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FACTORY TERROR ATTACK

TERRORISM

Attacker sent selfie of beheading ‘to Syria’

Canadian authorities are working with French police to help find the recipient of a gruesome selfie purportedly taken by an Islamist suspected of decapitating his boss in France, officials said Saturday.

Attacker sent selfie of beheading 'to Syria'
A handout picture released on Saturday shows Herve Cornara, the boss of the ATC delivery factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier. He was killed in the attack on the facility. Photo: AFP

The gruesome “selfie” taken by the man suspected of beheading his boss during an attack on a gas factory in France was sent to Syria, sources close to the investigation said Sunday.

Earlier Sources close to the investigation into Friday's attack near Lyon had revealed Yassin Salhi, a 35-year-old married father-of-three, sent a picture of himself with the severed head via the WhatsApp messaging service to a Canadian number.

“Though I can't comment on operational aspects of national security, I can say that we are helping French authorities in their investigation,” said Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, spokesman for Canadian public safety minister Steven Blaney.

The message was sent to a Canadian number, but investigators said they were still working to determine the final recipient, as the number used could be a relay to another phone in another location.

Authorities are now convinced that the final recipient is in Syria, where hundreds of people from France have gone to wage jihad.

Anti-terrorist authorities have identified 473 people who have left France to fight in Iraq or Syria and Prime Minister Manuel Valls said earlier Sunday that 1,800 people in France were “linked” in some way to the jihadist cause.

Authorities are questioning Salhi about Friday's attack, during which healso drove his van into a warehouse packed with dangerous gases in an apparent bid to blow up the factory and himself.

Canadian officials did not give details about how they are helping the French, but police powers allow them to trace calls or locate a phone by its number.

“A government's first duty is to ensure the safety of its citizens,” the spokesman said.

Canada has seen the radicalization of some of its youth, with about 100 people thought to have gone to Syria to join the Islamic State group.

Lawmakers recently endorsed a new anti-terror law that boosts powers of Canada's spy agency amid concerns of attacks within the country.

TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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