Bravoure Américaine: Two U.S. Military Men Praised for Actions on French Train

france-train-getty

Members of Air Force and Oregon National Guard subdued a gunman loaded with weapons

Sam Schechner and Julian E. Barnes report: Authorities praised two U.S. military members and their friend who tackled and subdued a man armed with guns and a box cutter on a Paris-bound train Friday as it sped through Belgium, breaking up what could have been a deadly terrorist attack.

“All three made a show of courage—full of bravery—that everyone recognizes.”

— French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve

The three Americans were seated on the train when they heard a gunshot and breaking glass, according to accounts from one of the men and a U.S. official briefed on the attack.

Crouching behind their seats, the Americans, who are childhood friends, decided they had to act. Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23 years old, ran toward the gunman and tackled him.

“I told him to go, and he went,” Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard who had been deployed in Afghanistan, said Saturday.

“Spencer ran a good 10 meters to get to the guy. And we didn’t know that his gun wasn’t working or anything like that,” he added. Mr. Skarlatos then said he ran up behind and grabbed the assailant’s AK-47 rifle, and then their friend, student Anthony Sadler, 23, came to help.

Airman First Class Spencer Stone, left, one of the American men who overpowered the gunman on a high-speed train, gestures as he left the hospital in Lesquin, France, on Saturday. Photo: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS/GETTY IMAGES

Airman First Class Spencer Stone, left, one of the American men who overpowered the gunman on a high-speed train, gestures as he left the hospital in Lesquin, France, on Saturday. Photo: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS/GETTY IMAGES

Investigators on Saturday used fingerprint analysis to identify the gunman as Ayoub El-Khazzani, a French official said. Mr. El-Khazzani, a 26-year-old Moroccan national, had been flagged last year by intelligence services as belonging to the “radical Islamist movement,” officials said.

“While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy.”

— statement from the White House

Officials said Spanish officials flagged him to French authorities in February 2014, when he was living in Spain. In 2015, he lived in Belgium, French officials added.

Mr. El-Khazzani attempted to reach Syria in May, taking a flight from Berlin to Istanbul, according to French and German security officials. But the officials said that it wasn’t immediately clear if the suspect made it to Syria.

Belgium, which the French official said had been notified of the suspect’s departure for Turkey, has opened its own criminal investigation into the attack.

Police detaining the suspect at the main train station in Arras, northern France, Friday. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Police detaining the suspect at the main train station in Arras, northern France, Friday. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

French officials praised the Americans’ bravery, as well as that of an unnamed Frenchman who initially confronted the man. The office of French President François Hollande said he had spoken by phone with those who had subdued the attacker, and would invite them shortly to the Élysée Palace to thank them personally. The French president also said he had thanked U.S. President Barack Obama by phone.

“All three made a show of courage—full of bravery—that everyone recognizes,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

In the U.S., Mr. Obama spoke with the three Americans and expressed his gratitude, a White House spokesman said. “While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy,” the president said in a statement.

The attack began shortly around 5:50 p.m. Friday, authorities said….(read more)

WSJ

—William Boston, Jim Carlton, Matthew Moffett and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

 



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