Jean-Philippe Ksiazek

Severed head discovered at French gas factory after attack

A decapitated body was found at a gas factory near Lyon; attacker said to be in custody

A severed head posted on a gate and its decapitated body covered in Arabic writing were found at a gas factory in southeastern France after an attack Friday, police sources and French media said.

The attacker rammed a car into the premises and then plowed into gas canisters, triggering a blast he survived before being arrested, French authorities said. A police source said the beheaded victim was the suspect's employer and a manager of a transport company, on the site for a delivery. It was not yet clear whether his vehicle was then used by the attacker to gain entrance.

President Francois Hollande, speaking in Brussels, said one person was killed and two injured in the attack, which began shortly before 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. EDT) in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, southeast of Lyon.

“No doubt about the intention — to cause an explosion,” Hollande said, calling the attack “of a terrorist nature.“

A security official said a severed head was on the gate at the entrance to the factory. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details to the media, said the body was found near the site of the explosion but the victim was not decapitated by the blast.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said one suspect, named as Yassin Sahli, had been arrested, and police were holding other suspected accomplices. He said Sahli did not have a criminal record but had been under surveillance from 2006 to 2008 on suspicion.

“A person was killed and decapitated, and the anti-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor has been immediately deployed,” Cazeneuve said at the scene of the attack in an industrial zone by the town of Saint-Quentin Fallavier, 20 miles southeast of Lyon.

French media said Sahli was a 35-year-old professional driver who lived in the Lyon suburbs. There was no official confirmation of that but Europe 1 radio interviewed a woman they identified as his wife.

“In the morning he left for work and didn’t come home between noon and 2 o' clock. I was waiting for him,” she told Europe 1 radio, saying she and her family of three children lived normal lives. “My heart is about to give out.”

Live television from France has shown two people — a woman and another person whose head was covered — being led away by French security forces from the detained suspect's apartment building in Saint Priest, a suburb of Lyon.

A security official says the suspect's wife was among those taken into custody Friday afternoon.

The industrial site belongs to Air Products, an American chemical company based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

A French prosecutor said an investigation was opened into the attack.

France, which has deployed aircraft to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq, has long been named as a primary target for attacks. France went on high alert after attacks in January against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, a kosher grocery and a policewoman that left 20 people dead in the Paris region, including the three attackers.

Since then, fears of copycat attacks have risen. One person was arrested after authorities said he was plotting to gun down people in churches in the Paris area.

The coordinated attacks in January revived concerns in France, and the rest of Europe, about the threat posed by European citizens who may be inspired or deployed by armed groups aboard. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed credit for the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Al Jazeera and wire services

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter