Notre Dame Cathedral, before getting ravaged by raging fires was the target of a bungled terrorist plot by two French women who swore their loyalty to the Islamic State group. The two accused will be on trial on Monday in a special court of Paris, for attempting to explode a vehicle laden with fuel-doused gas canisters in the shadow of the medieval monument in 2016.
Apart from the two women, six other people are also listed for trials for related terrorism charges. In 2016, the plot created to destroy the historic Cathedral failed. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured.
The women were plotting the attack under their recruiter Kassim. Kassim is one of France’s most notorious jihadists. Prosecutors say the attempted explosion could have killed dozens of people in one of the French capital’s most tourist-heavy neighbourhoods.
After the incident, France hardened its security in the city. The main culprit, Ines Madani, aged 22, was in her teenage years when she and Ornella Gilligmann joined a channel on social media Telegram, which was operated by jihadist Rachid Kassim, according to court documents.
Kassim - the main recruiter for IS in France, 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. In 2015, he moved to Syria and in the summer of 2016, he increased his threats against France on social networks and released a guide detailing how followers should commit attacks on behalf of IS.
In the guide, Kassim mentioned actions like group stabbing or filling a vehicle with gas cylinders and spraying them with fuel. Both accused, Madani and Gilligmann tried to follow his instructions in the exact way he mentioned. Before executing the plan, the women sent a video of themselves to Kassim, pledging allegiance to IS.
Madani “acknowledges responsibility” for plotting the Notre Dame attack and is expecting a conviction according to her lawyer. The lawyer also stated that Madani was manipulated by Kassim and is “no longer radicalized at all. She has done a lot of self-examination."
(With inputs from PTI)