Paris train heroes awarded highest French honour

The men were on holiday and on board the high-speed Amsterdam to Paris train when they tackled the alleged gunman.


The three American heroes who helped to prevent a heavily armed man from killing train passengers are now recipients of France’s highest honor.

REUTERS/Michel Euler/Pool French President Francois Hollande (L) awards U.S. Airman First Class Spencer Stone (C) with the Legion d’Honneur (the Legion of Honour) medal as U.S. National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos applauds during a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, August 24, 2015.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo spoke to Mohammed el Khazzani, father of Ayoub el Khazzani who was arrested after attacking passengers on the train on Friday, at his home in Algeciras, southern Spain.

President Hollande praised the soldiers, saying: “In France you behaved as soldiers but also as responsible men”.

“Since Friday, the entire world admires your courage, your sangfroid, your spirit of solidarity”, Hollande told the men.

Ayoub El Khazzani has denied accusations that he was trying to carry out a terrorist attack onboard a packed Paris-bound high-speed train.

“A Frenchman who also jumped on the gunman is still in hospital and wishes to remain anonymous”.

Stone said he acted “to survive and for my friends and everyone else on the train to make it”. “And at that point, I showed up and grabbed the gun from him”.

“He seemed like he was ready to fight to the end”, Stone said.

“He pulled out a handgun, Alek took that, then a box cutter and he was jabbing it at me”. We let go and all three of us started punching him while he was in the middle of us.

Americans Spencer Stone, 23, Alek Skarlatos, 22, Anthony Sadler, 23, and British citizen Chris Norman, 62, were honored by Hollande.

Mr Khazzani went on to suggest that his son may have been affected by a French telecommunications company that brought him to work in France.

The Americans told the press conference that they had reservations in the first-class carriage where the attack took place, but could not initially find their seats.

It also claimed the 26-year-old Moroccan, believed to have visited Syria past year, had been included on a European anti-extremism police database as far back as 2012.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

The French Legion of Honor medal was a creation of Napoleon Bonaparte, and is usually reserved for those who have served France and the ideals for which it stands.

“I feel our training mostly kicked in after the assailant was already subdued, frankly, when it came to medical care and things like that, and providing security, making sure there wan’t another shooter – but in the beginning, it was mostly just gut instinct”.


“I think what I would like to do is to try to really do honour to what has been given to me”.