French police use tear gas to disperse protest against slave auctions in Libya (VIDEO)

French police use tear gas to disperse protest against slave auctions in Libya (VIDEO)
Hundreds of activists flocked to the Libyan Embassy in Paris on Saturday, outraged with the government’s failure to tackle people smuggling after a CCN report unveiled a network of migrant slave auctions in Libya.

About a thousand people turned up to the protest following calls by several prominent anti-slavery groups and a number of celebrities of African origin, including soccer star Didier Drogba and former Miss France Sonia Rolland.

Carrying signs reading “No to slavery in Libya,” the demonstrators gathered in front of the Libyan Embassy on Saturday afternoon before marching towards the Champs-Elysees, where they were stopped by riot police cordons.

Paris – Forte mobilisation devant l’ambassade de Libye contre l’Esclavage après la diffusion d’images montrant la vente aux enchères de migrants.

La foule criant : « Libérez nos frères ».

“Free our brothers,” “Let’s liberate Africa,” “We are black, we are human!” the demonstrators chanted.

Clashes broke out as police moved to disperse the protest. Some activists began hurling rocks at police, who responded with tear gas.

A Ruptly crew was on the spot to film as activists attempted to break through metal barriers erected by police.

One person was arrested following the scuffles, AFP reports. Police say the protest was illegitimate, adding that “no damage” resulted from the clashes.

Earlier this week, the Libyan government launched a probe into slave auctions operating in the country, including areas controlled by the UN-backed internationally-recognized Government of National Accord, after CNN showed footage of migrants being sold at a location outside Tripoli.

CNN claims in the report that men were priced at as little as $400, and that auctions are being carried out at many sites across Libya each month.

Libya has become the last stop on the route to Europe for migrants fleeing war, persecution, and poverty in their home countries, with the ongoing political chaos allowing people smugglers to thrive in the country, ravaged by civil war.


Courtesy: RT

Profound Changes Coming to the Global Retail Property Sector

Profound Changes Coming to the Global Retail Property Sector

The Future Includes Tailored Consumer Experiences, Anytime, Any Place, with Robots

According to new insights released by CBRE this week at the MAPIC retail real estate conference in Cannes, France, the retail industry of 2030 will provide tailored experiences for individual customers across any channel, at any place and at any time using data analytics and new technology. These changes will have a profound impact on the global retail property sector as well.

CBRE’s Future of Retail | 2030 series examines 40 “futurist” insights of how the global retail market will function in 2030 amid changes in customers’ lifestyles, urban environments, retail operations logistics, technologies and other trends affecting the industry. After outlining the first eight trends at MAPIC, CBRE will reveal the next 32 over the coming weeks.

“The future of retail will change more than we can ever imagine,” said Natasha Patel, CBRE Director, Global Retail Research. “At CBRE, We have taken the time to think about what will change and what that will mean for customers, retailers, investors and the industry as a whole.”

Many of CBRE’s initial eight insights in this series revolve around two major themes shaping the retail industry: the melding of online and in-store functions into omnichannel operations, and an increasing focus on providing shoppers meaningful experiences around the goods and services they purchase.

“We as a society already have advanced beyond defining retailing simply as selling a product at a store,” said Anthony Buono, CBRE Executive Managing Director of Retail Advisory & Transaction Services, the Americas. “Today’s best retailers are at the forefront of these trends that we’re pointing out. They’re harnessing data and technology to provide each customer a compelling experience with their brand, be it in-store, online or on their smart phone.”

Initial eight retailing insights reported by CBRE this week include:

  • Power of Prediction – Retailers will enlist technology and data to predict consumers’ buying behavior with unprecedented accuracy. Many mundane purchases of everyday essentials will be automated through Internet-connected appliances and other such tools, making physical shopping more of a social and leisure experience.
  • Consumer Experience Goes Individual – Retailers and brands will use predictive analytics to tailor their goods and services – and the experiences that go with them — to specific customers rather than broad audiences. This will lead to a greater focus on niche retailers and shopping centers that capture a larger portion of spending from a smaller, likeminded community of shoppers.
  • Stores As Brand Ambassadors – As retailers increasingly combine their in-store and online operations, physical stores will serve as venues where shoppers immerse themselves in the brand’s experience and experiment with the products before purchasing them for same-day or next-day delivery to the store or their homes. Store employees will educate shoppers and demonstrate products for them rather than stocking shelves and taking inventory.
  • Unrivalled Reach of M-Commerce – Technology will allow shoppers to research and purchase an item simply by capturing a picture of it. Shoppers will find direct links to a given product wherever they see it, be it on television, in a newspaper or magazine or at a movie theater.
  • Pure-Play E-tailing Recedes – Retailers born of bricks and mortar already account for at least half of online sales, while those started online are adding physical stores to strengthen their brands. This convergence will create a truly omnichannel retail industry in which global online brands purchase more retail chains for their physical store networks, and online retailing further influences the form and function of the physical store.
  • Stiff Competition For Customers – As shoppers increasingly favor experiences over goods, competition will intensify to capture their disposable income. Consumers will seek either long-term or short-term solutions, leaving the middle market squeezed.
  • Store Automation – Mundane, repetitive tasks in the store will be handled by robots and other forms of automation, freeing store employees to work as brand ambassadors. Automation also will allow auto-pay service so shoppers no longer must stop at a checkout counter on their way out.
  • Personal Car Ownership Declines – Autonomous vehicles will shift people’s priorities to simply having access to cars rather than owning one. Car manufacturers will collaborate with major tech companies.

Courtesy: WPJ

‘Brute force’ hack of British MPs blamed on Iran amid nuclear deal tensions – report

‘Brute force’ hack of British MPs blamed on Iran amid nuclear deal tensions – report
A “brute force” attack on British MPs back in June has allegedly been traced to Iranian hackers, the Times reported citing intelligence sources. The article came as London urged Washington not to derail the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

An unsourced report by the Times claims that a “brute force” hack attack on the Parliament’s computers was attributed to Iranian hackers. The cyberattack that occurred on June 23 affected 9,000 email accounts, including those of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and other government members.

Citing “a secret intelligence assessment,” the Times wrote the June attack “is believed to be Iran’s first significant act of cyberwarfare on Britain and underlines its emergence as one of the world’s biggest cyberpowers.” 

The Times’ sources referred to alleged Iranian perpetrators as “highly capable actors in the cyberworld.” One source said: “It was not the most sophisticated attack but nor did it need to be. It is possible they were simply testing their capability.”

The timing of the publication is particularly noteworthy as it comes only a day after Prime Minister May issued a joint statement on Friday together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in support of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal signed by six world powers plus Iran.

“We stand committed to the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and its full implementation by all sides,” the three leaders said, adding that preserving the agreement “is in our shared national security interest.”

The UK, Germany, and France said that the nuclear deal “was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes,” and that they will “take note” of the Trump’s administration intent not to certify the deal by the deadline set for October 15.

May, Merkel, and Macron urged the Trump administration and Congress “to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA,” including imposing renewed sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.

Downing Street did not comment on the Times’ article, though the newspaper said senior British officials acknowledged that “the revelation had complicated Mrs. May’s response to Mr. Trump.”

Middle East tensions: ‘‘s real objective is to make walk away from nuclear deal’ – Martin Jay to RT 

The hack attack in question targeted the private email accounts of up to 90 members of the UK Parliament, and was designed to access parliamentary user credentials by identifying weak email passwords.

Later, it was announced the attack was likely masterminded by amateur hackers rather than a state entity. Cybersecurity experts familiar with the investigation said the perpetrators were only able to break into the accounts of MPs who set up simple and easily deducible passwords.

READ MORE: ‘Iran deal not a bargaining chip’: Trump proved US can break agreements at any time, Moscow says

The revelation contradicted earlier claims that a foreign government was behind the hack, as many Western commentators immediately pointed the finger at Russia.

There is an ongoing investigation into the incident by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the National Crime Agency. An NCSC spokesperson told the Times: “It would be inappropriate to comment further while enquiries are on-going.”

Courtesy: RT

Suspect detained after car slams into soldiers in Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret

French authorities have shot and detained a man suspected of slamming his car into a group of soldiers in a Paris suburb, injuring six. The suspect was driving the same car he is thought to have used in the attack.

Paris police at the scene of the attack in Levallois-Perret (Reuters/B. Tessier)

French police shot and arrested the suspect in the morning’s attack on a group of soldiers after a dramatic chase on the A16 motorway, north of Paris.

Some 300 police tracked down the car sought in connection with the attack, which left six people injured. The vehicle was reportedly riddled with bullet holes on the site of the arrest.

The suspect, a 36-year-old Algerian man, was hospitalized after being shot five times by officers. Officials were yet to provide details on his condition.

Read more: Madrid to Manchester to London: A chronology of terror in Europe

According to the Reuters news agency, citing unnamed judicial sources, the suspect was unarmed when he was arrested. However, one officer was injured by a stray bullet as police opened fire.

Map of Levallois-Perret

French President Emmanuel Macron applauded the security forces on Twitter for detaining the suspect, adding: “Vigilance remains a duty at all times.”

Félicitations aux forces de l’ordre qui ont appréhendé l’auteur de l’attaque. La vigilance reste un devoir de tous les instants. 

Early morning attack

The vehicle, a dark BMW car, hit the soldiers at Place de Verdun in Levallois-Perret at the northwestern edge of Paris on Wednesday at about 8:00 a.m. local time (0600 UTC).

The mayor of Levallois-Perret, Patrick Balkany, told French television network BFMTV that the act was “odious” and “without a doubt deliberate.” He also said the car appeared to have waited in a nearby alleyway until the soldiers emerged from their barracks to start their patrol.

“The vehicle did not stop. It hurtled at them … it accelerated rapidly,” he told the TV station.

Emergency responders at Levallois-Perret (Getty Images/AFP/T. Chappe)Police were investigating the scene of what they called a deliberate attack

The attacker apparently targeted members of the Sentinelle security force, which was created after Islamist attacks in 2015. Six soldiers were injured in the hit-and-run, three of them seriously. The French Defense Ministry said their lives were not in danger.

Prosecutors launched a probe into “attempted killings… in relation to a terrorist undertaking.”

The incident comes four days after a teenager with psychiatric problems tried to attack security forces guarding the Eiffel Tower, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest). Several other extremists also attacked security forces in Paris earlier this year.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that, despite the high threat of terror attacks in France, the government would stick to its plan of lifting the state of emergency, imposed following the deadly extremist attacks in Paris in November 2015 and now in its 21st month. President Emmanuel Macron intends to introduce a new bill permanently enshrining counterterrorism measures, which he claims will sufficiently replace the state of emergency.

Watch video02:29

Macron pledges to transform France

ng, dm/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)



France: ‘Unemployment is our biggest economic problem’

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has unveiled his new cabinet. It inherits a difficult legacy, in particular a sluggish economy dogged by years of high unemployment. DW’s Doris Pundy reports from Paris.

Paris Wochenblatt Marianne Macron Cover (DW/D. Pundy)“The hardest part is yet to come” reads this French weekly’s headline

It is a quiet scene on Tuesday near the monument commemorating the French Revolution on Paris’s Square of the Republic. Traditionally, the statue is the starting point for protests taking place in the French capital. All traces of the most recent large demonstration on May 1 have disappeared. In a tiny alley less than 300 meters from here is the office shared by Claire Pauchet and Bernard Aznar. They’re fighting for the rights of the unemployed and those who only have unstable work. They know the Square of the Republic very well. Both were there when rallies against former president Francois Hollande’s labor market reforms went on for weeks.

Hollande’s poor results

“Even if we try to be objective – we can certainly not say that Hollande made a strong commitment the rights of the weak,” says Aznar, leader of the National Movement of Unemployed and Precarious Workers (MNCP).

The walls of the small office are plastered with photos taken during demonstrations. Hollande, he adds, was a very business-friendly president, with his former deputy secretary general, Emmanuel Macron, leaving his mark in this respect. The activists fear that there will be more business-friendly reforms in the future, and they want the new government to take the concerns of out-of-work people seriously and offer them alternatives..

Paris Politikaktivisten Bernard Aznar Claire Pauchet (DW/D. Pundy)Aznar and Pauchet fight for the rights of the unemployed

“Macron wants to facilitate business creation, but you have to bear in mind what he really means,” says Claire Pauchet. “That means that everyone is to become self-employed, like those young people riding on bicycles who deliver food to people’s doors. All of them are not employed, they don’t have social security, they have nothing!”

“Unemployment is our biggest economic problem, along with the trade deficit and the high public debt,” explains Paris-based economist Philippe Crevel. “In France, it is higher than the European average. We are as badly affected by it as Italy, Spain, or Greece.”

Almost 10 percent of all French adults don’t have a job. For those who are under 25, that figure rises to almost 25 percent.

Loss of time

“For the last 15 years, there have been attempts at improving the labor market situation. However, one president follows in the footsteps of another, ” says Crevel, adding nothing ever changed. Labor costs continued to be too high, working hours too inflexible, and France’s workers were not sufficiently qualified to cope shift to the digital age.

“Emmanuel Macron faces enormous responsibilities. Now, action must really be taken,” Crevel says. In order to reduce France’s unemployment sustainably, the economist has proposed a series of reforms: lower social security contributions, better education, more investment and more expertise.

Paris Vincent Godebout SNC (DW/D. Pundy)Volunteer Patrick Vignaux (r), pictured here with SNC president Vincent Godebout

Crevel believes that Macron’s chances are good: “He is young, energetic and does not belong to any of France’s traditional political parties.” Macron and his new party “La Republique en Marche” will be competing in parliamentary elections in June. “The party is facing a huge challenge,” says Crevel. “It currently does not have a single seat, but it needs an an absolute majority.”

“Macron’s five-year spell as president won’t be sufficient to change everything for the better in France,” says Patrick Vignaux. “However, the fact that we will now finally have some movement is what counts.”

For more than 10 years, Vignaux has been volunteering to help the unemployed. Initially, he worked with the “New Solidarity in the Face of Unemployment” (SNC) association for only a few hours per week. A few months ago, he asked his employer to allow him a year off to be able to commit himself full-time.

Opposition to reforms

“Francois Hollande did try to improve the labor market situation,” says Vignaux, “but he wasn’t successful.” During Hollande’s tenure, unemployment was reduced by a mere 0.1 percent. At one point, it even reached a record high of nearly 11 percent. “We need extensive economic reforms,” says Vignaux, who also calls for better job training.

Frankreich Protest gegen Arbeitsreformgesetz in Paris (picture-alliance/dpa/I. Langsdon)Paris’s Place de la Republique was the meeting point for those who protested Hollande’s economic reforms in 2016

In 2016, thousands protested in Paris and other French cities against the labor market reforms planned by Hollande’s government. The former president intended to revise labor agreements and loosen overtime regulations, in addition to reducing employment protection. After months of demonstrations and strikes, Hollande passed the labor market law by presidential decree, in order to bypass a vote in parliament.

“The labor unions are already bracing themselves for the follow-up battle,” says the economist Crevel. “I’m convinced we’ll hear a lot from them during the next couple of months.”

Emmanuel Macron has said he will attempt to pass initial economic reforms as early as this summer, also by presidential decree. And indeed, this doesn’t go down well with the activists: “If it turns out to be necessary during Macron’s tenure, we will take to the streets again,” says Claire Pauchet.


Macron Decisively Defeats Le Pen in French Presidential Race



Emmanuel Macron Delivers Victory Speech

France’s president-elect spoke at the Louvre after defeating the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Photo by Christian Hartmann/Reuters. Watch in Times Video »

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron, a youthful former investment banker, handily won France’s presidential election on Sunday, defeating the staunch nationalist Marine Le Pen after voters firmly rejected her far-right message and backed his call for centrist change.

Mr. Macron, 39, who has never held elected office, will be the youngest president in the 59-year history of France’s Fifth Republic after leading an improbable campaign that swept aside France’s establishment political parties.

The election was watched around the world for magnifying many of the broader tensions rippling through Western democracies, including the United States: populist anger at the political mainstream, economic insecurity among middle-class voters and rising resentment toward immigrants.

Mr. Macron’s victory offered significant relief to the European Union, which Ms. Le Pen had threatened to leave. His platform to loosen labor rules, make France more competitive globally and deepen ties with the European Union is also likely to reassure a global financial market that was jittery at the prospect of a Le Pen victory.

Continue reading the main story

Her loss provided further signs that the populist wave that swept Britain out of the European Union and Donald J. Trump into the White House may have crested in Europe, for now.

“I understand the divisions of our country that have led some to vote for extremists,” Mr. Macron said after the vote. “I understand the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that a great part among us have also expressed.”

Mr. Macron pledged to do all he could in his five-year term to bring France together. “I will do everything I can in the coming five years to make sure you never have a reason to vote for extremism again,” he said later Sunday evening, standing before the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre, once the main residence of France’s kings, as thousands of flag-waving supporters gathered in the courtyard to celebrate.

But the election results showed that many people chose not to vote for either candidate, signaling skepticism about his project. And Mr. Macron quickly made clear that he understood the magnitude of the task before him after an often angry campaign.


Supporters Elated by Macron’s Election

French citizens hoping the centrist candidate would become France’s next president were overcome with joy and relief as the final result came in.

By CAMILLA SCHICK and STEFANIA ROUSSELLE on Publish DateMay 7, 2017. Photo by Eric Feferberg/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video »

“It is my responsibility to hear and protect the most fragile,” he said.

With nearly 100 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Macron had 66 percent, compared with 34 percent for Ms. Le Pen, according to the official count from the Interior Ministry.

The outcome was a watershed for Ms. Le Pen’s party, the far-right National Front, giving it new legitimacy even though the results showed that the party remains anathema to much of the French electorate for its history of anti-Semitism, racism and Nazi nostalgia.

As significant for France and for Mr. Macron’s future, nearly 34 percent of eligible voters did not cast a ballot or cast a blank or null one, suggesting that a large number of people could not bring themselves to vote for him. The abstention rate was the highest since 1969.

That lack of support presaged a difficult road ahead as Mr. Macron tries to build a legislative majority to push through his program. French parliamentary elections are next month. Currently, he has no party in Parliament.

Among the odds stacked against Mr. Macron, a former economy minister in the departing Socialist government, are deep doubts about the merits of a market economy.

“We saw the emergence of very strong anticapitalist forces,” said Gaspard Koenig, the director of the French think tank Generation Libre.

“You have 50 percent of the electorate that reject the market economy in a very radical way,” Mr. Koenig added. “Thus, he must during the next five years convince people that there are alternatives to the destruction of capitalism that can help them.”

The runoff election was groundbreaking for being a choice between two political outsiders, as well as for its rancor and for an apparent attempt to sway the vote with the hacking of Macron campaign emails, similar to the attack directed at last year’s election in the United States.


How France Voted

Detailed maps of the French presidential election show how Emmanuel Macron decisively beat right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen.


Ms. Le Pen, 48, conceded the election not long after polls closed in France, saying voters had chosen “continuity,” denying Mr. Macron his outsider status and linking him to the departing Socialists.

The vote was a record for the National Front and, she said, a mandate for it to become a new “patriotic and republican alliance” that would be “the primary opposition force against the new president.”

Ms. Le Pen earned 10.6 million votes, close to twice the number her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, received when he ran a losing presidential campaign against Jacques Chirac in 2002. The 34 percent of the vote Ms. Le Pen won was the highest share the French had ever given to her party.

The election was also the first in which the National Front candidate — rather than being a pariah who was shut out of debates and kept off the front pages of major newspapers, as happened in 2002 — was treated more like a normal candidate despite the party’s anti-Semitic and racist roots.

After taking over the party leadership in 2011, Ms. Le Pen worked to distance the National Front from her father, its founder. Stéphane Ravier, a National Front senator and a close adviser to Ms. Le Pen, said the party needed to go further in remaking its identity.

“We will need to make some changes, do things differently,” he said in an interview as the returns came in. “We will have to talk about our positions on the euro with more pedagogy. We may also have to change the name of the party.”

In her concession speech, Ms. Le Pen acknowledged that the party had to “profoundly” renew itself to become a “new political force.”

Ms. Le Pen clearly failed to persuade enough voters that her party had sufficiently changed. Many of the votes Mr. Macron received on Sunday were no doubt cast less in support of him than in rejection of her. Nearly the entire political establishment spoke out against a Le Pen presidency.


Marine Le Pen Concedes French Election

The far-right French presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, thanked her supporters and congratulated her opponent, Emmanuel Macron, after pollsters projected that he would be the next president.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS and REUTERS. Photo by Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video 

Mr. Macron formed his political movement, En Marche! (Onward!), a little more than a year ago. He was initially given a slim chance of winning in a country that has never elected a president from outside the traditional left-wing or right-wing parties, with the exception of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, a centrist who led from 1974 to 1981.

Since then, French politics has been dominated by the Socialists on the left and the Republicans (or their precursors) on the right.

Mr. Macron’s campaign benefited from canny timing and no small dose of luck, with the collapse of the governing Socialist Party under President François Hollande, the incumbent, who was so unpopular that he took the extraordinary step of not seeking re-election.

Mr. Macron was also helped by an embezzlement scandal that damaged the candidacy of the center-right candidate François Fillon, who, at the start of the campaign, seemed certain to claim the presidency.

Mr. Macron’s message — that his new movement was neither right nor left, but represented a third way, with elements of both — seemed to appeal to numerous urban voters, as well as to many young voters.

As the results appeared on a screen set up at the Louvre, Macron supporters shouted with joy. Some started singing the Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

“This is a historic moment,” said Jacques Pupponi, 60, who came with his children: Noé, 11; Dora, 12; and Eden, 13.

“I’ve lived moments like this before, in 1981,” he added, referring to the election of the Socialist president François Mitterrand. “I’m very happy about the score — it’s very, very important,” Mr. Pupponi said of Mr. Macron’s decisive victory.

For Mourad Djebali, 30, a Tunisian engineer who obtained French citizenship a few months ago, the result felt like a personal affirmation. “I’m moved,” Mr. Djebali said. “I recognize the France that has received me.

“It’s a great symbol of France,” he added. “It’s a sign of hope. Everyone doesn’t agree with each other, but that one thing we agree on is that we should not open the door to the extremes.”

Beheading And Blast In France Terror Attack

A vehicle was rammed into a gas factory triggering a small explosion and a man’s decapitated body was found nearby.

21:27, UK,Friday 26 June 2015

Play video “Four Arrests After France Beheading”

Video: Four Arrests After France Beheading

A terror suspect has been arrested for beheading his boss and setting off an explosion at a chemical factory in France, prosecutors say.

The victim’s severed head had Arabic writing scrawled across it and was found on a fence next to two jihadi banners at the premises in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier in southeastern France.

Yassin Salhi, 35, drove a delivery van into gas canisters at the factory, triggering the explosion, prosecutors said.

He was apprehended at the scene by a firefighter. Prosecutors said it is still unclear as to whether there was an accomplice.

His sister, wife and one other individual have since been arrested.

Salhi, a father-of-three, worked for the 55-year-old victim, who was in charge of a local delivery company.

The attack happened shortly before a gunman killed tourists, including Britons, at a Tunisian resort popular and a mosque was blown up in Kuwait.

Grenoble attacks

Security has been stepped up at the site of the attack

Before she was arrested, Salhi’s wife told radio station Europe 1: “We are Muslim. We observe Ramadan…We have three children. We live a normal life.”

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking from the scene about 35km (22 miles) away from Lyon, described the attack as “barbarous” and a “terrible terrorist crime”.

He said Salhi, who did not have a criminal record, had been known to foreign intelligence services and may have been radicalised.

:: Triple Terror Attacks: What You Need To Know

The suspect, who lives in Lyon, was initially flagged as an extremist in 2006 and then police monitoring dropped off two years later, according to Mr Cazeneuve.

Describing the attacks, which were partly caught on CCTV, prosecutor Francois Molins said a delivery van routinely entered the factory premises at 9.28am local time.

A minute before the explosion, at 9.36am, CCTV captured the van being driven towards an open building, which housed cannisters of gas and liquid.

Mr Molins said after firemen arrived at the scene, the driver was found in another building “while he was trying to open cannisters of acetone”.

Play video “Why Pick ‘Chemical Valley’?”

Video: Why Pick ‘Chemical Valley’?

The victim’s decapitated body and a knife were found near the van. The head of the victim, not seen by the camera, was found on a fence with two Islamist flags.

Mr Molins said: “We are looking at an attempt of murder and murder and an endeavour of a terrorist attack.”

Employees at US-owned factory Air Products, based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, are said to be “very shocked”.

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

“Our crisis and emergency response teams have been activated and are working closely with all relevant authorities.”

Mr Hollande has cut short all of his engagements at the EU summit in Belgium to return to France for emergency talks.

Play video “President Hollande Condemns Attack”

Video: President Hollande Condemns Attack

He said the security level in the region of Rhone-Alpes has been raised to “attack” for the next three days.

“The attack was of a terrorist nature since a body was discovered, decapitated and with inscriptions,” Mr Hollande told a news conference in Brussels.

He added that a considerable police force had been deployed in the region and other industrial sites protected to avoid any further incidents.

David Cameron has spoken to Mr Hollande in Brussels to express his sympathies at what Downing Street called an “appalling” attack.

A White House spokesman said US law enforcement officials were in touch with their French counterparts.

It comes nearly six months after the Islamist attacks in and around Paris that killed 17 people in January, including the shooting at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.