Greek American Hero Recalls Tackling Train Terrorist

Oregon National Guard Specialist Aleksander Skarlatos. Photo: Wikipedia

One of the three Americans who tackled the Islamic State gunman aboard a Paris-bound train testified at the man’s trial on Friday, saying that he tried to kill the gunman, AP reports.

Greek American Alek Skarlatos told the Paris court that he tried to kill the terrorist by taking away a pistol from his hand, turned it on him and pulled the trigger but that the gun did not fire.

The suspect, Moroccan Ayoub El Khazzani, 31, faces a maximum life sentence if convicted of attempted terrorist murder. He is being tried with three suspected accomplices.

The passengers who helped the three Americans to disarm the attacker on the train from Amsterdam to Paris testified about the crucial seconds that took place and stopped a mass slaughter.

Skarlatos was traveling with longtime friends Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, whom he had grown up with in California. Stone managed to pin down the attacker, while Skarlatos moved in, joined by another passenger once the gunman was on the ground. Skarlatos said that it was very difficult to disarm and detain the man.

According to AP reports of the trial, El Khazzani boarded the train in Brussels armed with a Kalashnikov, nine clips with 30 rounds each, an automatic pistol and a box cutter. The terrorist lingered for an extended time in a restroom between cars where two other passengers confronted him, and he then emerged with his weapons.

The three Americans were widely acclaimed as heroes, being awarded the French Legion of Honor and many other accolades.

Skarlatos on his run for Congress and his Greek grandparents

Skarlatos, a former Oregon National Guard soldier, retired from the military in 2017 and received the US Army’s Soldier’s Medal and Oregon’s Distinguished Service Medal for his bravery. He was also accorded honorary French citizenship in 2018.

Skarlatos ran to represent his state in the United States Congress as a Republican in the November 3rd elections. It was a difficult task, trying to unseat sitting Congressman Peter DeFazio, who has been in office for 33 years. It was a close race, as Skarlatos lost by about five percentage points to the sitting Congressman.

The Greek American candidate spoke to Greek Reporter in July, presenting his positions on issues in the state of Oregon. He also spoke about his Greek heritage.

“My grandfather fought in the Greek resistance during the Second World War. He was captured by the Germans and was transported to a prisoner of war camp in Germany,” he told Greek Reporter.

“He, alongside many others, was forced to work in a factory making boots. He met my grandmother working there (she had also been a resistance fighter) and they married. They returned to Greece but then immigrated to the US around 1955.”