Just days after a deadly terrorist attack hit a Parisian kosher store, he’s been dubbed the “Malian Muslim,” the man who risked everything to save the lives of some Jews.
“On Friday afternoon, as a string of terror attacks roiled France, 24-year-old Mali citizen Lassana Bathily was at work in the underground stockroom of a kosher market named Hyper Cacher near the Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris. He heard gunman Amedy Coulibaly enter the store and open fire, killing four customers, it was later learned. Then, according to witnesses interviewed by the Associated Press and accounts in French media, Bathily ushered more than a dozen customers downstairs. He then killed the lights and turned off the stockroom’s freezer.
They were in the freezer for hours.
“We were locked in there,” the Muslim man told French channel BFMTV, as the New York Times reported. “I told them to calm down, not make any noise, or else if he hears that we’re there, he can come down and kill us.”
But someone had to get word to the police. Bathily slipped out of the basement and walked out of the building to meet police, who initially thought he was perhaps an accomplice. They ordered him to lie down and put his hands behind his head.
Bathily spent the next 90 minutes in cuffs before he managed to convince authorities he was who he said he was. He told the cops he wasn’t alone. There were more than a dozen other hostages locked inside the store’s freezer. And what’s more, he said, he had something that could help French forces break into the kosher mart: a key to unlock the supermarket’s metal blinds. That key and information about the store’s layout he provided to police would prove invaluable, police officials told the Associated Press. They could barge through the market’s front door without putting the hostages in more danger, he told them.
And that’s exactly what the police did, soon killing the gunman.
When the hostages finally emerged from the basement, he told French media, they thanked him. “They congratulated me,” the New York Times quoted him saying. “They said, ‘Really, thanks for thinking of all these ideas.’ I said, ‘It’s nothing. It’s life.’ ””