A man overpowered by passengers on a crowded train is “dumbfounded” by allegations of terrorism and denies any shot was fired, a lawyer who had been representing has said.
In comments broadcast on Sunday, Sophie David, a lawyer assigned to represent Ayob el-Khazzani at the beginning of his detention in Arras, but who is no longer defending him, said he denies firing a single shot.
The alleged attacker, a 25-year-old Moroccan national, is alleged to have boarded a high-speed Thalys train in Brussels on Friday evening bound for Paris armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, Luger automatic pistol, nine cartridge clips and a box-cutter, the AFP news agency reported.
Witnesses say he opened fire, injuring a man before being wrestled to the floor by two US servicemen and tied up with the help of two other men, a British national and another American until the train stopped in the northern French city of Arras where he was taken into police custody.
“He is dumbfounded that his act is being linked to terrorism,” David told BFM-TV, adding the suspect who is believed to have lived in Belgium describes himself as a homeless man.
“He says that by chance he found a suitcase with a weapon, with a telephone, hidden away.
“He said he found it in the park which is just next to the Midi Station in Brussels, where he often sleeps with other homeless people.”
According to Khazzani, who does not speak French and whose comments were translated by an interpreter, he boarded the train to rob people, and had intended to break a window and jump out to escape.
David said that when she told him some people were injured, he was “flabbergasted.”
“He says that the Kalashnikov didn’t work and he was brought under control immediately without a single shot being fired,” David said.
She is no longer his lawyer as Khazzani has since been transferred to Levallois-Perret near Paris where he is being questioned by counterterrorism officers.
David’s comment came before three American men who tackled Khazzani spoke at a press conference organised by the US embassy in Paris.
Airman Spencer Stone, one of the trio, told journalists attending that Khazzani “seemed like he was ready to fight to the end”.
Stone said he was awakened from a deep sleep, and turned around to see a man holding an assault rifle and that it “looked like it was jammed and it wasn’t working.”