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Man Who Saved Lives During Paris Grocery Store Attack Gains Citizenship

Lassana Bathily, 24, was born in Mali and is Muslim. On Tuesday, French leaders praised his courage and granted him French citizenship.

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An employee of a Paris kosher grocery store who officials said saved lives during this month's terrorist attack was granted French citizenship on Tuesday.

Christophe Ena / AP

Lassana Bathily, 24, was born in Mali and is Muslim. He was at work in the Porte de Vincennes grocery store on Jan. 9 when an Islamist gunman, later identified as Amedy Coulibaly, burst in, killed four people, and began taking hostages.

Several customers ran into the basement, where Bathily turned off the walk-in freezer and its light. After hiding them there, he snuck outside to relay information to police.

"Yes, I aided Jews,” he told France's BFMTV after police rescued the surviving hostages. “We’re brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, Christians, or Muslims. We’re all in the same boat. We need to help each other to get out of this crisis.”

Bathily was granted citizenship at a ceremony in Paris.

Christophe Ena / AP

Bathily has lived in France since 2006 and filed his application for citizenship last year, the Associated Press reported.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (pictured above center) shook Bathily's hand and praised his courage and heroism as Prime Minister Manuel Valls applauded.

After gaining his citizenship, Bathily said with tears in his eyes that he was proud, but he does not consider himself a hero.

Christophe Ena / AP

"People are all equal to me and skin color isn't a matter," he said. "France is the country of human rights."

Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Claudia Koerner at claudia.koerner@buzzfeed.com.

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