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Feminist actress attacked in Paris

By John Lichfield in Paris

Police launched a terrorism investigation in Paris yesterday after two men tried to set fire to an Algerian feminist playwright and actress.

The attackers sprayed Rayhana, known only by her first name, with petrol and threw a lit cigarette in her face. The petrol did not ignite, possibly because of the extreme cold.

Rayhana, 45, is appearing in and directing her own play about the oppression of women in Algeria. She was walking to a theatre in a north-eastern suburb of the city when she was insulted in Arabic and attacked. A fortnight ago, she was approached in the same area by two men who said: "We know who you are, you miscreant whore. This is a warning."

Detectives are examining the possibility that she was attacked by a radical Islamist group, although her play is equally critical of the treatment of women by radical Islam and secular authorities in Algeria.

A pressure group for the rights of women of North African origin, Ni Putes, Ni Soumises ("neither whores, nor submisssives"), has called for a demonstration of solidarity with Rayhana outside the theatre tonight.

Following the attack, the playwright staggered into an upmarket restaurant but was refused help. She carried on to the theatre, La Maison des Metallos, and took part in that night's performance. Her sell-out play At My Age, I Still Hide To Have A Smoke, is about a group of women who chat about their lives during a visit to a spa, and features unflattering views of Muslim men.