Obama hails Americans who took down gunman on train in France

American Military Members Help Subdue Attacker on French Train

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.

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Obama hails Americans who took down gunman on train in France
(From L) US ambassador to France Jane Hartley, off-duty US servicemen Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos smile during a press conference at the US embassy in Paris on August 23, 2015, two days after 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US serviceman Alek Skarlatos looks on during a press conference at the US embassy in Paris on August 23, 2015, two days after 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US servicemen Spencer Stone (R), Alek Skarlatos (2nd R) and US ambassador to France Jane Hartley (L) arrive to attend a press conference at the US embassy in Paris on August 23, 2015, two days after 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US Air Force Spencer Stone (L), one of the men to overpower the gunman who opened fire with an assault rifle on a high-speed train, gestures as he leaves the hopistal of Lesquin, northern France on August 22, 2015. On August 21, 2015, a gunman opened fire on the train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. Spencer Stone was first to the gunman who slashed him in the neck and almost sliced off his thumb with a box-cutter. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Anthony Sadler (L), from Pittsburg, California, and Alek Skarlatos from Roseburg, Oregon, hold their medals as they sit in a restaurant after a brief ceremony in the town of Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. The American servicemen overpowered a gunman armed with a Kalashnikov who opened fire on a high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris on August 20, 2015. (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US Air Force Spencer Stone (L), one of the men to overpower the gunman who opened fire with an assault rifle on a high-speed train, gestures as he leaves the hopistal of Lesquin, northern France on August 22, 2015. On August 21, 2015, a gunman opened fire on the train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. Spencer Stone was first to the gunman who slashed him in the neck and almost sliced off his thumb with a box-cutter. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
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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.

SEE MORE: France train gunman identified as known Islamist militant

"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)

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