The Latest: French official confirms ID of train attacker

AP News
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Posted: Aug 22, 2015 3:06 PM
The Latest: French official confirms ID of train attacker

The latest on the gunman who was subdued by passengers after opening fire at a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris (all times local Paris time):

9:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. GMT)

A French official close to the investigation says police have positively identified the train gunman as 26-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said earlier Saturday that Spanish authorities had alerted French intelligence to him in February 2014 because he "belonged to the radical Islamist movement," and the French put him on a security watch list. El-Khazzani was identified through his fingerprints, according to the official, who insisted on not being identified by name because of the ongoing probe.

The official also said that the French spotted El-Khazzani in Berlin on May 10, headed to Turkey, and informed their Spanish colleagues. On May 21, the Spaniards responded saying that he no longer lived in Spain but in Belgium, according to the French official.

There has been a discrepancy in the accounts by French and Spanish officials. An official linked to Spain's anti-terrorism unit said the suspect lived in Spain until 2014, then moved to France, traveled to Syria and returned to France. Cazeneuve said El-Khazzani lived in Belgium in 2015 and made no mention of a residency in France.

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8:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT)

President Obama has telephoned USAF Airman First Class Spencer Stone, Army National Guard Specialist Aleksander Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler to commend and congratulate them for their courage and quick action aboard their Paris-bound train last night. Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Obama expressed gratitude to the trio for their heroic actions forestalling an even greater tragedy. Obama wished Stone a full and speedy recovery, and expressed how proud all Americans are of their extraordinary bravery.

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7:40 p.m. (5:40 p.m. GMT)

Spencer Stone, widely acclaimed as an American hero for his aggressive role in taking down the train gunman, was seen Saturday leaving a hospital in Lille where he was treated for a hand injury. He walked out, waved quickly and slipped into a black sedan with diplomatic license plates. It was not immediately clear where he was headed.

Stone, who is in the Air Force, was also commended for helping an injured train passenger, a French-American, bleeding from a gunshot wound. That passenger, a teacher who resides outside Paris, was being treated in another hospital in Lille.

French President Francois Hollande said in a statement that he spoke with President Barack Obama to personally thank him for the "exemplary conduct of American citizens who stopped an extremely serious attack."

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5:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. GMT)

Chris Norman, a British businessman who helped three Americans to subdue the train gunman, said he was working on his computer when he heard a shot and glass breaking.

He said his first reaction was to hide. "Then I heard one guy, an American, say 'go get him,' and another American say 'Don't you do that buddy.'"

Norman was the fourth to join in subduing the gunman.

Norman told reporters: "He had a Kalashnikov, he had a magazine full, I don't know how many magazines he had. My thought was, OK, probably I'm going to die anyway. So, let's go. I'd rather die being active."

Norman, who was returning from a business trip in the Netherlands to his home in southern France, said the gunman was small and not visibly strong but "he put up quite a bit of a fight."

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3:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. GMT)

The Belgian government has stepped up rail security after a gunman who boarded a Thalys train in Brussels was subdued by passengers on the Paris-bound service.

After a meeting of the country's national security council Saturday, Prime Minister Charles Michel's office announced that mixed Franco-Belgian security patrols would be beefed up on the high-speed Thalys trains, which link major cities in the Netherlands and Belgium to Paris. Patrols and security checks will also be boosted at international rail stations, and more baggage checks will now be carried out.

Police have also been warned to be on alert at major events and public gatherings. Before the incident, Spanish authorities had warned Belgium about a suspect in the country with links to Islamic extremists. However, the suspect held in France has not been officially identified.

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2:55 p.m. (12:45 p.m. GMT)

French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, whose finger was injured "to the bone" as he broke the emergency alarm glass, told the magazine Paris-Match that passengers thought they were going to die "because we were prisoners of this train." Anglade said he, his two children and companion were in the last car, No. 11, one car away from No. 12 where the gunman was tackled and subdued.

He said, "We heard passengers shouting in English, 'He's firing, he's firing. He has a Kalashnikov.'" He said he saw train personnel running down the corridor to take refuge in their work car, and claimed they locked the door and refused to answer desperate knocks.

Then Anthony Sadler, one of the three Americans traveling together, came into their car and said the gunman had been subdued.

"We were in a bad spot but with good people," Anglade said. "We were incredibly lucky to have American soldiers with us. I pay homage to their heroic courage and thank them. Without them, we all would be dead."

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1:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m. GMT)

Spencer Stone, an American Air Force serviceman stabbed while tackling a gunman on a European train, has been transferred to a larger hospital in northern France.

The Pentagon has said Stone's injuries are not life-threatening.

Two officials at the hospital in the northern French city of Arras where Stone was initially treated said he was transferred Saturday to a larger hospital in Lille. They did not provide a reason for the move.

Stone's traveling companions say he intervened to immobilize the suspect, and the gunman stabbed Stone with a box-cutter. Stone then acted quickly to help reduce the bleeding of another wounded passenger, they said, praising his bravery.

Stone is stationed in the Azores and is from Carmichael, California, according to the stepmother of one of the Americans aboard.

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1:25 p.m. (11:25 a.m. GMT)

French President Francois Hollande will meet with several American and French citizens who helped subdue a gunman on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.

Hollande's office said in a statement Saturday that he would meet with them at the presidential palace in the coming days to "express France's gratitude."

Three Americans, a British passenger and a French passenger were involved in the action to wrestle the man to the ground and disarm him after he fired a weapon on the train, according to accounts from three of them and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

Two people were wounded in the incident Friday night — an American Air Force serviceman who was stabbed while intervening, and a French-American dual national who was hit by chance by gunfire, Cazeneuve said.