France train gunman identified as known Islamist militant

Man is a 26-year-old Moroccan known to French intelligence services

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve attends a news conference at the Interior ministry in Paris, France this afternoon. Photograph:Regis Duvignau/Reuters

A gunman overpowered by passengers on a train in France on Friday was known to European authorities as a suspected Islamist militant, provided the identity he has given interrogators is correct, France's interior minister said.

Two people were wounded in the struggle to subdue the Kalashnikov-toting attacker aboard the high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris. Two US servicemen, one of whom suffered knife wounds, were among passengers who stopped the gunman.

"It is important to be careful about his identity which is not yet established with certainty," Mr Cazeneuve said.

“If the identity he has declared is confirmed, he is a 26-year-old man of Moroccan nationality identified by the Spanish authorities to French intelligence services in February 2014 because of his connections to the radical Islamist movement.”


He said inquiries in collaboration with other European authorities “should establish precisely the activities and travels of this terrorist”.

Spain’s interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

A source with knowledge of the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the gunman had originally given a different identity which was unknown to the security services.

Mr Cazeneuve said the attacker had a Kalashnikov assault rifle, an automatic pistol with accompanying ammunition clips and a box cutter knife. He said the struggle started when a Frenchman on his way to the toilet tried to stop the man entering a carriage.

The minister said the second person hurt was of Franco-American nationality, hit by a bullet while seated. Authorities said last night a French actor had also been hurt.

French authorities have been on high security alert since January, when 17 people were killed in shootings by Islamist militants in and around Paris.

The man the attacker claims to be lived in Spain during 2014 and in Belgium in 2015, Mr Cazeneuve said.

According to Le Voix du Nord, citing security sources, the suspected Islamist militant was seen on a plane to Turkey from Germany in May, and was thought to have visited Syria.

The French newspaper said he may have had connections to a group involved in a suspected Islamist shooting in Belgium in January.