Islamic State women on trial for attempted attack near Notre Dame

PARIS — Two French women who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror group go on trial today for trying to blow up a car near Notre Dame Cathedral in 2016, in a case that authorities hope sheds light on the wave of extremism that has hit France.

The trial is also highlighting the role of women in recruiting and violence by IS extremists.

The Notre Dame terrorist plot fell apart after the gas canisters doused with fuel failed to explode, 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 — in September 2016, long before the fire that ravaged the medieval cathedral this year — could have killed dozens of people in one of the French capital’s most-beloved, tourist-friendly neighborhoods.

In this March 27, 2016 file photo, a French police officer stands guard as worshipers arrive for the Easter mass at Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

The two main suspects, who face life in prison if convicted, are subdued as the trial opens in a special Paris terrorism court. Six other people are also on trial for related charges.

Ines Madani, now 22, is considered the key player. She was just a teenager when she and fellow suspect Ornella Gilligmann joined a channel on the 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 his suggested methods were group stabbings or “filling a vehicle with gas cylinders and spraying them with fuel.”

Madani and Gilligmann tried to do just that, after sending Kassim videos pledging allegiance to IS, court documents say.

— AP

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