France attack suspect admits killing, police make link to Syria

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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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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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