PARIS (AP) – Head lowered, an Islamic State (IS) operative listened silently as a Paris judge on Monday detailed his alleged plot to unleash mass slaughter on a high-speed train before he was tackled and subdued by American vacationers whose heroics inspired Clint Eastwood to direct a Hollywood re-enactment.
Opening a month-long trial for Ayoub El Khazzani, the judge said the 31-year-old Moroccan with ties to a notorious mastermind intended to “kill all the passengers” aboard the Amsterdam to Paris train in 2015 but “lost control of events.”
El Khazzani, who is on trial with three suspected accomplices, acknowledged the charges against him with a simple “Yes.”
He risks life in prison if convicted of attempted terrorist murder.
The heavily-armed and bare-chested El Khazzani wounded a French-American who managed to briefly yank a Kalashnikov from his hands before the three vacationing Americans took him down.
The drama on the train is portrayed by investigators as one of a series of IS-linked attacks in Europe that include the November 13, 2015 massacre in Paris at a music hall and cafes that killed 130 people. A failed 2015 attack in Verviers, Belgium, and 2016 attacks in Brussels are also among them.
The suspected mastermind of the Paris massacre, Abdel Hamid Abaaoud, also worked as behind-the-scenes leader of the train attack, according to investigators. Their probe showed that Abaaoud and El Khazzani travelled together from Syria to Belgium and holed up with Chatra in a Brussels apartment.
French special forces killed Abaaoud days after the Bataclan attack.