Aug 22 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama called two U.S. servicemen and their civilian friend on Saturday to congratulate them for overpowering a gun-wielding suspected Islamic militant on a train in France.
Obama telephoned lifelong friends Airman First Class Spencer Stone of Sacramento, California, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, 22, of Roseburg, Oregon, and Anthony Sadler, 23, a student from Sacramento, in France to commend them for their heroics against the attacker, who had a Kalashnikov rifle, a handgun and box cutters.
Stone, 23, who was the first to take on the gunman, was cut in the incident but was expected to be released from a hospital on Saturday.
“The president expressed his gratitude to these three individuals for their heroic actions forestalling an even greater tragedy,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in statement issued at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where the president is vacationing.
“The president wished Airman Stone a full and speedy recovery and expressed how proud all Americans are of their extraordinary bravery.”
The three men had been on vacation, partly to celebrate Skarlatos’ return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
“Airman Stone and Specialist Alex Skarlatos are two reasons why - on duty and off - ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the gunman’s identity had not been confirmed but that if he was telling the truth to his interrogators, he was a 26-year-old of Moroccan national with connections to Islamist militants. (Reporting by Bill Trott in Washington; Editing by Alan Crosby)