An off-duty American serviceman has revealed that he tried to kill a heavily-armed man that attacked a train Paris-bound train he was travelling on in August 2015.
Alek Skarlatos said he yanked a pistol from the gunman’s hand, turned it on him and pulled the trigger but that the gun did not fire.
‘I was honestly trying my best to kill or restrain him,’ Skarlatos said.
Spencer Stone, one two friends Skarlatos had been travelling with, managed to pin the attacker down in a stranglehold before others joined in to help hold the man to the ground.
Alek Skarlatos (centre), Anthony Sadler (right), who helped foil the attempted terror attack on the Amsterdam to Paris train with US airman Spencer Stone, stand with their lawyer (left) to talk to the press during the Thalys attack trial at the Paris courthouse today
(L-R) Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler are pictured in a 2015 photo from Washington, DC after receiving medals for their roles in disarming the gunman
Shauna Asley Verstichelen, who was a train host at the time of the attack, embraced Skarlatos after the hearing on Friday
Skarlatos, French lawyer Thibault de Montbrial, US citizen Anthony Sadler and Franco-American Mark Moogalian pose outside the court room
Skarlatos said the gunman was ‘surprisingly difficult to control’.
Anthony Sadler, the third friend in the group, said it was ‘an intense fight.’
He testified that, had they not acted, the gunman ‘would have shot everyone in our train car’ and likely moved onto the next.
The revelations came at the trial of suspect Ayoub El Khazzani, who faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if he is convicted of attempted terrorist murder.
The 31-year-old Moroccan is being tried with three suspected accomplices.
The three Americans were among several passengers who took split-second decisions to foil what could have been mass slaughter.
British businessman Chris Norman recalls telling himself: ‘You’re not going to sit in the corner and die’ as he steeled himself to act.
‘I was terrified when I first saw him coming up the aisle, but then I got angry,’ the 67-year-old recalled on Thursday before he testified at El Khazzani’s trial in the French capital.
British businessman Chris Norman (pictured) said that while other passengers were hitting and trying to choke the gunman, he kept a grip of his right arm and looked into the man’s eyes
Chris Norman pictured leaving the courthouse in Paris yesterday
The passengers’ heroics inspired Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood to direct a film reenacting the dramatic events: ‘The 15:17 to Paris.’ The film starred Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler as themselves.
‘My first reaction was panic, put yourself in a protective ball and hope nothing happens,’ British businessman Norman said. Then, ‘I came to the conclusion that really I had to move, I had do something.’
Norman said that while other passengers were hitting and trying to choke the gunman, he kept a grip of his right arm and looked into the man’s eyes.
‘I said to myself, ‘What have they done to this guy? What have they done to this guy?’ His eyes were completely black. He had eyes devoid of humanity,’ he said.
‘As soon as he started trying to take out his handgun, I took his arm,’ Norman continued. ‘There was one thing I didn’t want, which was for him to take his gun and use it to escape.’
Americans Alek Skarlotos (centre) and Anthony Sandler (centre right), two of the three American heroes of the Thayls attack, speak outside the Paris courthouse today
(L-R) Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler were on holiday in Europe when they thwarted the train terror attack
The thoughts of another passenger who helped thwart the attack on the train that day, French-American citizen Mark Moogalian, weren’t for himself but for his wife when he lunged for the gunman’s Kalashnikov rifle.
‘I was trying to protect Isabelle,’ Moogalian said, also speaking Thursday before he testified in Paris.
‘There was no way I was going to let anything happen to her. I was going to do my best.’
One of the passengers, Franco-American professor Mark Moogalian (pictured on Monday arriving at the trial) grabbed Khazzani’s assault rifle as he emerged from the toilet, but was shot in the process
Moogalian said the courtroom proceedings are allowing him to piece together the blur of events from that day.
‘Everything happened so fast. There was so much confusion,’ he said.
His wife, Isabelle, said subduing El Khazzani was ‘a five-man job’ and that she regarded her husband as a hero.
Moogalian wrestled away the Kalashnikov before being seriously wounded by a shot from the gunman’s pistol.
‘They did it together, otherwise everybody would be dead,’ she said.
Moogalian said: ‘We were all very lucky. It took five or six of us to prevent a real catastrophe.’
‘All I know is that he shot me and he was carrying plenty of ammunition, enough to kill plenty of people,’ he said.
Stone – one of the Americans – rushed to the wounded Moogalian, putting his fingers in the bullet wound to stop the bleeding.
Once the attacker was brought under control, the train rerouted to Arras, in northern France, where El Khazzani was arrested.
‘I think he just understood that he was not going to achieve the objective that he had come to achieve,’ Norman told The Associated Press.
‘To be quite honest, same thing happens to me again, I don’t know whether I’d do it,’ Norman said.
‘If you listen to the different testimonies of the people in the trial, quite a few of them didn’t realise that they were capable of what they did.’
Mark Moogalian, 56 (right), who was shot in the neck disarming Paris train terrorist Ayoub El Khazzani in 2015, said he jumped into action to protect wife Isabelle (left)
Pictured: A courtroom sketch of Moroccan gunman Ayoub El Khazzani made on November 16. El Khazzani was subdued by several passengers after he appeared from a train toilet carrying an AK-47 and a bag full of ammunition
‘There was no point in struggling anymore so he was just going to lay down and wait for his fate.’
Authorities say El Khazzani boarded the train in Brussels armed with the Kalashnikov, nine clips with 30 rounds each, an automatic pistol and a cutter.
Once aboard, he lingered in a restroom between cars, where two other passengers confronted him, before emerging bare-chested with his weapons.
At the trial’s opening earlier this week, defence lawyer Sarah Mauger-Poliak said El Khazzani ‘regrets having allowed himself to become indoctrinated’ by extremist propaganda.
Stone had been scheduled to appear as a witness before he was hospitalised Thursday, casting doubt on whether he would still be able to testify about his role in El Khazzani’s dramatic capture.
Stone’s lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial, wouldn’t give details about what is ailing the former U.S. airman, citing medical privacy.
‘I know that he is hospitalised. I don’t know why. I don’t know how he is,’ de Montbrial said.
‘The only thing I’m certain of is that he is not in a state to testify today. We are going to regroup this evening to gauge whether he can be heard tomorrow morning or afternoon,’ he said.
In this file photo taken on August 23, 2015 Off-duty US servicemen Anthony Sadler (left), Spencer Stone (second left), Alek Skarlatos (right) and US ambassador to France Jane Hartley (second right) pose after a press conference at the US embassy in Paris two days after the foiled attack
Spencer Stone (centre) who had been scheduled to appear as a star witness at the trial in Paris of Islamic State operative Ayoub El Khazzani, 31, was hospitalised Thursday in the French capital. Pictured: French President Francois Hollande congratualtes Stone, Alek Skarlatos (second from left) and Anthony Sadler (right) in 2015 after they foiled the attempted terror attack on the Amsterdam to Paris train
Pictured: Relatives of the man accused of the foiled terror attack arrive in court on Monday