A gunman that was overpowered by passengers on a train going from Amsterdam to Paris had visited Syria recently and was being watched by intelligence services from several European countries.
Ayoub El Khazzani, born in Morocco, was taken down to the floor by three American passengers after he opened fired on a packed train yesterday. The suspect is now being interrogated by authorities in France.
Spanish intelligence said he had lived in the country for the last seven years and left them to travel to Syria, where terrorist groups operate and recruit members. After leaving Syria, he moved to France.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed that Spanish intelligence had been watching him closely and flagged the man for being linked to the Islamist movement.
The suspect, who was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a pistol and a box cutter, opened fire as the train was leaving Belgium and entering France. A French passenger was one of the first to spot him and tried to stop the armed man but he got away and fired several times.
A Franco-American passenger then tried to stop him again but was shot and wounded. The suspect was finally taken down by two off duty US servicemen and their friend. Alek Skarlatos, a member of the National Guard, who recently came back from Afghanistan, saw the man enter with the assault rifle and immediately told his friends to help him take the suspect down.
How It Went Down
Spencer Stone, a member of the US Air Force, got to him first but was slashed in the neck and thumb with the box cutter. Skarlatos then jumped in, grabbed the gun and started beating him in the head. Their other friend, Anthony Sadler, a student at Sacramento State University and a British consultant, Chris Norman, helped keep the man under control.
Norman believes the suspects gun may have jammed during the attack, giving them more time to act and prevent a tragedy. Norman first thought about hiding but then said to himself that the suspect would kill him anyways so he joined in.
He says he doesn’t feel like a hero and added that if it wasn’t for Spencer, they would all be dead. After the man was taken down, Skarlatos searched for other suspects while Norman helped tie up the attacker.
Both Men Injured Are OK
Stone, who suffered cuts in his neck and thumb, helped the man who was shot in the shoulder during the attack. Both were sent to the hospital and are recovering. Stone had surgery on his hand but was released hours ago.
French President Francois Hollande will thank the four of them in person on Monday. US President Barack Obama congratulated them and British premier David Cameron praised the passengers for stopping the gunman.
No one was seriously hurt but French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, who was on the train and pulled the alarm when the attack began, criticized the train’s staff for running away and locking themselves in a safe area. According to the actor, the passengers were left on their own and many of them pounded on the door so the staff could let them in.
The company denied that its staff ran away when the shots were fired, saying they went to tell the driver to stop the train. According to them, some passengers were allowed to hide with the staff in that area. The train was carrying 554 passengers at the time.
The suspect boarded the train between Amsterdam-Paris, where there are no airport style checks. France has been on high alert since the deadly attacks at the start of this year.