France Train Attacker Went to Syria to Join Caliphate – Was Known to Police
The Islamist who tried to shoot up a train in France before he was tackled and hogtied by three Americans returned from Syria this year.
— L'Obs (@LeNouvelObs) August 22, 2015
Ayoub El Khazzani returned from the Caliphate this year.
— Daily Star (@Daily_Star) August 22, 2015
A suspected jihadist gunman overpowered by passengers on a packed Amsterdam-Paris train had visited Syria and was known to intelligence services in several European countries, officials said Saturday.
The suspect, who has been named as 25-year-old Moroccan national Ayoub El Khazzani, was wrestled to the floor by three American passengers after opening fire with an assault rifle on Friday evening, and is now being interrogated by counter-terrorist officials near Paris.
A Spanish counter-terrorism source said he had lived in Spain for seven years until last year and had travelled to Syria from France.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed that Spanish intelligence services had flagged the man to France “due to his membership of the radical Islamist movement.”
Armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Luger automatic pistol, nine cartridge clips and a box-cutter, the attacker opened fire on board the high-speed train just after it crossed from Belgium into northern France.
A 28-year-old French passenger spotted the gunman as he exited a toilet cubicle and tried to disarm him, but Khazzani slipped away and fired several shots.
Then a Franco-American traveller in his 50s clashed with the man and was shot and wounded. But the attack was quickly stopped when two off-duty US servicemen and their friend charged the gunman and restrained him.
“I looked back and saw a guy enter with a Kalashnikov. My friends and I got down and then I said ‘Let’s get him’,” Alek Skarlatos, a 22-year-old member of the National Guard in Oregon who recently returned from Afghanistan, told France’s BFMTV.
Spencer Stone, who serves in the US Air Force, was first to the gunman who slashed him in the neck and almost sliced off his thumb with a box-cutter.
“At that point I showed up and grabbed the gun from him and basically started beating him in the head until he fell unconscious,” said Skarlatos.
His friend Anthony Sadler, a 23-year-old student at Sacramento State University, and a British business consultant, Chris Norman, then helped keep the man subdued.
Three Americans tackled and hogtied the terrorist in the train.