Paris attacks: Muslim shop assistant hid Jewish shoppers

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Media captionLassana Bathily: "I switched off the fridge... and told customers to stay calm"

A man from Mali has told the BBC how he hid shoppers at a Jewish supermarket in Paris during an attack by an Islamist gunman last Friday.

The 24-year-old shop assistant, Lassana Bathily, who is Muslim, explained how he had shepherded fleeing customers into a basement cold store.

He told them to stay quiet and calm before escaping to alert police.

Mr Bathily is to be given French nationality at a ceremony on Tuesday after his application was fast-tracked.

The gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, killed four Jewish hostages at the supermarket before being shot dead by police.

A petition was later circulated in France calling for Mr Bathily to be given citizenship.

He has lived in France for nine years and applied for citizenship last year.


Mr Bathily said he had been in the basement of the supermarket when he heard gunshots upstairs.

"The customers started running down the steps. They were screaming [that] there were terrorists in the shop.

He said he noticed that the cold storage room was open.

"I told them to come in with me. Then I switched off the fridge and the lights.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Bathily was able to help police plan their assault on the supermarket

"I told the customers to stay calm. [I said:] If the terrorist comes down here he must not hear you."

Mr Bathily said once everyone was quiet he decided to escape to alert police.

"I took the service lift out of the basement. I rushed out and saw the police everywhere," he said.

"They told me to put my hands up but then they asked me for my help.

"I told them a lot of hostages were hidden in the basement. They asked me to draw a map of the shop to help with their assault."


Mr Bathily said he had a good relationship with Jewish colleagues at the shop, and was sometimes teased about when he would get a Jewish girlfriend.

Asked about the Paris attackers, Mr Bathily said: "They were just criminals who want to make people suffer."

Last week's violence began with an attack by two gunmen on Charlie Hebdo magazine, which left 12 people dead.

The two gunmen behind the Charlie Hebdo attack - Said and Cherif Kouachi - were shot dead by police outside a warehouse near Paris on 9 January.

Twelve suspects are being held by police in the Paris region over the attacks, in which 17 people were killed.

They are being questioned about "possible logistical support", such as weapons or vehicles, they could have given the three gunmen, police say.

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