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Shock, Resolve in Air Products Attack

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

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L'ISLE-D'ABEAU, FRANCE--"Horrified and saddened" by a terrorist attack on one of its French facilities, the CEO of coating raw-materials supplier Air Products & Chemicals Inc. has announced increased security at the firm's locations worldwide.

All employees of the Allentown, PA-based company were safely evacuated and accounted for after a delivery van rammed gas canisters at the Air Products gas plant warehouse at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) Friday (June 26), setting off an explosion.

Provided via

Brutally slain by an employee before the attack, Herve Cornara, 54, was remembered as a man who "took care of others." The cause of the killing, whether political or personal, was not clear.

However, the severed head of a man who had been previously killed was posted on a fence around the building along with two flags bearing Arabic inscriptions.

Reports said two other people had been injured in the attack, but it was not clear who those victims were or what injuries they suffered.


Authorities identified the victim as Herve Cornara, 54, the manager of a transportation company that had employed the delivery-van driver, Yassine Salhi, since March.

Salhi was later arrested, along with his wife and sister. French authorities announced the arrest on Twitter, calling Salhi "the perpetrator" and saying "all measures" were being "taken to prevent further tragedy."

A second man was also arrested later, but then released.

... But No Answers

The van was apparently admitted through the Air Products gates because it had made previous deliveries to the facility, and employees recognized Salhi from previous deliveries, reports said.

Otherwise, however, authorities found no immediate connection between the two companies, and it was not clear why Air Products had been targeted.

French Interior Ministry

Air Products' employees were safely evacuated from the production facility after Friday's attack near Lyon. It was not clear why the company was targeted.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said after the attack that it was too early to tell what motivated it and whether it was related to others in France earlier this year.

Political or Personal?

Reports said Salhi had been on a watch list for possible ties with Islamic extremists. Authorities also noted that the gruesome beheading and flag display used in the Air Products attack had become associated with tactics used by the terrorist group ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.

But the married father of three later told investigators that he had committed the crime because of "personal difficulties" and "problems at home and work."

Other reports said Salhi had argued with his boss in the days before the killing.

'Unspeakable Act'

Air Products' chairman, president and CEO Seifi Ghasemi expressed the company's shock and sorrow.

“I am horrified and saddened by the attack on our facility in France," Ghasemi said in a statement.

Air Products & Chemicals Inc.

"I believe I speak for all of our Air Products family around the world in expressing our deepest sympathies to the family of the victim of this unspeakable act," said CEO Seifi Ghasemi.

"I believe I speak for all of our Air Products family around the world in expressing our deepest sympathies to the family of the victim of this unspeakable act.

“My heart also goes out to the people who work at the site and their families.This incident reinforces that we all need to take safety and security very seriously, every day, and remain vigilant in everything we do.

"I am very glad to know that all of our employees are safe and accounted for.”

Mourning and Denunciations

A memorial for Cornara was held Saturday (June 27) in his hometown of Fontaines-sur-Saône north of Lyon. He was eulogized as someone who "took care of others."


Responders to the attack on the Air Products plant included French counter-terrorism forces, Reuters reports.

"Today, we are all with Herve," said Mayor Thierry Pouzol, a friend of Cornora who delivered the eulogy. He asked those gathered to "maintain reserve and dignity to honor (Cornora's) memory."

News reports worldwide quoted Muslims as denouncing the attack, which occurred just after the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

"When I heard this, I was shocked. It's shameful," Leila Bouri, a 24-year-old cafeteria cashier, told The Morning Call.

"I am a Muslim, but you can't kill like this. It's not who we are."

On Sunday (June 28), hundreds of people gathered at a mosque near Lyon to remember Cornara.

Citizen Digital / Koome Komonye

Hundreds of people gathered Sunday (June 28) at a mosque near Lyon to remember the victim and denounce the attack.

"[W]e are here to call for the end of this barbarity," a Muslim attendee told Citizen Digital.

"We are against terrorism of all forms."

Heightened Security

An intense investigation into the attack is ongoing.

France was already on high alert after the series of January terrorist attacks in and around Paris that targeted the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. More than a dozen people died in those attacks.

Whether the Air Products attack was related to the January series, a copycat incident, or a sign of a new threat entirely, French authorities immediately stepped up security at other sites around the region.

SeifiGhasemi CharlieHebdo
Thierry Caro and Jeremy Harmann // CC B-SA 4.0 (left); Fair Use (right)

Friday's attack sent shock waves through France, which remains on high alert following the deaths of more than a dozen people in a series of attacks in January that targeted the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo.

"The terrorist threat is at a maximum," Alain Juppe, a former French premier, said via Twitter. "The [French] state must do everything possible to protect its citizens."

Ghasemi also said that Air Products security had been increased around the world. The company's assets include more than 750 production facilities and 1,800 miles of industrial gas pipeline.

About Air Products

Founded in 1940, Air Products bills itself as the "world's only global gas and chemicals company." The company's materials segment serves the polyurethanes, cleaning and coatings, and adhesives industries.

Air Products has been a major supplier of epoxy and specialty additive technologies to the paints and coatings industry for over 30 years.

Ranked 276 on the Fortune 500 annual list of public companies in 2014, Air Products has more than 20,000 employees across 50 countries.

Note: This post was revised for editing throughout at 7:23 a.m. June 30, 2015.


Tagged categories: Air Products; Business matters; Coatings raw materials manufacturers; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Fatalities; North America; Program/Project Management

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