Suspect in French killing confesses to beheading
Salhi also gives details about circumstances surrounding killing
A man supposed to be the suspect who has been held over an attack against a gas company site is escorted by police officers during investigations in Saint-Priest, near Lyon, France, on Sunday. — Reuters
Paris — The man suspected of decapitating his boss in an attack on a gas factory in France has confessed to the grisly crime, sources close to the investigation said on Sunday.
Yassin Salhi, 35, “has also given details about the circumstances” surrounding the killing, according to the sources, who said he would be transferred to Paris for further questioning later on Sunday by anti-terrorist police.
Salhi’s confession came after it emerged the married father-of-three sent a gruesome selfie photo of himself and the severed head to a WhatsApp number in Canada. Investigators have warned however that it could be a relay number and the intended recipient could be anywhere in the world.
After several hours of silence, Salhi has begun to open up to investigators about the assault.
On Friday morning, Salhi rammed his van into the US-owned Air Products factory near France’s second city of Lyon in what President Francois Hollande said was a “terrorist” attack designed to blow up the whole building.
He was overpowered by a firefighter as he was trying to prise open a bottle of acetone in an apparent suicidal bid to destroy the factory.
Police then made the grisly discovery of the severed head of Salhi’s boss, 54-year-old Herve Cornara, lashed to the gates of the factory near two flags on which were written the Muslim profession of faith.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls repeated that the world was engaged in a “war against terrorism”.
“We cannot lose this war because it’s fundamentally a war of civilisation. It’s our society, our civilisation that we are defending,” Valls told iTELE rolling news channel.
It’s not a question of whether there will be another attack, but “when” and “where”, stressed Valls.
Sources close to the investigation said that Salhi was radicalised more than a decade ago after contact with Muslim convert Frederic Jean Salvi — known as “Ali” — who is suspected of preparing attacks in Indonesia with Al Qaeda militants.
An autopsy on the victim has proved inconclusive, with experts unable to determine whether he was killed before being beheaded or decapitated alive.
Anti-terrorist authorities have identified 473 people who have left France to fight in Iraq or Syria and Valls said 1,800 people in France were “linked” in some way to the militants cause.
Around 200 people in the town of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier — where the attack took place — staged a minute’s silence in the victim’s honour followed by a rousing and spontaneous rendition of the French national anthem.
A woman, wearing the Muslim headscarf, said she was “unable to speak” when she heard the news.
“These acts have got nothing to do with religion. Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never said to kill innocent people,” raged the woman.
Trying to find the words to explain the killing to her four-year-old son, she said: “There are naughty people who have done bad things. The police will put them in prison to punish them for their silly, silly actions.”