Obama honours three Americans who tackled gunman on French train


US President Barack Obama on Thursday met with three American men who last month helped subdue a gunman on a train in France, saying he wanted to personally shake their hands.

“Because of their courage, because of their quick thinking, because of their teamwork … a real calamity was averted,” Obama said as he welcomed the men to the White House.

American friends Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler were on their way to a fun weekend in Paris on August 21 when they found themselves in “a potential catastrophic situation,” Obama said.

They stopped a gunman “who clearly was intent on doing a lot of harm to a lot of people, inflicting terror on the French people,” he said.

Prosecutors in Paris have opened a judicial investigation into the man arrested in the case, Ayoub el-Khazzani, a 25-year-old Moroccan. The investigation is looking into “attempted murders in relation to a terrorist enterprise,” among other charges, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said last month.

Obama talked with the men about their future plans and praised them as representing “the very best of America.” He said they made him “extraordinarily optimistic about the future.”

Stone is a member of the US Air Force, Skarlatos is a member of the National Guard and Sadler is a student at Sacramento State University.

The three Americans and a British man, Chris Norman, who also was also involved in thwarting the attack, were received by French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace three days after the incident and decorated with France’s highest civilian honor, the Legion of Honour.