Friday, 26 June 2015

French Authorities Hold Suspect in Beheading and Explosion at Chemical Plant


A delivery man who French security officials say once had links to radical Islamist groups drove his truck into an American-owned chemical plant near Lyon on Friday, set off an explosion and, in a macabre twist, mounted his boss’s severed head on the plant’s gate.
Flags were placed on either side of the gruesome display, French officials said.
The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, identified the suspect, who was apprehended, as Yassine Salhi, 35, a resident of nearby Saint-Priest, a small town outside Lyon, in southeastern France.
Mr. Salih was known to the employees and was waived in. He parked his truck at the end of an alley and for a few minutes was out of the range of security cameras. Then his truck could be seen speeding toward a hangar on the site, and there was an explosion that destroyed much of the structure, said Fran├žois Molins, the Paris prosecutor.
Near Mr. Salih’s destroyed vehicle they found a decapitated body on the ground with a knife nearby, and on the plant’s gate, the severed head and a cloth with the Muslim declaration of faith written on it: “There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet.”
It is not clear if the victim was killed before being beheaded and driven into the site, or if he was killed on the site when Mr. Salih was out of the range of the security cameras. Mr. Molins described the victim as a 54-year-old man who lived in the area and who had employed Mr. Salhi in March.
Security officials had identified Mr. Salhi as having connections to Salafists, but surveillance on him was stopped in 2008. Salafists practice a fundamentalist form of Islam. The reason for stopping the surveillance was not immediately clear, but French intelligence officials have been overwhelmed in recent years as they have tried to monitor hundreds of young Muslims who have gone abroad to fight alongside the Islamic State and other groups. Mr. Cazeneuve emphasized that while Mr. Salhi was known to have links to Salafists, he was not believed to have links with terrorist groups.
There was no indication that Mr. Salhi was aligned with the Islamic State. However, after Frenchmen who professed allegiance to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda killed 17 people in attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo a Jewish grocery store in Paris in January,  the authorities here and elsewhere in Europe have grown increasingly concerned that citizens who have gone abroad to fight will return to stage attacks, or that Muslims who never left for jihad will be inspired by appeals over the Internet to act.

Henry J Williams

Author & Editor

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