Two U.S. Marines subdued a suspected terrorist on a train in Belgium, which was headed from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, after overhearing the alleged gunman loading an AK-47 in the train's bathroom. Officials reported that the plain-clothed Marines were able to overpower the man, who reportedly opened fire on them with a handgun. According to the Pentagon, one of the Marines was wounded in the scuffle, and at least three other passengers, including French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, were also hurt. French authorities reported that two were listed as being in serious, but noncritical condition. Update: Thalys, the operator of the train, tweeted on Friday evening: "The first passengers of Thalys 9364 are arriving in Paris-North; they are currently taken care of."
Police on the scene stated that the alleged attacker, an unnamed, 26-year-old Moroccan man, was found with a bladed weapon, a stash of various firearms, and 10 extra magazines. They indicated that the two Marines had likely prevented an absolute massacre.
French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve called the attempt "an attack of barbaric violence" in a statement to the press on Friday, adding that the French prosecutor's office in Paris would determine whether or not the attack would be officially classified as an act of terrorism. He also expressed "gratitude and admiration" for the two Marines, thanking them for their "great bravery."
French President Francois Hollande also issued a statement on his Twitter account Friday, tweeting,
I express solidarity with the wounded from the attack on the train from Amsterdam to Paris. Everything is being done to shed light on this tragedy.
Security officials told CNN reporters on Friday that the alleged attacker, who was arrested after the train was re-routed to the French city of Arras, had been on European intelligence radars for some time for expressing "radical jihadist" views and may have been sympathetic to ISIS.
The New York Times reported that, among the 554 passengers on board the high-speed Thalys service, at least a handful of witnesses remembered hearing several gunshots ring out before seeing "bloodied individuals" rolling out onto the grass near the tracks.
"It lasted all of two minutes," one witness told local French paper, La Voix du Nord, in a comment. After the train suddenly rolled to a stop, she said,
We saw people covered in blood, jumping off, running, then rolling into the grass. They looked totally shocked.
The incident was the latest in a short string of alleged terror attacks within the country, including the notorious shooting at Charlie Hebdo in January, in which two gunmen forced their way into the satirical paper's Paris headquarters and opened fire, killing 17. A second incident in June captured the media's attention as well, when an alleged Islamic State sympathizer beheaded his employer before reportedly attempting to blow up a gas plant near Lyon, in southeastern France.