Four men, including three Americans on vacation, tackled and disarmed a man who opened fire with an AK-47 on a high-speed train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris on Friday. On Monday French President Francois Hollande awarded the men the Legion of Honor at a ceremony in Paris.
French authorities are treating the attack as the act of a radical Islamist. The suspect, Moroccan national Ayoub El-Khazzani, has denied that he intended to commit an act of terrorism and told French authorities he found the AK-47 and other weapons in a bag abandoned in a park in Brussels. His lawyer claims El-Khazzani only wanted to rob passengers. But El-Khazzani, who lived in Spain for seven years before moving to France, is known to authorities in Spain for having attended an ultraconservative Salafi mosque and making speeches in defense of jihad.
The thwarted attack has many Europeans on edge and has raised questions of what Europe can do to prevent further such attacks. After all, Spain knew that El-Khazzani posed a threat, but he was able to board a train to Paris with the bag of guns and knives, including a machine gun. He was one of thousands of European residents flagged by authorities as a possible security risk for having traveled to Syria.