France hon­ors ‘he­roes’ for train at­tack courage

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MARIANNE BARRIAUX AND PAULINE FROIS­SART

Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande be­stowed France’s high­est honor 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 hon­ored, but has cho­sen to stay anony­mous.

Khaz­zani is said to have told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he is “dumb­founded” by ac­cu­sa­tions he was in­tend­ing to carry out a terror at­tack, and in­sists he was only try­ing to rob pas­sen­gers.

He said he merely stum­bled upon a weapons stash in a park in Bel­gium and de­cided to use it to rob pas­sen­gers, ac­cord­ing to So­phie David, a lawyer who was tem­po­rar­ily as­signed to his case when he was taken off the train in Ar­ras, north­ern France.

‘Football and fish­ing’

Khaz­zani’s fa­ther on Sun­day de­scribed his son as a “good boy” who pre­ferred “football and fish- ing” to pol­i­tics.

“I have no idea what he was think­ing and I have not spo­ken to him for over a year,” Mo­hamed El Khaz­zani told Bri­tish news­pa­per The Daily Tele­graph in Al­ge­ci­ras, Spain.

France’s counter-ter­ror­ism po­lice can hold Khaz­zani for up to 96 hours with­out charge. In­tel­li­gence ser­vices in Bel­gium, France, Ger­many and Spain have pre­vi­ously flagged him as an Is­lamic ex­trem­ist.

AP

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, sec­ond left, awards U.S. Air­man Spencer Stone, cen­ter, while Alek Skar­latos, a U.S. Na­tional Guards­man from Rose­burg, Ore­gon, ap­plauds at the El­y­see Palace in Paris, Mon­day, Aug. 24.

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