Gunman well prepared for France train attack, prosecutor says

El-Khazzani, armed with guns and gasoline, watched Islamic video minutes before incident

 French chief prosecutor Francois Molins (C) delivers a speech to the press following the terrorist attack that happened inside the high-speed Thalys train. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA.

French chief prosecutor Francois Molins (C) delivers a speech to the press following the terrorist attack that happened inside the high-speed Thalys train. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA.

 

A terror investigation has begun in France after authorities said the suspected attacker in a thwarted shooting on a train watched an Islamic video minutes before the violence.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said the decision to open an investigation was based on the actions of Moroccan suspect Ayoub El-Khazzani (26) on the train on Friday night and information from other European authorities about his travels and apparent links to radical Islam.

Mr Molins said El-Khazzani notably watched the video on his phone minutes before he walked through the Amsterdam-to-Paris train carrying an assault rifle and other weapons.

Authorities say they found the suspect’s phone in a bag left in the train. El-Khazzani boarded the train on Friday at a Brussels station.

The gunman was tackled and tied up by a group of three American friends and a British businessman. Another man who tried to stop him - a French-American named Mark Moogalian - is in hospital with a gunshot wound.

Now that the formal investigation has started, investigating magistrates are expected to file numerous charges against El-Khazzani, including an attempted terrorism-related attack.

He was well prepared for what was viewed as a premeditated attack, the prosecutor said. El-Khazzani was found to have an AKM assault rifle with 270 rounds of ammunition, a 9mm handgun, a box-cutter and a bottle of gasoline.

He had travelled through several European countries and had been repeatedly incarcerated in Spain, Mr Molins said. He may have tried to go to Syria.

It had previously been claimed by a lawyer representing El-Khazzani that he intended to rob the train because he was hungry rather than commit a terror offence.

In questioning, El-Khazzani initially said he had found a bag of weapons the night before in a Brussels park and planned to use them to rob passengers, according to Mr Molins.

But his explanation grew less and less lucid, the prosecutor said, and the suspect eventually stopped speaking to investigators at all.

PA