque. (AP Photo)
Security forces and officials gather at a Shiite mosque after a deadly blast claimed by the Islamic State group that struck worshippers attending Friday prayers in Kuwait City, Friday, June 26, 2015. (AP Photo)
Security forces and officials gather at a Shiite mosque after a deadly blast claimed by the Islamic State group that struck worshippers attending Friday prayers in Kuwait City, Friday, June 26, 2015. (AP Photo)
A wounded man is helped moments after a deadly explosion claimed by the Islamic State group during Friday prayers at the Imam Sadiq Mosque in Kuwait City, Friday, June 26, 2015. A Kuwaiti paramedic and a human rights activist say that more than a dozen people have been killed and dozens more have been wounded in an attack on the Shiite mosque. (AP Photo)
Men react after a deadly blast claimed by the Islamic State group that struck worshippers attending Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City, Friday, June 26, 2015. Friday's explosion struck the Imam Sadiq Mosque in the neighborhood of al-Sawabir, a residential and shopping district of the capital. (AP Photo)
Security forces work at the site of a deadly blast claimed by the Islamic State group that struck worshippers attending Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City, Friday, June 26, 2015. Friday's explosion struck the Imam Sadiq Mosque in the neighborhood of al-Sawabir, a residential and shopping district of the capital. (AP Photo)
Men react after a deadly blast claimed by the Islamic State group that struck worshippers attending Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City, Friday, June 26, 2015. Friday's explosion struck the Imam Sadiq Mosque in the neighborhood of al-Sawabir, a residential and shopping district of the capital. (AP Photo)
Map locates Kuwait City, site of a mosque bombing. (Image via AP)
Kuwaiti emergency personnel pull a man on stretchers past security forces outside the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack, which it claimed was spreading Shiite teachings among Sunni Muslims. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A Kuwaiti man with blood-stained clothes and a bandaged head uses a phone at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack, which it claimed was spreading Shiite teachings among Sunni Muslims. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti men and a security member inspect the scene outside the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack, which it claimed was spreading Shiite teachings among Sunni Muslims. (Photo credit Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP/Getty Images)
A Kuwaiti man with blood-stained clothes reacts as he sits at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. (Photo credit Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti emergency personnel pull stretchers past security forces outside the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. (Photo credit Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti men react at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. (Photo credit Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP/Getty Images)
A Kuwaiti man reacts at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. (Photo credit Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP/Getty Images)
Security measures are taken after an armed attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, east Tunisia, left at least 27 people dead, including foreigners, and injured six others , on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The bodies of people are seen after an armed attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, east Tunisia, left at least 27 people dead, including foreigners, and injured six others , on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Wounded people are carried after an armed attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, east Tunisia, left at least 27 people dead, including foreigners, and injured six others , on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach Friday June 26, 2015. Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country's key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said. (Tunisia TV1 via AP)
In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach Friday June 26, 2015. Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country's key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said. (Tunisia TV1 via AP 
In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach Friday June 26, 2015. Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country's key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said. (Tunisia TV1 via AP) 
In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach Friday June 26, 2015. Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country's key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said. (Tunisia TV1 via AP)
GRAPHIC CONTENT Covered bodies of victims of a mass-shooting are seen in the resort town of Sousse, a popular tourist destination 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of the Tunisian capital, following the attack on June 26, 2015. At least 27 people, including foreigners, were killed in a mass shooting at a Tunisian beach resort packed with holidaymakers, in the North African country's worst attack in recent history. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)
Armed forces patrol the area near a Tunisian beach, in Sousse, Friday June 26, 2015. A young man unfurled an umbrella and pulled out a Kalashnikov, opening fire on European sunbathers in an attack that killed at least 28 people at a Tunisian beach resort — one of three deadly attacks from Europe to the Middle East on Friday that followed a call to violence by Islamic State extremists. (Jawhara FM via AP)
An injured person is treated on a Tunisian beach, in Sousse, Friday June 26, 2015. A young man unfurled an umbrella and pulled out a Kalashnikov, opening fire on European sunbathers in an attack that killed at least 28 people at a Tunisian beach resort — one of three deadly attacks from Europe to the Middle East on Friday that followed a call to violence by Islamic State extremists. (Jawhara FM via AP)
Tourists console each other following a shooting attack in the resort town of Sousse, a popular tourist destination 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of the Tunisian capital, on June 26, 2015. At least 27 people, including foreigners, were killed in a mass shooting at a Tunisian beach resort packed with holidaymakers, in the North African country's worst attack in recent history. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)
Injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach, in Sousse, Friday June 26, 2015. A young man unfurled an umbrella and pulled out a Kalashnikov, opening fire on European sunbathers in an attack that killed at least 28 people at a Tunisian beach resort — one of three deadly attacks from Europe to the Middle East on Friday that followed a call to violence by Islamic State extremists. (Jawhara FM via AP)
A body is covered near a Tunisian beach, in Sousse, Friday June 26, 2015. A young man unfurled an umbrella and pulled out a Kalashnikov, opening fire on European sunbathers in an attack that killed at least 28 people at a Tunisian beach resort — one of three deadly attacks from Europe to the Middle East on Friday that followed a call to violence by Islamic State extremists. (Jawhara FM via AP)
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Flanked by heavily armed police in masks and flak jackets, Salhi was taken on Sunday to the car park where he said he had killed Cornara, before retracing the route he had followed to the chemical plant.

He was then escorted to the apartment he shared with his wife and three children in the quiet Lyon suburb of Saint-Priest, where further searches were carried out.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the government was increasing resources in law enforcement and domestic intelligence to combat Islamic extremism.

"We cannot lose this war, because it is essentially a war of civilization," Valls said in an interview broadcast on Europe 1 radio and i-Tele. "It is our society, our civilization and our values that we must defend."

(Reporting by Gregory Blachier, Writing by Laurence Frost; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Kevin Liffey)


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