Muslim man who saved lives at Paris grocery granted French citizenship
The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, January 20, 2015 2:27PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 20, 2015 9:35PM EST
PARIS -- French authorities on Tuesday honoured a Mali-born employee who saved lives at the kosher supermarket attacked by terrorists as a hero and granted him French citizenship.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised Muslim Lassana Bathily, 24, for his "courage" and "heroism" during a ceremony in the presence of Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
Cazeneuve said Bathily's "act of humanity has become a symbol of an Islam of peace and tolerance."
"Tonight I'm very proud and deeply touched," Bathily said with tears in his eyes, humbly stressing that he doesn't consider himself a hero. "I am Lassana. I'll stay true to myself."
"People are all equal to me and skin color isn't a matter. France is the country of human rights," he added.
Bathily was in the store's underground stockroom when gunman Amedy Coulibaly burst in upstairs on January 9 and killed four people. He turned off the stockroom's freezer and hid a group of shoppers inside before sneaking out through a fire escape to speak to police and help them with their operation to free the 15 hostages and kill the attacker.
Bathily has lived in France since 2006. He had filed an application for French citizenship last year.
What Bathily said in his speech:
"Now I need to rest and help my family or my village. I would like to support young people become integrated in France. I hope I will receive support tomorrow as I receive it today. I have to thank all the members present this evening. I'm so happy to have dual nationality. Long live liberty, long live friendship, long live solidarity, long live France."