French President Francois Hollande (Photo: Reuters)
French President Francois Hollande said Friday that a suspected Islamist attack on a gas factory in which a decapitated head was pinned to the gates was a "terrorist attack".
Hollande, who rushed back to France from an EU summit to deal with the crisis, said the attacker had been identified and that there may have been a second person involved.
"This attack was in a vehicle driven by one person, perhaps accompanied by another, which rammed its way at high speed into this establishment which contained bottles of gas," Hollande told a hastily-convened news conference before leaving Brussels.
"The intent was without doubt to cause an explosion. It was a terrorist attack."
France has been on high alert since January 7 when two Islamist brothers attacked the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12.
A policewoman and four hostages in a Jewish supermarket were killed by another Islamist shortly afterwards.
The January attacks prompted record crowds to take to the streets of Paris in a historic "march against terrorism".
Hollande said that security had been stepped up sharply around similar sensitive locations to prevent other possible attacks.
"At times like this, we must first express our solidarity for the victim. My summit colleagues expressed their solidarity this morning. Everyone remembers what happened in our country and not only in our country," the president said, recalling the earlier attacks.
"There is emotion but emotion cannot be the only response. There has to be action, preventive steps, dissuasion."
"That means to stand by our values and not to give into fear -- never -- and to be equal to whatever happens without creating needless divisions or suspicions," he added.
"In short, we must do what the French people expect of us -- to protect them, and at the same time establish the truth and wipe out the groups and the individuals who are responsible for such acts."