A gunman fired on a high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris while it was passing through Belgium on Friday and was prepared to kill many but was thwarted by two members of the American military, who tackled and subdued him. One of the Americans was badly wounded and two others on the train were wounded, one seriously.
The lives of the wounded are not in danger, officials said. A third American, a friend of the other two, and a Brit helped in stopping the attacker and keeping watch over him until they were able to turn him over to authorities. A spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry, Pierre-Henri Brandet, said that the train stopped in Arras, 185 kilometres north of Paris, and the suspect was taken into custody.
France’s special anti-terror police are leading the investigation into the shooting. The gunman has been identified as a 26-year-old Moroccan national but his name has not been released. French police said he was known to their intelligence division and that he has connections to radical Islam. Some officials are saying it was a terrorist attack while others caution that it is too early to be certain.
Gunman heavily armed
The man possessed an Kalashnikov machine gun with 200 rounds, a handgun and a knife; the Americans subdued him before he could fire the Kalashnikov and one American, Spencer Stone, the first to tackle the gunman, was cut in the back of his neck and had a thumb badly cut. The gunman fired a handgun before being subdued.
One of the injured was hit by a shot from the handgun, the American Stone was stabbed and a third injured person, Jean-Hugues Anglade, a well-known French actor, was slightly hurt pulling the train’s emergency lever. The other two Americans said that after they beat the gunman unconscious, Stone applied first aid to the man with a bullet wound.
Alek Skarlatos, a member of the U.S. National Guard from Oregon, was one of the heroic Americans; the 22-year-old told media that he was supposed to be taking a break from conflict. “I just got back from Afghanistan last month and this was my vacation,” he said.
The French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told media that the Americans who fell upon the gunman were “were particularly courageous and showed great bravery in very difficult circumstances.” Without the intervention of the Americans, Cazeneuve said, the people on the train “would have surely faced a terrible tragedy.”