MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish police on Tuesday searched the family home of a suspected Islamist gunman disarmed by passengers on an international train last month, and television footage showed them carrying away items in cardboard boxes.
The parents of Ayoub el Khazzani, the 25-year-old Moroccan detained after a struggle on the Thalys high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris on Aug. 21, were later taken by police car to a police station in the southern Spanish city of Algeciras.
The couple went voluntarily to make statements and were not under arrest, a police source said.
About a dozen police officers, some with their faces covered, and other officials were shown by Spanish television descending on the house in the poor El Saladillo district of Algeciras and removing items in cardboard boxes.
Khazzani, who was armed with a box cutter, a pistol and a Kalashnikov assault rifle, was wrestled to the ground by passengers on the train, including two off-duty U.S. servicemen. Two people were wounded in the struggle.
The Paris prosecutor last week dismissed Khazzani’s claim that he had planned a robbery, and opened an investigation into “attempted murder with terrorist intent”.
Khazzani lived in the same house with his parents in Algeciras until he left for France in 2014. Spanish authorities believe Khazzani also travelled to Syria, where Islamist militants are prominent in a four-year-old civil war.
Khazzani’s father Mohammed, a 64-year-old scrap dealer, told Spain’s El Mundo newspaper last week he could not believe that his son was a terrorist. “I wasn’t on the train, but I don’t think he was capable of doing something like that,” he said.
He said he had not spoken to his son since he left Algeciras in 2014 although his wife, named in the article as Zahara, had spoken to him by phone about a month earlier, it said.
The police operation in Algeciras coincided with a visit by Spain’s defence and interior ministers to Rabat for talks with their Moroccan counterparts about Islamist militancy and efforts to counter illegal migration.
After 14 Moroccans were arrested last week in a joint Spanish-Moroccan counter-terrorism operation, a Spanish judge voiced concern about the threat posed by Islamic State fighters returning to Spain from Syria.
Reporting by Rodrigo de Miguel and Adrian Croft; Editing by Sarah Morris/Mark Heinrich