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Mother of three is charged over failed car-bomb attack in Paris

Suspected accomplice had keys to car in her bag with written pledge of allegiance to Islamic State group, leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
French public prosecutor of Paris Francois Molins, right, flanked by Interpol President Mireille Ballestrazzi addresses news conference in Paris (AFP)

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

The mother of three, identified 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 terror attacks 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, identified 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 had been plotting another attack, and were looking at train stations in Paris and south of Paris, as well as the police, as potential targets, an unofficial source said.

Paris anti-terror prosecutor Francois Molins said that when she was arrested, Madani had the keys to the car in her bag, as well as a written pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In the pledge, Madani wrote that she was “answering the call of al-Adnani,” referring to Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, a senior IS figure who had called on Muslims in the West to carry out attacks. Adnani was reported killed in Syria last month, the New York Times reported.

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 militant 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 militants who killed an elderly priest in July near the northern city of Rouen and was subsequently slain by police.

Islamic State link

The women were guided by the IS in Syria, Molins said on Friday

"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 an Arabic acronym for IS.

Molins said the use of a terrorist cell made up almost entirely of young women represented a chilling turn in IS tactics, the New York Times reported.

“If at first it appeared that women were confined to family and domestic chores by the Daesh terrorist organization, it must be noted that this view is now completely outdated,” Molins said.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Saturday 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 on a trip to Chateauroux, central France.

The minister did not give 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.

Security is one of the hot issues in early campaigning for next year's presidential elections.

A total of 238 people in France have been killed and hundreds wounded since January 2015 in a string of attacks attributed to, or fomented by, the IS group.

Cazeneuve added that 17 foreigners had been expelled since the start of the year for posing a "serious threat to public order".

The latest was a Russian national, Mansur Kudusov, who was expelled on Friday after being jailed for breaching house arrest, he said.

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.