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Hoax Alert

Old News: Story About Car With Gas Tanks, Arabic Documents Found in Unmarked Car Near Paris' Notre Dame Is From 2016

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Tue, 16 Apr 2019 07:15:03 Z)

Was an unmarked car with gas tanks and Arabic documents found near the scene of the Notre Dame cathedral fire in 2019? No, that's not true: several social media posts are spreading old news from 2016 as if it happened right after the fire that devastaded the church on April 15, 2016.

An example of such a post (archived here) can be seen below, from the Facebook page British Independence News where it was published on April 15, 2019:

Gas tanks and documents in Arabic were found in an unmarked car next to Notre Dame cathedral, sparking fresh terror fears and at least four arrests, according to French reports.

Other examples:

Screenshot of https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1119683894881712&id=988882321295204&__xts__[0]=68.ARClXeloaOlg4LM3QI7N_ZD9IjanYxJ-szn7mzw8UqPCJbsZbZKBBCcCHBEDPms1sgHDQAATy7rzdr9eqk5CRFtWWXNMyX9lzBZ6cSiodP1shzdNX4oyLSyOis3Tcir5QC6G8idQ58hVcWmJNTZp0rHdj1TU_nMMWGMxS60lz9BridNDO-uIzXhAuliYqgb-Q7rpqQSTojiA1pGvb_iGYBOBOe_87RuR2LCYN56tVDjvG51gzbFGrT5RBNksFjDb6OP0LwfdFCDHm8Gx7BtdCRGk0MSBjejV6ad5O2rydUbHGQZD-xTSBRGm5Ug8NL3xjBEpNV6EYuECpnk7dycgruT6UA&__tn__=-R

The Telegraph story it linked to was from 2016:

Gas tanks and Arabic documents found in unmarked car by Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral spark terror fears

The first couple, a man aged 34 and a woman aged 29, were arrested on a motorway lay-by near Orange, southern France. The pair were being questioned by French domestic intelligence agents who can hold them for 96 hours without charges under French anti-terror laws.

That story has since been updated with a warning:

This story is from 2016 and unrelated to the fire at Notre-Dame on April 15 2019

One of the women involved in that plot was recently convicted to eight years in prison:

France jails 'jihadist' woman (22) accused over foiled terror attack in Paris

Madani was jailed for encouraging would-be jihadists to go to Syria and participate in attacks against France.

Several people were sharing the old story as if it was breaking news:

Currently the cause of the fire is still under investigation, no definitive conclusions have been announced by investigators yet. All reports calling it accidental, arson, terrorism... (or anything else) are just speculation at this point.

About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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