France train gunman identified by authorities

French authorities identify gunman as Ayoub El-Khazzan, 26 year old, Moroccan national

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The French police looks for clues at the train station

Suspected gunman involved in a shooting on a high-speed train which was traveling from Amsterdam to Paris, was identified as 26 year old Moroccan national, Ayoub El-Khazzan, who was living in Spain until last year, a French official close to the case said.

Kalashnikov-toting attacker opened fire and wounded three people aboard the train on Friday, before he was wrestled to the ground by three American friends.

He was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Luger automatic pistol, nine cartridge clips and a box-cutter when he carried out the attack.

Three Americans were later hailed, by US President Barack Obama, as heroes.

An American soldier, French actor Jean Hugues Anglade and a Briton were left wounded following the attack.   

Shortly after the attack, the train with 554 passengers stopped at Arras station in northern France and 26 year old suspect was arrested.

According to a French source who is familiar with the investigation, the suspected gunman Ayoub El-Khazzan was identified through his fingerprint.

The DNA sample which was taken from him, following his arrest matched a suspect on file with Spanish intelligence.   

Following the identification process, Spanish intelligence sources said that El-Khazzan traveled to Syria last year and he had recently returned to France.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, said on Saturday that France put him on a security watch list, shortly after the Spanish authorities alerted French intelligence agency about him in February 2014. He is suspected of "belonging to the radical Islamist movement."

According to an official from the Spain's anti-terrorism unit, he lived in Spain until 2014, then moved to France. Shortly after that he traveled to Syria before returning back to France. Cazeneuve also said suspect had lived in Belgium in 2015 without a residency permit.

El-Khazzan lived in Madrid between 2007 and 2010 during this time, he was arrested for drug-related offence according to the Spanish counter terrorism sources.

French authorities are interrogating El-Khazzan to learn whether he has any connection to the group involved in a suspected shooting in January, in which two gunmen were killed and another was wounded in the town of Verviers, located near Belgium's border with Germany.

Belgium’s Prime Minister, Charles Michel on Saturday requested a meeting regarding security measures on cross-border trains with France, Germany and the Netherlands.

"The prime minister proposes an urgent meeting of transport and interior ministers from Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands to reinforce anti-terrorist measures, notably identity and baggage controls," a Belgian official stated.


TRTWorld and agencies