US servicemen foil French train attack | World Defense

US servicemen foil French train attack

BLACKEAGLE

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Latest update : 2015-08-22

Holidaying US servicemen overpowered a gunman armed with a Kalashnikov who opened fire on a train from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday in an attack that wounded several people. The motives of the suspect, who has been arrested, remain unknown.

According to their travelling companion Anthony Sadler, a student at Sacramento State University, the injured American was Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone of the Sacramento area. The other soldier was Alek Skarlatos of Roseburg, Oregon, who had returned from serving in Afghanistan in July.

"We heard a gunshot and we heard glass breaking behind us, and saw a train employee sprint past us down the aisle," Sadler said from France, describing the incident. They then saw a gunman entering the train car with an automatic rifle, Sadler said.

"As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, 'Spencer, go!' and Spencer runs down the aisle," Sadler said. "Spencer makes first contact, he tackles the guy, Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a few times."

"He didn't say anything. He was just telling us to give back his gun. 'Give me back my gun! Give me back my gun!' But we just carried on beating him up and immobilised him and that was it."

One passenger was shot by the gunman, but it is not clear whether the victim was intentionally targeted.

Stone, who had been wounded in the hand, then helped another passenger who had been stabbed in the throat and was losing blood, Sadler said.

Another passenger, British national Chris Norman, 62, helped tie the gunman up.

Stone was taken to hospital along with another unnamed American passenger, who was hit in the shoulder with a bullet.

'Click-click-click'

The suspect, who was arrested when the train stopped at the northern French town of Arras, is a 26-year-old from Morocco or of Moroccan origin who was known to the intelligence services, French investigators said.

He was armed with a Kalashnikov, an automatic pistol and a box cutter, a police source told AFP. The attacker did not fire the rifle but wounded one man with a handgun and the other with a blade, said Philippe Lorthiois, an official with the Alliance police union.

The motives for the shooting were not immediately known, although French prosecutors said counter-terrorism investigators had taken over the probe.

According to Spanish daily El Pais, the suspect had lived in Spain and moved to France in 2014, where he was known to the French authorities after being flagged as a potential jihadist by Spanish intelligence services. The newspaper also reported that he had visited Syria.


The man opened fire at 5:50pm local time (3:50pm GMT), train operator Thalys said.

The gunman was arrested 10 minutes later when the train, with 554 passengers on board, stopped at Arras station where armed police were waiting, a spokesman for the French state rail company SNCF told AFP.

Passenger Patrick Arres, 51, said when the train pulled into Arras station he saw more than 30 armed police on the tracks. "They were looking for someone, people were scared."

Another passenger on the train, who asked to be identified only as Damien, 35, said he had heard the gunman shooting but initially thought the sound came from a toy.

"The man stopped between two carriages, fired, and it made a click-click-click sound, not at all like in the films," he said, still clearly shocked.

"Then the man, who was bare-chested, returned to carriage 12 and someone in a green T-shirt, with a shaved head, saw him and jumped on him and pinned him to the ground."

French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, who appeared in the 1986 cult film "Betty Blue" staring Beatrice Dalle, suffered minor injuries as he tried to activate the train's alarm, a spokesman for French rail operator SNCF said.

The gunman had probably boarded the train in Brussels, a police source said.

Witness Nicolas Martinage, 17, said he had seen the victims being taken off the train in Arras.

"There were two people with blood on them, one had a wound to the eye. The second was around 30 and had a bandage on his shoulder. Both men were on stretchers," he told AFP.

Media reports said a Briton was also injured, but the Foreign Office in London said it had no reports of any British casualties.

'Great bravery'

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised the Americans who had subdued the suspect.

Speaking in the northern French city of Arras where the train was diverted, Cazeneuve said the Americans "were particularly courageous and showed great bravery in very difficult circumstances", adding that "without their sangfroid, we could have been confronted with a terrible drama".

But he called for caution before jumping to conclusions as to motive.

French President François Hollande said "everything is being done to shed light" on the motives for the shooting.

US President Barack Obama also praised the passengers for their actions.

"The president expressed his profound gratitude for the courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including US service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker," a White House official said. "Their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy."

"I condemn the terrorist attack on the Thalys (train) and express my sympathy to the victims," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Twitter of the incident, which occurred while the train was in Belgium.

French authorities have been on heightened alert after Islamic extremist attacks in January at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket left 20 people dead, including the three gunmen. In June, a lone attacker claiming allegiance to Islamic radicals beheaded his employer and set off an explosion at an American-owned factory in France, raising new concerns about other scattered, so-called lone wolf attacks.

In May last year, four people, including two Israeli tourists, were killed when a gunman opened fire at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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joshposh

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The evil Americans have struck again!!! (That was a joke). Good to see that instincts took over and they were able to subdue him. I know they added a few more love taps while holding him down. Post traumatic stress from war time can do that to you.
 

Susimi

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Really, really well done to those guys!

I hope that what they did is recognised appropriately because who knows how many people could have been killed an injured had they not been there and did what they did. It looks like the guy was packing a lot of magazines so he was not messing around.
 

missbishi

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Amazing story! I hope the British guy involved, Chris Norman tells his side of things to the media over here because right now, I'm feeling quite proud!
 

Diane Lane

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I sense a movie in the works as I read. I read elsewhere that the train crew locked themselves into a cabin, and left the passengers to fend for themselves. This attacker was already known to authorities. Obviously not everyone known to authorities can be locked up, but how closely were they watching him, if he was able to obtain at least 2 guns? Box cutters were also used in the 9/11 attacks on the planes. I'm not in favor of searching everyone, but perhaps metal detectors at the entrances to train and bus stations would be prudent at this point. We use them here in the US at airports, as well as federal and some other government buildings, and even schools, so adding them at bus and train stations doesn't sound overly intrusive to me.
 

Corzhens

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It looks to me like an amuck where a guy loses his mind, gets a gun and rampages. But first, how did that amuck get hold of a rifle and a Kalashnikov at that (it is an expensive gun when bought here)? Maybe he had a suitcase with a disassembled rifle? I'm curious as to the motive of that gunman. It's a good thing that the American soldiers have the guts to overpower the gunman. What a bad incident.
 

Diane Lane

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It looks to me like an amuck where a guy loses his mind, gets a gun and rampages. But first, how did that amuck get hold of a rifle and a Kalashnikov at that (it is an expensive gun when bought here)? Maybe he had a suitcase with a disassembled rifle? I'm curious as to the motive of that gunman. It's a good thing that the American soldiers have the guts to overpower the gunman. What a bad incident.
The attack happened at the end of August, and I really haven't heard much about the gunman since then. I have heard about the Americans who foiled the attack, and one of them is currently a contestant on Dancing With The Stars (see link above), and he's actually a good dancer. The show has been putting American heroes on for a while now, but this is probably the first one who has gotten this much foreign attention, due to the takedown on the train.
 
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