1 de­cap­i­tated, sev­eral hurt in France ‘ter­ror­ist’ at­tack

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY PHILOMHNE BOUIL­LON AND PAULINE TALAGRAND

At least one sus­pected Is­lamist launched a day­light raid on a gas fac­tory in eastern France Fri­day, pin­ning a de­cap­i­tated head to the gates and in­jur­ing at least two oth­ers with ex­plo­sive de­vices.

“The in­tent was with­out doubt to cause an ex­plo­sion. It was a ter­ror­ist at­tack,” said Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande in Brus­sels, cut­ting short an EU sum­mit to hold emer­gency meet­ings in the French cap­i­tal.

Hol­lande said a ve­hi­cle driven at high speed by “one per­son, maybe ac­com­pa­nied by another” smashed into the fac­tory, around 40 kilo­me­ters (25 miles) from France’s sec­ond city Lyon.

“At the time I am speak­ing, there is one dead and two in­jured,” said a grim-faced Hol­lande, call­ing for “sol­i­dar­ity” for the vic­tim, who was found with Ara­bic in­scrip­tions on him.

The 35-year-old at­tacker, iden­ti­fied as Yacine Salhi, had been known to se­cu­rity ser­vices for a num­ber of years but did not have a crim­i­nal record, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve said.

He was taken into cus­tody and an anti-ter­ror­ist probe has been launched, he said.

The grue­some killing came nearly six months af­ter the Is­lamist at­tacks in and around Paris that left 17 peo­ple dead and started with a shoot­ing at satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Char­lie Hebdo.

For months, Europe has been on high-alert for so-called “lone wolf” at­tacks that are very dif­fi­cult to pre­vent af­ter Is­lamists urged sup­port­ers to carry out as­saults wher­ever they could.

“There was a de­cap­i­tated body with in­scrip­tions,” said Hol­lande, although sources close to the en­quiry said it was not clear whether the vic­tim was trans­ported to the site or whether the be­head­ing was car­ried out at the fac­tory site.

“A flag with Ara­bic writ­ing on it was found at the scene,” said Cazeneuve, and the text was be­ing trans­lated.

The sus­pect en­tered the fac­tory owned by Amer­i­can group Air Prod­ucts and set off sev­eral small ex­plo­sive de­vices, sources close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion said, with at least two peo­ple hurt in the as­sault.

Po­lice said it was un­clear whether the at­tacker was act­ing alone, or had ac­com­plices.

Se­cu­rity ser­vices drew up a file on the sus­pect in 2006 for rad­i­cal­iza­tion, but he had no crim­i­nal record, said Cazeneuve, who went im­me­di­ately to the scene.

He had a “link” to the Salafist move­ment, an ex­treme form of Sunni Is­lam, Cazeneuve added, stress­ing that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was in its early stages.

Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls, who is on an of­fi­cial trip in South Amer­ica, or­dered se­cu­rity mea­sures stepped up at all sen­si­tive sites in the area.

The at­tack oc­curred around 10:00 a.m. lo­cal time (0800 GMT), ac­cord­ing to lo­cal media, in the small town of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon.

“This is a small town and a large in­dus­trial zone. There’s never been any con­cern in the re­gion. We’re all sur­prised. We’re re­ally in shock this morn­ing,” an em­ployee at a nearby busi­ness told rolling news chan­nel BMFTV.

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