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Gunman Sentenced to Life in Prison for 2015 Attack on Paris-Bound Train

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PARIS — 4 males concerned in a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train in 2015 that was solely foiled by the brave motion of different passengers had been convicted of trying homicide, complicity and felony terrorist affiliation, and sentenced to jail phrases starting from seven years to life.

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Ayoub El Khazzani, who’s accused of being the primary attacker on the practice, was sentenced to life in jail. His presence within the courtroom supplied a uncommon alternative for prosecutors to delve into the operations of the Islamic State in Europe.

On the time of the assault, the European authorities had been struggling to maintain monitor of a number of thousand individuals in Europe who had circulated to and from Iraq and Syria, making an attempt to affix jihadist teams. Just some months earlier, in January, terrorists killed 17 individuals, together with 10 on the workplaces of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

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The trial of 14 individuals accused of aiding the terrorists in that assault ended on Wednesday with all discovered responsible. However the precise assailants in that case had been all lifeless.

The assault on the practice occurred on Aug. 21, 2015, and was thwarted by several passengers — together with three Individuals and a person with twin French and American citizenship — who tackled the assailant and overpowered him after an intense hand-to-hand struggle. Just one particular person was wounded. Mr. El Khazzani was captured and arrested.

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Simply three months later, on Nov. 13, 2015, jihadists loyal to the Islamic State struck once more in a sequence of coordinated assaults that resulted within the deadliest terrorist assault in fashionable French historical past. The siege left 130 individuals lifeless, together with 90 who had been killed when gunmen stormed the Bataclan nightclub in Paris.

The 2 trials have set the stage — each by way of the investigation into the group of the assault and the testimony of the victims — for the much-anticipated trial subsequent September of 20 defendants accused of involvement within the November 2015 assaults on the Bataclan and elsewhere in a case that’s being dropped at the court docket by about 1,700 plaintiffs.

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“After we take a look at the occasions of Aug. 21, 2015, we realized that we escaped the worst,” a Paris prosecutor told the judges on Tuesday within the practice assault trial. “After we take a look at the entire case, we notice that it foreshadowed a horrible and disastrous November night time.”

Together with Mr. El Khazzani, an Islamic State-trained fighter of Moroccan origin, three others — Bilal Chatra, Rédouane El Amrani Ezzerrifi and Mohamed Bakkali — had been tried on expenses of getting helped the attacker journey from Syria to Belgium and of getting aided the preparations for the assault.

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On Thursday, Mr. El Khazzani was sentenced to life imprisonment for trying homicide and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. Mr. Chatra, Mr. Bakkali and Mr. El Amrani Ezzerrifi had been sentenced to respectively 27, 25 and seven years in jail. The sentences nearly completely match these requested by the general public prosecutor.

Witnesses on the trial mentioned that shortly after the high-speed practice, which was filled with a number of hundred passengers, had crossed into France from Belgium, Mr. El Khazzani emerged from the toilet, bare-chested and armed with an assault rifle. His arsenal included a bag filled with ammunition and different weapons.

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In accordance with the testimony, a French citizen, who has been recognized solely by his first identify, Damien, was the primary to sort out the attacker, rapidly adopted by one other passenger, Mark Moogalian, who has twin French and American citizenship. Mr. Moogalian struggled with Mr. El Khazzani and was wounded by a bullet fired by the assailant, the court docket heard.

The three different Individuals — Anthony Sadler; Alek Skarlatos, a specialist within the Nationwide Guard from Oregon; and Airman First Class Spencer Stone of the U.S. Air Power, who had been all buddies on a trip — then joined the struggle and managed to subdue the assailant, in keeping with prosecutors. Mr. El Khazzani’s weapons malfunctioned, the court docket was advised, hampering his assault.

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Mr. Skarlatos advised the Paris court docket that when he first noticed the gunman seem within the practice automobile, “It felt like time stopped.” As he joined different passengers in an try to overpower him, Mr. Skarlatos mentioned that the assailant had fought again furiously. First, Mr. Skarlatos mentioned, he brandished the assault rifle, then a pistol and, lastly, a field cutter within the chaotic conflict.

“In my thoughts, we had been speculated to die that day,” Mr. Skarlatos mentioned, noting that the assault had modified his life.

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Mr. El Khazzani was finally subdued on the ground of the practice carriage and certain up with a tie, prosecutors mentioned. The practice rerouted to Arras, in northern France, the place the police arrested him.

The heroism of the passengers later turned the main target of a Clint Eastwood movie, “The 15:17 to Paris.” Mr. Moogalian, Mr. Sadler, Mr. Skarlatos and Mr. Stone had been amongst eight individuals later awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award, for his or her roles in thwarting the assault.

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Central to the trial however absent from the dock was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, an Islamic State operative based mostly in Belgium who’s believed to have deliberate the practice assault in addition to the November attacks in Paris, which he took half in. Mr. Abaaoud can also be believed to have helped put together the March 2016 attack in Brussels that left 31 individuals lifeless.

Mr. Abaaoud, who was killed by the police just a few days after the November assaults, “performed a significant function in Daesh’s exterior operations,” mentioned Gilles Kepel, a French political scientist who’s an professional on Islam and the Arab world, utilizing an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

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Mr. Kepel mentioned that as a “planner” of attacks in Europe, Mr. Abaaoud “systematized” using migration routes to smuggle jihadists into European nations and made Belgium his rear base to arrange clandestine cells forward of future assaults.

Mr. El Khazzani advised the court docket that he was below orders from Mr. Abaaoud and that the 2 had traveled collectively to Europe from Syria. He added that Mr. Abaaoud had requested him to focus on American passengers on the practice.

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Antoine Mégie, an professional on terrorism laws who works on the College of Rouen in northern France, mentioned that the presence of the primary suspect made the trial one of many first in France to afford “a reconstruction of the mechanisms of the assault and of the organized construction behind it.”

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