One person was found decapitated and two others injured Friday after an assailant — with a possible accomplice — drove a vehicle onto an industrial complex near the eastern city of Lyon and tried to blow up a gas factory.
“The intent was without doubt to cause an explosion. It was a terrorist attack,” President Francois Hollande said at a news conference in Belgium.
The attack targeted a chemical factory in the town of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, about 20 miles southeast of Lyon. The plant is owned by the U.S. firm Air Products.
Witnesses said a man drove into the forecourt of the gas supply company, spun his car around in the yard, reports CBS News’ Elaine Cobbe. Then they heard an explosion and saw fire.
The slain victim’s head was found yards away from the body, stuck on a perimeter fence, with Arabic writing on or near it. There were also flags or banners bearing Arabic writing found at the scene.
The newspaper Le Dauphine libere reports that the decapitated victim was the manager of a transport company who happened to be at the site for a delivery.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared the attack an “act of terrorism,” and said the national Defense Council was to convene at the presidential Elysée Palace at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. Eastern). Hollande cut short his visit to Brussels for a European Union summit and returned to Paris early Friday.
CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports the factory was locked down along with other businesses in the area during the police investigation.
Holland confirmed that one alleged attacker had been taken into custody, and was being questioned by French police. He has been identified as Yassin Salih, 35 years old.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the suspect, believed to be from the area, was in contact with a Salafist movement and had been flagged in 2006 for ties to Islamic extremists, but surveillance was dropped in 2008.
There were multiple reports that French law enforcement and intelligence agencies had indications in the days and weeks leading up to Friday’s attack that such an incident could be in the offing.
Cazeneuve told reporters that multiple people have been detained. “People who could have participated in this abject crime are in custody,” he told journalists.
A French prosecutor’s office said antiterror police in Paris were taking over the investigation, citing possible charges of murder, attempted murder, and criminal association with a view to committing terrorist acts.
Air Products says all its employees are accounted for after the attack. It has not confirmed whether staff members were among the two people reported injured and one killed. The company says in a statement that all employees have been evacuated from the site, which is secure.
It says, “Our crisis and emergency response teams have been activated and are working closely with all relevant authorities.”
Air Products, which is based in Allentown, Pa., makes gases for a wide range of industrial uses, including for food production, medicine, and the oil and gas sector. It has more than 20,000 employees in 50 countries, mostly in the Americas, Europe and Asia.
The Hebdo ordeal culminated with two suspects cornered in a factory in the Paris ex-urbs, and both suspects, who were affiliated with al Qaeda’s Yemen branch, being killed by police.
Separately, a man claiming allegiance to ISIS, Amedy Coulibaly, was killed in a police raid after taking hostages — four of whom he killed — at the Jewish market in eastern Paris.
ISIS and al Qaeda followers and supporters online have issued repeated calls for further attacks on French soil in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
A French Mulsim convert warned of fresh attacks against the west in an ISIS recruitment video released on June 8 by the group’s branch in Raqqa, Syria.
“Keep insulting the honor of our prophet, and send your warplanes to bombard us, then you should expect attacks in your countries every week,” the French ISIS militant, identified as Abu Salman, said in the video. He warned Europeans to draw lessons from the January attacks in Paris.