Prosecutors charge Moroccan for attack on high-speed train

Paris chief prosecutor Francois Molins delivers a speech on August 25, 2015 in Paris during a press conference concerning Ayoub El-Khazzani, the suspect in August 21's Thalys train attack, has been brought before the court after four days in custody. The 25-year-old Moroccan opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA

By Eric Randolph ,AFP

PARIS — Prosecutors have charged a Moroccan man over last week’s attack on a high-speed French train, accusing him of a “targeted and premeditated” jihadist assault that would have ended in carnage had passengers not intervened. Ayoub El Khazzani, a Moroccan national, has been charged with attempted murder of a terrorist nature and remanded in custody, according to the prosecutor’s submissions. Earlier Tuesday, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Khazzani had boarded a high-speed train in Brussels Friday armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and 270 rounds of ammunition, as well as a Luger pistol, a bottle of gasoline and a box-cutter.

Khazzani’s claims that he was only planning to rob passengers were “barely credible,” said Molins, adding that he had grown increasingly evasive in his responses to police and stopped responding entirely on Monday. Molins outlined a raft of evidence indicating why Khazzani was being probed for “attempted murder” as part of a “targeted and premeditated” terrorist plot. This included the fact that Khazzani flew back in June from a town in southern Turkey — “a possible passageway into Syria” — and that he watched a video “calling for violent acts in the name of radical Islam” on his phone prior to launching the attack. Molins also raised suspicions about how Khazzani was able to afford a 149-euro (US$171) first class train ticket, given his claims to be sleeping rough in Brussels. Ticket sellers at the station have told investigators that Khazzani paid in cash and turned down an earlier journey where seats were available, which Molins said was an indication the attack had been carefully planned in advance. He also dismissed as “absurd” claims by the suspect that he found the stash of weapons and mobile phone in a park where he was sleeping rough the night before. And he said that Khazzani’s Facebook page had mysteriously been disabled on Saturday — the day after the foiled attack. The judicial source said Khazzani was also charged with weapons offences related to terrorism, and “participation in a terrorist association with a view to organizing one or several damaging crimes.”