PARIS, France – Three ‘radicalized’ women, who were planning to bomb the busy Paris Gare de Lyon train station, were arrested by French police, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.
The women were detained in the Boussy-Saint-Antoine commune of the Essonne department in northern France on Thursday, the minister said at a press conference.
The commune is located some 20 kilometers from the French capital.
“These young women, aged 39, 23 and 19, [are] radicalized fanatics, presumably preparing new violent and imminent actions [in France],” Cazeneuve said.
According to Cazeneuve, a police officer from the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) was injured during the raid.
The officer “was injured with a knife in a shoulder [by one of the suspects] during the operation. He is currently in hospital, but his health is not in danger… One of three women arrested was injured during this operation.”
The women were involved in a recent incident when police found several gas canisters in an abandoned vehicle next to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Cazeneuve said. One of the women, who turned out to be the daughter of the vehicle’s owner, was reportedly shot by police, according to AFP’s sources.
When confronted, “one young woman pulled out a knife and stabbed a police officer at stomach level,” local resident Joachim Fortes Sanchez, 21, told AFP. “It all happened very fast.”
The car, a Peugeot 607, was found parked next to one of the Paris’ most famous attractions on Sunday morning with at least seven gas cans inside. One empty canister was sitting on the passenger seat, but no detonators were found.
RTL TV later reported that the women were planning to set the canisters on fire, but something reportedly went wrong, and they had to hurriedly leave the site.
One of the arrested women, identified as a 19-year-old Ines Madani, had reportedly swore allegiance to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) group, French media said. She was reportedly on the “Fiche S” list – an indicator used by France to flag people considered to be a threat to national security. Those on that list are supposed to be constantly monitored by the authorities.
Before the police raid, Ines had time to write a farewell letter to her mother, which she left on site. She also wrote another letter, in which she pledged allegiance to IS, RTL reported.
Madani was known to Belgian intelligence services as well, Belgian RTBF channel reported. According to the channel, she has been in close contact with would-be jihadists in Belgium who were planning to travel to Syria to join IS.
The Local reports the names of the other two women as Sarah, 23, and Amel, 39.
RTL also reported that the women allegedly wanted to avenge the death of Abu Muhammed al-Adnani, a top IS figure who was killed in an airstrike carried out by a Russian Su-34 bomber on August 30.
The three women were reportedly planning to attack France’s third busiest railway station, Paris Gare de Lyon, which handles about 90,000,000 passengers every year and is and one of the busiest in Europe. They were also planning to strike the Essonne railway station, RTL reported, citing police sources.
The women also reportedly knew Hayat Boumeddiene, a fugitive and a suspected accomplice of Amedy Coulibaly who killed four hostages in a kosher store and a police woman in Paris in January of 2015.
Later on Thursday, police arrested the boyfriend of one of the women, AFP reported, citing police sources. That man had already been known to intelligence services for allegedly having links with extremists. He also has a brother who is currently in prison for having connections with Larossi Abballa, an IS militant who killed a policeman and his partner in June of this year.
Ines Madani also knew Rachid Kassim, one of the extremists suspected of being connected to the murder of Father Jacques Hamel in northern Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in July, RTBF said.
France has been on high alert since January of 2015, when it was hit by a series of Islamic State-linked terrorist attacks.