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Muslim Employee of Kosher Market in Paris Praised for Hiding Customers From Gunman

JAN. 10, 2015

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    As the authorities in France worked on Saturday to piece together the sequence of events at a kosher supermarket in Paris where a gunman and four hostages were killed on Friday, there was an outpouring of praise online for a young employee credited with saving the lives of some customers by hiding them in a cold-storage room.

    The employee, Lassana Bathily, 24, was identified in the French news as a Muslim from Mali who worked at the supermarket, Hyper Cacher, near the Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris.

    In an interview with the French channel BFMTV, Mr. Bathily said he ushered about 15 people into the basement room after the gunman burst into the shop. He then turned off the power and the lights.

    “We were locked in there,” he said. “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.”

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    Lassana Bathily, an employee of the Hyper Cacher market in Paris, described the hostage crisis in an interview on French television. BFMTV, via YouTube

    Later in the four-hour siege, Mr. Bathily decided to leave the room and try to escape through a freight elevator leading to the attic. He encouraged others to join him, he said, but they were worried that the gunman, identified by the police as Amedy Coulibaly, would be able to hear them if they used that escape route and decided to remain hidden.

    When Mr. Bathily escaped and emerged from the market while Mr. Coulibaly was still inside, he was ordered by the police to lie down and put his hands on his head. “I was a bit confused,” he told BFMTV, perhaps not having considered that he could have been mistaken for a militant.

    Video that appeared to show that scene unfolding was recorded by a witness from a service station near the market and posted on the website of the French broadcaster Europe 1.

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    Video of a man being detained by the French police on Friday during a hostage crisis at a kosher market near Porte de Vincennes in Paris. Europe 1, via YouTube

    Mr. Bathily was then placed in handcuffs “for an hour and a half,” he said, but eventually was able to help the authorities plan their operation to liberate the hostages by describing the layout of the shop and assuring the police that they could safely break down the market’s front door without endangering the civilians inside.

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    Video showing the police raid on a kosher market in Paris on Friday, ending a hostage siege and killing the gunman. France 2, via YouTube

    The customers hiding in the basement were also in contact with the police by telephone, Mr. Bathily said.

    When the people he had hidden came out at the end of the siege, Mr. Bathily said, “they congratulated me.”

    “They said, ‘Really, thanks for thinking of all these ideas.’ I said, ‘It’s nothing, it’s life.' ”

    As news of his heroics spread on Saturday, there were numerous calls on social networks to reward him for his bravery with either the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award, or French citizenship.

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    Immense hommage à Lassana Bathily, salarié musulman de l'HyperCacher, grâce à qui des otages ont été sauvés. RT ! http://t.co/Ekev3OoPjx

    — CRIF (@Le_CRIF) Jan. 10, 2015
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    lassana bathily mérite la légion d'honneur pour ce qu'il a fait grand respect à lui !

    — C.M (@_ChrisAmg) Jan. 10, 2015
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    Tellement honorée d'être avec Lassana Bathily qui mérite en urgence la nationalité française pour faits de bravoure. pic.twitter.com/LqlQ6LuRY6

    — Raquel Garrido (@RaquelGarridoPG) Jan. 10, 2015
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    Le héros de la prise d'otages porte de Vincennes est malien et musulman : Lassana Bathily #UneMedaillePourLassana http://t.co/uTVepnM96m

    — Maurin Picard (@MaurinPicard) Jan. 10, 2015
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    Respect à Lassana Bathily, gros respect.

    — Alvs (@Jo95zey) Jan. 10, 2015
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    If Muslims worldwide have to apologise for #CharlieHebdo, do Muslims worldwide have to be congratulated for #LassanaBathily? Just checking.

    — H.A. Hellyer د. إتش (@hahellyer) Jan. 10, 2015
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    Lassana, héros lors de la prise d'otage à Paris: "Je leur ai ouvert la porte du congélateur" - RTL Info http://t.co/9i2gYlgRM0 via @rtlinfo

    — Simon Schama (@simon_schama) Jan. 10, 2015

    Some observers also connected his actions to the hashtag used to praise Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim police officer killed on Wednesday by the gunmen who launched the deadly attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly.

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    Jan. 10 :. Lassana Bathily, employé (musulman pratiquant d'origine malienne) de l'#HyperCacher a éte menotté pendant 1h30. #JeSuisAhmed

    — Cécile Guédon (@cclgdn) Jan. 10, 2015

    Meet Lassana Bathily, another Muslim hero in the ongoing French tragedy: http://t.co/td6a44Dyy2 #JeSuisAhmed

    — Brian Gluckman (@bgluckman) Jan. 10, 2015


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