PARIS, Aug. 23 (UPI) — The American airman who was injured helping two comrades and a British man stop an attack on a French train last week said the suspect looked as if he were “ready to fight to the end.”
During a press conference in Paris on Sunday, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone appeared for the first time since the attack with his friends Anthony Sadler and Spec. Alek Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guardsman and veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan.
With his left arm in a sling, his left hand bandaged and his right eye bloodshot, Stone told reporters he had been motivated by “survival” when he tackled 25-year-old Moroccan national Ayoub El Kahzani, who on Friday exited a bathroom on a French train holding an automatic rifle.
“I turned around and I saw he had what looked to be an AK-47, and it looked like it was jammed or wasn’t working and he was trying to charge the weapon,” the BBC quotedStone as saying. “Alek just hit me on the shoulder and said ‘let’s go’ and ran down, tackled him. We hit the ground.”
The Washington Post quoted the 23-year-old airman as saying Kahzani, who was also armed with a Luger pistol and a box-cutter, “seemed like he was ready to fight to the end,” adding, “So were we.”
Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos, who had been vacationing in France at the time of the incident, were assisted by British national Chris Norman in restraining Kahzani until authorities could arrive. Stone’s thumb was nearly severed during the struggle, and he was forced to undergo an operation to have it reattached before Sunday’s press conference.
He recounted helping a French-American passenger who had been shot in the neck during the encounter, in which four people were reportedly injured.
“I just stuck two of my fingers in the hole, found what I thought to be the artery, pushed down and the bleeding stopped,” the BBC quoted him as saying. “I just said ‘thank God’ and held that position until the paramedics got there.”
The four men are set to be presented with the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande in a ceremony on Monday.
The BBC reports a French passenger had initially encountered and struggled with Kahzani in the bathroom prior to his being subdued, but that the individual may have requested anonymity.
Kahzani’s lawyer said he denies claims by French authorities that he is involved in Islamic militancy, and that he had only intended to rob the train.