Crime & Justice

Trial begins over foiled 2015 Paris train attack

By AFP

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In this file photo taken August 22nd, 2015, police inspect the crime scene inside a train at the main station in Arras, France, after passengers overpowered the shooter and succeeded in foiling an attack. The trial of Ayoub al-Khazzani and three alleged accomplices opens Monday (November 16th) in Paris. [Philippe Huguen/AFP]

The trial of an "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) element accused of a foiled terror attack on a Paris train in 2015 begins Monday (November 16th) in France.

Ayoub al-Khazzani was tackled by passengers after emerging heavily armed from a toilet on a Thalys Amsterdam-Paris high-speed train on August 21st, 2015.

The 31-year-old, who joined ISIS in Syria in May 2015, is charged with "attempted terrorist murder" and will be joined in the dock at the special anti-terror court by three other men accused of helping him.

The passengers included two off-duty US servicemen.

"He had 270 rounds of ammunition on him, enough to kill 300 people," according to lawyer Thibault de Montbrial, representing soldiers Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos.

The pair tackled and eventually subdued al-Khazzani in the train carriage -- which was carrying some 150 passengers -- with the help of a friend they were travelling with.

Montbrial added there was no doubt his clients had prevented a "mass attack".

Al-Khazzani does not deny having boarded the train with the intent of committing an attack, but claims he was asked to target only Americans.

His lawyer Sarah Mauger-Poliak claims al-Khazzani is a changed man who has rejected extremist doctrine and regrets his actions.

Links to other attacks

The foiled assault took place the same year as the Bataclan attack on November 13th, which claimed 130 lives.

Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud is believed to have been one of the masterminds behind both the Thalys and November 13th attacks.

Abaaoud was killed by police in a Paris suburb in November 2015, shortly after he opened fire on a café.

The Thalys trial comes at a time of heightened security alert in France following three deadly attacks blamed on extremists in a month.

"We must remain calm and rigorous regardless of recent tragedies," said Lea Dordilly, a lawyer for co-accused Bilal Chatra, who was 19 at the time of the thwarted train attack.

He was allegedly recruited in Turkey by Abaaoud, and is suspected of being an advance scout for al-Khazzani in getting into Europe via the migrant trail from Syria.

The trial is scheduled to last until December 17th.

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