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First woman charged over failed Paris attack

French anti-terror judges charged a woman Saturday over a failed jihadist attack near Paris's Notre Dame cathedral, where a car full of gas canisters was found last weekend.

First woman charged over failed Paris attack
Police officers patrol Paris's Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on September 10, 2016, as part of the "operation sentinelle". Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The mother of three, named as 29-year-old Ornella G., is one of several women detained in the past week on suspicion of planning new attacks in France, a country on high alert after a string of jihadist assaults in the past 18 months.

According to investigators, her fingerprints were found in the Peugeot car that was abandoned last Sunday a few hundred metres from Notre Dame in an area thronging with tourists.

The car contained five gas cylinders, three bottles of diesel and a lit cigarette.

Ornella G. was remanded in custody after being charged with association with a terrorist group and attempted murder by an organised group, prosecutors said.

Known to authorities for previously planning to go to Syria, she was arrested in southern France on Tuesday with her boyfriend, who has since been released. 

Three other women, named as 19-year-old Ines Madani, 23-year-old Sarah H. and Amel S., 39, were detained on Thursday before they could carry out an attack, investigators said.

The trio were looking at train stations in Paris and south of the capital as potential targets, as well as the police, according to sources close to the investigation.

Madani, the daughter of the car's owner, had allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. She was also known to authorities for seeking to travel to Syria.

   

Ornella G. told police that she and Madani tried to set the car alight but “fled when they saw a man they believed to be a plain-clothes policeman.”



Investigators are seeking to determine whether Sarah H. was with the pair at the time. She was the fiancee of Larossi Abballa, a jihadist who knifed to death a senior policeman and his partner at their home in a Paris suburb in June before himself being shot dead.

   

Sarah H. had since become engaged to Adel Kermiche, one of two jihadists who killed an elderly priest in July near the northern city of Rouen and was subsequently killed by police.

   

Anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins said Friday that the women were inspired by IS, which has called on its followers to attack France in revenge for air strikes on the group's bases in Syria and Iraq.

   

“A terrorist cell made up of young women totally receptive to the deadly ideology of Daesh has been dismantled,” Molins said at a news conference, using another name for IS.

   

The extremist group claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 people, among a series of recent assaults attributed to its followers including the Nice truck attack. Security is a hot issue in early campaigning for next year's presidential elections.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that police had arrested 293 people this year for “links to terrorist networks.”

   

“This amounts to networks that have been dismantled and attacks that have been prevented,” Cazeneuve said, giving no further details about the arrests. “We are involved in an extremely intense, round-the-clock mission to protect the French public, and we are getting results,” Cazeneuve said.

He added that 17 foreigners had been expelled this year for posing a “serious threat to public order.” 

The latest was a Russian national, Mansur Kudusov, who was extradited to Russia on Friday after being jailed for breaching house arrest. Kudusov's lawyer said he was a Chechen born in 1991 who had arrived in France as a child and had been placed under house arrest in 2012.

 

GAS

France backs down over Nordstream II gas pipe

France and Germany have struck a compromise allowing Berlin to remain the lead negotiator with Russia on the Nord Stream II gas pipeline to Europe, a proposed deal showed on Friday.

France backs down over Nordstream II gas pipe
Russian energy group Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller delivers a speech during a signing ceremony for the Nord Stream 2. Photo: ERIC PIERMONT / AFP
France had said it would support European Union oversight of new offshore energy pipelines in a move that could have crippled the undersea pipeline plans between Russia and Germany.
   
But the two EU countries have now agreed to ensure oversight will come from the “territory and territorial sea of the member state where the first interconnection point is located,” according to a copy of the draft obtained by AFP.
   
Work has already started on the pipeline from Russia under the Baltic Sea to the end-point in Griefswald, Germany. 
   
The draft text replaces the older wording stating the EU rules on gas imports will be applied by “the territory of the member states” and or the “territorial sea of the member states”.
   
The draft compromise was submitted to a meeting of the EU ambassadors discussing a revision of gas market rules for the 28-nation bloc, diplomats said.
   
Nord Stream 2 faces opposition from many countries in eastern and central Europe, the United States and particularly Ukraine because it risks increasing Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas.
   
Combined with the planned TurkStream pipeline across the Black Sea, Nord Stream 2 would mean Russia could also bypass Ukraine in providing gas to Europe, robbing Moscow's new foe of transit fees and a major strategic asset.
 
The draft compromise addressed the concerns saying: “We consider a (gas rules) directive in this spirit indispensable for a fruitful discussion on the future gas transit through Ukraine.” 
   
A French diplomatic source had told AFP on Thursday Paris was “not for or against Nord Stream 2”. 
   
But the source said France sought “guarantees for the security of Europe and for the security and stability of Ukraine”.
   
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has so far insisted that the pipeline is a “purely economic project” that will ensure cheaper, more reliable gas supplies.
 
READ ALSO: Putin and Merkel defend Nord Stream pipeline    
 
Construction has already begun, involving companies such as Germany's Wintershall and Uniper, Dutch-British Shell, France's Engie and Austria's OMV.
 
Below is a map prepared by picture agency DPA showing the pipeline's route. 
 
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