Paris Supermaket Attack Hero Lassana Bathily to Get French Citizenship

PARIS — A Muslim immigrant was set to be granted fast-track French citizenship on Tuesday after he hid several Jewish shoppers in a kosher supermarket during a deadly terrorist siege. Lassana Bathily, who was born in Mali, was working at a Hyper Cacher store on January 9 when it was attacked by Islamist gunman Amedy Coulibaly. Four hostages were killed before police shot Coulibaly dead.

According to accounts given to French media and to a friend who spoke to The Associated Press, Bathily was in the store's basement when the attacker burst in upstairs. Bathily then hid a group of frightened shoppers, including a 2-year-old-child, inside the freezer before escaping to communicate with police. Security officials initially thought he was the attacker, and he was forced to the ground and handcuffed.

Once police realized their mistake, he provided them with the key they needed to open the supermarket's metal blinds and mount their assault. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later praised Bathily and said he "helped save seven Jews."

Pierre Henry, the president of the French government's refugee assistance agency, described Bathily as "a righteous one among the righteous' who should serve as a role model to our youth." He added: "Lassana Bathily enriches us by joining the French nation." According to Henry, Bathily's fast-track citizenship is "an exceptional naturalization" because obtaining French citizenship is usually a long and complex process.