French investigators on Tuesday handed preliminary murder and terrorism charges to a man accused of beheading his boss and attacking a gas factory, and suspected of having ties to Islamic State extremists.
Yassin Salhi was charged and will remain in custody, the Paris prosecutor’s office said. Filing preliminary charges gives authorities more time for deeper investigation before they decide whether to send the case to trial.
Salhi was arrested after the attack Friday in southeast France, which included an explosion and two light injuries. The assault put the country back on high alert after deadly extremist attacks in January.
According to his attorney, Salhi said he was acting purely for personal reasons after being reprimanded by his employer.
With a long-bladed knife and a gun in hand — as well as two flags emblazoned with the Muslim declaration of faith — Salhi tricked his boss into getting into a van, knocked him unconscious and strangled him, prosecutor François Molins said.
About a quarter of a mile before reaching the plant, Molins said, Salhi decapitated his victim and almost immediately sent two photos of the remains to a friend in Syria: One was a selfie and the other an image of the severed head placed carefully on the torso.
Then Salhi, a truck driver with a history of radical Islamist ties dating to 2003, drove into the plant filled with flammable gas canisters, Molins said.
When he was tackled by firefighters responding to the explosion and blaze, he cried out “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” Molins said.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post