French train attack men receive Légion d’honneur for ‘preventing massacre’

The French president, François Hollande, tells three Americans and Briton: ‘You gave a lesson in courage, in will, and in hope’

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24 August 2015

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Three young American tourists and a Briton who tackled a heavily armed gunman on a high-speed train from Paris to Amsterdam have been awarded France’s highest honour by François Hollande, who praised them as an example of the need for action when faced with terrorism.

The French president said the men showed that “faced with terror, we have the power to resist” and that they “gave us a lesson in courage, in will, and therefore in hope”. He added that their actions had averted a tragedy and massacre by a determined gunman carrying large amounts of ammunition and 300 bullet rounds.

Chris Norman, 62, a British IT consultant living in France, helped restrain the man and tie his hands using his necktie.

The train was carrying around 500 passengers.

Awarding them with the Légion d’honneur, Hollande said: “The whole world admires your sangfroid. With your bare hands, unarmed, you were able to overcome a heavily armed individual, resolved to do anything.”

Hollande praised the soldiers, saying: “In France you behaved as soldiers but also as responsible men. You put your life in danger to defend the idea of freedom.”

Referring to the bravery of Sadler and Norman, he said they didn’t have military training and had “doubtless never seen a Kalashnikov in their life”. He added: “They stood up and fought, they refused to give in to fear or terrorism.”

Leaving the ceremony, Norman told TV crews: “I just did what I had to do.”

With France still reeling from the terrorist attacks on the magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Paris Kosher grocery store eight months ago, the Socialist president, who has been battling poor poll ratings, used the ceremony to send a political message of resolve, saying: “Our societies will never be weak when they’re united.”

Hollande also praised three other French men who intervened, particularly a young banker who was the first to tackle the gunman when El-Khazzani burst out of the toilet. The banker, who has asked for anonymity, is to receive the Légion d’honneur in a private ceremony.

Mark Moogalian, a 51-year-old dual French-US national who teaches English at Paris’s Sorbonne university, also attempted to intervene and was badly injured by a bullet. He is currently being treated in Lille. He will also be honoured at a later date alongside a French train driver who was travelling in the carriage off-duty when he also helped subdue the gunman.

The suspect, El-Khazzani, who lived legally in Spain until last year, is still in the custody of French anti-terrorism police who can question him until Tuesday night.

The French interior minister has said several European intelligence services had flagged up the suspect’s links to “radical Islamist movements”. El-Khazzani has denied terrorism, telling investigators he wanted to rob the train.

 

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