For the third time this year, France is reeling from what appears to be an Islamist terror attack.
Five months after the shootings at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris – in which 11 staff members were killed – and two months after a suspected Algerian jihadist allegedly shot and killed a woman in the Paris suburbs, a gas factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, outside Lyon, was attacked this morning, leaving one dead.
The BBC reports that a man was found decapitated, his head left on a wire fence next to his body and his face covered in Arabic writing. Local media has said that an Islamist black flag was found at the site.
A French security official, speaking anonymously, has confirmed to AP that the victim was the head of a local transportation company. AFP reports that the victim was the suspect's boss – information they have been given by a source close to the investigation – and Jean-Paul Bonnetain, prefect of Isere region, has said the vehicle driven onto the site had the necessary authorisation.
The factory, belonging to a US-owned company named Air Products, is a producer of industrial gases and chemicals for a variety of industries, including agriculture and medicine. According to police, a pick-up truck driven by two men crashed into a collection of gas cylinders, causing an explosion at around 9:50AM local time that injured two people. It is believed that the man whose severed head was found at the factory was killed before the explosion.
The first suspect, named as Yassine Sali by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, has reportedly been arrested. In a statement, Cazeneuve said that Sali was known by French security services: "He had been noted for his radicalisation, but was not known to have any links to terrorist figures," he said.
Reuters, spelling his name Yassin Sahli, have reported that the suspect is a 35-year-old professional driver who lived in the Lyon suburbs, but added that there is not yet official confirmation of this.
According to the French newspaper Dauphiné Libéré, a second suspect has been arrested at his home nearby.
Air Products released a statement confirming that the victim wasn't one of their employees shortly after the news broke:
"We can confirm that an incident occurred at our facility in L'Isle-d'Abeau, France this morning.
"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.
"Further information will be released as soon as it becomes available."
French paper Le Monde reports that the plant may have been chosen as a target due to the fact it contains a large amount of harmful gases and potentially explosive materials.
Eyewitness Thierry Gricourt, who works near the factory, told French TV what he saw:
"We heard a fairly loud noise shortly before 10 o'clock. We didn't get too concerned as we're not far from the airport Saint Exupery, so we thought it was an aeroplane passing by lower than usual.
"And then, several minutes later, we saw a very large deployment of security forces – the police and fire engines, with lots of trucks deployed around our road. We can see that several roads are blocked with police officers at the corner of every road."
French President Francois Hollande, who was at a summit in Brussels, gave a press conference after the attack. He condemned it as a "pure terrorist attack" and said "there is no doubt the intention was to provoke an attack, an explosion". Later, after returning to Paris, he said that the security level would be raised to its highest point and that thousands of police officers will be stationed throughout the country over the next few days.
AFP reports that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the attack was an act of "Islamist terrorism" that "shows the jihadist threat remains very high".
In Tunisia, at least 27 people have been killed on a beach by two gunmen. The Tunisian health ministry says the dead include Tunisians, Britons, Germans and Belgians. This is the second major attack on tourists in Tunisia this year, following an attack three months ago on the Bardo Museum in Tunis, which killed 21 people, also mainly tourists. Read more about the attack in Tunisia on VICE News.
British Prime Minister David Cameron responded to the two attacks by offering his solidarity to the French and Tunisian governments. He said: "We have to combat not only the terrorism, not only working with the countries that are suffering but dealing with this poisonous mindset, this death cult that is poisoning young minds and turning them to this path of mindless violence."
In the third atrocity, a group affiliated to the Islamic State claimed a fatal bombing that shook a Shia mosque in Kuwait City, resulting in the deaths of at least 25 people. At least 202 have been wounded. This follows two attacks on Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, both claimed by the same group. Read more about that on VICE News.
This story will be updated periodically.