Friday 15 December 2017

France train gunman Ayoub El-Khazzani 'dumbfounded' at terror allegations and claims he found AK-47 'by chance' in a park

El-Khazzani's lawyer, Sophie David, said he claims he wanted to hold up the train and then escape by shooting out a window

France train gunman Ayoub El-Khazzani
France train gunman Ayoub El-Khazzani

Doug Bolton

Ayoub El-Khazzani, the man suspected of attempting a massacre on a French train, is "dumbfounded" that he is being accused of terrorism and claims he found the AK-47 assault rifle "by chance", according to his former lawyer.

Sophie David, a lawyer who was assigned to El-Khazzani when he was detained in Arras but is no longer representing him, said he denies firing a single shot.

(l to r) Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone, Jane D. Hartley, US Ambassador to France, and Alek Skarlatos pose for photographers (AP)
(l to r) Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone, Jane D. Hartley, US Ambassador to France, and Alek Skarlatos pose for photographers (AP)

Speaking to BFM-TV, David said: "He is dumbfounded that his act is being linked to terrorism," adding that El-Khazzani describes himself as a homeless man.

"He says that by chance he found a suitcase with a weapon, with a telephone, hidden away," she said.

Security at Brussels Midi station was stepped up after the incident (EPA) "He said he found it in the park which is just next to the Midi Station in Brussels, where he often sleeps with other homeless people."

Explaining what El-Khazzani claims he planned to do with the rifle, David said: "He planned to hold up the train, then shoot out a window and jump out to escape."

"When I told him about the media attention he didn't understand," she added.

The 26-year-old gunman is believed to have links to Isis and radical Islam, and was on the Schengen register, a watch-list of "persons of interest" that is shared by 27 European countries.

Shots were fired on a Thalys high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris on Friday and several people were injured, the French interior ministry said.

A man was arrested when the train stopped at Arras station in northern France but his motives were not yet known, a ministry spokesman said. Officials believe that El-Khazzani planned to kill people on the train. He was discovered with the gun when another passenger encountered him while trying to use the toilet.

In this photo made early Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, image obtained from the Facebook webpage of the mayor of Arras, Fredric Leturque, sits with passengers of the Thalys train who subdued a gunman as they display their medal after being awarded by the mayor of Arras, northern France, with left to right, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Briton Chris Norman. A gunman opened fire on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding two people before three American and a Briton passengers subdued him, according to reports. American train passenger Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone was hospitalized with serious wounds after his part in tackling the gunman. (Arras City Hall via AP) MANDATORIT CREDIT
In this photo made early Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, image obtained from the Facebook webpage of the mayor of Arras, Fredric Leturque, sits with passengers of the Thalys train who subdued a gunman as they display their medal after being awarded by the mayor of Arras, northern France, with left to right, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Briton Chris Norman. A gunman opened fire on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding two people before three American and a Briton passengers subdued him, according to reports. American train passenger Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone was hospitalized with serious wounds after his part in tackling the gunman. (Arras City Hall via AP) MANDATORIT CREDIT

The passenger tried to subdue him, and shots started flying, claims Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

The gunman was subdued when two American servicemen, US Airman Spencer Stone and National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, their friend Anthony Sadler, and British businessman Chris Norman tackled and disarmed him.

Sadler described seeing a train employee running down the aisle, followed by a man with a rifle.

"As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, 'Spencer, go!' And Spencer runs down the aisle," Sadler said.

In this image made from TV, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, and Briton Chris Norman, right, who both helped overpower high-speed train attacker, talk to the media early Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, in Arras, France. Three Americans and a Briton are being hailed as heroes for tackling and disarming a gunman aboard a high-speed train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris Friday evening. (AP Photo /APTN) TV OUT - FRANCE OUT
In this image made from TV, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, and Briton Chris Norman, right, who both helped overpower high-speed train attacker, talk to the media early Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, in Arras, France. Three Americans and a Briton are being hailed as heroes for tackling and disarming a gunman aboard a high-speed train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris Friday evening. (AP Photo /APTN) TV OUT - FRANCE OUT

"Spencer makes first contact, he tackles the guy, Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a few times. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious."

Norman said he was the last to jump into the fray, grabbing the gunman's arm and tying it with his tie.

El-Khazzani denies firing a shot, but Skarlatos, who has served in Afghanistan, said then when he examined the rifle, he found that the gunman had tried to fire it but failed because it had a bad primer.

The victim is in a "serious but stable" condition and their life is not in danger. Stone was released from hospital on the same day, and the three Americans apparently visited the US Ambassador's residence in Paris.

The White House said that President Barack Obama called them on Saturday to commend and congratulate them.

Independent News Service

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News