Foiled Notre-Dame car bomb attack failed due to 'wrong fuel'

Court hears five women 'plotted to blow up' Notre-Dame in terror attack at bequest of ISIS

This court sketch made on September 23, 2019 in Paris courthouse, shows (LtoR) Ines Madani, Ornella Gilligmann and Sarah Hervouet during the trial of five women on charges of an alleged plot to detonate a car bomb in front of Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral.   It is the first time women have appeared on charges of jihadist terrorism in an assize court, which handles the most serious crimes in France. Four of the women risk up to life in prison and the fifth a 30-year sentence for the September 2016 plot at the mediaeval cathedral, which in April 2019 was ravaged by an accidental fire. 
 / AFP / Benoit PEYRUCQ
Powered by automated translation

A group of women are accused of attempting to blow up Notre-Dame using a car bomb - which only failed after the wrong fuel was used, a court has heard.

Five women went on trial Monday over an alleged plot to detonate a car bomb in front of the cathedral in Paris three years ago.

It is the first high-profile case involving women accused of wanting to carry out a terror attack in France.

Two of the women were arrested after an empty Peugeot 607 sedan was found parked near the bustling square outside Notre-Dame, where a bar employee noticed a gas cylinder in the back seat and alerted the police.

Police attended and discovered the cylinder was empty but then found five full cylinders in the car boot.

Prosecutors say in 2016 on the night of September 3-4, Ines Madani, 22, and Ornella Gilligmann, 32, parked the car after sending a video claiming responsibility for the planned attack to Rachid Kassim, a notorious French member of ISIS.

They claim the pair had doused the car with diesel fuel and tried to set it alight with a cigarette, but failed because the fuel is not easily flammable.

"Only the wrong choice of fuel... caused this attempt to fail," investigating magistrates said.

Ms Gilligmann was arrested in southern France while trying to flee, and Ms Madani was found in an apartment in the Paris suburb of Essonne that belonged to Amel Sakaou, who is also on trial.

Another woman Samia Chalel is accused of serving as an intermediary between Ms Madani and Kassim.

A fifth woman, Sarah Hervouet, is accused of communicating with Kassim via the encrypted Telegram messaging app.

The group were arrested a few days later after trying to leave the apartment armed with kitchen knives. Ms Hervouet allegedly stabed stabbed one officer in the shoulder, while Ms Madani was shot in the leg.

The failed attack is thought to have been piloted by Kassim, mainly via the Telegram app.

Kassim, who is being tried in absentia, is also suspected of directing the murder of a police couple outside their home in June 2016, a killing that was broadcast live on Facebook, and another in which an elderly priest's throat was cut.

Kassim is believed to have been killed in a coalition air strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul in February 2017.

The trial is expected to last until October 11.