Friday 20 April 2018

French suspect in beheading ‘sent selfie to contact in Syria’

Delivery driver Yassin Salhi is escorted by heavily armed and masked police officers from his house in Saint-Priest, near Lyon, France
Delivery driver Yassin Salhi is escorted by heavily armed and masked police officers from his house in Saint-Priest, near Lyon, France

David Chazen

A French Islamist, who confessed yesterday to decapitating his boss in a car park, may have sent a selfie photograph in which he posed with the severed head to Syria.

According to sources close to the investigation, the photo was sent to a Canadian mobile number via the Whats App messaging service but was forwarded to Syria.

“He displayed the head in the picture as if it were a trophy,” one source said.

Yassin Salhi (35), a deliveryman, tried to blow up a chemicals plant near Lyon on Friday after killing Herve Cornara (54).

Salhi is a father of three with no criminal record, although he was flagged up as a potential terrorist who frequented Islamist extremists as early as 2006.

However, he told police he had argued with his boss and his wife before the killing and wanted to commit suicide, according to a security source.

“He said he wanted to get publicity by portraying the killing as an act of terrorism. We still don’t know if we’re dealing with a fundamentalist who went crazy or a real terrorist,” one source said. “Investigators are wondering if it isn’t just a simple criminal act.”

Police found the decapitated body and head at the Air Products plant, with black and white flags marked with Islamic inscriptions placed beside it. Salhi remained silent for nearly 30 hours after his arrest before confessing to police in Lyon on Sunday that he had beheaded Mr Cornara in a car park as they drove together to the factory.

One of Mr Cornara’s friends told French media he had seen Salhi arguing with the delivery firm boss several times, including just two days before the attack after he dropped some cases.

The former martial arts instructor told ‘Le Parisien’ newspaper Salhi was prone to outbursts of rage.

Police escorted Salhi to his home in Lyon, in southeastern France, yesterday to try to find his passport to determine if he had travelled abroad.

Salhi was handcuffed and wearing jeans, a knee-length djellabah robe and a loose towel over his head when judicial police brought him into his home in the town of Saint-Priest, outside Lyon. The police spent a little over an hour in the house.

After two days in custody for questioning in Lyon, Salhi’s wife and sister were released.

Fellow workers at the ATC transport firm where Salhi had been employed said he was a cheerful, hardworking man.

The severed head appeared to imitate a practice of the radical Isil group of beheading prisoners and displaying their heads publicly.

It came days after the militants urged attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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