at the Thalys attack trial, passengers tell how they overpowered the gunman

“I thought he was going to put a bullet in my head.” At the trial of the foiled Thalys attack in August 2015, passengers told Thursday of an attack that could have turned into “carnage” without their intervention.

This August 21, 2015 at the end of the afternoon, Mark Moogalian, 51-year-old English teacher at the Sorbonne, returns from a stay in Amsterdam with his wife and their little dog. “I saw someone come into the bathroom with their suitcase. I found it a bit strange because the toilet is so small,” he tells the bar in his American accent.

He is going to see. In the airlock, Damien A., 28, who joins his partner in Paris for the weekend, is patient in front of the toilets.

The door opens very slowly. Out comes a man “1.85 m, athletic”, a look at the same time “determined and haggard”, said Damien A. The president read his depositions at the hearing; still very marked, he did not want to come.

Ayoub El Khazzani, 25 at the time, is shirtless, Kalashnikov in hand, a backpack filled with nearly 300 ammunition open on his stomach.

“We are in August 2015, are you thinking of an attack?” Asks the president. “No,” Mr. Moogalian replies, black suit and white shirt. “Maybe in a disguise”. Damien A. imagines him “a hidden camera”, before understanding: “I threw myself on it, hugging his neck with both my hands as much as I could”.

Controller for 30 years at the SNCF, Michel B., graying hair, believes in a fight between passengers. “I stood in the middle to separate them and saw that one of them was holding a gun,” he said. El Khazzani takes the opportunity to free himself. “He turned around and took aim at me. I think his gun was no longer working because he did not shoot,” said Damien A.

Mr. Moogalian yells at his wife to run away. “I left but not far, I said to myself + I want to die with my husband”, she recounts in tears at the bar. She meets the gaze full of “terror” of another passenger, wonders why she is hiding since “we are all going to die anyway”.

The sequel for Mark Moogalian, “is a bit hazy,” he apologizes. But “I ended up grabbing the weapon. I say + I’ve got the gun +, I have the weapon. I took three steps and I was shot in the back.”

– “And then, nothing” –

El Khazzani drew his pistol. Mark Moogalian crawls under a seat. “I tell myself + I missed my shot, it’s going to be a disaster +”. Al Khazzani walks towards him to retrieve his Kalashnikov. “I thought he was going to put a bullet in my head. I was waiting. And then nothing.” In the box, El Khazzani stares into the distance.

“Why didn’t he finish you?” Asks Sarah Mauger-Poliak, El Khazzani’s lawyer. “Because the weapon didn’t work,” replies Moogaliann, describing the “metallic clicks” heard.

He then sees “a body flying in the air”: “It was Spencer Stone”.

A 23-year-old U.S. Air Force soldier, Spencer Stone throws himself at El Khazzani, manages to disarm and control him, with the help of friends traveling with him and other passengers.

The bullet that hit Mark Moogalian came out through the neck. “The Thalys carpet had turned black with blood and I didn’t know what to do,” said his wife between two sobs. Spencer Stone gives him first aid before help arrives. “He saved my life,” said the English teacher.

Spencer Stone was to be heard by the court in the afternoon but had to be hospitalized after a discomfort on his arrival at Roissy airport on Wednesday. His two American friends will testify later today and Friday.

“Why do you think El Khazzani was there?” Asks Mr. Moogalian’s lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial. “I think he was there to kill everyone.”

“If my client can address the witness, he has been waiting for this moment for a long time,” the lawyer for El Khazzani asked the court. It is Mark Moogalian who answers: “I do not accept”.

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