Hero US airman unable to give evidence about tackling ISIS gunman

Hero US airman is unable to give evidence about tackling ISIS gunman on high-speed French train today after being taken to hospital after arriving in Paris

  • Moroccan gunman Ayoub El Khazzani accused of attempting to carry out attack
  • Spencer Stone was one of three Americans to tackle El Khazzani in Paris in 2015
  • Stone has now been hospitalized after being expected to appear in today’s trial

An American who had been scheduled to appear as a star witness at the trial in Paris of an alleged ISIS jihadi was hospitalized Thursday in the French capital.

Spencer Stone’s hospitalization casts doubt on whether he would still be able to testify about his role in the dramatic capture of gunman Ayoub El Khazzani, 31, that averted a possible mass slaughter aboard a high-speed train.

El Khazzani’s trial for the foiled attack on the Amsterdam to Paris train on August 21, 2015, began Monday in Paris, France.

Stone’s lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial, wouldn’t give details about what is ailing the former US airman, citing medical privacy. 

Spencer Stone who had been scheduled to appear as a star witness at the trial in Paris of Islamic State operative Ayoub El Khazzani, 31, was hospitalized Thursday in the French capital. Pictured: French President Francois Hollande bids farewell to US airman Stone, Alek Skarlatos (second from left) and Anthony Sadler (right) in 2015 after they foiled the attempted terror attack on the Amsterdam to Paris train

El Khazzani’s trial for the foiled attack on the Amsterdam to Paris train on August 21, 2015, began Monday in Paris, France. Pictured: A courtroom sketch shows El Khazzani sitting in the dock of the Paris Courthouse

He said Stone would not testify as planned on Thursday afternoon.

‘I know that he is hospitalized. I don’t know why. I don’t know how he is,’ 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.’

Stone, then a 23-year-old, was among passengers who helped subdue El Khazzani aboard the Amsterdam to Paris train in 2015.

Stone’s heroics during the foiled attack inspired Clint Eastwood to direct a Hollywood re-enactment The 15:17 to Paris. Pictured: Stone (left) and Sadler (centre) talk to director Eastwood on the set of the film

Their heroics during the foiled attack inspired Clint Eastwood to direct a Hollywood re-enactment The 15:17 to Paris.

El Khazzani, a 31-year-old Moroccan, boarded the train in Brussels armed with a 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.

One of the witnesses scheduled to testify this afternoon is Mark Magoolian, a French-American who wrestled the Kalashnikov off El Khazzani – before being shot himself by a pistol.

Stone (second left), Magoolian, Anthony Sadler (left) and Alek Skarlatos (right) were awarded a medal of honor by then French president Francois Hollande

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.

The soldiers were aided by their friend Anthony Sadler, with whom they were backpacking through Europe. 

Moogalian, who is now 56, was expected to appear as a witness today, while Skarlatos was scheduled to testify Friday.

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

Stone, Magoolian, Sadler and Skarlatos were awarded a medal of honor by then French president Francois Hollande in 2015.

El Khazzani risks life in prison if convicted of attempted terrorist murder. 

The three others, who were not on the train, are also being tried for their roles as alleged accomplices.

Bilal Chatra, 24, an Algerian member of IS, would have been the second man on the train but dropped out of the plot a week earlier, it is alleged.

One of the passengers, Franco-American professor Mark Moogalian (pictured on Monday arriving at the trial) grabbed Khazzani’s assault rifle as he emerged from the toilet, but was shot in the process

He had left Syria for Europe a week before to set up the exit route, prosecutors said.

Mohamed Bakkali allegedly took in the Europe-bound attackers in Budapest, Hungary, which he denies. The two were arrested in Germany in 2016.

A third man, Redouane El Amrani Ezzerrifi, allegedly piloted a boat to help in their return to Europe.

The trial serves as a bridge to the massacre of 130 people in Paris three months later, on November 13 2015, at the Bataclan music hall and restaurants and cafes.

The man considered the likely mastermind of those attacks, Abdel Hamid Abaaoud, was the behind-the-scenes force of the train attack, planned in Syria, according to the prosecution.

Abaaoud travelled from Syria to Belgium with El Khazzani to organise attacks in Europe, and was holed up with him and Chatra in a Brussels apartment, according to the prosecution.

Abaaoud was killed by French special forces days after the Bataclan attack. 

But before his death, his macabre organisational skills were at work in a failed plan to attack a church south of Paris in April 2015 that left a young woman dead.

Sid Ahmed Ghlam was convicted earlier this month and sentenced to life in prison.

The US men’s Lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial, said in court that their ‘very brave intervention’ had thwarted a ‘slaughter’ on Monday ahead of the start of the trial on November 16

El Khazzani ‘knowingly followed Abaaoud, but it’s been years since he was in a jihadi mindset’, his lawyer Sarah Mauger-Poliak said in a phone interview.

‘He is very affected and regrets having allowed himself to become indoctrinated in propaganda.’

The propaganda evolved into a plot to allegedly kill trapped passengers.

Yesterday, a judge ruled that Clint Eastwood cannot be called to testify in the trial.

The Hollywood director had been listed among potential witnesse after Khazzani’s lawyer asked to call on him, claiming that the 90-year-old could ‘shed some light’ on the authenticity of scenes depicted in his movie.

Pictured: Relatives of the man accused of the foiled terror attack arrive in court on Monday

The movie however does not show this claimed change of heart. The defence lawyer feared the film could influence people’s view of the attack. 

She wanted to question Eastwood on what instructions he had given as a director to the actors.

Anti-terrorism prosecutors opposed the lawyer’s request. 

They said Eastwood had not witnessed the incident and that it made no sense to call on the elderly man in the midst of a pandemic. They accused the defence of seeking to ‘to create a buzz’.

The judge refused the request, arguing that Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos would testify on Thursday and Friday.

The trial continues 

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