French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Spanish intelligence services had tipped off France over his ties to “radical Islamist movements”, but it is unclear whether he lived in France at any time after leaving Spain.
Hollande then pinned the Legion of Honor medal on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their longtime friend Anthony Sadler, who subdued the gunman as he moved through the train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest.
But one of the US men who helped overpower the gunman has disputed the idea that the Moroccan man only meant to rob passengers. “You have given a message of courage, solidarity and hope”.
When he turned and saw the gunman, identified by French authorities as Ayoub El-Khazzani, his first thought was about “survival, to survive and for everyone on the train to make it”.
Stone thanked the doctors who reattached his thumb, which was nearly severed by the gunman, who was armed with a box cutter, a pistol and a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle. Stone was released from hospital on the same day, and the three Americans apparently visited the US Ambassador’s residence in Paris.
The lawyer is no longer representing Khazzani as he has been transferred to a police station near Paris for questioning.
They said the gunman was apparently untrained in firearms and that he could have used all his firepower to devastating effect if he had known more about weapons. “His intentions were pretty clear”, said Skarlatos, a 22-year-old member of the National Guard in Oregon who was on holiday in Europe with his friends after he had recently returned from Afghanistan, adding the gunman “never said a word”.
According to Khazzani, who does not speak French and whose comments were translated by an interpreter, he boarded the train to rob people, and had intended to break a window and jump out to escape.
For the first time since the attack, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler are addressing the media together about their heroic actions that stopped a massacre.
Mr Stone said: “He seemed like he was ready to fight to the end”.
“‘He is dumbfounded that his act is being linked to terrorism, ‘ David told BFM-TV, adding that Khazzani said he was homeless”.
Stone, who was wearing a sling on his left arm, was wounded in the attack and said he will receive further medical treatment in Germany. All three of us started punching him and grabbed him again and put him unconscious while Alek was hitting him.