French train gunman claims attempted robbery rather than ‘terrorist intentions’

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The heavily-armed man who was tackled by passengers aboard a high-speed train in France claims he was only trying to rob some “wealthy people” because he was hungry and by the “decree of providence” found a bag of weapons, according to his lawyer.

The gunman, who opened fire aboard a Thalys high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris on Friday, was described as weak and malnourished by French lawyer Sophie David, who questioned him during the police interrogation in Arras after the attack.

“[I saw] somebody who was very sick, somebody very weakened physically, as if he suffered from malnutrition, very, very thin and very haggard,” Sophie David told BFMTV.

The gunman – who was heavily armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, nine cartridge magazines to it, an automatic Luger pistol and a cutter – added that he was very “surprised” to find out that his case had received such a wide publicity.

“He is dumbfounded by the terrorist motives attributed to his action,” she added, noting that the suspect looked “neither dangerous nor vindictive” as she spoke to him.

The attacker was identified through his fingerprints as Ayoub el Khazzani, who was known to French and Spanish intelligences over his alleged ties to a “radical Islamist movement,” French media reported.

However, according to the lawyer, the 26-year-old Moroccan consistently denies any terrorist intent and does not see any terrorist nature in his actions. The attacker claims he was planning only to ransom passengers as he was hungry.

The attacker claims to have found all the weapons and ammunition in a park near the Gare du Midi railway station in Brussels, where he usually slept because he was homeless. He said it was a “decree of providence.”

“A few days later he decided to get on a train that some other homeless people told him would be full of wealthy people traveling from Amsterdam to Paris and he hoped to feed himself by armed robbery,” David said, as quoted by Reuters.

According to the lawyer, the man also denied firing any shots before passengers charged to disarm the gunman. However, according to the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, the gunman had fired “several shots” before he was disarmed.

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