PARIS (AP) — French authorities on Tuesday honored 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.