Train passenger who disarmed IS gunman did so to ‘protect’ his wife

French-American Mark Moogalian, right, and his wife Isabelle
French-American Mark Moogalian, right, and his wife Isabelle (AP)
15:42pm, Thu 19 Nov 2020
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One of the passengers who wrestled and disarmed a so-called Islamic State operative on a high-speed train said he was doing so to “protect” his wife.

Speaking before he gave his testimony at the attack suspect’s trial in Paris, Mark Moogalian said: “I was trying to protect Isabelle (his wife).

“There was no way I was going to let anything happen to her. I was going to do my best.”

Everything happened so fast. There was so much confusion

The heroics of Mr Moogalian and other passengers aboard the Amsterdam to Paris train on August 21 2015 inspired Clint Eastwood to direct a Hollywood re-enactment, The 15:17 To Paris.

The attacker Ayoub El Khazzani faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if he is convicted of attempted terrorist murder. The trial of the 31-year-old Moroccan and three suspected accomplices opened earlier this week.

Mr Moogalian said the hearings are allowing him to piece together the blur of events that day.

“Everything happened so fast. There was so much confusion,” he said.

Mrs Moogalian said subduing El Khazzani was “a five-man job” and that she regarded her French-American husband as a hero.

Mark and Isabelle Moogalian (AP)

Mr Moogalian helped disarm El Khazzani, wrestling away the Kalashnikov rifle the gunman was carrying before he was shot himself.

“They did it together, otherwise everybody would be dead,” she said.

Mr Moogalian said: “We were all very lucky. It took five or six of us to prevent a real catastrophe.”

“All I know is that he shot me and he was carrying plenty of ammunition, enough to kill plenty of people.”

El Khazzani boarded the train in Brussels armed with the Kalashnikov, nine clips with 30 rounds each, an automatic pistol and a cutter, according to investigators. Once aboard the train, El Khazzani lingered in a restroom between cars and then emerged bare-chested with his weapons.

Spencer Stone (AP)

Spencer Stone, another passenger who had been scheduled to appear as a witness at the trial, went into hospital on Thursday, casting doubt as to whether he would still be able to testify.

Mr Stone’s lawyer Thibault de Montbrial would not give details but said the former US airman would not testify as planned on Thursday afternoon.

“I know that he is hospitalised. I don’t know why. I don’t know how he is,” Mr de Montbrial said.

“The only thing I’m certain of is that he is not in a state to testify today. We are going to regroup this evening to gauge whether he can be heard tomorrow morning or afternoon.”

Mr Stone has said he was coming out of a deep sleep when the gunman appeared. He and Alek Skarlatos, then a 22-year-old US National Guardsman recently back from Afghanistan, snapped into action, tackling the gunman.

Mr Skarlatos was scheduled to testify on Friday.

Mr Stone, whose hand was injured by the cutter, is also credited with saving Mr Moogalian, whose neck was squirting blood.

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