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Woman was not arrested for plotting terrorist attack 3 days before Notre Dame fire

April 18, 2019 GMT

A woman was not arrested for plotting terrorist attack 3 days before Notre Dame fire

CLAIM: “A Muslim woman in Paris was arrested three days ago for planning a terrorist attack at Notre Dame Cathedral. Today, 3 days later, Notre Dame is in flames.” -- social media posts Monday.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. No terrorism-related arrest or charge was made days before the fire broke out at Notre Dame, the Paris prosecutor’s office said in a statement Wednesday to The Associated Press.

THE FACTS: The Paris prosecutor’s office said Monday it is investigating the cathedral fire as an accident, and is ruling out arson and terror-related motives for now. 

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The false claim, which has been circulating widely on Facebook and Twitter, links to stories about a failed car bomb attempt near the cathedral in 2016. Some of the posts also link to a story about a court sentencing on Friday, April 12, for one of the women who had been accused in the 2016 case. The sentencing was unrelated to the failed car bombing attempt.

In September 2016, France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor accused a group of women, guided by the Islamic State group, of plotting a car bombing near the cathedral. French authorities identified five female suspects after finding an abandoned car filled with gas canisters near Notre Dame Cathedral. French police said one of the women was found with a handwritten pledge to an Islamic State leader, the AP reported in 2016.

The women intended to target the Eiffel Tower but could not find a place to park, said Robin Simcox, a national security analyst who monitors terrorism at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank.

“It was one part of a broader set of plots that were connected to this all-female cell and obviously has nothing to do with what happened yesterday,” said Simcox, who studied the case.

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Lori Hinnant contributed to this report from Paris.

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Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

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