In 2016, 16-year-old Sara and 20-year-old Thomas met over the Internet. The two had recently converted to Islam over the internet without knowledge of their parents. The two met at a dating site for Muslims and were planning to get married on 11th February 2017. Except, Sarah and Thomas wanted to blow up the Eiffel Tower on their wedding as jihadi attack.
Sara, who lived in Montpellier, is a Gothic teenager converted to Islam. Thomas lived in Clapiers, north of Montpellier, and converted to Islam after setbacks in his professional life. After their online romance, they decide to bring it to real life and Thomas rented an apartment below Sara’s. They announce on Facebook that they plan to do a Nikah.
In a ‘diary’, Sarah had written how she had found a ‘brother’ who was likely to marry her. Since she had lost her virginity before marriage, the only way she could have ‘washed off her sins’ was to join a land which was in control of Islamic State.
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In February 2017, investigators found 71 gms of TAPT, powerful but highly unstable explosive, in Thomas’ home. Thomas and Sara’s social media presence were investigated, including social media app Telegram, which is one of the preferred platforms for jihadis because of encryption.
On 9th February 2017, Sara and Thomas were spotted purchasing acetone and hydrogen peroxide. A day prior to that, they had released a video where Thomas had pledged allegiance with the ISIS. The couple had planned that Thomas will kill himself in the suicide attack at Eiffel Tower and Sara would then emigrate to a country under ISIS occupation as a ‘widow of a martyr’.
Investigators swung into action and on 10th February located the apartment Thomas had rented out. According to Le Parisien, the planning of the attack was discovered when Sara confided in a woman cyber-police personnel who was working undercover. Sara had asked her confidante to help her in succeeding in this ‘magnificent project’ which would be like in the ‘United States in 2011’. She cited a well-known Belgian jihadist and said, “What does it matter if your body is blown up into pieces, Allah will resurrect you”.
Thomas had been under house arrest at his father’s home in the Ardennes from December 2015 to December 2016. It was an administrative action taken under the post-terrorist state of emergency of 13 November 2015, after he unsuccessfully tried to leave for the Iraqi-Syrian zone.
Once they were taken in custody, Sara said she knew she was going to marry someone who would kill people. She said she was proud of what he was going to do, i.e. blow up the Eiffel Tower. She wanted to be the widow of a man ‘who would go down in history’. They had thought of other places as targets too, like the Louvre, but zeroed in on Eiffel Tower.
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Thomas and Sara, aged 23 and 18 now, are now referred to Juvenile Assize Court for “criminal terrorist criminal conspiracy” and “making explosives in connection with a terrorist enterprise,” reports Le Parisien. A third suspect, one 33-year-old Malik, will also be presented before the court as their ‘mentor’. Three other suspects will also be present who were allegedly involved in a parallel terrorist project.
Malik was to bring the final fatal blow to the Eiffel Tower while others would help in diverting attention and some would shoot the security personnel who would intervene. Sara was to then be taken to her ‘sisters’ and flee.
Thomas had thought the project would be tough, but decided to go ahead with it to woo Sara, with whom he was very much in love.
If they are charged, the couple faces 30 years of criminal imprisonment. Thomas, still in love, wrote to Sara about the engagement and his desire to continue the relationship. He does not want to live in France but wants to move to Saudi Arabia. Sara seems to have ended her relationship with Thomas from her side and graduated with honors. Her mother says that she regrets what happened. Sara’s mother says Sara is now involved in humanitarian work and is trying to build a future, with the support of educators, psychologists and her family. She says religion is no longer a great importance in her life.