Three American passengers, two of whom were military service members, are being hailed as heroes for their part in disarming an Islamic radical on a train on Saturday.
French authorities were able to use the gunman’s fingerprints to identify him as Ayoub El Kahzani, a 26-year-old Moroccan, who has been frequenting a mosque under surveillance in the Spanish city of Algeciras. According to officials, he has also travelled to Syria in recent years.
French intelligence was alerted by Spanish officials about Kahzani in February 2014 because of his alleged ties to the radical Islamist movement, but he was not under surveillance by the French government.
Kahzani has since been transferred to the police anti-terrorism headquarters outside Paris.
The three Americans weren’t the only ones that subdued the gunman and foiled his attempted attack. A British businessman and a Frenchman also helped the trio stop the man.
The Boston Globe reports that the two U.S. military servicemen tackled the gunman on the train as it traveled from Amsterdam to Paris. Even though he was armed, both men rushed him, then grabbed him by the neck and beat him with his weapon until he was unconscious.
According to the Americans, Kahzani entered the train they were seated in carrying a Kalashnikov rifle and a handgun.
Alek Skarlatos, a National Guard specialist from Roseburg, Oregon, who was returning from Afghanistan, said, “I looked over at Spencer and said, ‘Let’s go.’ ” He was referring to his friend, Airman First Class Spencer Stone of Carmichael, California. Skarlatos went on to say, “And he jumped, I followed behind him by about three seconds. Spencer got the guy first, grabbed the guy by the neck. I grabbed the handgun.”
Ayoub El Kahzani had wounded at least one passenger before he was subdued by the two men. According to officials, they helped avert what could have been a bloody attack. When news of their act of courage came out on Saturday morning, the men were praised for their actions by the French government, the media, and President Obama.
Anthony Sadler of Sacramento, California, who is a friend of both servicemen, also helped them subdue the suspect.
The three Americans were honored by the French city of Arras, where the train stopped after the incident. French President Francois Hollande plans to meet them in the coming days.
Spencer Stone was cut in the neck and hand by the suspect, but the wounds weren’t life-threatening, and he was released from a hospital on Saturday.
According to French news reports, the suspect denied having any terroristic intentions, and just planned to rob the passengers. But, according to the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, the arsenal that he had on him suggested otherwise.