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Moroccan Charged with Attempted Terror Attack on French Train


Paris chief prosecutor Francois Molins delivers a speech during a press conference concerning Ayoub El-Khazzani, the suspect in the Aug. 21 Thalys train attack, in Paris, Aug. 25, 2015.

French prosecutors have charged a Moroccan national with premeditated attempted murder of a terrorist nature in connection with last week's attack on a high-speed French train.

The formal charges against Ayoub El-Khazzani, 25, were filed Tuesday in Paris, and were later confirmed by judicial sources to Agence France-Presse.

Earlier Tuesday, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters that Khazzani boarded the train Friday in Brussels armed with an assault rifle and 270 rounds of ammunition. He said the suspect also carried a pistol, a bottle filled with gasoline and a box cutter.

Molins also said the suspect watched a radical Islamist video on his phone moments before he was confronted and subdued by three Americans and a Briton as he started walking through the train. Another man, a Franco-American, was shot and wounded as he tried to wrestle the rifle from the gunman. The victim remained hospitalized Tuesday.

The prosecutor dismissed the suspect's story that he found the weapons cache and the mobile phone in a park where he slept the night before. Molins described those claims as "absurd."

The prosecutor also dismissed as "farfetched" claims by Khazzani that he had no terrorism plan when he boarded the train, and that he intended to rob passengers.

French security sources have been quoted as saying that Khazzani flew from Berlin to Istanbul on May 10. AFP, quoting Molins, said the suspect later flew to a Turkish city near the Syrian border, arriving there June 4.

On Monday, French President Francois Hollande bestowed the Legion of Honor, France's highest decoration, on the Briton and three Americans who subdued Khazzani.

At a ceremony in Paris, Hollande pinned medals on the chests of Briton Chris Norman and Americans Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler. He said their actions last week in the face of terror provided "a message of courage, solidarity and hope."

"A terrorist decided to commit an act. He had enough weapons and ammunition to carry out a real carnage, and that's what he would have done if you hadn't tackled him at a risk to your own lives," said Hollande.

The president also honored a French citizen who first discovered the gunman near a restroom as the train sped toward Paris.

Stone, a U.S. Air Force airman who was wounded in the attack, said Sunday that he thought of his own survival, as well as everyone else's on the train, as he, Skarlatos and Sadler bolted from their seats to take down the suspect.

Skarlatos, a member of the National Guard who recently served in Iraq, said the trio and Norman acted on "gut instinct" to overpower the gunman. Sadler said the gunman never said a word before launching his attack.

In reconstructing the faceoff, authorities found the gunman had already shot one person in an adjacent car before entering the compartment where the Americans and the Briton were seated.