Two teenage girls have been charged with allegedly plotting to assault a Paris concert venue just four months after the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II, legal sources said Saturday.
The girls, 15 and 17 years old, exchanged messages on Facebook in which they discussed an attack similar to those in November that targeted the Bataclan concert venue as well as bars, restaurants and a football stadium, police said.
The girls were arrested Wednesday and appeared before an anti-terror judge Friday on charges of criminal conspiracy in connection with a terrorist undertaking.
Two other girls who joined in the conversations were questioned but were released without charge.
Paris prosecutors said the discussions of the attack were in the preliminary stage and “neither weapons, nor explosive substances have been discovered.”
France has remained on high alert since the November 13, 2015 attacks which killed 130 people, including 90 at a rock concert at the Bataclan.
More girls being radicalised?
Intelligence services have reported an increasing number of girls among radicalised teenagers. Among the 81 minors who are known to have left for Syria to join jihadist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) group, more than half, or 51 of them, are female.
In all, the interior ministry says 867 adolescents of both sexes have been flagged for radicalisation.
Last week, two French girls briefly went missing after they left their homes in an alleged bid to travel to Syria. One of them was already known to the authorities as having been radicalised and had previously attended a so-called de-radicalisation programme.
The government launched a string of initiatives to deter would-be jihadis after the deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015, including a de-radicalisation programme called “Stop Jihad”, but critics have slammed the measures as naïve and inefficient.
Social media and ‘attention’
Experts say the recurrent cases of teenagers becoming radicalised is largely due to jihadist groups’ successful use of social media.
A recent article in Le Monde pointed out that girls often receive individual attention by recruiters and that this personal connection can be intensely meaningful, particularly to troubled teenagers.
The caliphate is “presented as a utopian society, while also providing sensations of adventure, belonging and sisterhood,” researchers Melanie Smith and Erin Marie Saltman wrote in “Till Martyrdom Do Us Part: Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon”.