One person was decapitated and two others were injured in a terrorist attack on an Air Products & Chemicals Inc. gas plant near Lyon in southeastern France.
The attack was perpetrated by one or two people and France has stepped up the protection of its chemical sites, President Francois Hollande said at a press conference in Brussels.
The attackers beheaded a man, posted the severed head at the factory’s entrance with an inscription in Arabic pinned to it before driving into the plant at high speed and ramming into gas cannisters. One person has been arrested, identified and is being questioned, Hollande said.
“The attack is terrorist in nature when you have a decapitated body with inscriptions,” he said. “There’s no doubt that the intention was to cause an explosion.”
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who visited the site of the attack, said the suspect arrested had been under surveillance from 2006 to 2008 because of links to Salafist movements, although he didn’t have a criminal record. He is from the Lyon region and was identified by Cazeneuve as Yassin Salhi.
The assault comes after 17 people were killed at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in Paris in January by a radicalized trio, catapulting France’s capital onto the front pages of newspapers around the world.
The French government mobilized 10,000 soldiers to guard vulnerable sites around the country after those attacks.
The victim of the beheading in today’s attack hasn’t been identified, Cazeneuve said. BFM Television said he was a local businessman who ran a delivery company and that his vehicle was used in the attack.
French police have held a second person in the attack and have also arrested the wife of the first suspect, Agence France-Presse reported.
It’s not clear why the plant was targeted, Cazeneuve said.
The assault was at a factory belonging to Allentown, Pennsylvania-based Air Products. Situated in an industrial zone outside the French town of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, the site produces gas used by industry and hospitals, according to a website dedicated to local industries.
In addition to the factory, the company has a customer services center in Aubervilliers outside Paris.
The company said in an e-mailed statement that all its employees are accounted for and that the gas plant site has been secured.