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Man beheaded at French factory in suspected terrorist attack

Published 26/06/2015

French security stand next to the enclosed area where a decapitated body was found near the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZEPHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images
French security stand next to the enclosed area where a decapitated body was found near the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZEPHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images
In this screen grab taken from video provided by I Tele, emergency services at the scene outside a factory where a man was allegedly beheaded, in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, France, Friday, June 26, 2015. French authorities have opened an investigation after an attack and explosion at a gas factory that left one person decapitated and several wounded. Banners with Arabic inscriptions were found near the body, an official said. (I Tele via AP)
French police cordon off the area where a decapitated body is believed to have been found near the Air Products company, in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILOMENE BOUILLONPhilomene Bouillon/AFP/Getty Images
French security and emergency services gather at the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZEPHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images
French police and firefighters gather at the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZEPHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images
French police secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZEPHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images
French police and firefighters secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZEPHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images
French police secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZEPHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images
French police secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZEPHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images

An attacker with suspected ties to French Islamic radicals has rammed a car into a gas factory in France, and the severed head of a local businessman was hung from a post at the entrance, officials said.

Two more people were injured in the attack in in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, south-east of Lyon, authorities said.

President Francois Hollande, speaking in Brussels, said the attack began when a car crashed through the gate of the factory and ploughed into gas canisters, touching off an explosion.

"No doubt about the intention - to cause an explosion," Mr Hollande said, calling the attack "of a terrorist nature".

Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said a man who had been flagged in 2006 for suspected ties to extremists was seized by an alert firefighter, and was one of multiple people in custody after the attack.

A security official said the victim was the head of a local transportation company who is believed to have been killed before the explosion. His name was not released.

Authorities said his body was found near the site of the attack.

Mr Cazeneuve said: "People who could have participated in this abject crime are in custody."

He added that the suspect was known to intelligence services who had him under surveillance from 2006 to 2008. The man is from the Lyon region, he said.

The head was found staked on a gate at the factory's entrance, in what appeared to be an echo of the Islamic State group's practice of beheading prisoners and displaying their heads for all to see.

An official said two flags - one white and one black, both with Arabic inscriptions - were found nearby.

France's anti-terror prosecutor said an investigation had been opened and potential charges included plotting as part of "a terrorist group".

Mr Hollande spoke after watching TV news reports about the attack with German chancellor Angela Merkel as both leaders attended a European Union summit in Brussels.

The industrial site belongs to Air Products, a US chemical company based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Air Products says all its employees are accounted but has not confirmed whether its staff were among the two people reported injured. The company said in a statement that all employees have been evacuated from the site, which is secure.

It said: "Our crisis and emergency response teams have been activated and are working closely with all relevant authorities."

Mr Cazeneuve said the investigation has just begun and cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

France went on high alert after attacks in January against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, a kosher grocery store and a policewoman that left 20 people dead in the Paris region, including three Islamic extremist attackers.

Since then, fears of copycat attacks have risen. One person was arrested after authorities said he was plotting to target churches in the Paris region. Mr Cazeneuve said security has been heightened at religious sites around the country.

Live television footage from France showed two people - a woman and another person whose head was covered - being led away by security forces from the detained suspect's apartment building in Saint Priest, a suburb of Lyon.

France's leading security official said the suspect himself was detained earlier, and another official said the suspect's wife was among those taken into custody.

Officials said the suspect apparently miscalculated how explosive the chemicals he smashed into would be.

A police intelligence official said the man who was detained was Yassine Salhi, who is in his 30s and from the Lyon suburb of Saint-Priest.

Security officials picked up two people from Salhi's apartment, one of them said to be Salhi's wife.

Three French officials said the decapitated victim was Salhi's employer.

Independent News Service

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