According to a French prosecutor, the Thalys train attack on August 21 was premeditated and well prepared.
Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani, 25, was carrying 270 bullets for his assault rifle and a bottle of petrol, prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters on August 25.
The suspect’s phone showed that he had watched a jihadist video shortly before launching the attack, Francois Molins added.
Ayoub El-Khazzani was overpowered by passengers on the Thalys train. No-one died.
Three Americans and one Briton who tackled the gunman were awarded medals for their bravery.
“Ayoub El-Khazzani had watched YouTube audio files whilst already on the Thalys train in which an individual called on the faithful to fight and take up arms in the name of the Prophet [Muhammad],” Francois Molins told a news conference.
Francois Molins said a formal terrorism investigation had been opened, adding that other European authorities had passed on information about the suspect’s travels and links to radical Islam.
French President Francois Hollande presented three Americans and a British man who foiled a suspected terror attack on a train with the Legion d’honneur at the Elysee Palace, France’s top honor.
Two other unnamed passengers will receive the honor at a later date.
Americans Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Briton Chris Norman and two other passengers overpowered a suspected radical Islamist on a high-speed train bound for Paris on August 21.
French authorities are questioning the suspect, Moroccan national Ayoub El-Khazzani, 25.
President Francois Hollande pinned the medals on the chests of the four passengers at the ceremony in Paris on August 24.
Before the awards, the president said: “We are here to honor four men who, thanks to their bravery, managed to save lives. They showed what could be done in terrible circumstances.
“In the name of France, I would like to thank you. The whole world admires your bravery. It should be an example to all of us and inspire us. You put your lives at risk in order to defend freedom.”
Francois Hollande added: “A terrorist decided to commit an attack. He had enough weapons and ammunition to carry out real carnage, and that’s what he would have done if you hadn’t tackled him at a risk to your own lives.
“You gave us a lesson in courage, in will, and thus in hope.”
Belgian PM Charles Michel and the US Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, attended the ceremony, along with the head of the French rail firm, SNCF.
The Legion d’honneur was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The award is divided into five categories and the passengers are expected to receive the chevalier, the most commonly awarded.
A French-American passenger who was wounded in the attack, and a French citizen who first encountered the gunman and tried to overpower him, will receive the honor later.
Francois Hollande named the French-American as 51-year-old Mark Moogalian, who is still in hospital. The other man wishes to remain anonymous.
The Americans spoke on August 23 about the incident.
Spencer Stone, an off-duty US airman, said he had just woken from a deep sleep when he saw the gunman and moved to restrain him.
He was the first of the three to reach the gunman. He was cut in the neck and on the eyebrow, and his thumb was almost sliced off.
Spencer Stone also tended to Mark Moogalian, who had been shot in the neck.
Alek Skarlatos, a member of the US National Guard, said his initial reaction was “mostly just gut instinct”, and that military training had only played a role in providing medical help and making sure there were no accomplices.
Anthony Sadler said: “The gunman would have been successful if my friend Spencer had not gotten up. I want that lesson to be learned, in times of terror like that, to please do something. Don’t just stand by and watch.”
British Chris Norman, an IT expert, said he helped the Americans subdue the gunman because he thought he was “probably going to die anyway”.
Under French law, authorities have until Tuesday evening to question the suspect.
Sophie David, a lawyer assigned to the case for Ayoub El-Khazzani, said the Moroccan was “dumbfounded that his act is being linked to terrorism” and that he had said he found the weapons in a Belgian park and wanted to rob passengers.
Ayoub El-Khazzani’s father, Mohamed el-Khazzani, told the Daily Telegraph in Algeciras, Spain, that his son was a “good boy” interested in “football and fishing”.
The suspect was flagged up to French authorities by Spanish counterparts in February 2014.
He is reported to have lived in France, Spain, and Belgium and to have travelled to Syria.
Security aboard the high-speed Thalys service on which the incident took place is being stepped up. The trains link major cities in the Netherlands and Belgium to Paris.
Patrols and security checks will also be boosted at international train stations.
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.
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.
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