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French crime scene investigators work next to a black plastic sheet outside a gas company site in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon where a decapitated head was found. Reuters

A man has been decapitated in a suspected Islamist attack at a factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, southeastern France.

  • A suspected Islamist militant rammed a vehicle into the gates of the Air Products factory near Lyon.
  • The vehicle hit some gas canisters triggering an explosion that injured two people.
  • Islamist banners and a severed head were found at the scene.
  • A suspect, identified as Yassine Salhi, a radical who was placed under surveillance between 2006 and 2008, has been arrested.
  • President Hollande said it was an attack "of a terrorist nature".
  • IBTimes UK understands there have been further arrests in the area in connection with the incident
Air Products factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier
One person has reportedly been killed and several injured in a suspected Islamist attack at an Air Products factory Google Maps

"Uniting, rallying and the ability of the nation to cope will fight terrorism effectively," President Francois Hollande said in a tweet.

French authorities have announced that four people have now been arrested in relation to the attack.

Yassin Sahli, his wife, his sister and a man suspected of identifying the area - however, his implication is still uncertain at this stage - are now held in police stations near the scene.

"We are nearly certain that Yassin entered the (Air Products) plant alone, and that there is no second attacker," police sources told Le Monde.

France's Department of Energy on Friday asked operators of sensitive industrial sites - dubbed Seveso - to strengthen their vigilance after the attack on a site in Isère.

"The regional offices have contacted Seveso sites" and instructed them "to strengthen the human presence on storage sites, to restrict entries, to increase security rounds, and be more attentive to the movements on-site such as deliveries or construction works..."

There are currently 656 "high-risk" Seveso sites in France, along with another 515 "low-risk" ones across the territory.

Air Products, which was the target of the attack, has announced it is deploying stronger security measures worldwide.

"Security has been increased at locations around the world as a precautionary measure," the company said in a statement.

Following the attacks on France, Tunisia and Kuwait on Friday, Spain also raised its terror alert level from medium to high.

Reports claim 27 victims who died in the shootings and explosions in Tunisia were of six different nationalities.

"Considering the proximity of our country to the places where some of these attacks took place, it has been proposed to raise the anti-terrorist alert," Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said.

Muslim leaders from the CFCM (Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman) have condemned the attack, which the authorities have described as "islamist".

"The CFCM condemns in the most vigorous terms the terrorist attack targeting the Air Products plant in Saint-Quentin-Flavier in Isère.

"The CFCM wishes to express its most profound indignation regarding these unspeakable acts that can not claim to be faithful to any religion or any cause," the umbrella body said in a statement.

Three people have been arrested following the attack, in which suspect Yassin Salhi allegedly decapitated his employer.

According to surveillance videos, Salhi would have then put the severed head on a fence before driving off in his van and hitting gas canisters, which exploded.

The videos also show the suspect then left his vehicle before entering a nearby building and handling other gas bottled.

Salhi welcomed a team of firefighters, who answered an emergency call, by screaming "Allahu Akbar" (God is great).

The firefighters managed to control and overpower the 35-year-old before the gendarmes (France's paramilitary police officers) arrived.

Hollande pays tribute to security forces and the "brave" fire-fighter who arrested the attacker.

He says an investigation has been opened to understand if the man acted alone or was helped by some accomplices.

The president says the alert level in the region has been raised to the maximum and will remain so for the next three days.

"We have to continue to act to fight terrorism here in France and all over the world," Holland says, adding the government is at work with Tunisian authorities to ascertain if there are French victims in the separate jihadi attack in the northern African country.

President Francois Hollande is addressing the press from the Elysee Palace in Paris.

He says the victim was a 50-year-old man.

Sources close to the investigation have told French media that the decapitated man was the employer of suspected attacker Yassin Salhi.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweets:

Suspect Yassin Salhi's family has been described as a "discrete family" by his neighbours.

Salhi, his wife and three children aged 6 to 9 were seen as a "normal family", according to one of the family's neighbour, in her forties.

"Their kids would play with mine; they are really normal and affectionate," the neighbour, who wish to remain anonymous, said.

Police officers walked a women, carrying a small child in her arms and a second person under a white sheet from Salhi's home in Saint-Priest, a suburb of Lyon. The trio were immediately taken away by police cars.

According to the AFP, Salhi's wife has been arrested.

The German Foreign Office tweets:

French media have denied reports by the Guardian and the New York Times stating that a second attacked was killed by a firefighter.

The Guardian news article quotes Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, but Le Monde has denied that the minister ever confirmed such facts.

"The Minister indicated that firefighters present at the scene had controlled an individual who was subsequentally arrested by the gendarmes (French paramilitary police officers)," Le Monde wrote.

More information has emerged about the suspect attacker, Yassin Salhi. A French national of Moroccan descent he is said to be married with three children.

iTele reports the decapitated victim is the head of a company from the Rhone department. He has not been named.

Le Monde reports police are searching the suspect's house in Saint-Priest, have arrested members of his family.

France's PM Manuel Valls
France's PM Manuel Valls iTele

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was on an official visit to Bogota, Colombia said he is to return to France.

"In the face of the terror threat my place is in France," he said.

Valls said the attack has shown the "jihadist threat is still very high today, and greatly burdens our country".

"We shall not let our guard down at any time," he added, saying France is engaged in a long-term fight against terrorism on its own soil.

Germany and Spain condemn the attack.

The foreign ministry in Berlin tweets:

"[Minister Frank-Walter] Steinmeier shocked by the terrorist attack in Isere: we deeply condemn this act of extremis and stand united with France."

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweets:

"I firmly condemn the attack carried out in Lyon. Barbarism will always be confronted by unity among democrats. #Spain with #France".

The terrorist attack is the fourth of 2015 in France, adding to the three that hit the country late in 2014.

IBTimes UK looks at the spate of extremist attacks that rocked France.

It has emerged the suspect was apprehended by a fireman, Cazeneuve has said.

Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said authorities are still working to identify the suspect but they believe it is a man named Yassine Salhi.

Speaking from the scene of the attack Cazeneuve said the suspect was known to authorities as he was placed under surveillance for possible Islamist links in 2006.

The surveillance was discontinued in 2008, the minister said.

Authorities believe the suspect lived near Lyon in the town of Saint-Priest. He didn't have a criminal record and was not known to have participated in any terrorism related activity.

IBTimes UK understands there have been further arrests in the area in connection with the attack.

A source said the suspects were arrested on suspicion of assisting the suspect.

Francois Hollande
Francois Hollande leaving the EU summit in Brussels to return to Paris. He will later convene an emergency meeting at the Elysee Getty

President Hollande has Tweeted "Our answer is action, prevention, deterrence and thus the need to carry our values ​​and not to give in to fear, ever."

Francois Hollande at EU summit
Francois Hollande will convene a meeting at the Elysee Palace this afternoon once he returns from an EU meeting in Brussels Getty

Hollande expresses his solidarity to the families of the victims, says Europe should be united in eradicating Islamic terrorism.

The president makes the point of the situation. Hollande says a man, possibly accompanied by another drove a vehicle to the factory, with the intention to provoke an explosion.

He describes the attack as an act of terrorism.

"A suspect has been arrested and identified," he says.

The president confirms a headless body and a head with some inscriptions on it were found at the premises.

Hollande confirms the number of casualties as two people injured and one dead.

Hollande is speaking now in Brussels.

The French president has said it is important to "never give in to fear" and create "unnecessary division".

Charlie Winter, a researcher for the London-based counter-extremism Quilliam Foundation Think Tank tweets:

France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen has called for tougher measures against terrorism in the wake of the attack.

After the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January, she said all mosques should be monitored and military service introduced for young boys and girls, to steer them away from possible radicalisation.

Police have confirmed they are not looking for a second suspect in connection with the attack.

A French official has confirmed to IBTimes UK that the man arrested at 10am is being detained at a police station in Bourgoin-Jallieu, near to the site of the attack, and is refusing to answer questions.

Local official Frederic Lafargue said a police cordon has been set up around Air Products and that workers from other nearby businesses have not been evacuated and are carrying on their days.

President Hollande is to speak from Brussel in about 30 minutes.

In this photo from the scene, a French Gendarme blocks the access road to the Saint-Quentin-Fallavier industrial area, where the attack took place.

Grenoble Lyon ISIS attack

President Francois Hollande is to return from Brussels, where he was for the EU Summit, in the early afternoon, Le Figaro reports.

The company attacked, Air Products, was founded in the US city of Detroit, Michigan, in 1940 and is currently headquartered in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Though the years, its core business has expanded form the sale of industrial gases to other fields. According to its websites it employs more than 20,000 people and has operations in more than 50 countries.

"We serve customers across a wide range of industries from food and beverage, health and personal care to energy, transportation and semiconductors. We supply a unique portfolio of atmospheric gases, process and specialty gases, performance materials, equipment and services," Air Products says on its website.

According to an early reconstruction of the attack, two men rammed their vehicle into the Air Products factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier at around 10am.

They then detonated a number of gas canisters at the site, injuring several workers.

A beheaded body was also found at the premises with the man's severed head found hanging from a nearby fence and covered with Arabic inscriptions, AFP reported.

The victim might have been killed before the attackers stormed the factory, it has been claimed.

"We heard the victim had been found decapitated not far from here," Marc Barois, from Cellier Gourmand, a wine cellar and delicatessen shop located 500m from Air Products told IBTimes UK.

The man, who described his town as peaceful, said he was scared.

"There are people who look like they are nice people, but in actual fact they are completely crazy. Yes, it is scary, because you have insane people everywhere, would they be Islamic fundamentalists or Catholic extremists," Barois said over the phone.

"We are not safe from anything, but the probability for us to get killed by Daesh is quite thin. I thought we were in a very quiet region and it is surprising that Daesh would come and blow the place up here. I don't understand why they would have done it because it doesn't have a political interest whatsoever."

Prime Minister Manuel Valls ordered security to be stepped up at sensitive sites across the Rhône-Alpes region, while interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve was due to arrive in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier.

Christian Estrosi, the centre-right mayor of Nice tweets: "this dramatic attack, if confirmed, reminds us once again the presence of a fifth column in in France."

"Our company is just in front of Air Products and the explosion made our entire building vibrate," Sylvie, an employee from Axel Sarl in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier told IBTimes UK.

"There was no damage, but everything moved. I was on my chair on the phone with a clients when it happened when it happened."

The employee confirmed the authorities had not yet advised those in the perimeter around Air Products to stay indoors or vacate the area.

"The security forces haven't yet come to tell us what to do. I just hope that we won't face the effects of the gas explosion."

According to the witness, who says the coming-and-going of firefighter trucks, police and gendarmes has been relentless, the authorities "have too much going on at the moment to tell us what to do."

The arrested suspect, a man in his 30s, was known to France's intelligence agency, iTele reports.

Local media reports an Islamist flag was found at the scene. Newspaper Le Dauphiné libéré said the attackers claimed they were members of the Islamic State (Isis) jihadist group.