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Three Americans foil mass murder terror plot on France commuter train

By Amy R. Connolly and Doug G. Ware
Three Americans foil mass murder terror plot on France commuter train
A Morocco native was arrested by French authorities Friday after investigators say he opened fire on a Thalys commuter train (pictured) during a trip from Amsterdam to Paris. Officials believe the suspected ISIS sympathizer was planning to kill dozens of people aboard the commuter train, but was foiled by two U.S. military members who were aboard. File Photo: Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock

ARRAS, France, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Authorities identified three Americans, two who are U.S. military members, as the men who subdued a gunman on a commuter train to Paris Friday, foiling what officials believe would have been a bloody massacre.

The two plainclothes servicemen were sitting with a friend on the train on a vacation through Europe when they heard gunshots and breaking glass. Crouching behind their seats, the men, friends since middle school, decided to act.

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Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone ran toward the gunman, tackled him and took away his AK-47 assault rifle. He was stabbed in the process and remains hospitalized.

"I told him to go, and he went," said Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard who had been deployed in Afghanistan. A third friend, Anthony Sadler, helped detain the man and tie him up.

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Several passengers on the train were injured in the gunfire. Among them was Chris Norman, a British man living in France.

French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade was also reportedly injured in the assault, suffering a minor hand injury.

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The train stopped in the town of Arras, about 115 miles north of Paris, and the gunman was taken into custody. All passengers were evacuated from the train there.

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Calling it an "attack of barbaric violence," France Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said French authorities are investigating the attack. Cazeneuve said the men were "particularly courageous and showed great bravery in very difficult circumstances.''

The suspect, a 26-year-old with Moroccan origins, is believed to have lived in Spain until 2014 and in Belgium this year. France's anti-terror police is leading the investigation. Belgium also opened a terror investigation.

President Obama was briefed about the incident, the White House said.

"The President expressed his profound gratitude for the courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including U.S. service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker. While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy," the White House said.

Saturday, French President Francois Hollande thanked the men by phone and will meet them in the coming days.

France has been on edge since the January attacks at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Jewish supermarket in Paris, which left 17 dead.

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