The train attack in France could have been much, much worse if not for some selfless heroes who refused to standby. A fifth passenger who helped disarm the suspect has been identified.
Three U.S. military members, who were awarded the highest honor in France — the Legion d’Honneur — by French President Francois Hollande on Monday, weren’t the only people who intervened during the train attack. Reports have surfaced about another man, a French-American national — identified as Mark Moogalian by family members — who allegedly helped disarm the 26-year-old Moroccan suspect.
The train attack happened on Friday, when a gunman armed with an AK-47 and other weapons boarded a Paris-bound locomotive and tried to shoot some of the 554 passengers on board. According to the New York Daily News, Moogalian was the fifth passenger who wrestled the machine gun away from the attacker, only to be shot in the back by the assailant’s back-up handgun.
In actions similar to those seen on September 11, 2001, on board hijacked Flight 93, passengers — which include three U.S. service members identified as, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone, and Alek Skarlatos, plus Briton Chris Norman — took it upon themselves to disarm the assailant. Four men are credited with saving countless lives during the train attack after Moogalian took the Ak-47 away from the suspect.
The man accused of the train attack — a Moroccan man identified as Ayoub el-Khazzani — may have spent time in Syria, French authorities said, and was reportedly on three terrorist watch lists. However, his lawyer claims he was not trying to carry out a terrorist attack at all, but a robbery.
Moogalian — who was born in Virginia and is now a professor at the University of Paris — will also be awarded with the Legion d’Honneur. The 51-year-old was traveling with his wife and became suspicious of el-Khazzani, who locked himself in a bathroom and stayed for a while, his wife, Isabelle, said in a statement to the Guardian.
When the train attacker came out of the bathroom, he was carrying an AK-47. According to Moogalian’s wife, another passenger attempted to tackle the gunman while her husband took the machine gun away from him. However, he didn’t realize the assailant had a pistol, and as he tried to move away with the shooter’s rifle, he was shot.
“I saw him through the gaps between the seats. He looked at me and said, ‘I’m hit, I’m hit.’ He thought he was going to die,” she said.
While Moogalian lay bleeding on the floor, el-Khazzani was able to get a hold of his AK-47 again and that’s when four other passengers tackled him. But the train attack wasn’t over yet; as the group fought to restrain the attacker, he pulled out a box cutter and sliced Stone’s thumb.
“He put his finger on the wound in the middle of his neck and he stayed in that position for the whole journey,” Isabelle said of Stone, who rushed to help the professor who helped stop the train attack. “I think he really saved my husband’s life.”
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