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Malian hailed for saving lives during Paris siege to get French citizenship

The French government announced Thursday it would give citizenship to a Malian immigrant who saved several Jewish shoppers during the Paris terror attacks last week by hiding them in the kosher market's basement before sneaking out to brief police on Coulibaly, the hostage-taker upstairs.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he would personally preside over the ceremony for Lassana Bathily on Tuesday.

According to Agence France-Presse, 220,000 people signed an online petition calling for Bathily's naturalization. Bathily, a practicing Muslim, has downplayed his actions.

"We're brothers. It's not a question of Jews, Christians or Muslims," he told French news channel BFMTV. "We're all in the same boat, and we have to help one another to get out of this crisis."

Bathily was in the store's underground stockroom when gunman Amedy Coulibaly burst in upstairs, according to accounts given to French media and to a friend of Bathily's who spoke to The Associated Press. Bathily turned off the stockroom's freezer and hid a group of frightened shoppers inside before sneaking out through a fire escape to speak to police. Initially confused for the attacker, he was forced to the ground and handcuffed.

New images show terror inside Paris kosher grocery 02:22

Once police realized their mistake, he provided them with the key they needed to open the supermarket's metal blinds and mount their assault.

"The guy was so courageous," said Mohammed Amine, a 33-year-old friend and former coworker of Bathily's who spoke to him about the assault on Saturday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Bathily during a visit to a Paris synagogue Sunday night.

"I want to express my appreciation to the Mali citizen who helped save seven Jews," Netanyahu said to thunderous applause.

Witnesses and authorities have corroborated Bathily's account.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk on the record, explained that the key Bathily gave police allowed them to storm the supermarket without having to punch their way through the shutters.

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