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Details emerge on suspect in terrorist attack on factory in France

Philippe Desmazes, AFP | French police and firefighters at the Air Products factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier on June 26, 2015

Yassin Sahli, a 35-year-old deliveryman and father of three, was arrested on Friday as the main suspect in a terrorist attack on a US-owned gas plant near the southeastern French city of Lyon.


Sahli was taken into police custody Friday on suspicion of decapitating a man and ramming his vehicle into the Air Products factory, setting off an explosion that left two people injured.

In the wake of the attack, a woman who identified herself as his wife told France’s Europe 1 radio nothing had seemed out of the ordinary when he left their home in the Lyon suburb of Saint-Priest that morning.

“Yesterday he was at work, he came home as usual. We spent a normal evening and in the morning he left for work and didn’t come home between noon and two. I was waiting for him,” she said.

Sources close to the investigation said the wife, who has not been officially named, was subsequently arrested and was being held for questioning.

Under surveillance

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve named Sahli as the main suspect in a brief statement at the site of the attack in the town of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, around 36 kilometres southeast of Lyon. He said that although Sahli had no criminal record, he had been placed under surveillance from 2006 to 2008 over his suspected ties to radical Islamists.

Little else has been officially released about Sahli’s background, but according to his wife’s radio interview he led a typical life.

The couple lived with their three children – aged between six and nine – on the ground floor of a three-storey public housing building in a quiet neighbourhood of Saint-Priest.

“They are a very normal family,” a neighbour who gave her name as Brigitte said. “I only talked with madame, he didn’t say hello or goodbye.”

Although Sahli was dropped from surveillance in 2008, he has been on the radar of the domestic security agency, the DGSI, for at least the past two years and was described in 2013 as a “hardcore Muslim” in one intelligence memo, according to RTL radio.

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.

Sahli had been living in Saint-Priest for around six months. Before that, the Est Républicain 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.


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