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Obama Hosts, Praises French Train Heroes

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama poses for a photograph with Oregon National Guardsman, from left, Alek Skarlatos, Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, and Anthony Sadler, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Sept. 17, 2015.

President Barack Obama poses for a photograph with Oregon National Guardsman, from left, Alek Skarlatos, Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, and Anthony Sadler, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Sept. 17, 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama has met with the three young Americans who acted heroically to thwart a gunman with alleged ties to radical Islam on a Paris-bound passenger train last month.

The president hosted Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler on Thursday in the Oval Office at the White House. He praised the three men for their courage, quick-thinking and teamwork that averted what he called a "real calamity."

Obama said it is fair to say a lot of people were saved by the actions of the three Americans.

"They represent the very best of America - American character," the president said. "I want to thank each and every one of them and wish them well."

Later Thursday, the three men, who are friends, went to another ceremony at the Pentagon. Skarlatos is a member of the Oregon National Guard and was awarded the Soldiers Medal. It's an honor the army calls the "highest award for acts of heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy." Stone, an Airman 1st Class, was awarded the prestigious Airman's Medal and a Purple Heart.

The three Americans, along with a British national Chris Norman, confronted a heavily-armed man on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. The armed man was a Moroccan who is believed to have planned an attack on the train.

French prosecutors have charged the suspect, 25-year-old Ayoub El-Khazzani, with premeditated attempted murder of a terrorist nature.

A Paris prosecutor has said Khazzani boarded the train in Brussels armed with an assault rifle and 270 rounds of ammunition. He said the suspect additionally carried a Luger pistol, a bottle filled with gasoline, and a box cutter.

The prosecutor also said the suspect watched a radical Islamist video on his phone moments before he was confronted and subdued by the three Americans and the Briton as he started walking through the train. Another man, a Franco-American, was shot and wounded as he tried to wrestle the rifle from the gunman.

French President Francois Hollande has bestowed the Legion of Honor, France's highest decoration, on the four passengers who subdued Khazzani.

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