Four Algerians have been jailed for plotting to blow up a Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg.
Some of the defendants admitted receiving training in Afghanistan
A court in Germany convicted the four of conspiracy to murder, saying the attack would have caused a bloodbath.
The men had planned to detonate a bomb made from a pressure cooker at the bustling market beside Strasbourg Cathedral on New Year's Eve in 2000.
Aeroubi Beandalis, Fouhad Sabour, Salim Boukari and Lamine Maroni were given jail terms of between 10 and 12 years.
Some of the men admitted attending camps in Afghanistan, where prosecutors believe they received al-Qaeda training.
Everybody must be glad that the planned bloodbath did not happen. The God of us all also did not want it and stopped it
Police who raided their flat in December 2000 found explosives and weapons, and a video tape of the market in which they declared that the people there were the enemies of God, who would be sent to hell.
"They planned to kill defenceless people at the Christmas market," said presiding judge Karlheinz Zeiher.
"Through this action, in the European city of
Strasbourg, they wanted to spread fear in France and Europe.
"The accused wanted to hit the nerve centre of a free,
Western, civilised society."
The group had deliberately chosen the Christmas market and the cathedral because of their Christian symbolism, the judge said.
"Everybody must be glad that the planned bloodbath did not happen. The God of us all also did not want it and stopped it," he said.
Beandalis admitted the plot
"They wanted to kill Christians, Jews and so-called infidels and terrorise others. They also wanted to punish France for giving
support to the regime in Algeria."
Some of the defendants admitted planning an attack, but insisted that their intended target was an empty synagogue.
But one defendant, Beandalis, confirmed that the group was planning to detonate the device outside the cathedral on New Year's Eve.
He apologised for his role in the plot and thanked police for foiling it.
Beandalis was given a 10-year jail term. The longest sentence - 12 years - was handed to Boukari.
The court heard that the group was in contact with other extremists in the UK and Italy.
Their flat was raided after a tip-off from a foreign intelligence agency.
Judge Zeiher said encouragement for the attacks - and possibly orders - had come from a London-based Islamist
He described the pressure cooker bomb as a particularly deadly device.
The four plotters were linked to a militant group called the Nonaligned Mujahideen, prosecutors claimed, but attempts to prove the link in court were dropped in January to speed up the trial.
A fifth suspect, Mohammed Bensakhria, was arrested in Spain in June 2001 and extradited to France, where he is awaiting trial.