The pair, who were in civilian clothes, started monitoring the gunman after passengers noticed his behavior was erratic, media reports said.
The Oregon soldiers were headquartered at Bagram air base, near Kabul, and their role was to provide security and force protection for global troops based in Afghanistan. PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images Police work on a platform next to a Thalys train of French national railway operator SNCF at the main train station in Arras, northern France. Then I saw somebody running down the aisle to the front of the train.
“As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, ‘Spencer, go!’ And Spencer runs down the aisle”, Sadler said. “He pulled out a box cutter and cut Spencer a couple of times but beside that we just tried to do whatever we could”.
Throughout the ordeal, Sadler told the AP, “The gunman never said a word”.
But with an arsenal, “he was there to do business”.
“It is important to be careful about his identity which is not yet established with certainty”, Cazeneuve said.
El-Khazzani was being questioned by French counterterrorism police, who confirmed through fingerprints that he was the same person who had been monitored by French, Belgian and Spanish authorities since February 2014.
The gunman, who was known to French and Spanish counter-terrorism officials and is said to have travelled to Syria previous year, had boarded the busy Thalys train in Brussels.
One marine was wounded in the attack that occurred aboard the train between Amsterdam and Paris. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be identified by name.
French authorities were reported to be speaking with at least one of the Americans on Saturday about what happened.
The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office has also opened an investigation because the suspect boarded the train in Brussels, said spokesman Eric Van der Sypt. He said Belgian authorities are assisting the investigation, which is led by France.
On British soil only Eurostar trains, which link Britain and France, are under a security scheme that includes strict checks.
The passenger “who wanted to access the toilets in carriage 12, came across an individual with a Kalashnikov over his shoulder”, said French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in a statement to reporters.
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.
In June, a lone attacker claiming allegiance to Islamic radicals beheaded his employer and set off an explosion at an American-owned factory in France. He was was the fourth to jump into the fray, grabbing the gunman’s right arm and tying it with his tie. He had a magazine full.
“My thought was, ‘OK, I’m probably going to die anyway, so let’s go.’ I’d rather die being active, trying to get him down, then simply sit in the corner and be shot”.
“We saw that a man’s throat had been slit, and he was bleeding profusely”, Sadler told CBS News.
Both Stone and the other injured passenger were taken to hospital, where they are said to be recovering well.
Mr Skarlatos had returned from a deployment in Afghanistan in July with the National Guard, his stepmother Karen Skarlatos said.
Stone’s mother called her son a hero.
Long distance train passengers’ bags are generally subject to a check in Spain, especially at Madrid’s Atocha train station where 191 people were killed in a 2004 bomb attack. They quickly tackled him, possibly averting a massacre aboard the train.
Mr Norman and the two uninjured Americans were awarded a bravery medal from the local mayor for their heroics.
The attacker did not fire his automatic weapon but wounded one man with a handgun and the other with a blade, said Philippe Lorthiois, an official with the Alliance police union.
Anthony Sadler, an American who was travelling with the two servicemen, recounted the moment his pals raced to take the gunman down before he could commit any acts of horror.