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French authorities on Tuesday formally opened a terror investigation into the armed attack on a high-speed Paris-bound train, dismissing the suspect’s claim to be a simple robber as a “fantasy.”
Paris' chief prosecutor said the suspect, Ayoub El-Khazzani, had watched a jihadi video on his cellphone just prior to the “premeditated” attack.
Morocco-born Khazzani, 25, emerged from a train restroom armed with an assault rifle, a pistol and a knife on Friday night.
He was carrying more than 270 rounds of ammunition for the automatic rifle, François Molins told reporters at a news conference.
He was recently in Turkey and “possibly Syria,” Molins added, and had bought a first class, one way ticket for the train in cash for 149 Euro.
Analysis of the browser history from his smartphone showed that, during the train journey, Khazzani watched a YouTube clip in which an Islamist urged his followers to fight and to take up arms in the name of the prophet, Molins said.
Four American passengers helped to overpower Khazzani, including two off-duty members of the military, their friend and a professor, who was shot. The professor remained in a hospital in Lille on Tuesday. His condition was reportedly described as "worrying."
The suspect reportedly told his lawyer on Sunday that he only intended to rob passengers, but Molins said there was reason to suspect a terrorist motive as Khazzani had previously attended a radical mosque in Spain.
Earlier Tuesday, Khazzani's father, Mohammed, expressed shock at the terrorism allegations and insisted his son was "just like others his age, having fun, going to the beach, working."
Speaking from the blue-collar district of El Saladillo in Algeciras, Spain, where the family has lived since 2013, he said: "My son is not a terrorist. He's a poor boy, he loves to play soccer, go fishing, but he is not a terrorist."
French media reported that police in Belgium raided two premises there in connection with the train attack investigation. Radio station France Info said one of the locations was the home of Khazzani’s sister, but this could not immediately be confirmed by NBC News.