Obama praises heroes: Barack Obama Calls Paris Heroes
Published: August 22, 2015
Obama praises heroes: Barack Obama Calls Paris Heroes, Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone, the first of three Americans to rush and subdue an armed gunman on a Paris-bound train, was released from the hospital Saturday and received a call from President Obama praising his courage and heroism.
The president also phoned the other two Americans, all childhood friends of Stone, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, and Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman from Roseburg, Ore.,
Stone, of Carmichael, Calif., was hospitalized with a serious wound to his hand after being slashed with a box cutter in the ordeal Friday night aboard a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris.
The suspect in the attack has been linked to jihadist groups and had traveled to Syria before moving to Belgium and France from Spain, according to news media reports.
In his call, Obama praised the three Americans’ courage and wished Stone a full and speedy recovery, according to Eric Schultz, principal deputy White House press secretary. He also expressed how proud all Americans are of their extraordinary bravery.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter also praised the three, saying that the actions of the two servicemen demonstrated why “on duty and off, ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”
The three Americans were riding on the train together when they heard a gunshot and breaking glass. Sadler told the AP that they saw a train employee sprint down the aisle followed by a gunman with an automatic rifle.
A photograph released with permission via Twitter user @FLeturque of two US citizens, Anthony Sadler, left, Alek Skarlatos, center, and British man Chris Norman, right, after being awarded the medal of the city of Arras the day after they apprehended the suspect of the shooting on a Thalys train at Arras train station in Arras, northern France. (Photo: Frederic Leturque/Twitter, EPA)
“As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, ‘Spencer, go!’ And Spencer runs down the aisle,” Sadler said. “Spencer makes first contact, he tackles the guy, Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a few times. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious.”
Throughout the brief but terrifying episode, Sadler said, “the gunman never said a word.”
British passenger Chris Norman, who also helped subdue the gunman, said he decided to act after hearing the two Americans shout to grab the attacker and he thought they could act as a “team.”
“My thought was, ‘OK, I am probably going to die anyway, so let’s go,'” he said. “I’d rather die being active trying to get him down than simply sit in the corner and die.”
Norman said he helped tie up the gunman. Stone then quickly turned to help another passenger who had been wounded in the throat, stopping his bleeding until paramedics arrived, Sadler said.
A French official close to the investigation tells the Associated Press that police have positively identified the train gunman as 26-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said earlier Saturday that Spanish authorities had alerted French intelligence to him in February 2014 because he “belonged to the radical Islamist movement,” and the French put him on a security watch list. El-Khazzani was identified through his fingerprints, according to the official, who insisted on not being identified by name because of the ongoing probe.
The official also said that the French spotted El-Khazzani in Berlin on May 10, headed to Turkey, and informed their Spanish colleagues. On May 21, the Spaniards responded saying that he no longer lived in Spain but in Belgium, according to the French official.
There has been a discrepancy in the accounts by French and Spanish officials. An official linked to Spain’s anti-terrorism unit said the suspect lived in Spain until 2014, then moved to France, traveled to Syria and returned to France. Cazeneuve said El-Khazzani lived in Belgium in 2015 and made no mention of a residency in France.
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