France charges three women 'commandos' over jihadi gas canister plot


The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed on Tuesday that the three women will remain in custody after a judge confirmed preliminary charges of terrorism linked to the discovery of an abandoned car full of gas cylinders near Notre Dame Cathedral and with another pending attack.

The women identified as Ines M., 19, Sarah H., 23, and Amel S., 39, were
arrested last Thursday in Boussy-Saint-Antoine, south of Paris. Two of the women were accused of attacking police officers with knives during the police operation.

Ines M. and Sarah H. were also charged with attempted terrorist murders of public officers and Amel S. with being an accomplice to those attempts, the office said on Tuesday.

In the same case, a male suspect, identified as Mohamed Lamine A., was charged with not reporting a pending terrorist crime to authorities. The 23-year-old, who was engaged to Sarah H., was arrested on the same day northwest of Paris.

Gas canisters

French police were first alerted to the possibility of a terror attack on Sunday September 4, when a bar employee working near Notre Dame Cathedral noticed a gas cylinder on the back seat of a parked car. Police found five more cylinders in the car’s trunk. Three bottles of diesel were also discovered in the Peugeot 607, but police found no detonators.

On Saturday,
a woman identified as Ornella G., 29, was the first to be charged with terrorism and placed in custody in the gas cylinder case. Investigators said her fingerprints were found in the abandoned car.

Pledge of allegiance

Before the recent alleged attack plots, intelligence services had been watching Ornella G. and Ines M. for security reasons and for their suspected wishes to go to Syria, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

Inside Ines’ purse, investigators found a handwritten pledge of allegiance to IS group leaders, telling French people “I’m attacking you in your lands to mark your minds and terrorize you.”

Police raid in Boussy-Saint-Antoine, south of Paris

The three women Ines M., Sarah H. and Amel S. were arrested during a police raid in Boussy-Saint-Antoine, south of Paris

Sarah H. was known to intelligence agents as someone “particularly linked to jihadi circles” and her boyfriend Mohamed Lamine A. was considered by authorities as “particularly radicalized,” Molins said.

The 23-year-old was previously engaged to a man who murdered a police couple in June in Magnanville, outside Paris, and to a priest killer at a Normandy church in July, Molins said. Both men were killed by police responding to the attacks.

France has remained on high alert following a string of attacks by militants linked to the IS and threats against key buildings.

In July, 86 people were killed when a truck plowed into a Bastille Day crowd in the southern resort of Nice, with IS saying it was driven by one of its followers.

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

Those incidents follow two deadly attacks in Paris last year, which left more than 140 people dead, also claimed by Islamist militant groups.

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.

ksb/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)