French authorities have honoured a Mali-born employee who saved lives at a Paris kosher supermarket attacked by terrorists and granted him French citizenship.
Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised Muslim Lassana Bathily for his “courage” and “heroism” during a ceremony in the presence of prime minister Manuel Valls.
The 24-year-old’s “act of humanity has become a symbol of an Islam of peace and tolerance”, Mr Cazeneuve said.
Mr 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.
“Tonight I’m very proud and deeply touched,” Mr Bathily said with tears in his eyes, humbly stressing that he does not consider himself a hero. “I am Lassana. I’ll stay true to myself.”
“People are all equal to me and skin colour isn’t a matter. France is the country of human rights,” he added.
Mr Bathily has lived in France since 2006. He had filed an application for French citizenship last year.
The moment Lassana Bathily was granted French citizenship for saving all those people in the Kosher supermarket: pic.twitter.com/k1RJMeZHQD
— YELHSA (@ashrouen) January 21, 2015