President Francois Hollande bestowed France’s highest honour on a group of Americans and a Briton on Monday saying the whole world “admires their courage and cool composure” in overpowering a Moroccan gunman on a crowded train.
Anti-terror investigators were questioning the alleged attacker, 25-year-old Ayoub El Khazzani, who boarded the high-speed train in Brussels bound for Paris on Friday armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Luger automatic pistol, ammunition and a box-cutter.
Witnesses said he opened fire, injuring a man before being wrestled to the floor and subdued by three young Americans — off-duty servicemen Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone and their student friend Anthony Sadler — and a Briton, 62-year-old business consultant Chris Norman.
Presenting them with the Legion d’Honneur at the Elysee presidential palace on Monday, Hollande said: “A terrorist decided to commit an attack. He had enough weapons and ammunition to carry out a real carnage, and that’s what he would have done if you hadn’t tackled him at a risk to your own lives.”
“You have shown us that, faced with terror, we have the power to resist. You have given a message of courage, solidarity and hope,” Hollande said. A French passenger who also tackled the gunman was also due to be honoured, but has chosen to stay anonymous. (AFP)