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Sunday 4 December 2016

'I was probably going to die anyway', says train terror hero

From the left, British businessman Chris Norman, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, French President Francois Hollande, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, and Alek Skarlatos a U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon pose at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)
From the left, British businessman Chris Norman, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, French President Francois Hollande, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, and Alek Skarlatos a U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon pose at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)

A British grandfather who helped subdue a gunman armed with an AK-47 on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, said he thought he was “probably going to die anyway” so he might as well tackle the terrorist.

IT expert Chris Norman received the Legion d’Honneur  this morning from French president Francois Hollande, alongside three Americans who fought suspected Moroccan jihadist Ayoub El-Khazzani (26) on Friday.

Mr Norman, US Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone,

National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and Sacramento State University student Anthony Sadler were made chevaliers, or knights, of the Legion along with a French citizen who first came across the gunman near a toilet on board.

At a press conference at the US Embassy in Paris yesterday, Mr Stone said he simply wanted to “survive and for my friends and everyone else on the train to make it”.

Praised

He praised French medical staff and said that the unknown Frenchman on the 554-passenger train “started the struggle at first, I think he deserves a lot of credit”.

“I turned around and he (the gunman) appeared to have what looked like a AK-47,” said Mr Stone.

“It looked like it was jammed or wasn’t working and he was trying to discharge the weapon. Alek hit me on the shoulder and said, ‘Let’s go’.

“We ran down, tackled him and hit the ground. Alek tackled him and grabbed the gun out of his hand while I put him in a chokehold.

“It seemed like he kept on pulling more weapons – left and right. He pulled out a handgun. Alek took that. He took out a box cutter and was jabbing at me with that.

“We let go and all three of us started punching him while he was in the middle of us.

“I was able to grab him again and choke him unconscious while Alek was hitting him in the head with the pistol or rifle,” he added.

Mr Norman said he helped the three Americans overpower the gunman because he thought he was “probably going to die anyway”.

Mr Skarlatos also thanked Mr Norman for helping to tie the gunman up after he had been overpowered.

Mr Hollande said today that the two Americans who first tackled the gunman were soldiers, “but on Friday you were simply passengers”.

“You behaved as soldiers, but also as responsible men,” he said. “Since Friday, the entire world admires your courage, your sangfroid, your spirit of solidarity.

“This is what allowed you, with your bare hands, to subdue an armed man. This must be an example for all, and a source of inspiration.”

French police were reportedly warned more than a year ago about El-Khazzani’s radical views.

Spanish law enforcement told their French counterparts in March last year that he had a “relationship with radical

Islam”, Spain’s El Pais newspaper reported.

It also claimed he had been included on a European anti-extremism police database as far back as 2012.

MOSQUE

French authorities said he had lived with his family in the southern Spanish city of Algeciras and frequented a mosque which is under surveillance.

Spanish newspapers confirmed that he had lived in Algeciras’ relatively poor neighbourhood of El Saladillo, which has around 6,000 inhabitants and an unemployment rate of 40pc.

Spain’s interior ministry said El-Khazzani had been arrested three times for drug-dealing while living there.

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