ISIS terrorist tells trial he aimed his gun at US soldiers’ heads during Paris train attack but could not bring himself to shoot them and ‘let them’ grab him instead
- Ayoub El Khazzani said he was ‘trembling’ when he took out his AK-47 on train
- Khazzani said he shot Mark Moogalian in back after he reached for Kalashnikov
- Khazzani, 31, then when to shoot US Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone
- But Khazzani said he ‘could not do it’ and instead let Mr Stone ‘grab’ him
An ISIS terrorist aimed his gun at the heads of American soldiers but could not shoot them during the Paris train attack five years ago, he told the court.
Ayoub El Khazzani, 31, said he was ‘trembling’ when he took out his AK-47 automatic rifle and pistol in the toilets of the Amsterdam-Paris high-speed Thalys train on August 21, 2015.
Speaking at his trial for the first time, Khazzani said he shot passenger Mark Moogalian in the back after he reached for his Kalashnikov – but claims he was aiming for the English professor’s hand.
Khazzani then when to shoot US Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone and aimed the gun at his head.
But Khazzani said he ‘could not do it’ and instead let Mr Stone – who was on holiday with friends – ‘grab’ him.
ISIS gunman Ayoub El Khazzani, 31, (pictured in a courtroom sketch) aimed his gun at the heads of American soldiers but could not shoot them during the Paris train attack five years ago, he told the court
Speaking at his trial for the first time, Khazzani said he shot passenger Mark Moogalian (pictured right, at the courthouse with his wife) in the back after he reached for his Kalashnikov – but claims he was aiming for the English professor’s hand
Khazzani then when to shoot US Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone (centre) and aimed the gun at his head. But Khazzani said he ‘could not do it’ and instead let Mr Stone – who was on holiday with friends Alek Skarlatos (left) and Anthony Sadler (right) – ‘grab’ him.
The prosecution argues that Khazzani failed to carry out a massacre on the train because of defective munitions and passengers who intervened to subdue him.
Khazzani was concealing the AK-47 automatic rifle and 300 rounds of ammunition when he boarded the train – after having coffee at the station in Brussels.
Khazzani said he was under orders from Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
Abaaoud had travelled with him to Europe from war-torn Syria to guide the cell behind the deadly attacks in November 2015 in Paris and in March 2016 in the Belgian capital Brussels.
Khazzani told the court: ‘I took my seat. I started looking for the people he had spoken to me about, American soldiers, people from the European Commission. Honestly it was to kill them.’
He said he eventually located his American targets.
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 last week
Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler (left to right) are pictured in a 2015 photo from Washington after receiving medals for their roles in disarming the gunman
Shauna Asley Verstichelen, who was a train stewardess at the time of the attack, embraced Skarlatos after the hearing on Friday
The presiding judge asked him: ‘How did you recognise them?’
‘Abaaoud had told me they were young and burly, that they spoke English,’ Khazzani replied.
‘I decided to attack the American soldiers,’ the defendant said through an interpreter.
He said he went to the toilet to prepare the attack but that he was in a bad state.
Nevertheless, he took his pistol and Kalashnikov rifle out of his bag and armed himself, he said.
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 in 2015
‘I was trembling,’ he recalled.
When he emerged from the toilet, he ran into passenger Mark Moogalian and ended up shooting him in the back with his pistol when the English professor grabbed his Kalashnikov.
In the courtroom’s first row, Moogalian, seriously wounded in the attack, listened with his head lowered and his hand holding his wife’s.
Khazzani said he then saw Spencer Stone, a US Air Force serviceman who was on vacation with friends.
‘I aimed at his head… I could not do it. I cannot explain to you. It was too much….I let him grab me,’ he said.
Testifying last week, Aleksander Skarlatos, a former national guardsman and Stone’s friend, told the court he understood immediately what was happening when he heard a gun shot and knew they could have died that day.
Pictured: Relatives of the man accused of the foiled terror attack arrive in court on November 16
The pair decided to go after the gunman. Stone eventually caught him and rolled on the ground with Khazzani, at one point warning that the attacker had a pistol, which Skarlatos said he grabbed.
Khazzani, who joined the Islamic State group in Syria in May 2015, is charged with ‘attempted terrorist murder’.
In the dock with him are three men facing charges for aiding and abetting the crime: Bilal Chatra, Redouane Sebbar and Mohamed Bakkali.
Belgian Abaaoud, who Khazzani named as the operation chief, is believed to have been one of the masterminds behind several attacks in Europe.
French police killed Abaaoud after he shot indiscriminately at packed cafe terraces in Paris on the night of the November 2013 coordinated attacks, for which Bakkali is also accused of having acted as logistics coordinator.