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Story highlights

Lassana Bathily hid grocery customers in a walk-in freezer

"When [the hostages] came out, they congratulated me," he told a TV station

(CNN) —  

A young Muslim man is being hailed as a hero in French newspapers and social media for his actions during Friday’s deadly hostage situation in a Paris supermarket.

Lassana Bathily, an employee at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Vincennes, helped guide a group of hostages into a downstairs walk-in freezer while gunman Amedy Coulibaly was allegedly preparing to kill them, according to French television station, BFMTV.

Bathily, a “practicing Muslim,” says he entered the freezer with some people, then switched off the freezer and the light and told everyone to stay calm, according to BFMTV.

“I’m the one (who) is going to go out,” the 24-year-old reportedly told the customers. “I took the elevator and went upstairs.”

“[Coulibaly] asked us to all come upstairs, otherwise he would kill everyone who was downstairs,” Bathily, 24, said to BFMTV.

He exited a freight elevator and ran outside. Bathily, originally from Mali, was apprehended by police, but helped them by describing the location of the freezer.

“When (the hostages) came out, they congratulated me,” Bathily told BFMTV.

The exact number of hostages who remained safe in the freezer is unknown, according to French newspaper L’Express.

Coulibaly was killed in the ensuing shootout with police. Authorities said Coulibaly killed four Jewish hostages.

Rudi Hadad, among those in the freezer, said that a few others went back upstairs during the incident.

Praise was heaped on Bathily via Facebook.

Gwadelle Edom said, “Lass, 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.”

A man who claims to be Bathily’s cousin, Abdoul Bathily, posted, “Bravo to my cousin, Lass Bathily, you showed courage yesterday, the rest of the world would not have done it.”

France’s “L’Express” newspaper ran a headline titled, “Lassana Bathily, ‘musulman malien,’ héros de la prise d’otages de Vincennes,” or “Lassana Bathily, ‘Malian Muslim,’ hero of the hostage situation in Vincennes.”

Gunman tried to justify market raid to hostages, recording apparently shows