France train suspect watched jihadi video, prosecutor says

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
France Train Gunman Suspected to Have Ties to 'Radical Islamist Movement'

PARIS (AP) -- Minutes before he slung an assault rifle across his chest and walked through a high-speed train, the Moroccan suspect in the foiled attack watched a jihadi video on his cellphone, the French prosecutor said in formally opening a terrorism investigation Tuesday.

The actions by Ayoub El-Khazzani on the Amsterdam-to-Paris train Friday night and information from other European authorities on his travels and apparent links to radical Islam prompted the investigation, said prosecutor Francois Molins.

SEE ALSO: Americans, Briton who thwarted attack get France's top honor

El-Khazzani, 26, was tackled and tied up by five passengers, including three Americans and a Briton, averting what President Francois Hollande said "could have degenerated into monstrous carnage."

During questioning by authorities, El-Khazzani said he had no terrorism plans and had found a bag of weapons Thursday in a Brussels park and planned to use them to rob passengers, Molins said. But the suspect grew less and less lucid as he gave his explanation, the prosecutor added, and eventually stopped talking to investigators altogether.

One reason investigators suspect a premeditated attack was that El-Khazzani, who claimed to be homeless and living in a Brussels park, used a first-class ticket, Molins said. The suspect refused to take an earlier train, he added, although there were seats available - "the sign of a planned project."

He boarded the train Friday at a Brussels station.

Besides the assault rifle, El-Khazzani had 270 rounds of ammunition, a pistol, a box-cutter and a bottle of gasoline, Molins said.

Prosecutors also said they found a small explosive like those used in the tips of missiles hidden in the glass box containing the hammer used to break train windows in case of emergency. They did not elaborate.

"El-Khazzani watched a video of Islamic preaching onboard" on YouTube on his mobile phone shortly before he got up to start walking through the train with the weapons, Molins told reporters at a news conference. The suspect's phone was found in a bag left on the train.

The gunman was subdued by a group of three American friends and a British businessman. Another man who tried to stop him - a French-American named Mark Moogalian - remained hospitalized with a gunshot wound.

With the formal investigation opened, investigating magistrates are expected to file numerous preliminary charges against El-Khazzani, including multiple counts of attempted murder in connection with terrorism, possession of weapons in connection with terrorism, and participation in a terrorist conspiracy.

The suspect had traveled through several European countries and had been repeatedly incarcerated in Spain and flagged for surveillance in France, Molins said. After five to seven months in 2014 in France, he lived in Brussels, Cologne and Vienna.

French surveillance helped authorities spot the suspect on a May 10 flight from Berlin to Istanbul, then a return flight from Antakya, Turkey, to Tirana, Albania, via Istanbul, Molins said. El-Khazzani denied going to Turkey.

He may also have tried to go to Syria.

The train incident has highlighted growing difficulties in protecting public spaces from individual attackers.

In his speech Tuesday, the French president said the country remains "exposed" to violent extremism, and "this aggression is new proof that we should prepare ourselves for other assaults."

Hollande did not elaborate on a specific threat, although France has been on high alert for attacks all year. He stressed his commitment to counterterrorism efforts at home and abroad against extremists.

The prosecutor said El-Khazzani boarded the train on Friday at a Brussels station.

Investigators in Brussels searched two buildings in the Molenbeek-Saint-Jean neighborhood where the suspect may have stayed, the Federal Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. No one was detained, although investigators said they seized "some objects" for further examination. The statement did not elaborate.

According to French law, authorities must file preliminary charges against El-Khazzani by Tuesday night or seek a special extension to his temporary custody.

The next step will be determining where his weapons came from, how he financed them, and whether he had any accomplices, Molins said.

One of the Americans who helped thwart the attack, U.S. Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, flew to a U.S. military base in southern Germany, where he was treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and doing well, said spokesman Chuck Roberts. Stone, who arrived Monday, seemed in good spirits, smiling and shaking hands with officials at the hospital.

Roberts said Stone is being treated for a cut to his thumb, for which a full recovery is expected with ongoing therapy, as well as a "non-critical" eye injury and other minor wounds. It's not clear when Stone will be transferred back to the U.S.

In Georgia, the sister of Mark Moogalian described him as forthright and determined, and is not surprised by his unselfish actions on the train.

"Mark is one of the most compassionate people I've ever known," Jacqueline Moogalian-Pittman told The Associated Press. "He's a free spirit. When he sets his mind on what he wants to do, he just does it - which is one of the reasons I wasn't surprised when I heard he went after the actual gunman."


Photos of the honored heroes:

25 PHOTOS
France train attack - hero passengers
See Gallery
France train suspect watched jihadi video, prosecutor says
French President Francois Hollande, second left, awards U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, center, while Alek Skarlatos a U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, applauds at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. Hollande pinned the Legion of Honor medal on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their years-long friend Anthony Sadler, who subdued the gunman as he moved through the train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. The British businessman, Chris Norman, also jumped into the fray. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)
French President Francois Hollande, right, awards with the Legion of Honor Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California as British businessman Chris Norman, left, looks on at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. Hollande pinned the Legion of Honor medal on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their years-long friend Anthony Sadler, who subdued the gunman as he moved through the train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. The British businessman, Chris Norman, also jumped into the fray. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)
From left : French President, Francois Hollande, U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Alek Skarlatos, U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, pose for photographers as they leave the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, after being awarded with the French Legion of Honor by French President, Francois Hollande, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. French President Francois Hollande and a bevy of officials are presenting the Americans with the prestigious Legion of Honor on Monday. The three American travelers say they relied on gut instinct and a close bond forged over years of friendship as they took down a heavily armed man on a passenger train speeding through Belgium. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Legion of Honor medals for the three Americans and the British businessman, Chris Norman are pictured on a cushion at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. French President Francois Hollande pinned the Legion of Honor medal on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their years-long friend Anthony Sadler, who subdued the gunman as he moved through the train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. The British businessman, Chris Norman, also jumped into the fray. (AP Photo/Catherine Gaschka , Pool)
U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Alek Skarlatos, left, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, 2nd left, and Anthony Sadler, right, a senior at Sacramento University in California, leave the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, with U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley after being awarded with the French Legion of Honor by French President, Francois Hollande, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. French President Francois Hollande and a bevy of officials are presenting the Americans with the prestigious Legion of Honor on Monday. The three American travelers say they relied on gut instinct and a close bond forged over years of friendship as they took down a heavily armed man on a passenger train speeding through Belgium. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Alek Skarlatos , left, waves to the media as he leaves the Elysee Place in Paris, France, with U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, after being awarded with the French Legion of Honor by French President, Francois Hollande, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. French President Francois Hollande and a bevy of officials are presenting the Americans with the prestigious Legion of Honor on Monday. The three American travelers say they relied on gut instinct and a close bond forged over years of friendship as they took down a heavily armed man on a passenger train speeding through Belgium. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, left, U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Alek Skarlatos, right, and U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, second from left, pose for photographers with Jane D. Hartley, U.S. Ambassador to France, before a press conference held at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, second right, U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Alek Skarlatos, right, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, second from left, and U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley take their seats before a press conference held at the US Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
U.S. Airman Spencer Stone attends a press conference held at the US Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Spencer Stone and two friends, Antony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, right, seated next to U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley, answers questions during a press conference held at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Stone and two friends, Antony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California attends a press conference held at the U.S. Ambassador's residence with Alek Skarlatos and U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Alek Skarlatos attends a press conference held at the U.S. Ambassador's residence with Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, and U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
(From L) US ambassador to France Jane Hartley, off-duty US servicemen Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos smile during a press conference at the US embassy in Paris on August 23, 2015, two days after 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US serviceman Alek Skarlatos looks on during a press conference at the US embassy in Paris on August 23, 2015, two days after 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US servicemen Spencer Stone (R), Alek Skarlatos (2nd R) and US ambassador to France Jane Hartley (L) arrive to attend a press conference at the US embassy in Paris on August 23, 2015, two days after 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US Air Force Spencer Stone (L), one of the men to overpower the gunman who opened fire with an assault rifle on a high-speed train, gestures as he leaves the hopistal of Lesquin, northern France on August 22, 2015. On August 21, 2015, a gunman opened fire on the train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. Spencer Stone was first to the gunman who slashed him in the neck and almost sliced off his thumb with a box-cutter. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Anthony Sadler (L), from Pittsburg, California, and Alek Skarlatos from Roseburg, Oregon, hold their medals as they sit in a restaurant after a brief ceremony in the town of Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. The American servicemen overpowered a gunman armed with a Kalashnikov who opened fire on a high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris on August 20, 2015. (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo made early Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, image obtained from the Facebook webpage of the mayor of Arras, Fredric Leturque, sits with passengers of the Thalys train who subdued a gunman as they display their medal after being awarded by the mayor of Arras, northern France, with left to right, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Briton Chris Norman. A gunman opened fire on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding two people before three American and a Briton passengers subdued him, according to reports. American train passenger Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone was hospitalized with serious wounds after his part in tackling the gunman. (Arras City Hall via AP) 
In this image made from TV, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, left, sits with Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, who both helped overpower high-speed train attacker, talk to the media early Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, in Arras, France. Three Americans and a Briton are together being hailed as heroes for tackling and disarming a gunman aboard a high-speed train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris Friday evening. (AP Photo /APTN) 
Off-duty US Air Force Spencer Stone (L), one of the men to overpower the gunman who opened fire with an assault rifle on a high-speed train, gestures as he leaves the hopistal of Lesquin, northern France on August 22, 2015. On August 21, 2015, a gunman opened fire on the train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. Spencer Stone was first to the gunman who slashed him in the neck and almost sliced off his thumb with a box-cutter. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated photo provided Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, by the U.S. Air Force showing Airman First Class Spencer Stone, of the 65th Air Base Group, Lajes Air Base, Azores, Portugal. A gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon aboard a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding several people before being subdued by passengers, officials said. Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone moved to subdue the gunman and was seriously injured before going to administer first aid to a wounded passenger, and was hospitalized Saturday after being stabbed in the attack, though the Pentagon said the injury was not life-threatening. (U.S. Air Force via AP Photo)
In this photo made early Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, image obtained from the Facebook webpage of the mayor of Arras, Fredric Leturque, passengers of the Thalys train who subdued a gunman sit together in Arras, northern France, with left to right, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Briton Chris Norman. A gunman opened fire on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding two people before three American and a Briton passengers subdued him, according to reports. American train passenger Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone was hospitalized with serious wounds after his part in tackling the gunman. (Arras City Hall via AP) 
In this image made from TV, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, and Briton Chris Norman, right, who both helped overpower high-speed train attacker, talk to the media early Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, in Arras, France. Three Americans and a Briton are being hailed as heroes for tackling and disarming a gunman aboard a high-speed train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris Friday evening. (AP Photo /APTN) 
Britain's Chris Norman speaks with the media at the police headquarters in Arras, northern France, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. A gunman prepared to open fire with an automatic weapon on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris Friday, wounding several people before being subdued by passengers, officials said. Norman, along with two others rushed to gunman and held him until police arrived. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


More from AOL.com:
Trent Lott endorses John Kasich
Obama calls out fossil fuel interests for fighting solar
Donald Trump blasts Megyn Kelly, retweets: 'The bimbo is back in town'

Read Full Story

People are Reading