Unarmed US marines foil attack by Moroccan gunman with Kalashnikov and handgun on train – follow live updates
Here’s the latest from David Chazan in Arras:
The office of the mayor of Arras said that two people were injured in the attack. One was a US serviceman who suffered a blade wound to the hand and was not seriously injured.
The other was a French man who suffered an unspecified wound to the neck, and was initially thought to have life threatening wounds as of last night. He is now believed to be out of danger.
CNN has obtained some video from inside the train, after the attacker was tied up. You can watch it here.
Who are these US servicemen involved in foiling the attack on the train?
A 22-year-old Air Force serviceman currently stationed in the Azores is one of the servicemen whose bravery was praised by President Barack Obama.
Spencer Stone from Carmichael, California, remains hospitalized Saturday after being stabbed with boxcutters by the attacker. The Pentagon said the injury was not life-threatening.
The other serviceman is Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, who had returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in July.
He’s pictured below, centre, alongside two other passengers on the train who were given medals by the mayor of Arras for their part in averting the disaster.Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, pictured left, was traveling with childhood friends Mr Stone and Mr Skarlatos, when they heard a gunshot and breaking glass.
Mr Sadler told The Associated Press that they saw a train employee sprint down the aisle followed by a gunman with an automatic rifle.
“We heard a gunshot, and we heard glass breaking behind us, and saw a train employee sprint past us down the aisle,” He said.
His two friends then ran at the gunman as he entered the compartment and began trying to cock his weapons.
“As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, ‘Spencer, go!’ And Spencer runs down the aisle,” Mr Sadler said. “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.”
Another passenger, Briton Chris Norman, helped tie the gunman up, and Stone then helped another passenger who had been wounded in the throat and losing blood, Mr Sadler said.
“The gunman never said a word,” he added.
Mr Stone is with the Air Force stationed in the Azores, while Mr Skarlatos, a 22-year-old National Guardsman, had returned from a deployment in Afghanistan in July, according to his step-mother Karen Skarlatos, who spoke with her step-son immediately after the incident. “He sounded fine, but he was intense – he sounded like he had just thwarted a terrorist attack.”
The latest from David Chazan, who has been speaking to the mayor of Arras, is that two people are wounded, one a US serviceman, the other a Frenchman as yet unidentified.
AFP has spoken to a passenger on the train who suggests the man was charged at as his rifle either jammed or ran out of bullets.
Damian, a witness, said the clicking sound made as he tried to fire the weapon “sounded like a toy.”
The man stopped between two carriages, fired and it made a click-click-click sound, not at all like in the films.
Then the man, who was bare-chested, returned to carriage 12 and someone in a green T-shirt, with a shaved head, saw him and jumped on him and pinned him to the ground.
A brief summary
Three Americans have been hailed as heroes by President Barack Obama for tackling and disarming a gunman they happened to encounter on a high-speed Amsterdam-Paris train.
French authorities said that three people were injured. Two were injured seriously – one with a gunshot wound, the other a knife wound.
The gunman wounded two people before he was subdued. He has been arrested in Arras, northern France, where the train was diverting through. The attack took place at 1545 GMT yesterday while the train was passing through Belgium.
Two of the Americans were off-duty US military personnel, and the three men heard the man loading a weapon in the toilet cubicle, confronting him when he came out.
The suspect is a 26-year-old Moroccan, according to Sliman Hamzi, according to an official with the Alliance police union. He is said to have been carrying a Kalashnikov, a knife, an automatic pistol and cartridges.
French media said the man was known to authorities, and he had so far refused to talk to police.
President Barack Obama praised the heroism of US service members who overpowered a gunman aboard a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday.
“The president expressed his profound gratitude for the courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including US 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.”
“We will remain in close contact with French authorities as the investigation proceeds,” the official added.
Jeb Bush, one of the Republicans seeking the party’s presidential nomination has tweeted his admiration for the marines
God bless these heroes and the United States Marine Corps. http://t.co/MBvHkyANFb
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 21, 2015
Associated Press have said named the injured American as Spencer Stone from Sacramento, who was travelling with Mr Sadler and Mr Skarlatos.
Mr Sadler gave a graffic description of what happened
We heard a gunshot, and we heard glass breaking behind us, and saw a train employee sprint past us down the aisle.
They then saw the gunman entering the carriage with an automatic rifle.
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.French investigating police in protective clothing work around weapon cartridges
Mr Norman, a 62-year-old consultant described the chaotic scenes as passengers grappled with the gunman.
“I looked up and saw a guy carrying an AK-47 or at least I assume it was some kind of machine-gun, It could have been a real carnage, there’s no question about that.
Mr Skarlatos, a 22-year old member of the National Guard added
I just got back from Afghanistan last month, and this was my vacation from Afghanistan
There were other passengers , in addition to the marines, who played a part in subduing the gunman. Pictured here are (left to right) Anthony Sadler, from Pittsburg, California, Alek Skarlatos from Roseburg, Oregon, and Chris Norman, a Briton living in France who were awarded medals for their part in tackling the attacker.
More graphic eye witness testimony is emerging. Christina Cathleen Coons, a social worker from New York, described how she dived under her seat when she heard gunfire. Speaking to NBC News she said
“I saw the man who was shot in the neck stumble.He dropped his bloody duffel bag right in the seat across from me, and he collapsed to the floor.Maybe I’m next. Is this train going to get shot up?”
A friend of Jean-Hugues Anglade, the French actor who set off the alarm, has released a statement on his behalf to Le Parisien newspaper.
Jean-Hugues Anglade is okay. But he is shocked by what he experienced in the Thalys in which he was traveling with his son. They heard gunfire since they were in the car next to the one in which it occurred. He was heroic because he pulled the alarm.”
A bit more detail is emerging about what the gunman had in his luggage. A police source has told AFP he was carrying a pistol, ammunition and a Stanley Knife – known as a box cutter. Photo: Getty Images
John Brown from Allentown, Pennsylvania, told The Telegraph’s Gregory Walton in Paris:
We just saw when we got off that people were injured, by the side of the train, being attended to by first aiders.
There was blood all over their face and IVs. Someone had an IV, warm, foil blankets.
It was the people who he injured because they weren’t in any sort of restraint or being seen by any police.
We passed two people injured and I think I saw a third.
We were travelling to Paris on holiday.
His companion Corey Brown said:
We thought it would be disrespectful to take pictures.
Several witnesses are still understood to be in Arras helping detectives with their inquiries this morning, according to passengers on the second train.
One woman badly hurt her hand breaking the window pane to escape the carriage, according to passengers on board the train at the time.
Witnesses have spoken of their horror as train passengers were shot in their seats when a terrorist opened fire on a train carrying hundreds of people before he was overpowered by two US marines.
On Friday night witnesses told The Telegraph they watched on terrified as one man was shot in the neck and left fighting for his life as another injured man tried to save him. Photo: AFP
Engineer Laurent Duquesne, 43, was travelling in the next compartment when one victim’s wife came running in sobbing asking for help.
“She spoke French and asked if there was a doctor aboard the train and why it wasn’t stopping,” he said.
President Barack Obama has expressed his gratitude for the “courage and quick thinking” of the passengers on a high-speed train in France, including US service members, who overpowered the gunman. The White House said in a statement:
The President expressed his profound gratitude for the courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including US service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker. It is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy.
Spanish reports said the attacker’s name is Ayoub el-Qahzzani, a 26-year-old Moroccan who was known to secret services.
El País reported that Spanish anti-terrorist sources said that he “had residency” in Spain for a year until 2014, when he moved to France. The same sources said he travelled to Syria and returned to France soon after. Photo: Getty Images
Didier Dobremetz, 58, a security officer at Arras station, told The Telegraph’s David Chazan:
I saw the two wounded men being taken off the train by firemen. One had a wound in the neck and the other in the hand. I saw the gunmen and I think he had five Kalashnikov magazines so he could recharge. His rifle had a short handle so it was more compact and he also had a handgun and knives. It could have been carnage if not for the Americans. I saw the gunmen, tied up, lying on the platform. He had blood on his face but didn’t appear to be seriously hurt.
Dozens of dazed passengers arrived into the Gare du Nord shortly after 12.30am, reports Gregory Walton from Paris.
They were met by almost as many SNCF workers, Thalys assistants and transport police.
Many were too exhausted to talk and had to be chaperoned towards waiting taxis.
A second train had to be laid on two hours later for those who had not yet cleared the stringent ID checks by authorities in Arras on time to take the first train. Photo: Getty Images
Belgian media are widely reporting that he entered the train at Brussels Gare de Midi, Matthew Holehouse reports.
It comes days after a Belgian jihadist in Syria warned that the country faced attack.
Abdellah Noumane, a man in his twenties from Antwerp who has been in Syria for two years, said that “libraries, schools hospitals, shopping centres and even nightclubs” are potential targets.
“We no longer care about all the discussions regarding innocent victims. All infidels will be killed. We will kill them like they kill us”, he is reported to have said, in an audio recording circulated on Whatsapp, the digital messaging service.
Noumane, who calls himself Jihad Al-Belgiki, is a member of Sharia4Belgim. He has been photographed with members of Katiba Al-Battar, the group behind the foiled Verviers plot.
00.06 Photo: Getty Images
John Wisly, a Cameroonian who was travelling to Paris, told The Telegraph’s Gregory Walton in Paris:
I heard the gunshot. There was a lot of noise but I didn’t take it seriously.
I didn’t know what it was, it was only when I came out of the train that I knew it was really something serious.
Actually it happened very fast and we were sitting on another part of the train. What happened was a little bit in front.
After we came out I saw somebody lying down with police beside him. It was a critical situation of panic.
Patrick Ropert, a spokesman for SNCF, said:
Above all we evidently must salute the level-headedness and the determination of the two American passengers who intervened aboard the Thalys today.
I want to pay tribute to the support of the passengers we witnessed and the Thalys staff tonight in extremely testing conditions.
The minister of the interior has arrived in Arras to oversee the inquiry and the operation there.
We have been absolutely supported by him. This is absolutely normal in situations like this.
We have put in place psychological support for all the passengers and for all the family members who need it.
Assistance is already in place in Arras and here in Paris.
We have a telephone number too.
The Telegraph’s Matthew Holehouse reports from Belgium:
Le Soir, the Belgian paper, suggests a link to the Verviers terrorist network, thought to have been broken up by police earlier this year. Two suspected terrorists were killed in a shoot out with police in Verviers earlier this year.
Some 350 Belgians are said to have travelled to Iraq and Syria, possibly the highest per capita ratio of any European country.
23.20 Photo: @FreedomFilmLLC
David Milward writes that despite armed police patrolling stations across the world, experts have long feared that rail networks were particularly vulnerable to terrorist attack:
Between 2002 and 2011 there were 203 deaths on aircraft that were attributable to acts of malice. On trains and mass transit there were 804.
These included the commuter rail bombings in Madrid and Mumbai as well as the 7/7 attacks in London.
The most detailed research on the subject has been carried out by Prof Arnold Barnett, a statistician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School. He calculated that rail passengers were twice as likely to be victims of terrorism as frequent flyers.
The Telegraph’s Gregory Walton reports from Paris:
A spokesman for SNCF spoke briefly to journalists at the Gare du Nord about the passengers.
He said: “They will arrive at 12.36am and will be taken to a family waiting area. They won’t want to be ambushed by the media after what has happened. But some may may wish to speak. You will see the families being reunited.”
The station master said: “it’s been a difficult day for sure. But our staff have done a good job.”
Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, has said the shooting was a “terrorist attack”:
“I condemn the terrorist attack on the Thalys (train) and express my sympathy for the victims,” Michel wrote on Twitter
Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, paid tribute to the Marines as he arrived at the scene, and said
Thanks to them we have averted a drama.
(The Americans were) particularly courageous and showed extreme bravery in extremely difficult circumstances.
A picture has emerged reportedly showing the suspects armoury: Photo: Reuters
21.05 Photo: Getty Images
A statement from the Elysee Palace said:
The President of the Republic is being kept informed in the aftermath of the attack carried out on the Amsterdam – Paris train.
Three people have been injured and two of them are in a critical condition. They are being attended to by emergency services.
The aggressor, who has not yet been identified, was arrested at Arras train station, where the interior minister will be shortly.
Everything is being done to shed some light on this drama and gain as much as much information about it as possible.
The President of the Republic offers his solidarity to those injured and to their loves ones.
The attack took place while the train was passing through Belgium, according to a statement from the office Presidend Francois Hollande.
The French actor, Jean-Hugues Anglade, who apparently raised the alarm on the train, has appeared in dozens of French films – most notably Killing Zoe: Photo: LOIC VENANCE
20.45 Photo: @FreedomFilmLLC
Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, has tweeted his support to the victims and gratitude to those who intervened:
Fusillade du #Thalys : soutien aux victimes, gratitude à ceux qui sont intervenus. La mobilisation des forces de l'ordre est totale. MV
— Manuel Valls (@manuelvalls) August 21, 2015
Le Monde reports that as well as the Kalashnikov, the 26-year-old suspect was also carrying a handgun and cartridges.
The suspect, of Moroccan origin, is known to intelligence services, AFP reports.
The incident happened towards the rear of the train, according to French BFMTV. The train braked repeatedly and was then diverted to Arras station.
The suspect is a 26-year-old Moroccan, said Sliman Hamzi, an official with police union Alliance, said on French television i-Tele.
Francois Hollande, the French president, has said:
I express my solidarity with the wounded from the attack on the train from Amsterdam to Paris . Everything is being done to shed light on this tragedy.
Je fais part de ma solidarité aux blessés de l'attaque du train Amsterdam-Paris. Tout est mis en œuvre pour faire la lumière sur ce drame.
— François Hollande (@fhollande) August 21, 2015
Counter-terrorist police have taken over investigation, prosecutors say
The anti-terrorist section of the prosecutor’s office has taken over this case, in agreement with the local prosecutor, in view of the weaponry used, the way it happened and the context
The attacker has said nothing since his arrest, a police source told The Telegraph.
Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve is due to make a statement shortly after his arrival.
Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s interior minister, is on his way to Arras now.
Interior ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet said:
A man opened fire on this Thalys train between Amsterdam and Paris, one person was very seriously injured. Talking about a terrorist motive would be premature at the moment.
According to reports, some passengers were able to jump off the train as it went through the town of Henin-Beaumont – the town before Arras on the Amsterdam-Paris line.
Police are now evacuating Arras station and will close it, French radio reports.
The Briton and American seem to have been specifically targeted, according to reports. It is not clear whether this refers to their nationality or as specific individuals.
The gunman’s identity remains unknown.
Police are treating the case as a criminal investigation for now.
If terrorism is confirmed as motive, counter-terrorist police will take it over.
A video reportedly showing the suspect being arrested has been posted on Twitter:
A man has been arrested after firing a Kalashnikov rifle on board an Amsterdam-Paris train, according to French media.
Le Parisien reports that a Briton and an American are “seriously” wounded.
A third person, the French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, was also wounded and is said to have raised the alarm.
La Voix du Nord, a newspaper in the Calais region, said a man was arrested on suspicion of firing the weapon on a Thalys train near the northern town of Arras.
Police say that have not ruled out terrorism as a possible motive and Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, has been summoned to the region.
The gunman, said to be of “North African origin,” is said to have been “taken down” by a group of US marines onboard the train.
@gillesklein The situation is under control, the travelers are safe. The train stopped and the emergency services are on site.
— Thalys (@thalys_en) August 21, 2015
“Man with machine gun in Arras (France) taken down by US Marines,” he wrote.
Man with machine gun in Arras (France) taken down by US Marines, via @FreedomFilmLLC #thalys #arras pic.twitter.com/Rta1Wn1ONG
— John van der Tol (@johnvandertol) August 21, 2015
They tried to detain him and the man fired, wounding three people, two of whom were struck by bullets, the newspaper reported.
A man “aged between 30 to 40,” who was “seriously injured but conscious,” was evacuated from the station at 6.50pm, it added.
Hey @thalys_en man had a machine gun with several rounds
Luckily 3 U.S. Marines were right there & tackled him
From friend of mine on train
— Chris Lazzaro (@FreedomFilmLLC) August 21, 2015
@thalys_en @RT_com @parisreview @BBCBreaking @cnnbrk
The train stopped in Arras, France where he was being detained.
— Chris Lazzaro (@FreedomFilmLLC) August 21, 2015
John Van der Tol tweeted an image of what appears to be a man being restrained on a train platform.According to Voix du Nord, the marines heard what appeared to be the sound of a gun being loaded coming from the toilets on the train.