Commended by United States President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande are three Americans, a British citizen, and a Frenchman who participated in disarming and holding down an Islamic terrorist aboard an Amsterdam-to-Paris train Friday night.
The Americans were identified as Spencer Stone, 23, a U.S. Air Force airman first class stationed at Lajes Air Base in the Azores, Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard, and Anthony Sadler, 23, a student at Sacramento State University. The British national named was Chris Norman, 62, a business consultant who helps African entrepreneurs find financing in Europe. The Frenchman remained anonymous.
The gunman subdued on the train was 26-year-old Moroccan Ayoub el-Khazzani, identified by French police through his fingerprints. According to ABC News, Khazzani was on a French security watch list because of a Spanish tip to French intelligence in February 2014 that fingered him as active in the radical Islamist movement.
Expatica reported that President Obama personally placed a call to the three Americans Saturday to commend them for their courage and to thank them for their quick action forestalling an even greater tragedy on the train. He called the trio “heroic” in reference to their actions.
In a statement released by his office on Saturday, French President Francois Hollande indicated that he wished to meet those who helped subdue the terrorist on the high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris. He described the meeting to take place at the presidential palace as an expression of France’s gratitude.
The heroism commended by Obama elicited similar sentiments from British Prime Minister David Cameron. According to Expatica, Downing Street released the following statement.
“The prime minister praised the extraordinary courage of the passengers who intervened and helped disarm the gunman, including the British consultant Chris Norman. The bravery of Mr. Norman and the other passengers helped to prevent a terrible incident.”
AFP reported that as far back as February 2014, Spanish intelligence services had alerted their French counterparts that Khazzani was an Islamic extremist. Having lived in Spain for seven years from 2007 to 2014, his calls for jihad in fiery mosque speeches alerted authorities to him, and they tracked his movements to France, then to Syria and back to France again. After that, he surfaced in Berlin, Istanbul, and finally, Belgium, where he settled.
Belgian Justice Minister Koen Greens confirmed that his country’s intelligence was aware of Khazzani’s presence, but they could not pin him down to one location because of his shady movements.
According to AFP, Saturday’s terror investigators found that Khazzani brought with him a Kalashnikov rifle, an automatic pistol, bullets, and a blade of some type when he boarded the train in Brussels en route to Paris on Friday. He managed to inflict a gunshot wound on a passenger as well as slash Stone’s neck and hand with a box-cutter.
Khazzani was last seen on social media pinioned to the floor, his hands tied to his back, awaiting arresting officers. It showed that the five men who stopped a carnage deserved to be commended by Obama and others for saving so many lives on the Amsterdam-to-Paris train.
[Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images]