A heroic US airman told tonight for the first time how he and his childhood friends brought down a gunman intent on massacring the passengers of the Amsterdam to Paris express train.
Spencer Stone revealed how he woke from a deep sleep to see a man holding an assault rifle and that it 'looked like it was jammed and it wasn't working'.
Speaking for the first time about his crucial role in thwarting the terrorist attack in northern France in Friday he said the trio decided they had to 'do something or die'.
Mr Stone said: ‘I just wanted to survive and for my friends and everyone else on the train to survive.
‘He was ready to fight to the end, so were we.
‘I tackled him and Alek came down and put him in a choke hold and kept hitting him.
‘He had a box cutter and he started to go at me with that.
‘He let go and we started punching him all three of us and Alek hit him in the head with a pistol.
It was either do something or die
Anthony Sadler, American hero
‘We kept hitting him until he was unconscious.’
Stone spoke at a live news conference at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris along with Anthony Sadler and National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos.
The trio of Americans who foiled an attempted terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris said on Sunday they had no choice but to fight for their lives.
'At that time he was cocking the AK-47,' said Anthony Sadler, a California college student, from the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris. 'So it was either do something or die…In times of crisis…do something. Hiding or sitting back is not going to accomplish anything.'
'I'm still waiting to wake up,' he said. 'It's like a movie scene or something.'
'I was thinking about survival,' said Spencer Stone, who serves in the Air Force. 'It was to survive and for everybody else on the train to make it.'
Stone, wearing a sling on his left arm, was wounded in the attack and said he will receive further medical treatment in Germany.
In the beginning it was mostly gut instinct, survival
Stone said the attacker kept pulling out weapons from his bag, and that he was stabbed in the neck and sliced on his hand.
Stone said his thumb was reattached during his hospital stay in Lille. He thanked the French doctors, police officers and others.
Skarlatos said military training played a part in subduing the gunman.
'In the beginning it was mostly gut instinct, survival,' he said. 'Our training kicked in after the struggle.'
Mr Skarlatos said: ‘His intentions were pretty clear. He had a lot of ammo.’
Mr Sadler added: ‘He came into the car and started cocking the AK 47 so I guess he was intent. s France train terror suspect moaning on ground
‘The gunman would have been successful if Spencer had not had got up.
‘I don’t know what I would have done if I was by myself.
‘But I saw Spencer get up and I saw Alek get up and they are my close friends.
‘These are my friends and I was the third person to get up
‘I thought like I got to do something.’
I just wanted to survive and for my friends and everyone else on the train to survive
In the glare of the hastily assembled press conference Ambassador Jane Hartley described the young men as ‘true heroes’ and said she was ‘so proud to be sitting here with you.’
Mrs Hartley said: ‘You often hear the word hero but in this case I think that word has been more appropriate.
‘I know these young men sitting with me won’t like it as during the brief period we have known each other they are so humble, but they are truly heroes.
‘When most of us would run away Spencer, Alek and Anthony ran into the line of fire, saying ‘let’s go’. And those words changed the day for many.
‘They demonstrated the very best of America with their selfless actions in tackling the assailant.
‘As President Obama said, in his phone call with President Hollande, these three brave young Americans, along with the French and British passengers, demonstrated remarkable bravery and acted, without regard for their own safety, in order to subdue a heavily armed individual who appeared intent on causing mass casualties.
The heroes dismissed claims by El Khazzani’s lawyers that he was not a terrorist and was only planning to rob the passengers.
They are truly heroes. When most of us would run away, Spencer, Alek and Anthony ran into the line of fire, saying `Let's go'
U.S. ambassador to France Jane Hartley
'We often use the word hero and in this case I know that word has never been more appropriate,' Hartley said.
'They are truly heroes. When most of us would run away, Spencer, Alek and Anthony ran into the line of fire, saying `Let's go.' Those words changed the fate of many.'
The young men are currently the ambassador's honored guests just a stone’s throw away from Paris’ prestigious Champs Elysee.
A source at the US Embassy told MailOnline: ‘They are the ambassador guests. They had drinks and pizza last night.
‘The young men joked they had checked it [the US ambassador’s residence] on [travel guide website] Expedia and decided it was ok.
‘They were brought down to Paris in the ambassador’s car.
‘She is very proud of them, we all are.’
THWARTED GUNMAN SCOFFS AT ACCUSATIONS HE'S A TERRORIST
The thwarted train gunman Ayoub El Khazzani has laughed at accusations he was trying to carry out a terrorist attack on the Amsterdam to Paris express, his lawyer has claimed.
Morocco-born El Khazzani, 26, says he does not see why his actions on the Thalys train on Friday have caused such an outcry and insisted that he was only interested in 'robbing the passengers'.
His lawyer, Sophie David, said the gunman appeared 'very, very thin and very haggard' when she met with him at a police station in Arras, northern France.
Meanwhile, the suspect's father defended him as a 'good boy' today, and insisted that he would never want to kill anyone.
carry out a terrorist attack on Friday. He is being questioned by French counter-terrorism police after he allegedly opened fire on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to france
Scrap dealer Mohamed Khazzani, 64, broke down in tears as he recalled the moment police knocked on the door of his rundown flat to tell him his son had been arrested with a Kalashnikov on board a packed Paris-bound high-speed train.
The greying dad-of-six, who lives in the southern Spanish port city of Algeciras after emigrating from his native Morocco, told MailOnline: 'They're saying Ayoub is a terrorist but I just cannot believe what I am hearing.
'I haven't eaten anything or slept since the police came round yesterday.
'They asked me if I knew where he was and when I said France they told me he had got himself into serious trouble and explained what had happened.
'I'm still in shock and haven't even told my wife Zahara yet who is in Morocco visiting relatives and won't be back until later this week.'
He added: 'There was no work for him here and it's the only reason he went [to France].
'You should ask them why they're doing that to young people, selling them empty promises and then dumping them on the street.'
Speaking in broken Spanish, he added: 'My son a terrorist? The only terrorism he is guilty of is terrorism for bread because he hasn't got enough money to feed himself properly.'
Mr Khazzani spoke out from his flat on the fifth floor of a dilapidated eleventh-floor tower black in the rundown Algeciras neighbourhood of El Saladillo.
He admitted he squats in the grubby three-bed apartment, which he was said was owned by a bank after the previous owner was evicted.
'I work day and night trying to make ends meet and this is how I live.
'My wife is away at the moment with one of my three daughters but the other two who are aged 15 and 17 still live here.
'Ayoub lived in Algeciras for a year and a half before moving to France.
'His older brothers Imran and Suleiman live in Morocco which is where my wife and I as well as Ayoub were born.
'Ayoub was religious and never smoked or drank alcohol.'
He finished: 'It's as if Ayoub is dead now. I know I'll never see him again now. I'm sure he'll go to jail for a long time.
'Now I just want to try to get on with my life and not be bothered any more.
'This is the first and last time I will be speaking about this.'
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