One person has been killed and at least 12 others injured in an attack on a gas factory in a small town in southeastern France. Officials say it was a terrorist attack: A flag of the self-declared Islamic State was reportedly found at the factory southeast of Lyon.
One suspect has been arrested over the attack, which also included an explosion at the facility operated by Air Products, an American company whose headquarters are in Pennsylvania. It’s not yet certain whether he was acting alone.
“The terrorist nature of this act are without doubt,” says French President Francois Hollande, who will return home today from a European Union economic summit in Brussels.
Update at 8:25 p.m. ET: Details On Victim, Vehicle
The person who was killed was the manager of a transport company who was making a delivery, according to local newspaper Le Dauphine Libere. The newspaper adds that the prefect of Isere, John Paul Bonnetain, says the attacking vehicle was authorized to enter the factory — giving support to the theory that the vehicle belonged to a contractor or supplier.
Le Dauphine Libere also reports that a second arrest has been made — of a person whose vehicle was seen repeatedly passing in front of the factory Friday morning — but that no direct link has been established between the events.
Update at 7:25 p.m. ET: Suspect Had Been Monitored
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says that the suspect in the case, who is believed to have lived near Lyon, had no prior criminal record. He also said that the man had been monitored by authorities as far back as 2006, but he was found not to be in communication with terrorist groups.
Cazeneuve also stated that the suspect had been detained by a local firefighter who was among the first responders at the scene.
“I salute this courage,” he said.
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From Calais, NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports:
“One or maybe two men rammed the gates of a gas factory in the small industrial town. An explosion followed. The man killed was beheaded, and his head was placed at the front of the factory along with a flag of the so-called Islamic State.
“Residents of the small town of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier interviewed on television expressed shock that such an attack could take place in their tiny town.”
According to its website, Air Products specializes in producing industrial and medical gases, listing oxygen, nitrogen, argon, helium and hydrogen as its chief products.
France’s interior minister has ordered increased security at other potential targets around the country.
Speaking about the attack, Hollande said, “Our answer is prevention, deterrence and thus the necessity of embracing values and not giving in to fear, ever.”