Malian Grocery Store Hero Gets French Citizenship

Lassana Bathily helped a group of customers hide in the store's walk-in fridge.


When Amedy Coulibaly stormed a kosher grocery store in Paris, a quick-thinking young man named Lassana Bathily ushered a group of customers to the back of the store, where he hid them in the store’s walk-in refrigerator and shut off the cooling system.

He proposed escaping through the store’s delivery lift, but the other captives didn’t want to take the risk. So he did it alone and told French police about the store’s layout, information that proved critical when they stormed the store and killed Coulibaly. Four hostages died in the terrorist attack, but Bathily, age 24, may have prevented the death toll from being much higher.

Bathily, who is from Mali and has lived in France since 2006, is being hailed a hero, and now he’s being recognized as such by being awarded French citizenship, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced Thursday, Jan. 15. Bathily applied for citizenship in July.

“We’re brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, Christians, or Muslims,” he told French news channel BFMTV, according to Agence France-Presse. “We’re all in the same boat, and we have to help one another to get out of this crisis.”

Photo credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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