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French jihadists get prison time over foiled Notre-Dame attack

A drawing of Ines Madani during the trial over the foiled Notre-Dame car bomb attack,11 April 2019.
A drawing of Ines Madani during the trial over the foiled Notre-Dame car bomb attack,11 April 2019. Benoit PEYRUCQ / AFP

A French court on Monday sentenced five members of an all-female jihadist cell to between five and 30 years in prison over a failed bid to detonate a car bomb outside Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in 2016.

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The five women, aged between 22 and 42, were arrested after a car packed with gas cylinders was found parked near the bustling esplanade in front of the cathedral in the heart of the capital on November 4, 2016.

The two main defendants, Ines Madani and Ornella Gilligmann, had doused the car with diesel in the middle of the night and tried but failed to set it alight with a cigarette.

They were sentenced to 30 years and 25 years in prison respectively.

The women are believed to have been acting on the orders of Rachid Kassim, a French Islamic State (IS) propagandist also suspected of ordering the murder of a French police couple at their home in June 2016.

Kassim is believed to have been killed in an air strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul in February 2017.

First case of women attempting to stage an attack in France

Madani, 22, was arrested a few days after the failed attack in a Paris suburb along with two other defendants, Sarah Hervouet and Amel Sakaou, who were each sentenced to 20 years.

The three burst out of the apartment to which they had been tracked down by police, brandishing knives.

Hervouet stabbed an officer in the shoulder, while Madani was shot in the leg.

Gilligmann was arrested in southern France.

A fifth woman, Samia Chalel, was also tried for allegedly helping hide Madani, and sentenced to five years in prison.

Regret and apologies

The court heard how Madani posed as a male jihadist online to try recruit women for IS and won over Gilligmann in messages exchanged online.

Madani told the court on Monday she regretted her actions.

Gilligmann, a married mother of three, spoke emotionally of the "shame" she had brought on her family and asked for forgiveness from the victims of terrorism.

France has been repeatedly targeted by jihadists since 2015, causing the loss of 255 lives.

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