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TerrorismTwo terrorists attack U.S.-owned factory in France, decapitating one worker

Published 26 June 2015

The French police is investigating what appears to be a terrorist attack on a factory owned by a U.S. gas company after a decapitated body and a flag with Islamist inscriptions were found in a factory in south-east France belonging to a U.S. gas company. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said one of the attackers was killed by a firefighter, and that other firefighters captured the second attacker, who was identified as Yessim Salim. Cazeneuve told reporters that Salim was under surveillance by the French security services since 2008. The severed head was found on top of the gate at the entrance to the factory.

The French police is investigating what appears to be a terrorist attack on a factory owned by a U.S. gas company after a decapitated body and a flag with Islamist inscriptions were found in a factory in south-east France belonging to a U.S. gas company.

“It is a terror attack. There is no doubt about it,” president, François Hollande, told reporters in Brussels where he was meeting with other European leaders in the European council summit.

Hollande said that the decapitated body found at the site had “a message written on it,” but did not provide any details. He added that one attacker was killed and another captured.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve the one of the attackers was killed by a firefighter, and that other firefighters captured the second attacker, who was identified as Yessim Salim. Le Monde reports that Cazeneuve told reporters that Salim, since 2008, was a subject of what the French authorities call “fiche S” (for “sûreté de l’Etat”). Two other French men who committed terrorist acts, Mohamed Merah andt Amedy Coulibaly, were also fiche S subjects.  

Many details of the attack are still unclear, but that it appears to have started around 08:00 GMT Agence France-Presse reports that the attack began when “one or several individuals” drove a vehicle into a factory belonging to the U.S. multinational company Air Products, which is located in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon. There was then an explosion, but it is not clear whether it was caused by explosives on the vehicle or gas canisters stored on the site.

A French security services source told AP that a severed head was found on top of the gate at the entrance to the factory. The security official said a decapitated body was found near the site of the explosion, and that the decapitation was not caused by the blast.

The security source also told AP that two flags, one white and one black, both with Arabic inscriptions, were left at the factory.

Air Products, with headquarters in Allentown, Pennsyvania, confirmed there had been an incident at its factory and said all staff had been evacuated.

“We can confirm that an incident occurred at our facility in L’Isle-d’Abeau, France this morning,” a statement said. “Our priority at this stage is to take care of our employees, who have been evacuated from the site and all accounted for.

“Emergency services are on site and have contained the situation. The site is secure. Our crisis and emergency response teams have been activated and are working closely with all relevant authorities.”

Hollande, who left the summit to return to Paris, said the vehicle was crashed into the building with “clearly an intention to cause damage.” Police and troops had been deployed and “all measures are being taken to prevent any other tragedies,” he added.

Hollande stressed that the response to such attacks should be measured: “We all remember what has happened in our country, and in other countries. There is a lot of emotion, but emotion is not the only answer. We need action, deterrence, and we need to spread out values and to never give in to fear.”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who cut short a visit to Latin America and was flying home, ordered tightened security and “reinforced vigilance” on “sensitive” sites in the region, which is about 300 miles southeast of Paris.

Antiterrorism 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 New York Times reports that the British prime minister, David Cameron, spoke to Hollande early Friday, Reuters cited an unnamed British official as saying, “The prime minister has just spoken to President Hollande to express his sympathies for what looks like an appalling incident there,” they said. “It clearly looks an extremely concerning situation and our thoughts are with all those affected by it.”

Air Products supplies gases, chemicals, and related equipment. It has 20,000 employees and outlets in fifty countries.