Attacker pleads: 'Give me back my gun'

(From left) Americans Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos and Briton Chris Norman showing the medals they received for bravery, when they helped disarm a gunman on a train from Amsterdam to France.
(From left) Americans Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos and Briton Chris Norman showing the medals they received for bravery, when they helped disarm a gunman on a train from Amsterdam to France.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • A gunman tackled by young Americans on a train between Amsterdam and Paris pleaded with them to return his Kalashnikov rifle after they overpowered him, one of the group said.

"Everything happened very fast," Mr Anthony Sadler, a student travelling with friends Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone, both members of the US military, told France's BFMTV.

Said Mr Skarlatos: "I didn't realise what was happening until I saw a guard run past. I looked back and saw a guy enter with a Kalashnikov. My friends and I got down, and then I said, 'Let's get him'." The 22-year-old member of the National Guard in Oregon had recently returned from service in Afghanistan.

"We didn't know if the gun wasn't working or anything like that. Spencer just ran anyway and if anyone had gotten shot, it would have been Spencer, and we were just very lucky that nobody got killed," he added in quotes shown on the BBC.

Mr Stone tackled the gunman, but was cut with a knife.

ACT OF BRAVERY

While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy.

US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, on the action of the Americans

ACCIDENTAL HERO

I am just a college student. I came to see my friends on my first trip to Europe, and we stopped a terrorist.

MR ANTHONY SADLER, a student travelling with two friends in the US military

"At that point," said Mr Skarlatos, "I showed up and grabbed the gun from him and basically started beating him in the head until he fell unconscious."

Mr Sadler added that the man - identified as a 26-year-old of Moroccan origin - "didn't stand a chance".

"As soon as we saw him, we all ran back there. It all happened really fast," he told BFMTV.

"He didn't say anything. He was just telling us to give back his gun. 'Give me back my gun! Give me back my gun!' But we just carried on beating him up and immobilised him, and that was it."

Mobile phone footage from inside the train, shown on several TV stations, shows the suspect, a skinny man wearing white trousers and no shirt, flattened on the floor of the train with his hands and feet tied behind his back.

A Kalashnikov rifle is seen propped against a seat and blood is visible on a window.

Mr Sadler told BFMTV he had spoken to Mr Stone, who was recovering from the knife wound in hospital, adding that he was "doing well".

"He can't believe that all this happened," said Mr Sadler. "I am just a college student. I came to see my friends on my first trip to Europe, and we stopped a terrorist.

"It is kind of crazy."

A source close to the investigation said two people were being treated at a hospital in Lille.

As well as Mr Stone, who received cuts to his neck and hand, another American passenger was shot in the shoulder. No information was given on their condition.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'Attacker pleads: 'Give me back my gun''. Print Edition | Subscribe