Ayoub El Khazzani opened fire on a Paris-bound train on August 21, injuring a man before being wrestled to the floor and subdued by Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, three long-time American friends on a European vacation.
The incident took place on a high-speed train, which was travelling between Paris and Amsterdam on Friday night. El-Khazzani is believed to have links to Islamist radicals, has been taken into custody.
The attack has not officially been classified as an act of terrorism, although the senior European counterterrorism official indicated it was. One of the weapons was a box cutter with which the suspect cut Stone’s hand. Stone was injured, along with several other passengers on the train.
French authorities were to speak with him Saturday in Arras, where scientific police circulated around the cordoned-off train and train station.
As the train passed through Belgium, a French citizen trying to use the toilet encountered and tried to subdue the gunman, who had the assault rifle strapped across his shoulder, Cazeneuve said.
Hollande said he plans to meet personally in “the coming days” with all of those involved in overcoming the would-be attacker.
Stone, 23, is a U.S. Airman First Class and paramedic in the Air Force.
“These men are heroes. Everybody was scared. It all happened within seconds”.
“The president wished Airman Stone a full and speedy recovery and expressed how proud all Americans are of their extraordinary bravery”.
French President Francois Hollande thanked them for “their exceptional courage and their efficiency to prevent a tragedy”.
Christophe Piednoel, spokesman from the French railway company SNCF, said the suspect carried an automatic weapon and a bladed weapon. Sadler and Norman tied him up.
Cazeneuve said two Americans helped “neutralize” the attacker. A French-American passenger was hit by the bullet. “I’m glad my brother is a badass”, he said. “All three of us started punching” him, Mr Stone said. US Ambassador to France Jane Hartley said he was “doing pretty well”.
“He didn’t say anything”. Spencer is the real hero because if he didn’t, if that guy still had the gun, Spencer would have been the first one to go. I put him in a chokehold.
He had been living in the southern Spanish city of Algeciras with his parents and arrested there three times for drug-dealing, according to Spain’s Interior Ministry. The cartridge for the handgun had also been dropped, he said.
Stone, whose thumb was nearly severed by the attacker, has also been credited with saving the life of another passenger who had been shot and was bleeding profusely. “I saw Spencer get up, I saw Alek get up, and they are my close friends …” Spencer overpowered the terrorist in a neck lock and then Alek was in the process of taking his gun.
At a later news conference in Arras, Norman, who spoke alternately in French and English, was asked why he sprung into action. “I’d rather die getting active”. (His mother) has a deep faith in God, and we don’t attribute it to anything else.
Khazzani s father described his son as a “good boy” who preferred “football and fishing” to politics.
Spc. Skarlatos, who resides in Roseburg, Oregon, recently returned from a year in Afghanistan where his team provided security details in Kabul and Bagram.
Mr Sadler added that the man – identified as a 26-year-old of Moroccan origin – “didn’t stand a chance”.