A Moroccan gunman on trial for an attempted terror attack on a Paris-bound train five years ago on Wednesday said that he had aimed at the heads of US soldiers, but could not shoot.
On Aug. 21, 2015, after drinking a coffee at the railway station in Brussels, Ayoub el-Khazzani told the court that he boarded the Amsterdam-Paris Thalys train concealing an AK-47 rifle and 300 rounds of ammunition.
Speaking at his trial for the first time, he said he was under orders from Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who had traveled with him to Europe from Syria to guide the cell behind the deadly attacks in November 2015 in Paris and in March 2016 in the Belgian capital, Brussels.
“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,” the 31-year-old el-Khazzani told the court.
He said that he eventually located his targets.
The presiding judge asked him: “How did you recognize them?”
“Abaaoud had told me they were young and burly, that they spoke English,” el-Khazzani said.
“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 rifle out of his bag took and armed himself, he said.
“I was trembling,” he said.
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 rifle.
“I aimed at his hand,” he said.
In the courtroom’s first row, Moogalian, seriously wounded in the attack, listened with his head lowered and his hand holding his wife’s.
El-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.
The prosecution argues that el-Khazzani failed to carry out a massacre on the train because of defective munitions and passengers who intervened to subdue him.
Testifying last week, Aleksander Skarlatos, a former national guardsman and Stone’s friend, told the court that he understood immediately what was happening when he heard a gun shot and knew they could have died that day.
The pair went after the gunman. Stone caught him and rolled on the ground with el-Khazzani, at one point warning that the attacker had a pistol, which Skarlatos said he grabbed.
El-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.
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