A Spanish official has confirmed that the main suspect in a recent attack on an Amsterdam-Paris train had travelled to Syria last year, furthering concerns about the threat posed by militants coming back from battles in the Middle East.
The unidentified official from Spain’s anti-terrorism unit said Saturday that the individual, who has been identified as being originally a Moroccan, had traveled to Syria before returning to France for engaging in potential militant activities.
The source said that the suspect had lived in Spain until 2014 and then moved to France before going to Syria.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said earlier in the day that the 26-year old had been flagged by Spanish intelligence authorities to French intelligence forces for potential links to radical groups.
European governments have been facing an increasing threat of attack by those of their nationals who have been to Iraq and Syria to fight for militant groups there. Since the crisis began in Syria in 2011, Damascus has repeatedly accused the Western governments of not preventing their citizens from joining militant groups in the Arab country.
Intelligence estimates show that more than 3,400 Westerners have traveled to Syria and Iraq over the past years, with a majority of them believed to be from European countries.
The Friday attack on board the Amsterdam-Paris train happened as the high-speed Thalys train was traveling near the northern French city of Arras.
The assailant, who was carrying a knife, a handgun and cartridges in addition to his Kalashnikov rifle, was reportedly subdued by two off-duty US Marines, who were on board the train. He was taken into custody after the train arrived at the Arras station. Three passengers, including a high-profile actor, were injured during the attack.