A terror attack on a U.S. natural gas company near Lyon, France, has left at least one man dead and put France – just more than six months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks left 17 victims and three attackers dead – back on its highest terror alert.
The attackers, who crashed into the gas canisters at the company causing an explosion, left the decapitated body of a local trucking company employee who’d reportedly been making a delivery hanging on the company gate. Police said the attackers left a note on the body. Police also found what were described as two “Islamist flags” at the scene.
“It is a terror attack; there is no doubt about it,” said French President Francois Hollande, speaking in Brussels where he was attending meeting dealing with the future of Greece and the European Union.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, speaking at a news conference in Bogota, Colombia, where he was in meetings, said he would rush back to France after a telephone meeting with Hollande.
“Islamist terrorism has hit France again,” Valls said. He added that the attack on French soil “shows that the jihadist threat remains very high.”
The French leaders were reacting to deadly and bizarre, if ultimately failed, attack on the Air Products facility near Lyon. Air Products, based in Allentown, Pa., describes itself as a natural and specialty gas supplier.
Hollande gave a brief account of the attack.
“This attack was in a vehicle driven by one person, perhaps accompanied by another, which rammed its way at high speed into this establishment, which contained bottles of gas,” the president said. “The intent was without doubt to cause an explosion.”
French officials have speculated in the French press that the intent was to cause a much larger explosion than what occurred.
Hollande noted that France remains tense just six months after the Paris attacks, which left 12 dead at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and claimed four more deaths at a kosher grocery a few days later.
“We all remember what has happened in our country, and in other countries,” he said. “There is a lot of emotion, but emotion is not the only answer. We need action, deterrence, and we need to spread our values and to never give in to fear.”
After the attacks, Air Products posted on its website: “We can confirm that an attack occurred at our facility in L’Isle-d’Abeau, France this morning. We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and want to express our sympathies to the family of the victim of this unspeakable tragedy.
“Emergency services are on site and have contained the situation. All individuals working at the site have been evacuated. The site is secure. Our crisis and emergency response teams have been activated and are working closely with all relevant authorities.
“Security has been increased at locations around the world as a precautionary measure.”
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that one of the suspects, identified as Yessim Salim, had been arrested after being “neutralized” by a French firefighter. Police also reported having arrested that suspect’s wife. Salim reportedly worked for the man who was beheaded.
“This person was under investigation for radicalization but this investigation was not renewed in 2008,” said Cazeneuve, noting that Salim was known to have extremist Salafist ties. But, he added, “He had no police record.”
The terror attacks, coupled with the attack in Tunisia that left at least 28 dead, and what appears to have been an Islamic State attack in Kuwait on a mosque that left 25 dead, also prompted the United Kingdom to raise its terror level to severe, meaning an attack is imminent.
German officials announced that their national terror level would remain unchanged, noting that it had been very high for the past six months.