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Homeland Security

France Launches Terror Probe Into Train Attack

August 25, 2015

by VOA News

French prosecutors announced Tuesday they have launched a terrorism investigation into last week's armed assault on a high-speed train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris.

Paris Prosecutor Frederic Molins said the man detained in connection with the attack, Ayoub El-Khazzani, was being investigated for "attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise."

Molins said the 25-year-old Moroccan watched a radical Islamist video on his phone moments before he started walking through the train with an assault rifle, pistol, numerous rounds of ammunition and a box cutter.

Authorities are expected to file several charges against him by Tuesday night, including multiple attempted murders in connection with terrorism.

Khazzani was subdued by three Americans, one of whom was injured, and a Briton. Another man, a Franco-American who tried to wrestle away Khazzani's assault rifle, was shot and remains hospitalized.

Khazzani's lawyer denied the suspect had terrorist motives, telling Le Monde newspaper he only intended to rob passengers.

French security sources have been quoted as saying Khazzani flew from Berlin to Istanbul on May 10. The French news agency quoted Molins as saying Tuesday that several weeks later, on June 4, Khazzani flew from the Turkish city of Antakya, near the Syrian border.

On Monday, French President Francois Hollande bestowed the Legion of Honor, France's highest decoration, on the Briton and three Americans who subdued Khazzani.

At a ceremony in Paris, Hollande pinned medals on the chests of Briton Chris Norman and Americans Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler. He said their actions last week in the face of terror provided "a message of courage, solidarity and hope."

"A terrorist decided to commit an act. He had enough weapons and ammunition to carry out a real carnage, and that's what he would have done if you hadn't tackled him at a risk to your own lives," said Hollande.

The president also honored a French citizen who first discovered the gunman near a restroom as the train sped toward Paris.

Stone, a U.S. Air Force airman who was wounded in the attack, said Sunday he thought of his own survival, as well as everyone else's on the train, as he, Skarlatos and Sadler bolted from their seats to take down the suspect.

Skarlatos, a member of the National Guard who recently served in Iraq, said the trio and Norman acted on "gut instinct" to overpower the gunman. Sadler said the gunman never said a word before launching his attack.

In reconstructing the faceoff, authorities found the gunman had already shot one person in an adjacent car before entering the compartment where the Americans and the Briton were seated.


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