The Paris prosecutor’s office says authorities are formally opening a judicial investigation into terror-related acts after a thwarted attack on a high-speed train last week.
Despite Khazzani’s claim that he had slept on a bench in Brussels in the days prior to boarding the train on August 21, Molins said he had actually stayed with his sister in the Belgian capital, which was searched on Monday. Another man who tried to stop him – a French-American named Mark Moogalian – remained hospitalized with a gunshot wound.
Besides the assault rifle, El-Khazzani had 270 rounds of ammunition, a pistol, a box-cutter and a bottle of gasoline, Molins said. He may have tried to go to Syria.
According to the French prosecutor, El Khazzani has maintained that he found the weapons in a park.
“They are saying Ayoub is a terrorist but I simply can’t believe it”, said Khazzani, 64, a scrap merchant who lives in the poor El Saladillo district of Algeciras with his wife and some of his six children.
French authorities have until Tuesday evening to charge or release Khazzani, who had been on the radar of several European intelligence agencies.
“The aggression that took place on Friday… which could have degenerated into a monstrous carnage…is fresh proof that we must prepare for other attacks and therefore protect ourselves”, said Hollande. Molins said he began to speak less to investigators as his time in custody passed.
Another American, U.S. Air Force Airman Spencer Stone, is undergoing treatment at a military hospital in Germany for injuries suffered in the attack.
Stone, who had initially brought the gunman to the ground, had his hand slashed by the perpetrator during the scuffle.
It’s not yet clear when Stone will be transferred back to the United States.
Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, and Briton Chris Norman provided a “lesson in courage”, said Hollande.
Aleksander Skarlatos, a member of the Oregon National Guard who had recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan, will receive the Soldier’s Medal “for extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty”, the US Army said on Tuesday. Earlier he had flown back to the U.S. from France on a private jet made available by the CEO of Columbia Sportwear and switched to the commercial flight in Portland, Oregon.
“He is dumbfounded by the terrorist motives attributed to his action”. “He’s a free spirit”.
“I saw a guy carrying an AK-47, or at least I assumed it was some kind of machine gun”.