Tuesday 12 December 2017

Hero of attack on train urges people to fight back against terrorists

From left: student Anthony Sadler, US National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and US airman Spencer Stone with Jane D Hartley, US Ambassador to France, at the ambassador’s residence in Paris
From left: student Anthony Sadler, US National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and US airman Spencer Stone with Jane D Hartley, US Ambassador to France, at the ambassador’s residence in Paris
French police in protective clothing collect clues inside the Thalys high-speed train where shots were fired in Arras,France

David Barrett Arras

One of the American men who overpowered a gunman aboard a high-speed train has warned people not to "stand by" in the face of terror attacks.

American student Anthony Sadler said "sitting back" was not an option, as the identity of the first man to wrestle a weapon from the high-speed train gunman was revealed for the first time.

The family of Mark Moogalian, an American academic, disclosed his role in tackling Ayoub El-Khazzani aboard the Paris-bound train on Friday.

Mr Moogalian stepped in to help a 28-year-old French banker, known only as Damian A, and disarmed the assailant of an AK-47 assault rifle. He ran away with the gun, only to be shot in the neck with a concealed sidearm.

El-Khazzani then moved into the next train carriage, where Mr Sadler and three other passengers tackled the gunman and beat him unconscious.

"I was the third one to get up and I want the lesson to be learnt that in times of crisis, to do something," said Mr Sadler.

"Hiding or sitting back is not going to help you. Don't just stand by and watch."

His friend Spencer Stone, a US airman, suffered a partially severed thumb as he struggled with the attacker, who was also armed with a utility knife, or "box cutter".

He said it seemed the terrorist "was ready to fight to the end", but added: "So were we."

Mr Stone and Mr Sadler, both 23, spoke about their role in the dramatic incident for the first time at a news conference yesterday at the US ambassador's residence in Paris, along with National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos (22).

Mr Stone said he was asleep, but awoke to see the man holding an assault rifle and that it "looked like it was jammed and wasn't working". He said one of his friends just hit me on the shoulder and said, 'Let's go.'

"We tackled him and hit the ground. I put him in a chokehold," said Mr Stone. "He took out a box cutter. It seemed he was pulling weapons from left and right. All three of us started punching him and grabbed him again and put him unconscious while Alek was hitting him. It feels very unreal, like a dream."

Even after he was injured, Mr Stone helped to save the life of a passenger who was squirting blood from his neck after being hit by a bullet. He said he would have used his shirt but realised that would not have worked, so he "stuck two of his fingers in the hole, found what I thought to be the artery, pushed down and the bleeding stopped".

The injured man is said to be "doing very well", according to Jane Hartley, the US Ambassador to France.

Mr Skarlatos said: "The guy had a lot of ammo - his intentions seemed pretty clear. In the beginning it was mostly gut instinct, survival. Our training kicked in after the struggle."

Mr Moogalian, a 51-year-old professor at the Sorbonne originally from Virginia, US, acted instinctively to protect his partner, Isabella Risacher.

"We are extremely proud of him." Ms Risacher said. "Because he took the bullet in the back of the neck and it came out from the front it is quite a bad wound. But he is alright."

Ms Hartley also said US President Barack Obama had praised the bravery of the passengers in a personal telephone call to French President Francois Hollande last night. She said: "These three brave young Americans, along with the French and British passenger, demonstrated remarkable bravery."

Meanwhile, European intelligence agencies were last night facing questions over how the gunman was free to roam continental Europe, despite being on their radar for at least three years. French, Spanish and Belgian law enforcement agencies appeared to have suffered a serious communications breakdown over the threat posed by El-Khazzani. The 25-year-old was allowed to move freely despite being a known high-level threat.

Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, confirmed Spanish intelligence services had tipped off France over El-Khazzani's ties to "radical Islamist movements".

An alarm was triggered when he flew from Berlin to Turkey last year but responsibility was passed from one agency to another with no action taken. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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