American who helped stop France terror attack returns to US

Francois Molins said an investigation had been opened into 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub el Khazzani for attempted murder with terrorist intent.


He had an AK-47 assault weapon with nine magazines of ammunition, a Luger pistol with extra ammo and a box cutter, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

David said her client told her he found the firearms in a public garden next to a train station in Brussels, Belgium.

Authorities say El-Khazzani is an Islamic extremist who spent time in Syria, while his lawyer said he was homeless and trying to rob the train.

On Monday morning, Hollande pinned the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, upon the chests of Americans Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler, and Chris Norman of Britain.

The gunman was tackled and tied up by three American friends and a British businessman.

“I wasn’t on the train, but I don’t think he was capable of doing something like that”, Khazzani told El Mundo, speaking to the Spanish newspaper in Arabic.

He was initially thought to be carrying two phones, but the source said he was actually only in possession of one mobile phone, which had been activated on the morning of the attack.

He may also have tried to go to Syria. The French news agency quoted Molins as saying Tuesday that several weeks later, on June 4, Khazzani flew from the Turkish city of Antakya, near the Syrian border.

Molins also raised suspicions about how Khazzani was able to afford a first class train ticket, given his claims to be sleeping rough in Brussels.

El Mundo said Ayoub el Khazzani left Algeciras in 2014 when the Spanish police were “hard on his heels” because they suspected him of jihadist sympathies.

He didn’t elaborate on a specific threat, though France has been on high alert for attacks all year.

“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”, Hollande said.

According to French law, authorities must file preliminary charges against El-Khazzani by Tuesday night or seek a special extension to his temporary custody.

Mr. Molins said Mr. El-Khazzani had been responding to investigators’ questions after he was arrested, but has since invoked his right to silence. Landstuhl Regional Medical Center spokesman Chuck Roberts said Stone arrived at the facility in southern Germany on Monday and seemed in good spirits, smiling and shaking hands with leaders of the U.S. military hospital.

“The guy had a lot of ammo”, said Skarlatos, a National Guardsman based in Oregon. Sacramento’s KCRA-TV showed Sadler, a Sacramento State University student, walking off a commercial plane at Sacramento worldwide Airport, accompanied by his parents. “When he sets his mind on what he wants to do, he just does it – which is one of the reasons I wasn’t surprised when I heard he went after the actual gunman”.


Skarlatos added that if the attacker had known how to handle guns, he could have killed many people.