Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 2 December 2020

Former US soldier Spencer Stone who foiled Paris train attack admitted to hospital

American was due to give evidence against ISIS gunman Ayoub El Khazzani

A former US soldier who foiled an attempted ISIS terrorist attack on a train five years ago was admitted to hospital before his scheduled appearance at a trial into the case in Paris.

Spencer Stone, 28, was taken to hospital shortly after he arrived in Paris on Wednesday because he felt unwell, his lawyer Thibault de Montbrial said. He was unable to attend Thursday’s hearing.

“I know that he is [in hospital]. I don’t know why. I don’t know how he is,” Mr de Montbrial told the court.

“The only thing I’m certain of is that he is not in a state to testify today. We are going to regroup this evening to gauge whether he can be heard tomorrow morning or afternoon.”

The attacker, Ayoub El Khazzani, 31, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if he is convicted of attempted terrorist murder. The trial of the Moroccan and three suspected accomplices opened earlier this week.

French lawyer Thibault de Montbrial, who is representing US soldiers who foiled a terror attack on an Amsterdam-Paris train in 2015, speaks at at The Paris Courthouse  AFP
French lawyer Thibault de Montbrial, who is representing US soldiers who foiled a terror attack on an Amsterdam-Paris train in 2015, speaks at at The Paris Courthouse  AFP

Mr Stone was coming out of a deep sleep when the gunman appeared from a toilet on the Thalys high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris on August 21, 2015.

He and Alek Skarlatos, then a 22-year-old member of the US National Guard recently back from Afghanistan, snapped into action, tackling the gunman.

Director Clint Eastwood, 90, was originally listed as a potential witness for the trial in Paris, scheduled to last until December 17. It is believed his 2018 film The 15:17 to Paris will be used as a reconstruction of the events.

El Khazzani boarded the train in Brussels armed with a Kalashnikov, nine clips with 30 rounds each, an automatic pistol and a cutter, according to investigators. Once aboard the train, El Khazzani lingered in a restroom between cars and then emerged bare-chested with his weapons.

He was tackled by passengers shortly after emerging.

There were about 150 passengers in the carriage with El Khazzani, who had the AK47 slung over his back and a bag with nearly 300 rounds of ammunition.

One of them, French-American professor Mark Moogalian, grabbed El Khazzani's assault rifle as he emerged.

The attacker took a pistol out of his belt, shot and wounded Mr Moogalian, only to be tackled afresh and disarmed by the two Americans – Stone and Skarlatos – who heard the commotion from a neighbouring carriage.

The US soldiers were aided by their friend Anthony Sadler, with whom they were backpacking through Europe.

Mr Stone, whose hand was injured by the cutter, is also credited with saving Mr Moogalian, who was bleeding from the neck.

Mr Mooligan recounted on Thursday how he had been motivated by a fierce desire to shield his wife from harm.

“I was trying to protect Isabelle,” Mr Moogalian said, before giving testimony at the attack suspect’s trial in Paris. “There was no way I was going to let anything happen to her. I was going to do my best.”

Mr Moogalian said the hearings are allowing him to piece together the blur of events that day.

“Everything happened so fast. There was so much confusion,” he said.

His wife, Isabelle, said subduing El Khazzani was “a five-man job” and that she regarded her French-American husband as a hero. Mr Moogalian helped disarm El Khazzani, wrestling away the Kalashnikov rifle the gunman was carrying before being shot himself with a pistol.

“They did it together, otherwise everybody would be dead,” she said.

Mr Moogalian said: “We were all very lucky. It took five or six of us to to prevent a real catastrophe.”

“All I know is that he shot me and he was carrying plenty of ammunition, enough to kill plenty of people.”

Updated: November 20, 2020 12:42 AM

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