*UPDATE*: Clocking in a little early here to update this story with the new information breaking this morning. The men who subdued the terror attacker were three Americans and a British man. None of the Americans was a Marine. Two were service members: Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone (who received the life-threatening injuries) and Army National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos. The third American is a friend of the two servicemen, Anthony Sadler, who is a student at Sacramento State University. The British man, Chris Norman, is a grandfather, according to the UK Telegraph: a businessman on travel. He helped tie the attacker up after the reported Moroccan was subdued by the three Americans.
More updates to come.
Original story (without corrections) continues:
The earliest reporting on this emphasized that the two Marines, and a third man — a French actor, Jean-Hugues Anglade — had been injured in this encounter, which took place between Brussels and Paris on a train that started its run in Amsterdam.
But as more information comes out, it seems to be clear that the attacker, a Moroccan reportedly “known to national security services,” was armed for a mass-scale attack on the train’s passengers, and the Marines averted the attack by taking the guy out.
According to the UK Daily Mail:
The 26-year-old Moroccan national, who was known to security services, came out of the toilet brandishing the gun and opened fire. Fortunately, two US Marines were nearby and overpowered him before he could massacre passengers.
The suspected terrorist had at least nine full magazines of ammunition holding almost 300 rounds. He was also carrying a knife.
Daily Mail reports that one of the Marines is in critical condition, apparently having been shot in the neck during the scuffle.
But there’s more to the story, according to a European reporter:
Belgian journalist Marin Buxant Tweeted that the US Marines were on leave in Brussels when they spotted the man and followed him on the train. When the suspect went into the toilet, the Marines recognised the sound of a weapon being armed and decided to act immediately.
Time will tell if that part of the story holds up. I saw on Fox in the last half hour that U.S. military authorities have yet to confirm the involvement or identity of the Marines. It sounds like the Marines were there, and plenty of eyewitnesses saw the take-down of the terrorist; the question is whether the Marines boarded the train because they saw a suspicious fellow getting on in Brussels.
In one of those military-discipline points that civilians often have trouble with, it must be noted that U.S. Marines on leave in a foreign country are not actually supposed to pursue suspected terrorists onto public trains, with ideas in their heads about intervening if the terrorists try something. The reasons for that are far from stupid; they have to do with state-to-state relations and status of forces agreements that protect U.S. service members from prosecution.
So it will be interesting to see how the U.S. military chain of command handles this. In the future, we can expect more situations like this to arise — situations that pose real conundrums for policy.
Because, of course, it was better for hundreds of passengers today that two U.S. Marines took the Moroccan terrorist down before he hurt anyone else.
The train was stopped after the attack in Arras, France, where the attacker, the Marines, and the other passengers were all escorted off. Daily Mail quotes the Interior Minister of France, Bernard Cazeneuve:
Speaking in Arras, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised the Marines for their timely intervention.
He said: ‘Thanks to them we have averted a drama.
‘(The Americans were) particularly courageous and showed extreme bravery in extremely difficult circumstances.’
Food for thought.