Police investigate incident near Arras, France, in which three US citizens – two of them soldiers – prevented attack by suspect reportedly armed with AK-47
A heavily armed gunman has opened fire on a high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris before being overpowered by three US citizens, two of whom were soldiers.
Two people were injured in the attack, including one of the Americans, who was admitted to hospital with serious injuries to his hand that needed surgery.
Barack Obama described the men as heroic following the attack on Friday.
A British passenger, Chris Norman, helped the Americans tie up the suspect, and French anti-terrorist police are now questioning him. He was arrested after the train made an emergency stop at Arras, near the French-Belgian border.
The suspect’s motive was not immediately known, but French prosecutors said counter-terrorism investigators were launching an inquiry. According to early briefings, the gunman, 26, was known to French intelligence services and was Moroccan or of Moroccan origin.
Belgian prosecutors said on Saturday they had formally opened an anti-terrorism investigation. “We have opened an inquiry as the suspect boarded the train in Brussels,” Eric van der Sypt, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said.
The shooting happened just before 6pm in the last carriage of the train, which was carrying 554 passengers. The man had several weapons in his luggage, including a Kalashnikov, an automatic pistol and razor blades.
Two of the Americans were in the military, their travelling companion and childhood friend Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, said.
The one injured was named as air force serviceman Spencer Stone from Sacramento, California. The other was Alek Skarlatos, of Roseburg, Oregon.
“We heard a gunshot and we heard glass breaking behind us and saw a train employee sprint past us down the aisle,” Sadler said. The trio then saw a gunman entering the carriage with an automatic rifle, he added.
“As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells: ‘Spencer, go!’ and Spencer runs down the aisle,” Sadler said. “Spencer makes first contact, he tackles the guy, Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a few times. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious.”