Notre Dame Cathedral attack thwarted

(AP) - A French police officer patrols in front of Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris, Friday Sept. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Three women behind a thwarted attack near Notre Dame Cathedral were radicalized by Islamic State commanders in Syria, and one had been engaged to an extremist who killed a priest in July, the Paris prosecutor said Friday.

Francois Molins spoke a day after three women were dramatically arrested over the failed attack that centered on a car discovered Sunday morning in central Paris abandoned and loaded with gas canisters. No detonators were found in the car.

“In the last few days and hours a terrorist cell was dismantled, composed of young women totally receptive to the deadly Daesh ideology,” Molins said, using another term for the IS group.

The women who spearheaded the failed plot included a 19-year-old whose father owned the abandoned Peugeot car. Her written pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State group was found by police, a security official said Friday.

The teen, Ines Madani, stabbed a police officer with a knife and was shot in the leg Thursday evening in a raid south of Paris, police said. She was being treated in a hospital.

Five women and two men have been arrested in the case. (AP)


Two 'radicalised' women sought over gas cylinders in Paris car

Paris (AFP) - French police were searching Thursday for two "radicalised" women linked to a car containing six gas cylinders found near the Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris.

Four people -- two brothers and their girlfriends -- are currently in custody over the discovery, a source close to the probe also said.

A 34-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman, the first couple arrested, have been held since Tuesday and are known to the security services for links to radical Islamists.

The man's brother and his girlfriend, both aged 26, were arrested late Wednesday, the source said.

The two women being sought are the daughters of the owner of the grey Peugeot 607 that was found abandoned on Sunday near Notre Dame, which draws millions of visitors every year.

They have both been described as "radicalised".

France is on high alert following a string of jihadist attacks, including last November's coordinated bloodshed in which Islamic State extremists killed 130 people.

Speaking on Thursday, President Francois Hollande referred to attack plots that have been foiled "in recent days", without elaborating.

A bar employee working near Notre Dame raised the alert after noticing a gas cylinder on the back seat of the car, police said.

The car had no number plates and its hazard lights were flashing.

Although the cylinder on the back seat was empty, five full cylinders were discovered in the boot of the car.

Three bottles of diesel fuel were also discovered in the vehicle, but police found no detonators.

- 'Strange method' -

"If it was an attack plot, the method was very strange," a police source said Thursday.

Photographs of the car after it was discovered showed its boot open and the gas cylinders placed on the ground in a quiet side street opposite the cathedral.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Wednesday the intentions of those arrested were as yet unknown.

Hollande's comments followed a deadly summer in France in which 86 people were killed when a truck ploughed into a Bastille Day crowd in the southern resort of Nice.

IS said the truck was driven by one of its followers.

Less than two weeks later, two young jihadists murdered a priest near the northern city of Rouen.

In May, the head of France's DGSI domestic intelligence service, Patrick Calvar, warned of a "new form of attack" in which explosive devices would be left near sites that attract large crowds.

French security services are particularly worried about the danger posed by extremists returning from Syria after fighting with IS forces.

Around 700 French nationals are still in Syria, France's top prosecutor said last week.