President Francois Hollande said the attacker had been arrested and identified. The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said the suspect had been known to the intelligence services and had been under surveillance in 2006 as someone believed to have been radicalized.
The attacker had entered the plant in a vehicle that may have been driven by an accomplice, Hollande said, and tried to use gas canisters to set off a bigger explosion. He did not say whether the accomplice had also been detained. “The attack was of a terrorist nature since a body was discovered, decapitated and with inscriptions,” Hollande said.
“This attack was a vehicle, driven by a person, maybe accompanied by another, who rammed at great speed into this factory,” Hollande said. “There is no doubt about the intention, which was to cause an explosion.”
News reports said the attacker had waved flags bearing Arabic writing during the assault. Cazeneuve said flags found at the scene were being evaluated. Hollande, who cut short his participation in a European Union summit meeting in Brussels to return to Paris, said the episode had all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.
The assault was carried out at a plant in St.-Quentin-Fallavier, southeast of Lyon, operated by Air Products.
Thierry Gricourt, an insurance adviser who works down the street from the plant, said it was a small explosion. “We heard a noise a little before 10,” he said. “It was not very loud; we did not know it was an explosion.”
The decapitated victim was from near Lyon, Cazeneuve said.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls ordered tightened security and “reinforced vigilance” on “sensitive” sites in the region, which is about 300 miles southeast of Paris.
Anti-terrorism prosecutors in Paris said they had opened an investigation into what they called an “assassination and attempted assassinations in an organized group with a terrorist undertaking.”
The assault follows the attacks this year on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and on a Jewish grocery store in Paris, and a number of other violent episodes in Europe involving people claiming adherence to radical Islamic groups.
“Everybody remembers what happened in our country, and not just in our country,” Hollande said, adding that it was important not to “give into fear” and to not create “useless divisions.”
Source: New York Times