Two U.S. Marines thwart gunman on French train - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Two U.S. Marines thwart gunman on French train

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(NBC News) - A gunman opened fire on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday afternoon, seriously wounding one of two American passengers who helped to thwart the attack, according to a French official.

The American are believed to be U.S. Marines, dressed in civilian clothing.

The shooting left two people seriously injured, "including one American who neutralized an extremely violent person," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said during a news conference. A third person was being treated for minor injuries, according to The Associated Press.

Cazeneuve said there were "two American passengers who were courageous" after the gunman opened fire at 5:45 p.m. local time near Arras, France, 115 miles north of Paris.

"It's important for me, together with the president of the Republic and the prime minister, to express to the two American passengers, who have been particularly brave, who acted during a very difficult situation, all our gratitude for what they did. Without them we could have faced a terrible tragedy," Cazeneuve said.

One of the injured is a member of the U.S. military, a Defense Department official said. The official said "the injury is not life-threatening" and they are monitoring the situation.

The assailant was arrested at the Arras station, French President François Hollande said in a statement.

The suspect was armed with an automatic rifle and a knife, said Christophe Piednoel, spokesman for national railway operator SNCF.

Christina Cathleen Coons, a social worker from New York who is traveling in France and was on the train, said she heard gunfire, dived under her seat and opened a pull-down table.

"I saw the man who was shot in the neck stumble," she recalled in an interview with NBC News over Facebook. "He dropped his bloody duffel bag right in the seat across from me, and he collapsed to the floor."

While taking cover, Coons said, she thought to herself, "Maybe I'm next. Is this train going to get shot up?"

After the gunfire ended and the train stopped, Coons said she saw authorities taking a man into custody. Passengers and train personnel were attending to the wounded.

A French Interior Ministry spokesman said investigators were working to identify the suspect and determine a motive. He added that it was too soon to determine any "terrorist lead."

But a spokesperson for the Paris prosecutor's office confirmed to NBC News that its anti-terrorist section had taken over the judicial investigation of the train shooting.

"Everything is being done to shed light on this tragedy and obtain all the necessary information about what happened," Hollande said.

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