“The only terrorism he is guilty of is terrorism for bread, he doesn’t have enough money to feed himself properly”, Khazzani’s father told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo spoke from his home in Algeciras, southern Spain.
Stone was treated and released for deep cuts on his hand from the attack, and all three men are being heralded as heroes. British businessman Chris Norman, who joined the trio and rushed the assailant on the Amsterdam to Paris train Friday, also received the award during a ceremony at the president’s official residence.
“Alek just hit me on the shoulder and said, “Let’s go” and ran down, tackled him”, U.S. airman Spencer Stone recalled.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Stone, 23, and his friends Skarlatos, 22, an Oregon National Guardsman, and Sadler, 23, a student at Sacramento State University, were on the high-speed train, which was traveling via Belgium, when a man armed with aKalashnikov, an automatic Luger pistol and a box cutter raced through the auto.
The Americans, casual in vacation-style polo shirts and khakis against the backdrop of the highly formal presidential palace, appeared slightly overwhelmed as they received France’s highest honour. Photo of Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone.
Ayoub Khazzani, 26, denied allegation of a terrorist attack and said “dumbfounded” at having been taken for an Islamist militant. “And we realize now how close we were to a tragedy and a massacre”, he added.
Mr Stone said his thumb has been reattached as he thanked the French doctors, police officers and others.
“We chose to get up [and move] because the WiFi wasn’t so good in that car” where they had originally sat, he said. Police in Arras questioned his two friends.
El-Khazzani was then placed on a list “so that we could locate him if he ever came on to French soil”, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.
He was first confronted by a French passenger, but managed to get away.
The married grandfather-of-two said he helped the three Americans overpower the gunman because he thought he was “probably going to die anyway”.
The man Stone helped, a Franco-American Hollande named as Mark Moogalian, remains hospitalized. The 26-year-old Moroccan told a lawyer who that he only meant to rob “wealthy people” on the train.
Now the majority of trains require no security checks prior to boarding, which might increase the risk of such attacks, but security experts says that changing the current practice might be nearly impossible due to the density of the rail road transportation system, The Post reported.