The US airman who was stabbed in the neck as he disarmed a terrorist with a Kalashnikov on a French passenger train has left hospital.
US Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone, whose left arm was bandaged and in a sling, gave a quick wave as he walked out of a hospital in Lille this evening.
He left in a black sedan with diplomatic licence plates as counter-terrorism investigators formally identified the gunman as 26-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani. He was armed with an AK-47 and a handgun on the Amsterdam-Paris train on Friday.
Mr Stone was helped by US National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and Sacramento State University student Anthony Sadler along with British IT expert Chris Norman in tackling El-Khazzani.
Mr Norman, a married grandfather-of-two, said he helped the three Americans overpower the gunman who opened fire on the train because he thought he was “probably going to die anyway”.
After giving evidence at Arras police station in France, he told waiting press: “My thought was ’OK I am probably going to die anyway so let’s go’. I would rather die being active, trying to get him down than simply sit in the corner and be shot.”
Mr Stone and Mr Skarlatos, who had returned from a deployment in Afghanistan in July, grabbed the man while Mr Sadler and Mr Norman joined them to help.
No one had any time to think about the looming danger, according to Mr Norman who described the passengers’ reactions as “very rapid reasoning”.
Mr Norman, who lives in France, was facing towards the back of the train when he heard “glass breaking and then saw somebody running down the aisle to the front of the train”. Then he spotted the AK-47.
He told reporters: “My first reaction was to sit down and hide. Then I heard one guy, an American say ’go get him’. Then I heard another American say ’don’t you do that buddy’ or something like that.
“Then I decided that perhaps this was the only chance for us to act as a team and try to take over.”
Earlier Mr Norman had said: “We ended up by tying him up, then during the process the guy actually pulled out a cutter and starting cutting Spencer.
“He cut Spencer behind the neck, he nearly cut his thumb off too. Spencer held him and we eventually got him under control. He went unconscious, I think.”
Mr Skarlatos freed the handgun from the man and threw it away. He then grabbed the AK-47 which was at his feet and started “muzzle-thumping him in the head with it”.
He told Sky News: “Everybody just started beating on the guy while Spencer held the choke hold, until he went unconscious at that point. People started to restrain him.”
Mr Skarlatos picked up the AK-47 and checked the other carriages in case there was another gunman.
He returned to carriage 12, where it all started, cleared the weapons and put them in a pile.
He told Sky News: “I noticed when I removed the round in the chamber of the AK that the primer had been struck, which means he pulled the trigger on the AK.
“The primer was just faulty, so the gun did not go off, luckily, and he did not know how to fix it, which was also very lucky.
“When I cleared the handgun I also noticed that there was no magazine in it - so he had either dropped it accidentally or did not load it properly. He was only able to get what appeared to be one shot off with the handgun.”
Mr Norman and the two uninjured Americans were awarded a bravery medal from the local mayor. The White House claimed their actions had helped prevent “a far worse tragedy” while a No 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister praised “the extraordinary courage” of the passengers.
Among the 554 people on board was French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, the star of Betty Blue and Nikita, who was hit by breaking glass as the alarm was sounded.
In an interview with Paris Match magazine Mr Anglade said train staff entered a private cabin and locked it when they heard gunshots, leaving the passengers alone.
He said: “I really could see us all dying because we were all prisoners in that train, it would have been impossible to escape from that nightmare.”
An unnamed French official close to the investigation said El-Khazzani was identified through his fingerprints and that the French had spotted him in Berlin on May 10 as he headed to Turkey. They informed their Spanish colleagues, according to an AP report.
The Spaniards responded on May 21 saying he no longer lived in Spain but in Belgium, according to the French official.
France has been on edge since the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris in January, which left 17 people dead.