A French court has jailed for life a Moroccan man who planned a terror attack on a Paris-bound international train in 2015 but was thwarted by passengers including off-duty US soldiers.
31-year old Ayoub El Khazzani was convicted over the August 2015 plot on the Amsterdam-Paris high-speed Thalys train and also issued sentences of between seven to 27 years to three accomplices.
The events inspired a 2018 film “The 15:17 to Paris” directed by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood who had at the start of the trial been mooted as a possible witness but in the end was not asked to appear.
The court ruled Khazzani would have committed “an indiscriminate attack” which would have been “particularly deadly”, had it not been for “a combination of particularly improbable circumstances” including faulty ammunition and “the exceptional courage of the passengers”.
The convict showed no emotion as the verdict was read out.
Khazzani was tackled by passengers shortly after emerging bare-chested and heavily armed from a toilet on the train.
“I am sorry to the bottom of my heart,” Khazzani told the court in a tearful final statement. “What I did tears me apart, it freezes the blood.”
Khazzani had claimed he acted under the orders of Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to have been one of the masterminds behind the bloody November 2015 attacks on bars and restaurants in Paris, to kill American soldiers on the train.
Abaaoud was killed by police in a Paris suburb five days after he shot indiscriminately at packed cafe terraces in Paris on the night of the November 13 attacks in the French capital.
The verdicts in the Charlie Hebdo and Thalys trials come with France on its highest security alert following three attacks in recent months blamed on Islamist radicals.
France recently introduced legislation to tackle radical Islamist activity in the country, a bill that has stirred anger in some Muslim countries.