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French prosecutor says train gunman had ‘terrorist intent’

© Screen grab

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-09-02

The Thalys train suspect has been charged with “attempted murder of a terrorist nature” and remanded in custody, a judicial source told AFP early on Wednesday, after a Paris prosecutor threw out claims that he was carrying out a robbery.

Prosecutor François Molins dismissed the denials from Moroccan national Ayoub el Khazzani, 25, that he had a terrorist motive and said that Khazzani had listened to jihadist recordings on YouTube just before the attack.

"Khazzani watched YouTube recordings while already on the Thalys train in which an individual called on the faithful to fight and take up arms in the name of the Prophet," Molins told a news conference.

Molins said that Khazzani watched the video on his phone, which was found in a bag he left on the train.

Khazzani was also charged with weapons offences and "participation in a terrorist association with a view to organising one or several damaging crimes", according to the prosecutor's submissions.

French investigators have said that Khazzani boarded the Paris-bound train in Brussels armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Luger automatic pistol, ammunition and a box-cutter. He was wrestled to the ground by a group of passengers after he began shooting.

Molins said that Khazzani was carrying 270 rifle bullets as well as a 50-centilitre bottle of petrol during the attack. His actions appear to have been targeted and premeditated, Molins added.

Under French law, judicial authorities had until Tuesday night to file preliminary charges against Khazzani.

Investigators are looking into where he procured his weapons and whether he had any accomplices, Molins said.

The suspect lived in the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers for "five to seven months" in 2014 before travelling to Austria and Germany, the prosecutor said, adding that Khazzani returned to Europe on June 4 on a flight from Antakya in southern Turkey.

Criminal history

Khazzani lived for several years in Spain, where he was known to the authorities. Spanish intelligence have been keeping tabs on Khazzani since he was arrested twice in 2009 for selling marijuana in central Madrid, according to his police rap sheet. Khazzani was arrested again in a sting operation in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in 2012 as he was bringing in drugs from Morocco.

When Khazzani was lured to France in 2014 with the promise of a six-month contract at a mobile telephone company, Spanish intelligence services informed their French counterparts of Khazzani’s arrival on their territory and continued to keep tabs on his whereabouts.

The alert prompted French intelligence officials to open an “S-file” for Khazzani, a designation that is supposed to include low-level surveillance.

Khazzani denies any intention of waging a jihadist attack and claims he merely wanted to rob the train passengers, according to Sophie David, a lawyer assigned to his case at the beginning of his detention in Arras, where the attack took place.

"He is dumbfounded that his act is being linked to terrorism," she told BFM-TV.

Molins dismissed the claims that robbery was the motive as "far-fetched".

French President François Hollande on Monday called Khazzani a “terrorist” who was ready “to carry out a real massacre” as he bestowed the Légion d’Honneur medal on the three Americans and a Briton who overcame the suspect.

Another man who tried to stop him, a French-American national, remains hospitalised with a gunshot wound.

Video : France formally opens terror probe in train attack

 

Date created : 2015-08-25

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