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US heroes who stopped jihadist train attack become French citizens

From left to right: Guy Michelier, French honorary consul in Sacramento, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, French consul general in San Francisco, Americans Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alex Skarlatos pose for a photograph in Sacramento, 31 January 2019. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small/AFP

Three Americans celebrated for their role in stopping a jihadist attack on a train between Amsterdam and Paris have officially been made French citizens. The ceremony in California bestowed French nationality on Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone for thwarting a potential bloodbath on a high-speed Thalys train.

The three US citizens had “risked their lives for the values of the Republic”, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, the French consul general in San Francisco, said during a ceremony in Sacramento, according to the AFP news agency.

During a holiday to Europe, the three men, all aged 26, tackled a gunman who opened fire on passengers.

The attacker, Moroccan national Ayoub El Khazzani, was carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a pistol and box cutter.

One person was seriously injured before the involvement of the three Americans, who went on to be awarded with the Legion d’honneur, France’s highest honour, by then-president Francois Hollande.

The incident was made in a Hollywood blockbuster movie called The 15:17 to Paris produced and directed by Clint Eastwood with the three Americans acting as themselves.

Two of the men were serving in the military at the time: Skarlatos in the Oregon National Guard and Stone in the Air Force.

They submitted the request to become naturalised.

“We have such a connection with France now,” said Skarlatos, AFP reported. “We've been back four or five times since the terrorist attack."

French President Emmanuel Macron said “France is proud and happy to welcome you” in an official letter.

“Our Republic and the European Union need your active participation to support democracy,” Macron added.

Sadler said they did not yet speak French but were pursuing language classes. While Stone joked that it “opens up a lot of different options”, including the possibility of having a French wife.