A gunman opened fire on a high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, wounding two people before three American passengers subdued him, according to officials and one of the Americans involved.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking in Arras in northern France where the suspect was detained on Friday, said one of the American passengers was hospitalised with serious wounds.
Two of the Americans were in the military, according to their travelling companion and childhood friend Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University. He told The Associated Press that the injured American was Spencer Stone of the Sacramento area and 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 from France, describing the drama. Then, they saw a gunman entering the train car with an automatic rifle, he said.
“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.”
A Thalys train of French national railway operator, SNCF, stands at the main train station in Arras, northern France. (Source: AP photo)
Another passenger helped tie the gunman up, and Stone then helped another passenger who had been wounded in the throat and losing blood, Sadler said. “The gunman never said a word,” he added. In Washington, the Pentagon said it “can only confirm that one US military member was injured in the incident. The injury is not life-threatening.”
The White House issued a statement saying that President Barack Obama was briefed on the shooting, and said, “While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy.”
The suspect is, a 26-year-old Moroccan, according to Sliman Hamzi, an official with the Alliance police union, who spoke on French television i-Tele. Stone is with the Air Force stationed in the Azores and Skarlotos, a 22-year-old National Guardsman, had returned from a deployment in Afghanistan in July, according to Skarlotos’ step-mother Karen Skarlotos.