TRAIN passengers, including two US military personnel, another American and a British man, heroically overpowered a gunman who started firing shots and wounded two people on Friday, August 21.
The American passengers sprang into action when the man, who was carrying an AK-47, a handgun and a knife, started shooting as the train was passing through Belgium into France.
Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, members of the US Air Force and National Guard, tackled the gunman and took his weapons from him. Mr. Stone managed to restrain the terrorist using a chokehold while Mr. Skarlatos grabbed the handgun and AK47 and used the automatic weapon to hit him over the head. Meanwhile, a third American man, Anthony Sadler, aided by fellow passenger Chris Norman, helped keep the Moroccan man down.
The terrorist fought back and attacked the heroic men with a knife, cutting the neck and thumb of Mr. Stone, who was later taken to hospital for treatment. Brit Chris Norman, who now lives in France, was also cut in the melee.
As the struggle ensued, another passenger, French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, star of French films Betty Blue and Nikita, who was also travelling on the train raised the alarm, breaking the emergency glass and injuring himself in the process.
After the attack, the train stopped at Arras, 115 miles north of Paris, and police arrested the 26 year old suspect while passengers disembarked from the train.
French authorities say that altogether three people were injured in the attack, two of those seriously, with one sustaining gunshot wounds and another with injuries from a knife.
The Thalys train, like Spain’s AVE, is a high speed train service serving national and international destinations. Spain’s AVE service extends to French destinations and, in the wake of the 2004 March 11 Madrid Al-Queda train bombings, introduced security measures to screen passengers’ luggage.
The Moroccan suspect, who according to reports has been named as Ayoub el-Quahzanni, previously lived in Spain before moving to France, and Spanish authorities alerted the French to his presence as he was known to intelligence agencies as a security risk.
Both US president Barack Obama and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazenueve praised the passengers for their prompt and courageous action. Brit Chris Norman and the American men who overpowered the terrorist were also awarded medals for bravery by authorities in the French town of Arras.