Receiving the heroes at the Elysee Palace, Hollande said the ceremony aimed at “paying tribute to four men whose courage allowed to save lives.”
“A terrorist decided to commit an attack. He had enough weapons and ammunition to carry out a real carnage, and that’s what he would have done if you hadn’t tackled him at a risk to your own lives,” he added.
“Your heroism must be an example,” he told the awarded men.
Spencer Stone, a 23-year-old U.S. Air Force serviceman, U.S. National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and student Anthony Sadler overpowered a gunman at a train in Arras, France. British consultant Chris Norman helped tie him up.
Stone was wounded in the shooting along with a Franco-American passenger who still remains in hospital.
French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said the train shooter had been “identified by the Spanish authorities to French intelligence services in February 2014 because of his connections to the radical Islamist movement.”
Ayoub Khazzani, 26, denied allegation of a terrorist attack and said “dumbfounded” at having been taken for an Islamist militant.
Armed with a Kalashnikov, an automatic pistol and a box cutter which he said had found by chance in a Brussels park where he used to sleep, he intended to rob passengers to hold them to ransom because he was hungry, his lawyer Sophie David said.
“He is somebody who was very sick, somebody very weakened physically, as if he suffered from malnutrition, very, very thin and very haggard,” David told the news channel BFMTV.
“He is dumbfounded by the terrorist motives attributed to his action,” she added.