Four women suspects linked to terror plots in France

This picture taken on September 4, 2016, in Paris, shows a car discovered near Notre Dame containing gas cannisters.
This picture taken on September 4, 2016, in Paris, shows a car discovered near Notre Dame containing gas cannisters. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS • In the recent episode in Paris, at least two women, Inès Madani, 19, and Ornella Gilligmann, 29, are suspected of placing full gas canisters in a car early last month, trying to light them and then leaving the car parked overnight near Notre Dame.

Gilligmann, who is a convert to Islam, told investigators that she had bought the gas canisters, according to French news reports. She was interested in going to Syria, said Paris prosecutor François Molins, who is in charge of terrorism investigations nationwide.

Madani supplied the car - it was her father's, the prosecutor said. She appears to have had connections to jihadi circles in Belgium, and investigators there wanted to question her about a network of extremists in Charleroi.

A few days after the car was found, police used phone taps and analysis of phone data to trace Madani and two other women to Boussy-Saint-Antoine, about 32km south of Paris. The three women are believed to have been planning an attack on a train station, French police said.

As they emerged from the house where they were hiding, one of the women, Sarah Hervouet, 23, stabbed a police officer in the shoulder as he sat in his police car, according to Mr Molins. Madani also tried to stab a police officer during her arrest, Mr Molins said. A third woman, Amal Sakaou, 39, did not try to attack the police, and almost nothing is known about her.

Hervouet is a convert to Islam, and she, too, wanted to go to Syria, Mr Molins said. She left for Syria in March last year, but never got there because the Turkish authorities turned her back.

Mr Molins said that she had been betrothed first to the man who killed a police captain and his companion in June in Magnanville near Paris, and then to Adel Kermiche, who went on to kill 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel in St-Étienne-du-Rouvray in July.

There was no indication that she had ever met either of them face to face - both men were killed by police after their attacks - suggesting she had interacted with them only online. She subsequently appeared to be entering another online relationship, this time with another man who was arrested in connection with the Magnanville killing.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'Four women suspects linked to terror plots in France'. Print Edition | Subscribe