French terror suspect took selfie with beheaded victim

Dr. Walid Phares shares his insight


The man suspected of beheading a French businessman took a selfie photo with his victim and sent the message through WhatsApp to a Canadian cell phone, officials said Saturday.

French investigators are working to determine the identity of the recipient, but were not sure whether it was an unspecified person who is now in Syria.

The revelation has done more to revive concerns about terrorism in France than it’s added to whether there is a link between the terror attack to radical groups, the paper reports.

The main suspect in the killing is Yassin Salhi, a truck driver with a history of Islamic ties. He was arrested and detained Friday after police say he crashed a truck into a US-owned chemical plant and hung his employer’s severed head on a factory gate. Police also detained his sister and wife. The three are in police custody in Lyon.

One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press the selfie was forwarded via WhatsApp, a popular instant messaging app, to a Canadian phone number.

Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, a spokesman for Canada’s public safety minister, didn’t specify too much on the case but did confirm that Canadian authorities were assisting the French in the investigation.

Despite mimicking the practices of Islamic extremists, no foreign group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack also came days after the Islamic State urged attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A fourth person arrested in possible connection with the beheading was released without being charged. French anit-terror laws say Salhi and his wife and sister can be held for up to four days before being released or handed charges.

French President Francois Hollande plans to hold a meeting with top parliamentary leaders about the matter Tuesday.

Separately on Saturday, hundreds of people turned out in the region to honor slain businessman Herve Cornara and denounce the violence. Dozens turned out for a minute of silence in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, the town southeast of Lyon where Friday's attack took place at an Air Products chemicals warehouse.

Several hundred people also gathered outside a housing project in the town of Fontaines-sur-Saone to honor Cornara, 54, the manager of a transportation company that had employed Salhi since March. They recalled a kind, humble man who was active in the community of the Lyon suburb.

"He lived on the fifth floor, me on the fourth. He spoke with all the young people in the neighborhood. He didn't differentiate between (non-Muslim) French and Muslims," said Leila Bouri, a 24-year-old cafeteria cashier. "If you ever had a problem, you would go see him."

"When I heard this, I was shocked. It's shameful," she said. "I am a Muslim, but you can't kill like this. It's not who we are. In Islam, we're not told to slit throats. We only slit the throats of sheep. You don't slit the throats of people."

The suspected killer, she added, "isn't a Muslim in my opinion."

The Associated Press contributed to this report