Three women suspects in Paris bomb plot were radicalised

Multiple arrests seen as coup for French security services.
:A suspect linked to the plan to blow up a car near Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is taken from a flat in Boussy St Antoine. on September 9,2016. French police arrested three female suspects who they said were planning at least three attacks. Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP
:A suspect linked to the plan to blow up a car near Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is taken from a flat in Boussy St Antoine. on September 9,2016. French police arrested three female suspects who they said were planning at least three attacks. Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP

Colin Randall

Foreign Correspondent

Nice // The fear of further terrorist attacks in France heightened yesterday as details emerged of a suspected plot involving three women to blow up a car near the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

All three women, and at least five other people including the boyfriend of one of them, have been detained in what is being seen as a major coup for the French security forces.

The French president Francois Hollande said a terrorist cell had been destroyed but warned that other suspects may remain at liberty.

The Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the women were acting on remote guidance from ISIL terrorists in Syria.

The involvement of women in terrorism is not unknown. But an all-female gang seeking to carry out atrocities on behalf of ISIL would be a new development, certainly in Europe.

France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the three women, aged 39, 23 and 19, “had been radicalised, were fanatics and were in all likelihood preparing an imminent, violent act”.

The youngest was seriously wounded when shot several times by police after stabbing one officer during an arrest operation near the Boussy-Saint-Antoine railway station, 25 kilometres south-east of Paris, on Thursday night.

Investigators believe the women were planning several crimes, from exploding a car loaded with gas and diesel containers 200 metres from Notre Dame – one of the world’s most visited churches – to an unspecified attack at the Gare de Lyon, a mainline station for rail services to the French Riviera, and the knifing of police officers in the street.

The women are reported to have been carrying knives when arrested. However, no means of detonating the gas or diesel was found in the car abandoned near the Notre Dame. One gas bottle inside the car was empty but several in the boot were full.

The 19-year-old woman has been named by French media as Ines Madani, born at Tremblay in the north-eastern Parisian suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis.

The news magazine Le Point said she was already classified as a “dangerous” by intelligences services, having expressed a desire to join ISIL in Syria and involve herself in a “jihadist operation”.

When arrested, she and the other two women were allegedly carrying letters pledging support for ISIL.

One report said Ms Madani continued to shout her allegiance to the terrorist group as an ambulance took her to hospital.

Le Point also said that when she abandoned her father’s Peugeot 607 car near Notre Dame on Saturday night or in Sunday’s early hours, her plan to detonate the gas bottles was aborted after she argued with the other two women.

Police are investigating possible links between Ms Madani and Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of Amedy Coulibaly, an accomplice of the Charlie Hebdo murderers, the French-Algerian Kouachi brothers.

Coulibaly was shot dead by police after killing a policewoman and four Jews he took hostage at a Parisian supermarket the next day. Boumeddiene is wanted in France having fled to Syria shortly before the Charlie Hebdo killings.

The 23-year-old woman detained by police, also French-born and identified as Sarah H, had a tangled history of wanting to marry terrorists, according to the LCI television channel.

One intended husband, it said, was Larossi Abballa, who was killed by police after he murdered a married couple, both French police officers, in front of their three-year-old son in June. The second was Adel Kermiche, 19, who killed a French Catholic priest as he celebrated mass two weeks after the Bastille night massacre on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais in July.

A third man, named as Mohamed Lamine A, described as her current partner, is among the other individuals arrested this week. His brother is already in custody because of alleged links with Abballa.

The others held by police in the current operation are two couples. One, a man aged 34 and the 29-year-old mother of their three children, were detained on Tuesday as the family travelled south towards Spain and are said by state-owned France Info radio to be known for extremist beliefs.

Police are investigating suggestions that they were the last known users of the car left near Notre Dame.

The second couple were arrested on Thursday in the area of Montargis, 100km south of Paris. Both are aged 26 or 27 and the man is the brother of the 34-year-old suspect detained on the motorway. Last night, there were reports of a further arrest, of the 15-year-old daughter of one of the other suspects.

The disturbing revelations that so many of the suspects were known for extremist links or sympathies are likely to intensify calls for some form of internment – detention without trial – for those considered to be threats even if there is insufficient evidence for prosecution.

Published: September 9, 2016 04:00 AM


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