Three radicalised young women who French authorities say were probably preparing “new and imminent violent action” have been arrested at a railway station south east of Paris after they were linked to the discovery of a car packed with gas cylinders left near Notre Dame cathedral last weekend, the government has said.
The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said there had been a “race against time” to catch the three women, aged 19, 23 and 39, who he described as “radicalised and fanaticised”. The women were stopped near the station in Boussy-Saint-Antoine, a small town in Essonne 30km south-east of Paris.
One of the women stabbed a police officer with a knife during the arrest, injuring him in the shoulder. Other police officers opened fire and the woman was injured.
“France is confronted with a terrorist threat of unprecedented scale,” Cazeneuve said. The changing threat took different forms and was very hard to detect, he added, as he called for the “vigilance of all citizens”.
The women were arrested in connection with the discovery on Saturday night of a Peugeot 607 car loaded with seven gas cylinders – six of them full – which was parked in a street near Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris. Police sources said no detonator device was found in the car, but the presence of diesel-filled cannisters caused fears that there had been a plan to explode the vehicle. The discovery of the car triggered an inquiry by counter-terrorism experts
Documents with writing in Arabic were found in the car, which had no registration plates and was left with its hazard lights flashing.
The car owner – who officials said was on an intelligence services watchlist of people suspected of religious radicalisation – was arrested but later released because he had gone to police on Sunday to report that his daughter had disappeared with his car.
Officials said his daughter, 19, was known to police for wanting to leave for Syria, where scores of radicalised people of French and other nationalities have joined the ranks of the Islamic State militant group.
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SOURCE: The Guardian, Angelique Chrisafisin