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Greek-American Skarlatos Recalls Trying to Kill Train Attacker in Paris

November 20, 2020

PARIS  — One of three Americans acclaimed as heroes for tackling an alleged Islamic State gunman aboard a Paris-bound train testified at the man's trial Friday that he tried to kill him. 

Alek Skarlatos told the Paris court that he yanked a pistol from the attacker's hand, turned it on him and pulled the trigger but that the gun did not fire.

"I was honestly trying my best to kill or restrain him," Skarlatos said.

The attack suspect, Ayoub El Khazzani, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if he is convicted of attempted terrorist murder. The 31-year-old Moroccan is being tried with three suspected accomplices.

The recollections in court this week from passengers who disarmed the attacker on the train from Amsterdam have highlighted the split-second decisions that foiled what could have become a mass slaughter. The passengers' heroics on Aug. 21, 2015 inspired Clint Eastwood to direct a Hollywood movie reenacting the dramatic events: "The 15:17 to Paris."

Skarlatos and two other longtime friends were vacationing together. They grew up together in California. One of the friends, Spencer Stone, managed to pin down the attacker in a stranglehold. Skarlatos moved in, too, joined by another passenger once the gunman was on the ground.

He "was surprisingly difficult to control," Skarlatos testified.

With the attacker under control, the train rerouted to Arras, in northern France, where El Khazzani was arrested.

Authorities say El Khazzani boarded the train in Brussels armed with the Kalashnikov, nine clips with 30 rounds each, an automatic pistol and a cutter. 

Once aboard the train, El Khazzani lingered in a restroom between cars, where two other passengers confronted him, and then emerged bare-chested with his weapons.

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