• Spain's news in English

Jihadist gunman on French train was known to Spanish intelligence

AFP · 22 Aug 2015, 16:48

Published: 22 Aug 2015 16:48 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The suspect, who was wrestled to the floor after opening fire with an assault rifle on a high-speed train on Friday evening, is believed to be a 26-year-old of Moroccan origin and is now being interrogated by counter-terrorist officials near Paris.

He is understood to have lived in both Spain and France, and a Spanish counter-terrorism source told AFP he travelled to war-torn Syria last year.

"Once in France he went to Syria, then returned to France," the source said.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Spanish intelligence services had flagged the man to the French authorities "due to his membership of the radical Islamist movement."

Armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, an automatic pistol, nine cartridge clips and a box-cutter, the attacker opened fire on board the TGV train just after it crossed from Belgium into France on Friday evening.

But the attack was quickly stopped when passengers -- including two US off-duty soldiers -- charged the gunman and overpowered him.

"I looked back and saw a guy enter with a Kalashnikov. My friends and I got down and then I said 'Let's get him'," Alek Skarlatos, a 22-year-old member of the National Guard in Oregon, told France's BFMTV.

Spencer Stone, who is reportedly in the US Air Force, was the first to reach the gunman who slashed him in the neck and hand with a box-cutter.

A 62-year-old British consultant, Chris Norman, was also praised for helping subdue the gunman, as was a Frenchman who had earlier tried to stop him as he came out of the toilet carrying a gun.

The train heroes are to be received by President François Hollande at the Elysée Palace "in the coming days", his office said in a statement.

Stone was taken to hospital along with another unnamed American passenger, who was hit in the shoulder with a bullet. Neither is in critical condition, Cazeneuve said.

Story continues below…

Analysts said it was not surprising someone could launch an attack even though he was on a watch-list.

"It's the perennial problem of how you prioritise between serious concerns," said Raffaello Pantucci, counter-terrorism expert at Royal United Services Institute in London.

"It's a very resource-intensive job to watch someone 24 hours a day. Intelligence agencies just aren't big enough to do that for everyone," he said.

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Eta 'not dead' but Spain focus moves onto jihadism
Archive photo of a pro-mural in the Basque Country. Photo: AFP

Five years after Eta quit violence, the Basque separatist group has yet to dissolve but it poses little threat and authorities have shifted their focus to fight jihadists, says Spain's chief anti-terrorism prosecutor.

Brazilian suspect in grisly Madrid murder turns self in
Marcos Campos Nogueira is the chief suspect in the murder of a married couple and their two children. Photo: Guardia Civil/Twitter

A Brazilian teenager suspected of dismembering his uncle and aunt and killing their two young sons in a grisly crime that shocked Spain has turned himself in to police.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
Spanish team invents hands-free 'penis bidet'
In pics: Devastation caused by Costa Blanca wildfires
jobs available