France is to open an official terrorism investigation into the attempted train attack that resulted in three Americans, a French-American and a British businessman tackling Ayoub El-Khazzani as he pulled a weapon.
French prosecutor François Molins said the El-Khazzani’s internet history showed “clear evidence of terrorist intent” and that he intended to “kill a whole train full of people”. He added that Khazzani allegedly watched an extremist video on his phone before the attack.
CNN reports that Khazzani’s lawyer, Sophie David, maintains that her client merely intended to carry out a robbery and that he found his weapons in park in Brussels, but Molins said Khazzani had recently been to Turkey and may have crossed the border to war-torn Syria. He had already been incarcerated several times in Spain.
Khazzani had been offered a cheaper ticket on an earlier train, but insisted on paying for a first class ticket on the train he ended up riding. Once on board, he began walking around with an assault rifle, handgun, fuel, ammunition and a box cutter.
Chris Norman, the British consultant who helped the three Americans tackle Khazzani, told The Guardian what happened next:
“I heard one of the Americans say: ‘Go get him Spence.’ The other one said: ‘No, you don’t do that, buddy.’ I thought great, somebody’s actually intervening, let me stand up because we’ve got much more chance as a team. Let’s go!”
They were yesterday awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest award, by President François Hollande, with American-born professor Mark Moogalian also expected to be given the award once he is released from hospital. Moogalian is was shot as he tried to apprehend Khazzani.
His wife, Isabella Risacher-Moogalian, told Europe1: “I did not see my husband get shot; it happened too quickly and I was pretty much hiding behind seats. But I look at my husband through the seats at an angle and he looked straight at me and said, ‘I’m hit!’ … There was blood everywhere. I ran towards him and I could see that he had a wound on his back. I then saw another wound by his neck.”
Chris Norman said: “My message to people is that if it does happen to you, be aware that there is a possibility to act. Don’t act completely rashly but, when the opportunity arises, for God’s sake jump in there.”