40 ter­ri­fy­ing min­utes on Am­s­ter­dam train

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

He watches one last YouTube video of an Is­lamist preacher, then alone in the bath­room of a high­speed train he re­moves his shirt and grabs his as­sault ri­fle.

Ay­oub El Khaz­zani is ready to com­mit a mas­sacre, ac­cord­ing to an ac­count of the 40 ter­ri­fy­ing min­utes on a high-speed train from Am­s­ter­dam to Paris last week pieced to­gether by French pros­e­cu­tors and wit­ness state­ments.

The 25- year- old Moroccan bought his first class ticket on the day of the at­tack — Fri­day, Aug. 21 — at the Midi train sta­tion in Brus­sels, pay­ing 149 eu­ros (US$170) in cash.

The ticket seller asks if he wants to travel ear­lier, on a less crowded train, but he re­fuses: it is the packed 15:17 Thalys train link­ing Am­s­ter­dam to Paris that he wants.

At 17:35, author­i­ties say, he opens the bath­room door. He leaves be­hind some of his lug­gage — a roller suit­case and a small can­nis­ter of ga­so­line — but strapped to his chest is a bag full of 270 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion and a sec­ond gun, a Luger M80 pis­tol.

In the hall­way, a young French banker is wait­ing his turn for the wash­room. When he sees the weapon, the young man grabs Khaz­zani with both hands, push­ing him against a lug­gage rack.

For some 15 sec­onds they are locked to­gether, Khaz­zani pinned by the weight of the banker’s chest, ac­cord­ing to Paris pros­e­cu­tor Fran­cois Molins — then, in the next car, con­troller Michel Bruet hears the strug­gle.

At first, he as­sumes it is noth­ing more than a brawl, be­fore the 54-year-old re­al­izes Khaz­zani is armed. He rushes to help: “I was thrown against a door ... he knocked me to the ground and pointed the hand­gun at me, then left the car.”

Khaz­zani takes aim at the young French­man, who wants to re­main anony­mous, and shoots. Glass breaks. In cars 11 and 12, there is panic. “We heard pas­sen­gers scream­ing in English, ‘He’s shoot­ing! He’s got a Kalash­nikov!’”, said French ac­tor Jean-Hugues Anglade, who was in car 11.

Sud­denly, Anglade says, train crew mem­bers run into the cor­ri­dor, hunched over, head­ing for the lo­co­mo­tive and lock them­selves in.

Pas­sen­gers pound on the door, shout­ing for the staff to let them in.

French rail author­i­ties say the crew be­hind the locked door are cater­ing staff hired by a sub-con­trac­tor.

Pas­sen­gers Leap from Win­dows

In car 12, two Amer­i­cans — 23-year-old U.S. Air Force Air­man Spencer Stone and 22-year-old Na­tional Guards­man Alek Skar­latos — are on their first hol­i­day to Europe when they see a man en­ter the car­riage with an as­sault ri­fle and a hand­gun.

“I turned to Spencer and I said, ‘Let’s go, let’s go,’” said Skar­latos, who had just re­turned from a nine-month tour of Afghanistan.

Khaz­zani makes an up­ward move­ment with his weapon — an AKM, an as­sault ri­fle sim­i­lar to a Kalash­nikov — and Stone sees his chance, tack­ling him to the ground.

Skar­latos grabs the gun but Khaz­zani pulls out his pis­tol and points it at Skar­latos and pulls the trig­ger — but no bullet comes out.

Stone wraps his hands around Khaz­zani’s neck as the at­tacker fights back with a box cut­ter, slic­ing the Amer­i­can in his neck and thumb.

Skar­latos is still try­ing to dis­arm him and other pas­sen­gers have rushed to help: their friend, stu­dent An­thony Sadler, lays into him; Bri­ton Christo­pher Nor­man has grabbed Khaz­zani’s right arm; and Eric Tanty, an off-duty Thalys driver, holds down his left.

At least one more shot is fired dur­ing the strug­gle, the bullet hit­ting Mark Moo­galian, a 51-yearold French-Amer­i­can, in the neck.

Then Khaz­zani loses con­scious­ness. Quickly, he is tied up. By now the alarm has been given and the train has slowed down, but sev­eral pan­icked pas­sen­gers break win­dows and jump out.

When the train ar­rives in Ar­ras, Khaz­zani is ar­rested. Most of the 554 pas­sen­gers on board do not even re­al­ize what has hap­pened.

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