- Title: FRANCE-TRAIN/AWARD CEREMONY Train shooting heroes awarded France's highest honour
- Date: 24th August 2015
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (AUGUST 24, 2015) (REUTERS) MICHEL SHAKING HANDS WITH HOLLANDE, LEAVING NORMAN SHAKING HANDS WITH HOLLANDE (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH CITIZEN, CHRIS NORMAN, SAYING: "I'm just amazed and I really appreciate the honour that I've been given and this recognition of what we did. But I really don't know whether I deserved it but I think that what I would like to do is really do honour to what has been given me. I'm sorry, my English is falling apart today, I'm sorry." VARIOUS OF STONE, SADLER AND SKARLATOS SHAKING HANDS WITH HOLLANDE, POSING FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS SKARLATOS, SADLER, STONE AND HARTLEY LEAVING
- Embargoed: 8th September 2015 13:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAJZVE0PCBNPELTTR93ZH4ARJC
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: French President Francois Hollande on Monday (August 24) awarded France's highest honour, the Legion d'honneur, to three U.S. citizens and a Briton who helped disarm a machine gun-toting suspected Islamist militant on a train last week.
The award came a day after it was revealed that one of the Americans, Spencer Stone, also appeared to have saved the life of a fellow passenger.
The suspect's lawyer said on Sunday the man named by intelligence sources as Ayoub el Khazzani, 26, of Morocco, is "dumbfounded" at having been taken for an Islamist militant and says he only intended to rob people on board because he was hungry.
The four men, Spencer Stone, 23, student Anthony Sadler, also 23, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, 22, and Chris Norman, a 62-year-old British consultant who lives in France, were decorated at a ceremony held at the Elysee palace.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel also attended the ceremony.
Hollande said the men's intervention had prevented a "carnage".
"Friday evening, a man had decided to commit an attack in the Thalys. He had enough arms and ammunition to provoke a massive carnage. And that's what he would have done, if you had not stopped him, taking all the risks, including risking your own life," he said.
He added that French and European authorities had to take measures against possible attacks, including in railway transport.
The three Americans, who grew up together near Sacramento, California, were touring Europe, partly to celebrate Skarlatos' return from a recent tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The trio said they had no choice but to react when they saw the gunman cocking his assault rifle. Stone said he choked him while Skarlatos hit him on the head with one of his firearms.
Stone's and Skarlatos' military training kicked in while they provided first aid and searched the train to make sure there were no other gunmen, they said.
They said the gunman was apparently untrained in firearms and that he could have used all his firepower to devastating effect if he had known more about weapons.
After the ceremony, Norman said he was amazed by the honour he received.
"I'm just amazed and I really appreciate the honour that I've been given and this recognition of what we did. But I really don't know whether I deserved it but I think that what I would like to do is really do honour to what has been given me. I'm sorry, my English is falling apart today, I'm sorry," he said.
The father of the suspected Islamist militant gunman was quoted on Monday as saying he could not believe his son was a terrorist. 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.
He said he had not spoken to his son since he left Algeciras in 2014 although his wife spoke to him by phone about a month ago. He said his son left for France to work for a company there on a six-month contract but was fired within a month.
Describing his son as a "good kid" who liked to fish and play football, he said he was very religious and did not smoke or drink alcohol.
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