Suspect in Attack in France Had Ties to Radical Islamist

VÉNISSIEUX, France — The man who the authorities say decapitated his boss before setting off an explosion at an American-owned chemical plant near Lyon first came to the attention of the French intelligence services at least nine years ago, after he became part of the circle of a radical Islamist.

The man, Yassine Salhi, 35, who was caught during the attack on Friday, and the Islamist, Frédéric Jean Salvi, both spent time in the small town of Pontarlier, near the Swiss border.

Mr. Salvi converted to Islam in prison and became known as “Grand Ali.” By 2008, it seems, he left France, but surfaced in connection with plans to carry out a terrorist attack in Indonesia in 2010. He has since slipped through a police dragnet and disappeared, with an Interpol arrest warrant for him, according to news reports.

While the depth of the two men’s association remains unclear, it appears to have contributed to Mr. Salhi’s radicalization and to have been enough for the French security services to place him in 2006 on a list of potential security threats.


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