We were going to feature this story earlier, but the initial details being reported out of France turned out to be, in large part, a mix of unconfirmed guesses and wildly inaccurate speculation. In fact, there are still some facts which are being sorted out but there are at least a few things which have come clear. Among the most important is that a bad guy with a gun on a French train ran into some good American guys who didn’t even have guns and still managed to get his butt kicked. American military servicemen once again step in where others fear to tread and get the job done. (CNN)
The struggle was brief, bloody and chaotic.
The high-speed train was zipping from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday when a shirtless man emerged from the bathroom — a rifle slung over his shoulder, witnesses said.
A French passenger and three Americans — a civilian, an Air Force member and a National Guard member — jumped into action. They quickly tackled him, possibly averting a massacre aboard the train.
By the time the suspect was subdued, three people had nonlife-threatening injuries, said Anthony Blondeau, a spokesman for Arras city in northern France, where the train pulled up after the incident and the suspect was arrested. One of the Americans was among the injured.
That’s a rather sterile way to describe it, but it seems to capture most of the basics. Of course, as the coverage continues to roll out it’s impossible to say how many of the fine grain details are truly locked down. For example, when it comes to the three Americans involved, I saw reports this morning describing them as three marines, two marines and a national guardsmen, two marines and a civilian, and very likely a few other combinations I missed. At this point we seem to have settled on the fact that the Americans involved in taking down and hog tying the presumed terrorist were Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler. Sadler is a civilian, Stone is in the Air Force and Skarlatos is either a National Guard member or an inactive National Guard reservist, depending who you ask.
The bloody and chaotic scene on the train seems to have played out pretty much as CNN describes it above, with Stone and Skarlatos initially charging the gunman. In the ensuing battle, Stone was slashed across the back of the neck and nearly had his thumb cut off. He was taken to a French medical center specializing in the treatment of hand injuries and is expected to recover. And it’s a good thing that the Americans stepped in because the early reports indicate that the staff on the train turned and fled like sheep when the trouble started, barricading themselves in their staff room and leaving the passengers to fend for themselves. Yay, France.
The big question mark is the gunman. Is he a terrorist? Seems awfully unlikely that he isn’t, but the French are playing it close to the vest thus far. He was transferred into the custody of a terrorism unit and was tentatively identified as a 26 year old Moroccan who was known to Spanish authorities as having ties to terror groups. He was loaded for bear with a rifle and either a boxcutter or a knife. Some reports indicate he had a Ruger handgun, while others say he had two handguns or none. All seem to agree that he had multiple backup magazines. A couple of names have been mentioned but the leading candidate so far seems to be Ayoub el-Qahzzani. His initial questioning may take up to 96 hours before they decide to release many more details.
Long story short… hurrah for the good guys! And the good guys, as usual, are our guys. They will get the full hero treatment as they should and will no doubt be getting a warm welcome when they return home. In the meanwhile, the French President has sent his thanks and said he’s planning on speaking to them later. Well done, boys.