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Beheading suspect sent selfie to Islamic State contact in Syria

By Andrew V. Pestano
Beheading suspect sent selfie to Islamic State contact in Syria
The beheading attack on Friday caused French officials to raise the country's security levels. Pictured, police officers stand guard during the annual Gay Pride Parade along Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris on June 27, 2015. The demonstration took place one day after France raised its security alert to the highest level following the beheading attack near Lyon in the east of the country. Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

LYON, France, June 29 (UPI) -- Yassin Salhi, the man who confessed to beheading his boss in France, sent a selfie after the attack to a contact in Syria suspected of fighting for the Islamic State.

Salhi, 35, used the WhatsApp messaging service to send a picture of himself posing with the severed head of Herve Cornara to a contact in Syria, currently identified as Sebastien-Younes, suspected of fighting for the Islamic State. The photo was sent to a Canadian number.

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Sebastien-Younes has reportedly been in Syria since last year and his last known location was the IS stronghold of Raqqa.

Cornara, 54, was in charge of transportation at the U.S.-owned Air Products & Chemicals, which supplies gases for industrial use. Authorities said Salhi killed Cornara and put his head on the factory gates, purportedly alongside flags with Islamic writing. The victim's body was found in a nearby van.

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Investigator said Salhi drove a delivery van onto the factory grounds on Friday. Surveillance cameras appeared to show Salhi accelerate toward a warehouse that contained canisters of flammable gas, acetone and liquid air. The explosion was so loud it could be heard two miles away.

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Salhi was taken into custody. He has been on the French terrorist watch list since 2006. Salhi's wife, sister and one other person were also arrested.

Salhi's motives for the attack remain unclear.

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On Saturday, French President Francois Hollande held a second emergency defense meeting in response to the factory attack and the attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait. Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls cut short international meetings for the crisis summit that followed raising the country's security level.

"We have no doubt that the attack was to blow up the building. It bears the hallmarks of a terrorist attack," Hollande said of the attack.

Amy R. Connolly contributed to this report.

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