A French worker in a gas factory in a small town outside Lyon was decapitated Friday morning, reportedly by Islamists, at least one of which was reportedly known to French intelligence, officials said. Several other employees were injured in the attack, during which witnesses also reported hearing explosions.
The French prosecutor’s office issued a statement calling it a terrorist attack by an “organized” group.
“The suspect has been arrested and identified,” President François Hollande said at a press conference a little before 1 p.m. local time. Interior Minister Cazeneuve said the attacker’s name is Yacine Sali and was “known to counterterrorism agents.” Hollande said two other factory workers were injured.
A man in his thirties was arrested by police shortly after the 10 a.m attack at the Air Products factory, a U.S.-owned conglomerate, in the town of Saint Quentin Fallavier. The suspect is believed to be one of at least two men who drove into the factory, set off an explosion, and decapitated the factory worker. The victim’s head was found “in an area of the factory a few meters away” from his body, BFM TV reported. The AP is reporting the head was put on a gate at the factory’s entrance.
French media reported that flag with Arabic writing on it was discovered at the factory. Local newspaper Le Dauphiné Libéré reported the decapitation victim’s head was covered with Arabic writing and there was more than one attacker and that they claimed to be members of ISIS. Police are searching for at least one additional suspect, the paper reported.
AFP reported that at least two individuals in some sort of vehicle drove into the factory. “An explosion then took place,” AFP said.
A crisis center was set up at the Bourgoin-Jallieu hospital to aid victims of the attack. An employee at a clothing company just across from Air Products said she and her colleagues all heard the explosion.
“We heard the noise,—everybody did,” a woman who identified herself as Sylvie at Axel Sarl told The Daily Beast. “We know people at Air Products. We’re all in shock. Some [employees] went home because they were so scared. Even as I speak to you I can’t even believe it happened.”
Nice’s politically conservative mayor, Christian Estrosi, tweeted, “this dramatic attack, if confirmed, reminds us once again the presence of a fifth column in in France.”
As a result of the attack, President Hollande said he would leave the EU summit in Brussels today and return to Paris.
Belgian media said Hollande watched the first images of the attack on TV while standing next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and was “visibly shocked.”
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was en route to the scene an hour after the attack.