Tags: War on Terrorism | stop | gunman | france | amsterdam | paris

US Heroes Subdue Gunman, Stop Terror Attack on French Train

Image: US Heroes Subdue Gunman, Stop Terror Attack on French Train
French judicial police stand on the train platform near weapon cartridges and a backpack belonging to a man suspected of opening fire on a Train in Arras. (Reuters)

By    |   Friday, 21 Aug 2015 08:40 PM

A machine gun-toting attacker wounded three people on a high-speed train in France on Friday before being overpowered by passengers who included at least one member of the U.S. military.

Officials said the attacker was arrested after the shooting when the Amsterdam-to-Paris train stopped at Arras station in northern France.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the French anti-terrorism prosecutor was investigating the incident and that the gunman's motives were not known.

The wounded included an American airman and French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade.

Chris Norman, a 62-year-old British consultant, told reporters he had been sitting in the same carriage as the Americans when they heard a shot.

Alek Skarlatos, a 22-year-old member of the U.S. National Guard from Oregon, said his friend, who is also in the military, had been injured while he grappled with the gunman. They eventually got the attacker under control, Norman said.

"I just got back from Afghanistan last month, and this was my vacation from Afghanistan," Skarlatos said.

"I looked up and saw a guy carrying an AK-47 or at least I assume it was some kind of machine-gun," he said. "It could have been a real carnage, there's no question about that."

The third American was later identified as U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone.

The White House said President Obama praised the American servicemen for their courage.

"The president expressed his profound gratitude for the courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including U.S. service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker," a White House official said.

"While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy."

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the French anti-terrorism prosecutor was investigating the incident. Commending the involvement of what he said were two marines, Cazeneuve said, "Without their courage we would have surely faced a terrible tragedy."

A spokesman for French railway SNCF said on iTele television, "The man was armed with automatic weapons and blades. He was stopped by passengers." A statement from SNCF's European affiliate Thalys said the attacker got on its train in Brussels.

A senior European counterterrorism official told CNN that the suspect was loading an automatic Kalashnikov rifle in a toilet when the two Americans confronted him. The pair, who were in civilian clothes, started monitoring the gunman after passengers noticed his behavior was erratic, media reports said.

The assailant was known by French intelligence, authorities told CNN, though his specific loyalties were being investigated.

The man was later arrested and identified by police as Sliman Hamzi, 26, who is from Morocco. He was taken into custody after the train stopped in Arras, 115 miles north of Paris, authorities said. British media cited a Foreign Office official saying no British national had been injured, as had been previously reported by the French interior ministry.

France has been on high security alert since Islamist militants killed 17 people in and around Paris in January, among them staff of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and hostages held in a Jewish shop.

A spokesman for the United States European Command confirmed that one of the passengers who had been injured was a U.S. soldier, and said his life was not in danger.

Cazeneuve urged caution over the nature of the attack, which he said was a matter for the prosecutor to investigate.

"As always where an act that could be terrorist in nature is involved, the greatest care and the greatest precision will be used," he said.

A spokesman for French railway SNCF said on iTele television: "The man was armed with automatic weapons and blades. He was stopped by passengers." A statement from SNCF's European affiliate Thalys said the attacker got on its train in Brussels.

Police union official Slimane Hamzi said the 26-year-old man was armed with a kalashnikov and had said he was of Moroccan origin.

Since the January attacks in Paris there have been other incidents. In June, a suspected Islamist beheaded his boss and tried to blow up a U.S-owned industrial gas plant in the suburbs of Lyon.

And in July, French officials said they had prevented an attack on a senior French military official by arresting four people whose leader had links to jailed jihadists.

Thalys is partly owned by SNCF and Belgian railways and runs international trains joining France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. All four countries are part of the Schengen area through which people travel without the need for passports and security check-ins.

French President Francois Hollande said he had talked to Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and that the two governments were cooperating in the investigation.

Michel said in a tweet, "I condemn the terrorist attack ... and express my sympathy for the victims."

The Belgian government is considering taking extra security measures, a spokesman said.

The shooting occurred as the train passed through Belgium, according to French authorities.

"The man was armed with automatic weapons and knives," Christophe Piednoel, a spokesman for French railway SNCF, said on iTele television, The New York Post reports.

"He was stopped by passengers."

Pierre Henry Brandet, a French ministry spokesman, said on BFM-TV television: "A man opened fire on this Thalys train between Amsterdam and Paris."

Cazeneuve told CBS that the American passengers "were particularly courageous and showed great bravery in very difficult circumstances" and that "without their sangfroid we could have been confronted with a terrible drama."

A local reporter in Arras Antoine da Silva, told CBS that he saw a well-built man taken from the train station, covered in blood.

The man, who spoke English with an American accent, was very calm, despite all the blood, Da Silva said.

France has been on high alert for radical jihadism since the January shootings on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in January left 17 people dead and another attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris later that month.

Investigators from France's special anti-terror police were leading the investigation, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office said.

Newsmax Writer Todd Beamon, The Associated Press, Bloomberg and AFP contributed to this report.

© 2017 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 
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The Pentagon says one U.S. military service member was injured Friday, apparently while trying to subdue a gunman who opened fire on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.
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2015-40-21
Friday, 21 Aug 2015 08:40 PM
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