France Train Gunman Had Planned Robbery Not Terrorist Act, Claims Lawyer — Is It True?

The gunman behind the French train attacked had planned a robbery, according to the man’s lawyer. CBC reports that defense attorney Sophie David claims that Ayoub El-Khazzani, the man allegedly responsible for the botched attack, told her that he had no intention of carrying out a terrorist mission.

David said, “[El-Khazzani] is dumbfounded that his action is being characterized as terrorism.”

Instead, the defense lawyer said the gunman had planned to rob the train’s passengers to gain enough money to eat. David claims that her 26-year-old client is homeless and wanted to convey that the would-be robbery was about desperation rather than malice.

“He thought of a holdup to be able to feed himself, to have money…[He planned to] shoot out a window and jump out to escape.”

There are a couple of details that strongly challenge the assertion about the gunman’s motives.

First, the fact that Ayoub was so heavily armed. At the time of the attack, the suspect had an AK-47 assault rifle, a Lugar pistol and box cutter, along with enough bullets to cause heavy casualties. How does he account for a small arsenal for a simple train robbery?

Sophie said that the suspect planned the attack after finding the weapons at a public park in Brussels, Belgium.

Even if this proved to be plausible, there’s also the issue of El-Khazzani’s place on anti-terrorism watch lists in Spain, Belgium, and France. France, according to the Telegraph, might have known about the gunman since 2012. He also reportedly visited Syria in 2014, at which point it was suspected he had formed ties with an extremist Islamic terrorist organization.

All of this is speculation in the mind of Sophie David, who believes that her “very thin” client was merely a starving homeless man who poorly planned a robbery to feed himself.

On August 21, a gunman boarded a train headed from Paris to Amsterdam. He had allegedly prepped himself for an attack in the bathroom where he was discovered by one of the train’s passengers. A struggle ensued and the passenger was shot. Shortly afterward, the gunman was subdued by three Americans, including two off-duty soldiers and a British businessman.

The four are being hailed as heroes for preventing another French tragedy.

With the gunman’s defense in place, it may raise speculation that his nationality and religious affiliation are at the heart of assumptions or terrorism — instead of than any concrete proof that the event was something other than a planned robbery.

Do you believe the gunman’s lawyer that he planned a train robbery after finding the weapons used? Share your reasons why (or why not) below.

[Image Credit: Screen Grab From YouTube/Associated Press]