COUNTER TERRORISM: Three Americans, Briton Honored for Thwarting Train Attack [UPDATE]

August 21, 2015 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Gunman Foiled.

Two Thalys trains in 2013. (Photo by Ale Sasso via wikipedia)

Two Thalys trains in 2013.
(Photo by Ale Sasso via wikipedia)

UPDATES with identities of the train passengers who subdued the gunman and the alleged gunman’s identity.

It turns out there were three Americans involved in the tackling and subduing a heavily armed gunman last week on a Paris-bound high-speed train.

They are Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23; Oregon National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos, 22, and a 23-year-old California college student Anthony Sadler. The three boyhood friends were on a two-week vacation touring Europe when they stepped up and took out the alleged gunmen, who has been idenified as Ayoub El Khazzini, .

On Monday (August 24) French President Francois Hollande bestowed the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration, on the three Americans and Chris Norman, 62, a British consultant, who subdued Khazzani.

At a ceremony in Paris, Hollande said their actions last week in the face of terror provided “a message of courage, solidarity and hope,,” according to the Voice of America website.

A French citizen, who was the first to tackle the gunman, but who declined to be identified, and Mark Moogalian, 51, who has dual U.S. and French citizenship , who was wounded in his struggle with the attacker, will receive the French honor at a later date, the New York Times reported.  

Stone, the airman, suffered a serious cut, which nearly cost him his thumb, and an eye injury in the struggle on the packed train. 

There are conflicting reports on whether the alleged gunman, said by French news media to be a 26-year-old man of Moroccan origin, was able to fire an automatic weapon before being subdued. He was placed under arrest by French police when the train stopped in the northern French city of Arras. Also unresolved: how many people were wounded and what their medical status is. The Associated Press reported that the attacker did not fire his automatic weapon but wounded one man with a handgun and another with some sort of blade.

At the Pentagon,  a spokesman confirmed that a member of the American military was on the train and had been injured, the New York Times reported. Quoting a Pentagon statement, the Associated Press said “The injury is not life threatening.”

A European counter terrorism official told CNN said the two Americans were Marines in civilian dress. That turned out to be incorrect. The White House called them U.S. Service members, CNN reported, adding that a member of the Oregon National Guard on personal leave was involved in the incident.

French officials praised the Americans for preventing a tragedy on the crowded Thalys  train, which is owned by the French and Belgian railways and operates high speed trains to several European cities.

While the French government has not yet classified the incident — which occurred on Belgian soil — as a terrorist attack, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted @CharlesMichel “I condemn this terrorist attack.” Both countries are cooperating on the investigation.

*** *** ***

Air Strike Kills a Top Terrorist.

The White House confirmed today (August 21) that the second-in-command of the violent extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was killed in a U.S. attack earlier this this week.

In a statement, Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council said Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, the second in command of ISIS (which the U.S. government calls ISIL) was killed in a U.S. military air strike on August 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq.

Iraq map by CIA World Factbook

Iraq map by CIA World Factbook

“Al-Hayali was an ISIL Shura Council member and, as the senior deputy to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was a primary coordinator for moving large amounts of weapons, explosives, vehicles, and people between Iraq and Syria,” the statement said, adding: “Al-Hayali’s death will adversely impact ISIL’s operations given that his influence spanned ISIL’s finance, media, operations, and logistics.”

According to Rudaw, a Kurdish news agency, Mutazz was an ethnic Turk born in Tal Afar, northern Iraq. He was an army commander under late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and joined the anti-U.S. insurgency after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Reuters reported. After being charged with terrorism, Mutazz spent time in Camp Bucca, the notorious U.S. prison in Iraq, Rudaw reported. He changed his name and joined ISIS after being released.

Al-Hayali has been declared dead before, including as recently as last December, the New York Times reported.  “This time we are 100 percent certain,”a senior official with the American-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State told the Times. “We have multiple confirmations he was in the car at the moment of the strike.”

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Entry filed under: Army, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, Marine Corps, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Special Operations, Unconventional Warfare, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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