A hero train passenger who was shot while trying to wrestle an AK-47 away from a terrorist during the 2015 Paris train attack said he did it to protect his wife.
Mark Moogalian, 56, was among a group of men who helped tackle and disarm terrorist Ayoub El Khazzani, 31, after he emerged from a bathroom on the train wielding an AK-47 rifle and intending to ‘shoot Americans’.
Speaking as he went to give testimony at Khazzani’s trial in Paris on Thursday, Mr Moogalian said: ‘I was trying to protect Isabelle.
‘There was no way I was going to let anything happen to her. I was going to do my best.’
Mark Moogalian, 56 (right), who was shot in the neck disarming Paris train terrorist Ayoub El Khazzani in 2015, said he jumped into action to protect wife Isabelle (left)
‘Without thinking, I jumped on him with my two hands and squeezed hard while strangling him,’ said the man, who only wanted to be identified by his first name Damien.
Damien, who was 28 at the time, said he managed to restrain Khazzani for about 15 seconds.
‘Then he turned towards me and trained his gun on me. I think his weapon failed as I did not hear a gunshot,’ he said.
Fellow passenger Mark Moogalian, a U.S.-born Frenchman who was 51 at the time of the attack, told the court he had been intrigued to see Khazzani enter the lavatory with a suitcase and had gone to check. Moogalian and Damien were outside the restroom as Khazzani emerged.
After rushing back to his seat to tell his wife to take cover, Moogalian managed to wrest the Kalashnikov from Khazzani and ran away, shouting ‘I got the gun’, before Khazzani shot him in the back with a handgun.
Moogalian told the court that as he fell to the ground and thought he was going to die, he saw Khazzani bending over him to recuperate the Kalashnikov.
‘I thought he was going to finish me off, but he did not shoot as the weapon jammed,’ he said, adding that he then saw another passenger, U.S. soldier Spencer Stone, ‘fly through the air’ and jump on Khazzani.
‘I was so happy that the cavalry had arrived,’ said Moogalian, who played himself in Clint Eastwood’s movie about the attack, ‘The 15:17 to Paris’.
El Khazzani’s trial for the foiled attack on the Amsterdam to Paris train on August 21, 2015, began Monday in Paris, France. Pictured: A courtroom sketch shows El Khazzani sitting in the dock of the Paris Courthouse
Mr Moogalian tackled the terrorist alongside Americans Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler, and other passengers including 62-year-old British businessman Chris Norman and French banker Damien A., 28
Mr Moogalian wrestled the AK-47 away from Khazzani before being shot in the neck by a pistol he was carrying – a wound that left him ‘squirting blood’.
Stone, an airman, is credited with saving his life by applying pressure to the wound.
Mr Moogalian said: ‘We were all very lucky. It took five or six of us to prevent a real catastrophe.’
‘All I know is that he shot me and he was carrying plenty of ammunition, enough to kill plenty of people.’
‘They did it together, otherwise everybody would be dead,’ wife Isabelle added.
Stone was also due on the stand as a star witness, but never appeared after being taken to hospital on arrival in Paris.
Stone’s lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial, said he was unable to give details about what was wrong with Stone, and could not say whether he would be able to come to court another day.
‘I know that he is hospitalised. I don’t know why. I don’t know how he is,’ Mr de Montbrial said.
‘The only thing I’m certain of is that he is not in a state to testify today. We are going to regroup this evening to gauge whether he can be heard tomorrow morning or afternoon.’
Stone, then a 23-year-old, was among passengers who helped subdue El Khazzani aboard the Amsterdam to Paris train in 2015.
Their heroics during the foiled attack inspired Clint Eastwood to direct a Hollywood re-enactment The 15:17 to Paris.
El Khazzani, a 31-year-old Moroccan, boarded the train in Brussels armed with a Kalashnikov, nine clips with 30 rounds each, an automatic pistol and a cutter, according to investigators.
Once aboard the train, El Khazzani lingered in a restroom between cars and then emerged bare-chested with his weapons.
Spencer Stone who had been scheduled to appear as a star witness at the trial in Paris of Islamic State operative Ayoub El Khazzani, 31, was hospitalized Thursday in the French capital. Pictured: French President Francois Hollande bids farewell to US airman Stone, Alek Skarlatos (second from left) and Anthony Sadler (right) in 2015 after they foiled the attempted terror attack on the Amsterdam to Paris train
Stone’s heroics during the foiled attack inspired Clint Eastwood to direct a Hollywood re-enactment The 15:17 to Paris. Pictured: Stone (left) and Sadler (centre) talk to director Eastwood on the set of the film
Stone (second left), Magoolian, Anthony Sadler (left) and Alek Skarlatos (right) were awarded a medal of honor by then French president Francois Hollande
Stone has said he was coming out of a deep sleep when the gunman appeared. He and Alek Skarlatos, then a 22-year-old US National Guardsman recently back from Afghanistan, snapped into action, tackling the gunman.
The soldiers were aided by their friend Anthony Sadler, with whom they were backpacking through Europe.
Skarlatos is scheduled to testify Friday.
Stone, Magoolian, Sadler and Skarlatos were awarded a medal of honor by then French president Francois Hollande in 2015.
El Khazzani risks life in prison if convicted of attempted terrorist murder.
The three others, who were not on the train, are also being tried for their roles as alleged accomplices.
Bilal Chatra, 24, an Algerian member of IS, would have been the second man on the train but dropped out of the plot a week earlier, it is alleged.
He had left Syria for Europe a week before to set up the exit route, prosecutors said.
Mohamed Bakkali allegedly took in the Europe-bound attackers in Budapest, Hungary, which he denies. The two were arrested in Germany in 2016.
A third man, Redouane El Amrani Ezzerrifi, allegedly piloted a boat to help in their return to Europe.
The trial serves as a bridge to the massacre of 130 people in Paris three months later, on November 13 2015, at the Bataclan music hall and restaurants and cafes.
The man considered the likely mastermind of those attacks, Abdel Hamid Abaaoud, was the behind-the-scenes force of the train attack, planned in Syria, according to the prosecution.
Abaaoud travelled from Syria to Belgium with El Khazzani to organise attacks in Europe, and was holed up with him and Chatra in a Brussels apartment, according to the prosecution.
Abaaoud was killed by French special forces days after the Bataclan attack.
But before his death, his macabre organisational skills were at work in a failed plan to attack a church south of Paris in April 2015 that left a young woman dead.
Sid Ahmed Ghlam was convicted earlier this month and sentenced to life in prison.
The US men’s Lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial, said in court that their ‘very brave intervention’ had thwarted a ‘slaughter’ on Monday ahead of the start of the trial on November 16
Pictured: Relatives of the man accused of the foiled terror attack arrive in court on Monday
El Khazzani ‘knowingly followed Abaaoud, but it’s been years since he was in a jihadi mindset’, his lawyer Sarah Mauger-Poliak said in a phone interview.
‘He is very affected and regrets having allowed himself to become indoctrinated in propaganda.’
The propaganda evolved into a plot to allegedly kill trapped passengers.
Yesterday, a judge ruled that Clint Eastwood cannot be called to testify in the trial.
The Hollywood director had been listed among potential witnesse after Khazzani’s lawyer asked to call on him, claiming that the 90-year-old could ‘shed some light’ on the authenticity of scenes depicted in his movie.
The movie however does not show this claimed change of heart. The defence lawyer feared the film could influence people’s view of the attack.
She wanted to question Eastwood on what instructions he had given as a director to the actors.
Anti-terrorism prosecutors opposed the lawyer’s request.
They said Eastwood had not witnessed the incident and that it made no sense to call on the elderly man in the midst of a pandemic. They accused the defence of seeking to ‘to create a buzz’.
The judge refused the request, arguing that Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos would testify on Thursday and Friday.
The trial continues