A radicalized French woman who wanted to run away and join ISIS is in custody in Paris today after abandoning a car packed with gas cylinders close to Notre Dame Cathedral.
The suspect – who is 29 and on a terror watch list – disappeared with her boyfriend, aged 34, early on Sunday morning.
This was when her Peugeot 607 was found with its lights flashing in a no-parking zone in Paris’s Rue du Petit-Point, across the River Seine from Notre Dame, at 7.30am.
There were seven gas canisters inside – promoting fears of a terrorist attack on the ancient place of worship, which is high on a list of ISIS targets.
Despite being in the heart of tourist Paris, the suspect vehicle had been left untouched in the no-parking zone for a full two hours before the alarm was raised by someone living nearby.
‘It may have been that they were on a test run,’ said a source close to the case, who added: ‘There was nobody in the car, and the canisters were not connected to any detonator or explosives.’
He said six full canisters were in the trunk of the Peugeot, and an empty one was on the back seat. Documents written in Arabic were also found in the car.
The Peugeot had no number plate, but forensics experts managed to find DNA belonging to the couple, who were both well known to police.
The couple were finally caught close to the southern city of Orange on Tuesday, while ‘trying to escape to Spain,’ said a source close to the case.
They were interviewed at length by police in Avignon, before being transferred to Paris in an armed convoy.
Investigators have spent the past four days raiding the homes of anybody who might be linked to them.
Six people were originally arrested, with the woman and her boyfriend remaining in custody in a high-security police station. All the others have been released.
The suspect had told her parents that she was ‘going away with a friend’ at the weekend, and that her parents had not heard from her since.
ISIS has threatened Notre Dame as part of its violent campaign against France for sending war planes to bomb terror bases in countries including Syria and Iraq.