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Suspected female jihadists on trial for botched terror attack on Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral

Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt, AFP file picture | French soldiers of the Sentinel Operation stand alert outside the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral in Paris, on August 20, 2017

Five women go on trial at a special Paris court on Monday for attempting to blow up a car near Notre-Dame Cathedral in 2016 in what prosecutors say was a failed jihadist attack.

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The women, now between the ages of 22 and 42, are charged with attempting to explode a vehicle laden with fuel-doused gas canisters in the shadow of the medieval monument in central Paris.

No one was hurt in the incident. Police were quickly able to trace the car, which belonged to the father of one of the key suspects, and some of the women's fingerprints and DNA were found on the gas canisters.

According to unnamed sources, the women had also been plotting other attacks and were looking at train stations in Paris and the city's southern outskirts, as well as police officers, as potential targets.

If convicted, they face between 30 years and life in prison. Other suspects also face trial for related terrorism charges.

One of the women, now 22, is considered the key player in the failed attack. She was just 18 when she and her co-defendants joined a channel on the social network Telegram that was run by one of France’s most notorious jihadists, who is believed to be linked to a gruesome attack on a French priest in Normandy and the killing of a French police couple at their home.

According to court documents, the women sent the jihadist videos pledging their allegiance to the IS group. He is currently the subject of an international arrest warrant and will be tried in France in absentia. He is believed to have been killed by a drone strike in 2017 around the Iraqi city of Mosul, but while US authorities have confirmed his death no proof of death has been officially reported to the French courts.

One of the defendant’s lawyers has previously said his client was vulnerable to the IS group’s recruitment efforts because she was "a girl in search of recognition and love".

Prosecutors say the attempted explosion could have killed dozens of people in one of the French capital’s most touristed neighbourhoods. It came after a string of Islamic extremist attacks that deeply shook France and hardened its security stance.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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