When Amedy Coulibaly—one of the assailants responsible for the shooting attacks in France last week—threatened to kill hostages in a kosher supermarket in Paris, a young Muslim man led people to a walk-in freezer below the supermarket to shield them from harm, CNN reports.
Lassana Bathily, an employee at the Hyper Cacher supermarket, is being praised and celebrated on social media and by French news outlets for his heroic actions. The deadly attack at the market was tied to a similarly violent attack earlier by gunmen at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which routinely published cartoons mocking Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.
Bathily told BFMTV that he guided hostages at the market down to the freezer, turned off the freezer and the lights, “and told everyone to stay calm.”
When Coulibaly told everyone to come upstairs or he would begin killing people, Bathily volunteered to go. “I’m the one [who] is going to go out," he told them.
"I took the elevator and went upstairs," Bathily said. Bathily noted that once he was upstairs, he was able to take a freight elevator outside, where authorities mistook him for one of the terrorists.
“They told me, ‘Get down on the ground, hands over your head,’” he said. “They cuffed me and held me for an hour and a half as if I was with them,” BFMTV reports. Bathily told the news station that once he was able to convince French authorities that he was not a suspect, he told them where they could find the hidden hostages.
On Facebook, words of praise poured in for Bathily.
Gwadelle Edom wrote, “I have no words to express my pride in you. You put your life in danger to save others. God saw all of it, and his mercy will be without fault. You are blessed in the eyes of humanity.”
France’s L’Express newspaper ran a headline that, when translated to English, read: “Lassana Bathily, ‘Malian Muslim,’ hero of the hostage situation in Vincennes.”