Man decapitated in terror attack in France

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected]
Man decapitated in terror attack in France
French police have been on the scene since Friday morning. Photo: AFP

A man was decapitated in a terrorist attack at a gas factory near Lyon, eastern France, on Friday. The attacker, who had links to an extremist movement, has been arrested.


Main events: 

  • One dead, two hurt in attack on French factory
  • Attacker on French gas factory named Air Products reportedly carrying Isis flags
  • Attacker named as Yassin Salhi (spelling unconfirmed) who was known for links to extremists
  • Decapitated body found nearby with inscriptions scrawled on
  • Suggestions a second person was in vehicle
17:54 - Recap
We are wrapping up our live blog after what has been another emotional day in France's history.
Click here to read the latest wrap from the AFP news agency, or scroll down to read it as it happened.
17:42 - Israeli minister urges French Jews to flee
"I call on the Jews of France - come home! Anti-Semitism is rising, terror is increasing," immigration minister Zeev Elkin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party, said in a statement.
"This is a national mission of the highest priority."
Netanyahu sparked controversy by encouraging French Jews to move to Israel in the wake of January's Paris attacks that left 17 dead, including four at a Jewish supermarket.
17:18 - The suspect and victim arrived together
French media is reporting that both men arrived at the factory in the same vehicle - likely in order to get through security. The suspect then beheaded his victim inside the van in factory grounds, then left the vehicle to pin the man's head to the factory gates.
Salhi then went back to the car, removed the body, and proceeded to drive the vehicle directly into the gas canisters.
Though access to the facility is restricted because it contains dangerous substances, the delivery company had clearance to enter.
17:01 - CCTV attack footage seen
The AFP news agency has reportly had access to CCTV footage from the moment of the explosion.  
"The victim's head (...) was put on the fence by his presumed assassin," the agency reported.
Salhi then "took over the wheel of the truck and crashed into the gas cylinders, causing an explosion".
A team of firefighters who were called to help were then accosted by Salhi who screamed 'Allahou Akbar', which means "God is greatest" in Arabic.
"The firefighters then managed to contain the scene until the police arrived," the AFP reported. 

16:45 - Hollande puts security alert at highest level

The security operation known as Vigipirate will be raised to the maximum level in Rhône-Alpes for the next three days, President Hollande has announced. 
The operation was put into place nationwide after the January terror attacks in Paris, and sees soldiers and police standing guard at sensitive sites across the country.

16:32 - Attacker was a supplier to gas factory

Reports on French TV are claiming that the attacker Yassin Salhi, a delivery driver, was a regular supplier to the factory and therefore was able to gain access to the site.

The attack was carried out using one his delivery vans. It is believed his own boss was the man he decapitated before attempting to carry out an apparent suicide attack by causing an explosion at the factory.

16:24 - Terror expert says another attack is 'probable'

Jean-Charles Brisard, the chairman at the Paris-based Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, has told The Local that the French should expect another terror attack. 
"I think what's happened was unfortunately something we were expecting. We knew there would be more attacks," he said. 
"This was the first time in France that we have had an attempt to commit a suicide bombing, the first time the target is a sensitive facility." 
He added that the choice of target was an "interesting" one.
"It would have got major media attention if they hadn't failed in their attempt, which was trying to commit a suicide attack as far as I can understand. Their intention was to target a sensitive facility which would have resulted in many casualties."
He added that it was "probable" that France would be attacked again, and that the French public are aware their country is a target that is often mentioned in Isis propaganda.

16:16 - Victim was suspect's boss: reports

BFM TV are reporting that the victim was actually the Yassin Salhi's boss. This has not been confirmed. The origin of the report is AFP who are quoting a source close to the probe.

16:14 - PM - "Blind threat and terror spare no nation"

16:10 - So what exactly is a "fiche S"?

Authorities were keeping an eye on the terrorist for two years from 2006, opening a "fiche S" against him.
A "fiche S" - for which the S stands for "Sûreté d'etat" - has a lifespan of two years, meaning authorities renew them if they consider the person in question to be still dangerous.
While having one of the files doesn't warrant any kind of arrest certain individuals can be put under extra surveillance.
15:57 - What we don't know so far...

There's still several gaps in the story of what happened at 10 am on Friday at the Air Products factory near Lyon.

We know that there was one victim, who was decapitated and had his head stuck on a post on the fence around the factory. We don't know the connection of the victim to the suspect and at one point they came across each other.

If it's true that the victim's vehicle was used to crash through the factory gates, it's possible that he was car-jacked by the attacker and beheaded in the car before he drove in to the factory.

The fact he was arrested so soon after crashing into the factory suggests police and fire fighters were already on the scene.

Had they been following the attacker in the vehicle or had they been called out or perhaps they were simply on the site because of the nature of the products produced by the factory?

Attention will also be placed on why in 2008 anti-terror police decided not to keep open a file on suspected attacker Yassin Salhi, despite knowing he had links to Islamist extremism.

15:50 - Wife of suspect held

Confirmation that the wife of the terror suspect Yassin Salhi has been held by police, who are currently in the process of carrying out a search at the family property in the Lyon suburb of Saint-Priest.

Police are currently also holding her husband, Yassin Salhi, 35, and another person who was seen driving up and down the gas site in a suspicious manner but has not been formally linked to the attack.

15:37 - Why Air Products factory?

There’s been plenty of speculation over why the attacker targeted the Air Products factory on the industrial estate not far from Lyon.

Most have focused on the fact that Air Products is American owned, based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, although it is not clear whether this was the reason by Yassin Salhi targeted it.

But given that the factory is the third largest producer of atmospheric gases in France, another motive may have been simply to cause a devastating explosion.

In a statement, it said: “Our priority at this stage is to take care of our employees, who have been evacuated from the site and all accounted for.

“Emergency services are on site and have contained the situation. The site is secure. Our crisis and emergency response teams have been activated and are working closely with all relevant authorities.”

15:30 - More on the victim

A man whose decapitated head was pinned to the gates of a French factory in a grisly attack has been identified as a local businessman from eastern France, a source close to the investigation said Friday.

It is believed the victim's van was actually used by suspect Yassin Sahli to crash in to the factory.

It was not clear whether the businessman was killed on the site of the attack, where a suspected Islamist drove a vehicle into an Air Products factory around 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Lyon before setting off several
explosive devices.

(French security stand next to the enclosed area where a decapitated body was found. Photo: AFP)

15:23 - Anti- terror operation at suspect's apartment

Anti-terror police from the RAID unit are currently carrying out an operation at the apartment of the suspect, where several people have been led out by masked officers.

They are believed to be the suspect's three children and wife.

One other person close to suspected attacker Yassin Salhi has been arrested.

15:18 - More calls for "unity"

Almost six months after the Paris terror attacks which shock France to the core the country's politicians are once again calling for unity.

President François Hollande has already said France must not give in to fear and its PM Manuel Valls said the attack showed the terrorist threat was "extremely high".

Minister for Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said France must remain "mobilised and united."

15:15 - Decapitated victim identified as local businessman

Details are emerging of the victim, who has not been named, but apparently identified as a local business from the region. Earlier BFM TV reported that he was a delivery driver, but latest reports suggest he was involved in transport.

It is believed that his vehicle was used by the terrorist to carry out the attack.

15:00 - What we know of the terror attacker so far

Here's what we know about Yassin Salhi, the man who is suspected of carrying out a new terror attack on French soil.

14:53 - More from the suspects partner

The suspect's wife has been speaking to Europe 1 radio. 

"My heart is going to stop. I do not know what happened. Have they arrested him?" she asks.
"He went to work this morning at 7am. He does deliveries. He did not return between noon and two, I expect him this afternoon.
"My sister  said turn on the television. She was crying," said the young woman.
"I know my husband. We have a normal family life. He goes to work, he comes back," she explains.
"We are normal Muslims. We do Ramadan. We have three children and a normal family life," says the wife of the suspect. 

14:44 - "He went to work as normal"

The partner of the terror suspect has spoken to Europe1 radio. 

"I don't know what happened, he left to go to work as normal," said the partner.

14:26 - Victim believed to be delivery driver

According to reports on French TV the victim is believed to be the manager of a local delivery service. 

14:26 - France's PM returns home after attack
France's prime minister said an attack on a factory Friday was "Islamist terrorism," announcing he was cutting short a visit to South America to deal with the crisis.
"Islamist terrorism has hit France again," Manuel Valls told a press conference in Colombia's capital Bogota, adding that he would take part by telephone in an emergency meeting called by President Francois Hollande, then rush back to France.

14:20 - Le Pen calls for firm action against Islamist extremists

Marine Le Pen has released a statement calling for strong measures against Islamists.

"Big declarations must now stop. The marches, slogans and emotional speech must now give way to action. Nothing has been done to stop Islamic fundamentalism for years," said the leader of the far-right National Front.

14:17 - False photo of terrorist circulating on social media

French newspaper Le Figaro has published a tweet that was being passed around social media in France that alleged to be the terrorist Yassin Sahli.

However it appears the photo is definitely not that of the attacker.

14:02 -  Minister says attack victim was 'abjectly decapitated'

(File photo of Bernard Cazeneuve)

Details of how and at what point the victim was decapitated are still unclear. Initial reports suggested the man's head was placed on a fence that surrounds the factory. 

French president François Hollande confirmed that "inscriptions" were written on the victim's head, but did not confirm reports that they were written in Arabic.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve simply said he was "abjectly decapitated".

13:58 - Courage of security forces commended

Barnard Cazeneuve has been giving a few more details of the moment the attacker was arrested. It seems he was apprehended thanks to an policeman or fireman who was able "to keep a cool head". 

"After the crime was committed, the suspected culprit was neutralised by someone from the security forces of Isere who had arrived at the scene and who had a lot of courage and kept his cool and proceeded to put the individual out of action," said Cazeneuve.

13:51  - More reaction from around Europe

Germany stands united with France against "terror's blind hate" and in defence of "free society", Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after a deadly attack Friday at a factory near Lyon.

Steinmeier said he was appalled by the "shocking news of a heinous murder and an assault with several injured", calling it an "act of terror and fanaticism which we condemn in the strongest terms".

13:48 - Attack is new test for France

Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister is at the scene and has described the terrorist attack as a "new test for France". "Our country will be stronger," he said.

13:47 - Suspected terror attack in Tunisia

As France tries to digest the latest terror attack on its soil, reports are coming through of a terror attack on a beach in Tunisia, that has left several dead.

13:44 - Authorities are still trying to identify the victim

There is still no word about who the victim was. Initial reports suggested he was not an employee at the factory. This has not been confirmed with government minister Bernard Cazeneuve simply saying they are still trying to identify the dead person.

13:42 - Hollande calls for unity 

Hollande tweets: "Our response is action, prevention, dissuasion, and the necessity to hold on to our values and to never give in to fear".

13:39  - Several arrests made 

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirms that several people close to the attacker have been arrested. These are presumed to be Yacine Salhi's family members.

13;37 - Spanish PM condemns attack

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has "firmly condemned" the attack
13:33 - Salafist link revealed

The suspect had a 'link' to Salafist movement, said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve but was not implicated in any terrorist activities. The Salafi movement is a group within Sunni Islam, which is often associated with literalist approaches to Islam.

13:25 - Authorities opened file on attacker in 2006

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said a "fiche S" was opened on the attacker in 2006 for radicalisation. A "fiche S" for which the S stands for "Sûreté d'etat" basically means he had been identified as a possible danger and should be watched.

The file was not renewed in 2008, however, meaning authorities no longer considered him a risk. Cazeneuve also said the man named as Yacine Salhi (spelling unconfirmed) had no criminal record.

13:18 - Attacker named and was known to police

French interior minister has just named the attacker as Yacine Sahi (unconfirmed spelling) who is believed to be father of three children. 

Cazeneuve said he was known to anti-terror police for radicalisation. A file was opened on him in 2006 but not "renewed in 2008".

He was known for links to extremism but not identified as a high risk who would carry out an attack, says Cazeneuve.

13:12 - Victim still not identified

13:08 - Confusion over presence of "second attacker"

French President Francois Hollande said a man who launched a "terrorist" assault on a gas factory Friday has been identified and that there may have been a second attacker.

"This attack was in a vehicle driven by one person, perhaps accompanied by another," Hollande said at an EU summit in Brussels. "The individual suspected of committing this attack has been arrested and identified."

But there's no suggestion that police are hunting another attacker. Reports in the French press suggest the second man in the car may have acted under duress.

12:53 - "We must not cede to fear"

The president says "there is emotion but emotion cannot be the only response. We need action and dissuasion. We must not cede to fear."

"The intent was without doubt to cause an explosion. It was a terrorist attack," Hollande told reporters as he cut short his stay at a European summit.

(Photos: AFP)

12:50 - More from Hollande

The French president has confirmed that "one person was driving the car perhaps accompanied by another".

Hollande says he drove into the gas canisters "without doubt to provoke an explosion". He confirms a victim was decapitated and the head did have inscriptions written on it.

"We express our solidarity with the victim," he added.

The president says the suspect has been arrested and has been identified. Sensitive sites near the attack location have had their security reinforced and "all necessary measures will be taken".

12:48 - Hollande says the attack was "of a terrorist nature"

President Francois Hollande is addressing the nation, referring to the incident as an "attack of a terrorist nature".

12: 42 - More images and video from the scene:

Police are on the scene, on foot and in helicopters.

12:39 - Defence council called in Paris

French president François Hollande is returning to Paris to hold a meeting of his Defence Council - with chief ministers and military chiefs. He is expected to make a statement to the media shortly as is Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve who has arrived at the scene.

12:33 - More details emerging of attack

Details of how the attack unfolded are still emerging. The latest reports say the attacker crashed through the gates to the factory and drove into gas canisters which set off the explosion. He then tried to open the gas canisters himself before being arrested by police and firemen. 

Details of the dead man who was decapitated are also conflicting, with more reports claiming the head was pinned on to a fence and had Arabic writing scrawled on it. Other reports now suggest the man may have been decapitated in the explosion.

12:31 - A closer look at the area
A few videos appearing online showing the scene in the wake of the attacks. 
12:17 - Bordeaux mayor condemns attack
The Mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé, took to Twitter to condemn the attacks.
"The terrorist threat is at a maximum", he wrote, adding that France "must make every effort to protect its citizens".

12:15 - Hollande returning to France

French president François Hollande is returning to France from Brussels where he was due to attend a summit of EU leaders. 

12:10 - Suspect not speaking

According to BFM TV reporters the suspect who has been arrested is being questioned by anti-terror police, but has so far refused to talk. He has no ID papers with him so police are not in a position to identify him.

12:03 - Suspicious activity seen before attack

A man was seen driving back and forth in front of the target building this morning, before the attack, reported Le Dauphiné Libéré.
A security source told the paper that they had been in a "code red" situation in recent weeks, and were prepared for "an attack of this nature".

11:57 - More images of the factory where the attack took place

11:54 - The latest write through from AFP on what happened  this morning

An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others Friday at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source.

The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said.

"According to the initial findings of the enquiry, one or several individuals on board a vehicle, drove into the factory. An explosion then took place," said one of the sources.

"The decapitated body of a person was found nearby the factory but we do not yet know whether the body was transported to the place or not," added this source, adding that a "flag with Arabic writing on it was found on the scene."

A man thought to be the person who carried out the attack has been arrested, according to sources close to the enquiry.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he would go "immediately" to the scene, his office said.

The attack occurred around 10:00 am local time (0800 GMT), according to local media.

The attack came nearly six months after the Islamist attacks in and around Paris that killed 17 people in January that started with a shooting at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Two Islamist brothers attacked the satirical magazine, killing 12. A policewoman and four hostages in a Jewish supermarket were also killed during the three-day attacks.

The attacks drew record crowds out on the streets of Paris days in a historic "march against terrorism".

11:50 - 'Can't believe it happened here'

The Local spoke to a businessman Eric Coquet, from Vege France, a company located near the scene of the attack.

"We didn't see anything, but we heard the explosion. It was like a lorry backfiring. People here are not really scared, but they are shocked that something like this could happen just round the corner.

"The police are everywhere it looks like they are still searching for people. The anti-terror unit is also here and the interior minister is on his way.

"We haven't been told that we have to stay inside."

11:48 - France's PM ramps up security
France's Prime Minister Manual Valls has tightened security measures on 'sensitive' sites in response to the attacks, reports the AFP.
Here's a closer look at the scene where the attack took place.

(Photo: GoogleMaps)

11:43 - Arabic writing scrawled on victim's head

According to AFP's legal source Arabic writing was also scrawled on the decapitated head of the victim that was found hanging on the fence of the company grounds.

11:40 - Victim's head 'found on fence of company enclosure'

Local media is reporting that the head of the victim was found "hanging on the fence" of the factory.

11:38 - EU leaders meeting begins without Hollande

The French president is in Brussels to attend a crucial summit of EU leaders. The meeting has begun however without the presence of France's head of state. It is unclear whether he will return to France.

11:35 - Arrested man known to French intelligence services

Reports from regional paper Le Dauphiné say the arrested man was known to France's anti-terrorist police (DGSI). He is believed to be aged in his 30s.

11:30 - Workers told to remain inside

Workers in neighbouring businesses have been told to remain inside while police and France's military police descend on the scene. The latest reports are saying one dead and at least ten people injured in the attack, that occurred at a factory around 25 kilometres to the south of Lyon

11:29 - Suspected attacker arrested

Legal sources have told AFP that the man arrested at the scene is indeed the suspected attacker. 

11:24 - Victim not an employee

According to reports the victim in the attack, a man who was decapitated, was not an employee at the factory. Around 40 employees at the factory are being kept inside, fearing there may be further attacks.

This image shows an aerial view of the factory where the attack took place on Friday.

11:22 - One person 'has been arrested'

Local newspaper Le Dauphiné Liberé is reporting that a man has been arrested at the scene. There's been no confirmation whether the arrested man is the attacker.

11:14 - Interior Minister heads to the scene

Details of the incident are still sketchy but the man is reported to have attacked the factory at around 10am. France's specialist anti-terror police have been called in and the country's interior minister is on his way to the scene.

11:10 - Attack was at a gas factory in Isere

Here's the latest from AFP:

An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others Friday at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source.

The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said.

11:00 - Reports of one dead and several injured in attack

One man has died and several people were hurt after an attack on a French factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier on Friday. 
The man's head was found dozens of metres from his body, Le Dauphine newspaper reported. 


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