Three women arrested after a car loaded with gas cylinders was found near Notre Dame cathedral had been planning to attack a Paris railway station, the French minister of the interior said late on Thursday.
The Peugeot 607 was found early on Sunday laden with seven gas cylinders and three jerry cans of diesel, said police, although no detonators were discovered.
“A group has been neutralized. Others are out there,” French President Francois Hollande said on the sidelines of a summit of southern European states in Athens yesterday.
The car’s discovery triggered a terrorism investigation and revived fears about further attacks in a country where Muslim militants have killed more than 230 people since January last year.
One of the women stabbed a police officer during her arrest before being shot and wounded, French Minister of the Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.
“These three women aged 39, 23 and 19 had been radicalized, were fanatics and were in all likelihood preparing an imminent, violent act,” Cazeneuve said in a televised statement.
TV footage showed a policeman leaving the scene of the arrests in the Boussy-Saint-Antoine suburb, about 30km southeast of Paris, carrying a large knife.
Scores of radicalized people of French and other nationalities are in Syria and Iraq fighting for Islamic State. Many of those involved in recent attacks in France have either taken part in the fighting or had plans to.
France is among the countries bombing Islamic State strongholds, and the group has urged supporters to launch more attacks on French soil.
The ministry said all train stations had been put on alert, but that the intended target had been the Gare de Lyon, a mainline train station less than 3km from Notre Dame in central Paris.
A ministry official said that the youngest of the three women, a 19 year-old whose father owned the car, was already suspected by police of wanting to wage jihad for Islamic State in Syria.
She had written a letter pledging allegiance to the militant Islamist group, the official said.
The car’s owner was taken into custody earlier this week, but later released. He had gone to police on Sunday to report that his daughter had disappeared with his car, officials said.
Four people were detained earlier in the week, and another man, the fiance of the 23 year-old woman, has also since been arrested, police sources said.
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