ISIS Gunman Sentenced to Life in Prison for Foiled 2015 Attack on Paris-Bound Train

Outside the court in Paris on Thursday where the trial was heard. The presence of the main suspect in the attack provided a rare glimpse of the operations of the Islamic State in Europe. (Credit…Ian Langsdon/EPA, via Shutterstock)

Four men involved in a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train in 2015 that was foiled only by the courageous action of other passengers were convicted of attempting murder, complicity and criminal terrorist association, and sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven years to life.

Ayoub El Khazzani, who is accused of being the main attacker on the train, was sentenced to life in prison. His presence in the courtroom provided a rare opportunity for prosecutors to delve into the operations of the Islamic State in Europe.

At the time of the attack, the European authorities were struggling to keep track of several thousand people in Europe who had circulated to and from Iraq and Syria, trying to join jihadist groups. Just a few months earlier, in January, terrorists killed 17 people, including 10 at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The trial of 14 people accused of aiding the terrorists in that attack ended on Wednesday with all found guilty. But the actual assailants in that case were all dead.

The attack on the train took place on Aug. 21, 2015, and was thwarted by several passengers — including three Americans and a man with dual French and American citizenship — who tackled the assailant and overpowered him after an intense hand-to-hand fight. Only one person was wounded. Mr. El Khazzani was captured and arrested.

Just three months later, on Nov. 13, 2015, jihadists loyal to the Islamic State struck again in a series of coordinated assaults that resulted in the deadliest terrorist attack in modern French history. The siege left 130 people dead, including 90 who were killed when gunmen stormed the Bataclan nightclub in Paris.

The two trials have set the stage — both in terms of the investigation into the organization of the attack and the testimony of the victims — for the much-anticipated trial next September of 20 defendants accused of involvement in the November 2015 attacks on the Bataclan and elsewhere in a case that is being brought to the court by about 1,700 plaintiffs.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Constant Méheut

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