Train gunman had ‘terrorist intent,’ French prosecutor says – CNN
(CNN)He was armed for a massacre.
Ayoub El Khazzani, the suspected gunman who was overtaken by passengers on a Thalys train in France last week, carried with him an AKM assault rifle with 270 rounds of ammunition, a Luger M80 automatic pistol with a full cartridge, a box-cutter and a water-bottle-sized container full of gasoline, according to French Prosecutor Francois Molins.
“According to all of the witness accounts we’ve gathered … (El Khazzani) wouldn’t have hesitated to use all the arms in his possession — assault rifle, pistol and box-cutter — if it wasn’t for the remarkable intervention of the passengers,” Molins told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.
The 25-year-old Moroccan has been charged with attempted murder, attempted mass murder and membership in a terrorist organization, the prosecutor said — because the gunman wanted to kill all the passengers on the train.
Molins said El Khazzani has invoked his right to remain silent after days of “evasive answers.”
Before he assembled his weapon in the toilet compartment between two train cars on Friday, El Khazzani sat on the train — bound for Paris from Amsterdam — listening on his phone to a YouTube file of “an individual calling his followers to combat and urging them to take up arms in the name of the Prophet,” Molins said, saying this was an indication of his terrorist intent.
After bursting out of the bathroom with his assault rifle, El Khazzani was met by a French man who was waiting there and who tried to stop him. El Khazzani fired off several rounds, and the man escaped through the doors into the next car, the prosecutor said.
El Khazzani then went into one of the cars, where two American servicemen jumped on him when his weapon jammed and — with the help of another American and a British man — managed to bring him down and tie him up, Molins explained.
The investigation into the thwarted attack and the suspect continues. Authorities said El Khazzani was recently in Hatay Province in southeastern Turkey, close to the Syrian border. On June 4, he traveled back through Istanbul to Albania — a side destination that he may have used to cover his tracks.
‘I’m not going to be the guy who dies sitting down’
The four passengers who stopped the gunman were awarded the French Legion of Honor on Monday by French President Francois Hollande.
One of them, Briton Chris Norman, told CNN on Tuesday that he preferred to die trying to stop the man, rather than sitting and waiting for a near-certain death.
“My position was, I’m not going to be the guy who dies sitting down,” Chris Norman told CNN’s “New Day.” “If you’re going to die, try to do something about it.”
A fifth man, French-American Mark Moogalian, who tried to take away the gunman’s rifle before the other four got involved, will receive his own Legion of Honor later. Moogalian was wounded by a shot presumably fired by the gunman, and his condition worsened overnight at a hospital in Lille, in northwestern France, his family said.
Norman said that, at the award ceremony, he and Hollande had a conversation in which they discussed the importance of everyone participating in the fight against terrorism.
Police cannot be everywhere, Norman said.
‘The power of the citizens’
“I think as citizens, we need to really move forward and we need to take some of the responsibility for it,” he said, referring to the battle against terrorism. “Whether it is simply being more vigilant or by preparing yourself for action if ever you do find yourself in that situation.
“I’m not an expert in the area but I do think we need to figure out how to harness the power of the citizens,” he said.
Norman told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he and the others who subdued the apparent would-be attacker, though they had never met, acted as a team during the take-down.
He has had a chance since Sunday to talk with the others — Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, three American friends on vacation in Europe — about those critical events.
“I think we’ve got a pretty strong bond,” he said.