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Suspect Ayoub El-Kahzzani, who is accused of carrying out Friday’s attempted attack on a high-speed Thalys train between Amsterdam and Paris, is being questioned by French police.

The 25-year-old Moroccan, who was restrained and held on the floor by passengers, is said to have links to the “radical Islamist movement”.

He can be held for four days without being charged.

Security measures aboard Thalys trains have been stepped up.

After a meeting of its national security council on August 22, Belgium said mixed Franco-Belgian security patrols would be increased on board the Thalys trains, which link major cities in the Netherlands and Belgium to Paris.

Patrols and security checks will also be boosted at international train stations, and more baggage checks will be carried out.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

Ayoub El-Kahzzani boarded the Thalys train in Brussels, and Belgian prosecutors are carrying out an anti-terrorism investigation of their own.

The suspect, who is being questioned near Paris, was flagged up to French authorities by their Spanish counterparts in February 2014.

Ayoub El-Kahzzani is reported to have lived in France, Spain, and Belgium and to have travelled to Syria.

The incident happened on a Thalys service near the northern French city of Arras on August 21.

When a French passenger tried to enter a toilet, he encountered the gunman and tried to overpower him. It is thought this passenger may have since requested anonymity.

A gun was fired and a French-American passenger was injured by the bullet.

Ayoub El-Kahzzani was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, an automatic pistol with ammunition clips, and a box cutter knife, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on August 22.

Two American servicemen, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, were hailed as heroes for throwing him to the floor of the carriage, removing his guns and restraining him.

A friend of theirs and fellow American, Anthony Sadler, and Chris Norman, a British man who lives in France, also helped restrain the attacker.

Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone are members of the National Guard and the US Air Force respectively.

Spencer Stone received cuts to his neck and hand but has now been discharged from hospital.

Those who prevented the attack are due to meet President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace on August 24.

In a phone call on August 22, President Francois Hollande thanked them for their actions which he said had helped prevent an “extremely serious attack”.

The three US citizens and Chris Norman were awarded medals for bravery by authorities in Arras.

The 554 passengers on board the train included French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, who was critical of train staff, alleging they entered a private cabin and locked themselves in when they heard gunshots, leaving the passengers alone. Thalys denies this.

The president of the French railway company, SNCF, Guillaume Pepy, has said he will meet Jean-Hugues Anglade in coming days to discuss the matter.

France’s security services have placed been on high alert since January when Islamist militants killed 17 people in and around Paris – including the attacks at the offices of satirical paper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.


Americans Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos have received medals for their bravery and hailed as heroes for overpowering a heavily-armed gunman on a train in northern France.

The incident happened on the high-speed Thalys service near Arras, and the attacker was arrested at Arras station.

President Barack Obama praised the passengers, who included two off-duty US military personnel.

The man arrested was a 26-year-old Moroccan. Anti-terrorist officers have taken over the case.

The gunman’s weapons were said to include a Kalashnikov, a knife, an automatic pistol and cartridges.

French authorities said three people were injured, two of them seriously – one with a gunshot wound, the other a knife wound.

France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the attack took place at 17:45 local time on August 21.

French media said the arrested man was known to the intelligence services but he has so far refused to talk to police in Arras.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

Two of the American men who overpowered the gunman, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, are members of the Air Force and the National Guard respectively.

Their friend, Anthony Sadler, was travelling with them and described the scene: “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.”

Chris Norman, a British man living in France, was also hurt while trying to subdue the attacker.

“I came in at the end of it all and helped get him under control,” he said at a news conference in Arras.

“The guy pulled out a cutter and started cutting Spencer – he cut behind his neck and nearly cut his thumb off.”

Spencer Stone remains in hospital.

The passengers included French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, the star of Betty Blue and Nikita, who was lightly wounded breaking glass to sound the alarm.

The American men and Chris Norman were awarded medals for bravery by authorities in Arras.

Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the passengers were “particularly courageous and showed great bravery in very difficult circumstances”, adding: “Without their composure we could have been confronted with a terrible incident.”

“The president expressed his profound gratitude for the courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including US service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker,” the White House said in a statement.

“It is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy.”

Belgian PM Charles Michel called the incident a “terrorist attack”.

Images shared on social media appeared to show a man being restrained on the station platform in Arras.

One photograph showed an injured man in a blue top and jeans lying on the floor of the train.

French rail firm SNCF said there had been 554 people on board the train.

Thalys said several trains had been delayed in the wake of the attack.

France has been on edge since the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris in January, which left 17 people dead.