'AK47-armed' man opens fire on Amsterdam to Paris train, gets overpowered by passengers
At least three people have been injured after a man, reportedly armed with a Kalashninov rifle, opened fire on a Thalys high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris on Friday. The attacker was apprehended by soldiers traveling on the same train, according to local media.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel discribed the incident as a "terrorist attack". But the suspect claimed that he was a train robber and not a terrorist, BFM reported on Saturday.
There is evidence that the gunman could have ties with radical Islamists, France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, citing information from the Spanish intelligence services. He stressed that the man’s identity has not been verified yet.
The shooting occurred near the town of Arras in northern France around 6:00pm local time (4:00pm GMT). The railway station in Arras was locked down by security forces.
"The man was armed with automatic weapons and knives. He was stopped by passengers," Christophe Piednoel, a spokesman for French railway SNCF said on iTele television.
Police said the 26-year-old man was of Moroccan origin.
According to La Voix du Nord newspaper, a US and British soldiers apprehended the attacker after hearing the noise of a machine gun being loaded in the toilet. One of the soldiers was shot, while the other was stabbed in the struggle with the gunman.
The third injured person is reportedly French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade. The 60-year-old has starred in over 30 movies, including international hits Killing Zoe, Betty Blue and Nikita. His life is out of danger.
“The situation is under control, the travellers are safe. The train stopped and the emergency services are on site,” Thalys officials said on Twitter.
The attacker was detained by the police and delivered to Paris for questioning. The 26-year-old Moroccan has not been identified yet.
According to prosecutors, French counter-terrorist police have taken over the investigation of the attack.
Victime de la fusillade ( attentat ? ) à Arras ! pic.twitter.com/CfNPHzhsnb— Erclam (@Erclam_) August 21, 2015
With some reports suggesting that as many as three US marines were involved in stopping the assailant, President Barack Obama expressed his “profound gratitude for the courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including US service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker.”
France's anti-terrorism prosector is now investigating the incident, Interior Minister Cazeneuve said after visiting the scene.
The minister also praised two American citizens who helped to disarm the attacker by saying that they were "particularly courageous and showed extreme bravery in extremely difficult circumstances," Reuters reports.
President Francois Hollande has expressed his solidarity with the wounded ensuring that “everything is being done to shed light on this tragedy.”
An unconfirmed video of the suspect's arrest is circulating on social media.
France has been on high security alert since Islamist militants killed 17 people in and outside Paris in January.