Five Muslim women have been sentenced to between five and 30 years in prison for trying to detonate a car bomb near Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, France.
France has suffered a series of Islamist terror attacks in recent years, but this case is the first to involve a group of women attempting to stage an Islamist atrocity in France.
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The five women failed to ignite half a dozen gas canisters placed in the vehicle which was parked near the world famous cathedral.
Inès Madani, Ornella Gilligmann, Sarah Hervouët, Amel Sakaou and Samia Chalel, now aged between 22 and 42, are all converts to Islam, and the group of five pledged their allegiance to Islamic State (IS), according to reports.
Madani, who posed as a male Islamist militant to recruit women for the Islamic State group, was given 30 years in prison, while Gilligmann, a married mother of three, was sentenced to 25 years.
Hervouët and Sakaou were given 20 years each, while Chalel received five years for helping Madani hide after the failed attack.
Madani’s lawyer described the sentence as “an excessively harsh punishment”, given there had been no deaths nor injuries as a result of the failed attack.
Prosecutors had requested life imprisonment for four of the women.
How did the bomb plot unfold?
BBC report: On 4 September 2016, police were alerted to an abandoned grey Peugeot 607 vehicle parked near the cathedral, which is located in one of Paris’s busiest tourist locations.
The car’s licence plates had been removed and its hazard lights were flashing.
Inside, officers found half a dozen gas canisters, three jerry cans of diesel and a half-smoked cigarette. The contents of the vehicle had been doused in fuel, but the cigarette had failed to ignite it, police said.
Investigators said the bomb attempt would probably have been successful had it not been for “the wrong choice of fuel”, which was difficult to light.
The discovery prompted an urgent police search.
The car was found to belong to Madani’s father and fingerprints belonging to Madani and Gilligmann were collected from the inside.
Did the women act on their own?
Madani, 22, was arrested a few days later at an apartment in a Paris suburb along with two other defendants, Hervouët and Sakaou.
The trio put up a fight, brandishing knives. Hervouët stabbed one officer in the shoulder, and Madani was shot in the leg while charging at another.
Gilligmann was arrested in southern France on 6 September.
Police said they found a handwritten pledge of allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi inside Madani’s purse.
The women are suspected of planning the bomb attack on the instructions of Rashid Kassim, a so-called handler for IS who was based in Syria at the time. Kassim is thought to have been killed in Iraq in 2017 and was sentenced in absentia to life in jail by the French court that convicted the women.
France has suffered a series of attacks in recent years by jihadists who have declared allegiance to IS.
In November 2015, 130 people were killed and many more were injured in co-ordinated suicide bombings and mass shootings around Paris.
On 14 July 2016, dozens of people were killed, including children, when a lorry ploughed into a large crowd watching a fireworks display in Nice, southern France, to mark the Bastille Day holiday.
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