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Brussels court goes easy on man who helped Thalys terrorist

A Thalys train prepareds to depart from Brussels South station. © Bahnfrend/Wikimedia

A man who helped the Thalys terrorist Ayoub El Khazzani to make contact with Islamic State in Syria in 2015 has been found guilty but allowed to go free by a court in Brussels.

Yazan K., now aged 27, was found guilty of being a member of a terrorist organisation, but the court declined to pass sentence.

K. had met El Khazzani in 2015 when both were working in a sorting centre for second-hand clothing. El Khazzani had expressed a wish to travel to Syria to fight with IS, hoping K. might be able to help.

K. later put him in touch with a cousin in Turkey, who at the time was suspected of being involved in the traffic of jihadists to Syria. He also loaned El Khazzani his credit card to buy a plane ticket to Istanbul in May 2015, where they met Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a member of the Verviers terrorist cell involved in preparations for the attacks in Paris in November 2015.

But before that, El Khazzani got on a Thalys train in Brussels South station, armed with automatic weapons and a rocket launcher. At one point he exited from a toilet with the weapons, but was quickly tackled by one man who was shot in the back. Then other passengers managed to subdue the gunman, among them two off-duty members of the US armed forces.

In an investigation that followed, two suspects in Belgium were extradited to France to stand trial. But Yazan K. was never charged with involvement in the Thalys attack, despite his links with El Khazzani.

El Khazzani himself was tried in France, where the attack took place, and sentenced to life imprisonment and life deportation in November last year. Before that, the passengers who had intervened to stop the attack on the train were given France’s highest civilian decoration, the Legion of Honour.