Women on trial for attempted attack near Notre Dame
Paris: Before it was ravaged by fire, Notre Dame Cathedral was the target of a bungled terrorist plot by two French women who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
They're going on trial Monday in a special Paris court, for attempting to explode a vehicle laden with fuel-doused gas canisters in the shadow of the medieval monument in 2016. Six other people are also on trial for related terrorism charges.
The Notre Dame plot failed, and no one was hurt. But the women had been recruited by one of France's most notorious jihadists, and prosecutors say the attempted explosion could have killed dozens of people in one of the French capital's most touristed neighbourhhoods.
It came after a string of Islamic extremist attacks that deeply shook France and hardened its security posture.
Ines Madani, now 22, is considered the key player. She was just a teenager when she and Ornella Gilligmann joined a channel on social network Telegram run by French jihadist Rachid Kassim, according to court documents. Kassim was central to French recruiting efforts for IS, prosecutors say, and was believed linked to a gruesome attack on a French priest inside his Normandy church and the killing of a French police couple at home in front of their child.
Kassim moved to Syria in 2015, and during the summer of 2016 he multiplied his threats against France on social networks and released a guide detailing how followers should commit attacks. Among suggested methods: group stabbing or "filling a vehicle with gas cylinders and spraying them with fuel."