Three U.S. citizens and a British man subdued an armed terrorist who boarded a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris Friday night and then opened fire at passengers.
The 26-year-old gunman, identified by local media as Ayoub El-Qahzzani, is allegedly of Moroccan origin, according to Alliance Police Union official Sliman Hamzi, who spoke with French television station i-Tele.
El-Qahzzani lived in the southern Spanish city of Algeciras, according to the Associated Press, and was a member at a mosque under surveillance there. He moved to France in 2014 after visiting Syria.
According to a report by the British Telegraph quoting the La Voix due Nord newspaper, the gunman was linked to a jihadist group which attacked Belgian anti-terrorist police in January in Verviers, near Liege, and were shot dead. “It appears that he had been identified as a potential security threat by the Spanish authorities who had alerted French authorities and had asked them for further information about him,” the Telegraph reported.
U.S. Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone was released late Saturday from hospital after being stabbed. A second serviceman, Alek Skarlatos, served recently in the Afghanistan in the National Guard. The third, Anthony Sadler, is studying physical therapy in Sacramento.
The men told reporters they heard a gunshot and breaking glass, then saw a train employee racing down the aisle, followed by a gunman with an AK-47 assault rifle.
One of the Americans tackled the attacker while a second wrestled away the rifle and a handgun. The attacker pulled a box cutter and stabbed the man who had taken him down, until he was beaten unconscious by the three of them.
A British business consultant, Chris Norman, helped subdue the gunman and keep him held down after he was tackled. Stone then helped another passenger who had been shot in the throat.
Passengers on the train eventually arrived at their destination early Saturday, several hours later than scheduled.
It is easy to board a high-speed train in Europe with a weapon and in most places one can avoid metal detectors, the necessity for showing a passport or other identity papers, and even avoid a bag search.
Major rail stations are patrolled by armed soldiers, but if one does not appear suspicious in any way, and avoids a search, a terrorist can board a train with no problem.