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Trial opens for 5 women over ‘plot’ to bomb Notre-Dame

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This court sketch made on September 23, 2019 in Paris courthouse, shows (L-R) 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. (Photo by AFP)

Five women have gone on trial over an alleged plot to detonate a car bomb in front of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris three years ago, when France was battling a wave of extremist attacks that since 2015 have killed over 250 people.

It is the first high-profile case involving women accused of wanting to carry out a militant attack in France, where authorities remain on high terrorism alert.

Two of the women risk up to life in prison for their alleged roles in the plot, as do two others accused of later trying to help one of the women escape.

A fifth woman faces a possible 30-year sentence, while a sixth is being tried for not alerting authorities to the planned attack.

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.

That cylinder was found to be empty but five full cylinders were discovered in the car boot.

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

Kassim, who is being tried in absentia, is also suspected of directing the brutal 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 airstrike near the Iraqi city of Mosul in February 2017.

For Jean-Charles Brisard of the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, the foiled plot marked "a tipping point: it's the moment when people realized the role of women" in the militant attacks on French soil.

Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc, spokesman and founder of the French Association of Victims of Terrorism, which is a civil party in the trial, said it showed that women could also be radicalized.

"We really have to follow this very closely to better understand them, to judge them, to obtain justice, because they really wanted to kill," he said.

The trial is expected to last until October 11.

(Source: AFP)

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