By GREG KELLER and STEPHANIE SIEK
PARIS (AP) – A shooter opened fire on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding two people before three American travelers controlled him, according to authorities and among the Americans involved.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking in Arras in northern France where the suspect was detained, said one of the American travelers was hospitalized with major injuries.
2 of the Americans were in the military, according to their taking a trip companion and youth buddy Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University. He informed The Associated Press that the hurt American was Spencer Stone of the Sacramento location and the other was Alek Skarlatos of Roseburg, Oregon.
“We heard a gunshot, and we heard glass breaking behind us, and saw a train worker sprint past us down the aisle,” Sadler stated from France, describing the drama. Then, they saw a shooter 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 takes on the individual, Alek battles the weapon far from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a couple of times. And the three people beat him up until he was unconscious.”
Another traveler assisted tie the shooter up, and Stone then helped another passenger who had been wounded in the throat and losing blood, Sadler stated.
“The shooter never ever stated a word,” he included.
In Washington, the Pentagon stated it “can just confirm that U.S. 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 remains in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have avoided a far worse misfortune.”
The suspect is a 26-year-old , according to Sliman Hamzi, an official with the Alliance cops union, who spoke on French tv i-Tele.
Stone is with the Flying force based 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.
She spoke to her step-son instantly after the incident. “He sounded fine, but he was intense – he seemed like he had just warded off a terrorist attack.”
“Alek and Spencer, they’re big, brave, strong guys and they decided they were going to tackle him. And they did. Spencer tackled him, and Alek took the gun and clobbered him a great one,” she told the AP from Oregon. “Spencer got a couple good slices on him. But they were able to control him while the train was still moving.”
Authorities satisfied them at the next station as the train doors opened, she stated.
Philippe Lorthiois, an official with the Alliance authorities union, stated the attacker did not fire his automatic weapon but wounded one guy with a pistol and the other with a blade of some kind.
Private investigators from France’s special anti-terror police are leading the investigation, a spokesperson for the Paris prosecutor’s office stated.
“As constantly where an act that could be terrorist in nature is included, the best care and the best accuracy will be made use of,” Cazeneuve said.
Cazeneuve stated the Americans “were particularly brave and showed excellent bravery in very difficult circumstances” which “without their sangfroid we could have been confronted with an awful drama.”
A 3rd individual, French star Jean-Hugues Anglade, suffered a small injury while activating the train’s emergency alarm, Lorthiois said.
Passenger Christina Cathleen Coons of New york city described the drama in car 12 of the train in an interview with Ouest France paper.
“I heard shots, more than likely 2, and a man broke down,” she is priced quote as saying.
Coons, recognized as a 28-year-old vacationing in Europe, said a window broke above one lady’s head. “A guy fell to the floor and had blood everywhere,” she is quoted as saying.
She explained lying on the floor herself and taking pictures with her phone.
The attack happened at 1545 GMT while the Thalys train was going through Belgium, according to a statement from the office President Francois Hollande. Hollande stated he’s talked with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and the 2 leaders pledged to work together closely on the investigation.
Europe’s major rail stations, such as Paris’ Gare du Nord and Brussels’ Gare du Midi, are patrolled by soldiers armed with rifles, however passengers can board most high-speed trains without travelling through metal detectors or having their bags searched.
One exception is the Eurostar in between Paris and London. Travelers on those trains need to go through a metal detector and have their bags scanned as well.
Thalys is owned by the French and Belgian trains and operates high-speed trains serving Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Perfume, Germany.
French authorities have actually been on increased alert since Islamic extremist attacks in January left 20 people dead, including the 3 enemies. A lone assaulter asserting ties to Islamic extremists also targeted an American-owned factory in France earlier this year, beheading his employer.
Siek reported from New york city. Associated Press authors Eugene Johnson, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, D.C. and Nadine Achoui-Lesage in Arras, France, contributed to this report.
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