Three women arrested in Paris Thursday in connection with a car containing gas cylinders left near the Notre Dame cathedral were planning an attack on a rail station, the French interior ministry said, according to Reuters.
A ministry official said on Friday that “an alert has been issued to all stations but they had planned to attack the Gare de Lyon on Thursday.”
The Gare de Lyon station is located less than 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the cathedral which marks the center of the city.
French President Francois Hollande declared on Friday that the terror cell had been “destroyed” and confirmed that an attack had been foiled.
The main suspect in the case had sworn allegiance to Islamic State jihadists, a source close to the investigation said Friday.
Police shot and arrested the 19-year-old woman with two accomplices south of Paris late Thursday. She is the daughter of the car’s owner and officials had said she was known to police as having wanted to travel to Syria.
A French police officer was also stabbed during the anti-terror operation.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told the press on Thursday that the suspects were aged 39, 23 and 19, were “radicalized fanatics” and “likely preparing violent actions”.
A local resident who saw the women just before their arrest in Boussy-Saint-Antoine, south of Paris, said they “seemed anxious, looking around them all the time”.
When confronted, “one young women pulled out a knife and stabbed a police officer at stomach level”, Joachim Fortes Sanchez, 21, told AFP. “It all happened very fast”.
Four people — two brothers and their girlfriends — were already in custody over the car, found just a few hundred metres (feet) from the Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris, an area always thronged with tourists.
The first couple arrested, a 34-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman, have been held since Tuesday and are known to the security services for links to radical Islamists.
Police arrested the man’s brother and his girlfriend, both aged 26, late Wednesday.
Police investigators announced on Wednesday that a car loaded with six gas canisters, five of which were full, had been discovered on Saturday night close to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Three bottles of diesel fuel were also discovered in the vehicle.
Police were alerted to the presence of the car, which was parked illegally, by an employee of a nearby bar who spotted the gas cylinder on a seat along with documents with Arabic writing, said France’s BFMTV.
Police said no detonator device had been found in the vehicle but it prompted fears that there had been an intent to detonate the vehicle.
The car did not have license plates but was traced to an individual on an intelligence services watch list of individuals suspected of religious radicalization, according to police.
“If it was an attack plot, the method was very strange,” a police source said Thursday.
France has been hit by a series of terror attacks claimed by the Islamic State. Last November a group of men carried out shooting and suicide bombing attacks across Paris, killing 130 people and injuring hundreds.
In July, 86 people were killed when a truck ploughed into a Bastille Day crowd in the southern resort of Nice with IS saying it was driven by one of its followers.
Less than two weeks later, two young jihadists murdered a priest near the northern city of Rouen.
The head of France’s DGSI domestic intelligence service, Patrick Calvar, warned in May of a “new form of attack” in which explosive devices would be left near sites that attract large crowds.
(Staff with agencies)