Ayoub El-Khazzani is accused of boarding a train from Amsterdam to Paris with a rifle and attempting to attack passengers, and now authorities say the 26-year-old man has ties to radical Islam and may have traveled to an ISIS stronghold recently.
El-Khazzani was thwarted in his attack attempt by a group of men. A French citizen using the bathroom saw El-Khazzani and tried to subdue him, and when the alleged attacker began shooting three Americans — Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos — a Briton tackled the man.
The three Americans who tackled the man were hailed as heroes by President Barack Obama.
Skarlatos, a member of the Oregon National Guard, said he saw the man enter the train with an AK-47 and immediately heard Stone yelling, “Let’s go, go.”
Sadler also told the Associated Press how the group fought back.
“As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, ‘Spencer, go!’ And Spencer runs down the aisle. 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. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious.”
Authorities said the alleged attacker had ties to radical Islam and may have been planning a much larger attack. He was armed with the assault rifle, nine magazines, a pistol, and a box cutter, the Associated Press reported.
El-Khazzani has been on the radar for counter-terrorism police since 2013, when he began frequenting a mosque in Algeciras, Spain. At some point he traveled to Syria, and triggered alarms when he flew to Turkey.
It appears that Ayoub El-Khazzani may have been growing more radical in his views. In January of this year, shortly after the deadly attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, El-Khazzani is believed to have written a critical message on the Facebook page of newspaper le Journal du Dimanche.
The following is from the Telegraph.
“He is believed to have written a comment on a photo of the Algerian war, denouncing ‘a terrorist civilisation and a criminal state’, and accused ‘Jews and Christians [for being] at the origin of terrorism.’ “
Ayoub El-Khazzani also put a lot of preparation into this weekend’s attempted attack. Le Figaro reported that he had taken tranquilizers before the shooting, and one of the Americans who stopped him said the man appeared to be “in a trance.”
[Image via Facebook/Ayoub El-Khazzani]