A decapitated body daubed with Arabic inscriptions was found at a French factory near Lyon after a man is believed to have killed his employer and then driven their van through the factory gates and rammed gas containers, causing an explosion. A local paper said the victim’s head was attached to a fence.
The suspected attacker, from St. Priest, a suburb of France’s second city, was injured, brought to the ground by a fireman and then arrested. A flag bearing Islamist inscriptions was also discovered. One report claimed the suspect told police that he was a member of Islamic State.
“The law will establish who is guilty, who is responsible, and I want to praise the courage of the firemen who were particularly brave, and the police. We must now find out if there were any accomplices, and the investigation will establish this,” said President François Hollande, who cut short his participation at the Brussels summit to fly home.
Police later detained the wife of the suspect, 35-year-old father of three Yassin Sahli, and are questioning at least one other person. Sahli has no criminal record, but in 2006 was put on a watch list after it was suspected he had become radicalised by Salafists. He was removed from the list in 2008.
However, he was back on the radar of the DGSI domestic security
service for at least the past two years and was described in 2013 as a “hardcore Muslim“ in one intelligence memo, according to RTL radio.
Another memo dating from May 2014 said he had undergone a
“radical“ change, losing weight and shaving his beard. It said he was
often away from home for unexplained absences of several weeks at a time.
The note said he held meetings at his home, hosting men who wore
combat fatigues. Doorstep chatter with them was peppered with
references to jihad, said RTL, citing the memo.
One neighbour said she would occasionally pass the time of day with Mrs. Sahli, but that her husband would never even say hello.
Sahli had been living in St.Priest for around six months. Before that, the
Est Republicain newspaper said the suspect, whose late father was
Algerian and mother Moroccan, lived in Pontarlier near the Swiss
border. The town is home to a mosque known for the virulent views of
its preacher, who has since left France.
Euronews was on the scene shortly afterwards, and Fabien Farge was able to get some reactions from local people and witnesses to the events.
“At around a quarter to ten there was an explosion. I didn’t know what it was exactly, and it’s only when I saw large numbers of police arrive that I realised there had been an attack,” said one man.
“We were shocked, because we never expected to have a situation like this at our workplace, especially in such a normally quiet place,” said another.
One local politician expressed concern that this state of affairs is now a daily worry.
“There’s a feeling of danger, and that will remain for quite some time. I can remember a very solemn declaration by a high-ranking police officer that France is only at the beginning of a long and hard road,” said one of the members of the French National Assembly for the Rhône department Georges Fenech.
“People here are stupefied and can hardly believe that such a shocking, serious act was committed so close to their homes and workplaces,” reports Fabien Farge.