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."

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