A Malian migrant, Mamoudou Gassama who came to France illegally is being dubbed “Spider-Man” and hailed as a hero after scaling a Paris apartment building to save a young boy dangling perilously from a fourth-floor balcony.
Mamoudou won widespread praise after climbing the outside of the building to save the four-year-old.
Video showed him being cheered on by spectators as he pulled himself from balcony to balcony to the fourth floor.
After his heroic save, Mamoudou met the President of France. At his meeting at the Elysee Palace, President Emmanuel Macron said he would be made a naturalised citizen.
He personally thanked Mr Gassama, gave him a medal for courage and said he would also be offered a role in the fire service.
Mamoudou Gassama said that the boy was crying when he hauled him to safety and had also suffered an injured foot.
Mr Gassama is said to have arrived to France last year, taking the long and dangerous journey to Europe via a boat over the Mediterranean to Italy.
Meanwhile, Local authorities quoted by French media said the boy’s parents were not at home at the time.
The father has been questioned by police on suspicion of leaving his child unattended, judicial sources say. The mother was not in Paris at the time, it is believed.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was among those to praise the 22-year-old’s heroism and said she had called him to thank him.
Modibo Dembele of VOA’s Bambara service spoke by phone to Mamoudou Gassama about the dramatic rescue Saturday evening. The translated transcript of the interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Malian ‘Spider-Man’ has discussed his reasons for saving the 4-year-old baby. Read the full interview below.
Question : Everybody saw your picture on TV and on social networks. What happened?
Answer : I was with my girlfriend, and we were going to watch a soccer game in a restaurant. We arrived at the restaurant and ordered some food. Before we started eating, I saw the crowd outside. Some people were screaming and drivers were honking. I went outside and I saw the 4-year-old kid hanging on the fourth floor. Thank God I didn’t think twice. I crossed the street and was able to run up there to save him.
Question : After you saved him, how were you feeling?
Answer : When I started going up, I got the courage to go save him. When I did, police arrived and put us both in a room. I was shaking and couldn’t stand on my feet. I was so shaken by what I did.
Question : How was your meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron?
Answer : I was very pleased. He called me and met with me. He asked me to explain how I did it [the rescue]. And I also asked him to help me. I left Mali through Burkina Faso, Niger and went through the Sahara Desert. Then I arrived in Libya, where I spent some time trying to find my way to Italy. The first time I tried to take a boat, I was caught by authorities and was put in jail and then deported back to Niger. I tried a second time; thank God, I made it to Italy.
Question : Macron said he will grant you citizenship?
Answer : Yes, he said that.
Question : Many Malians are in the Sahara Desert, some are in jail in Algeria and in Libya. What do you have to tell them?
Answer : I pray to God that the way he [Macron] helped me that he helps other migrants the same way. Those who are in the Sahara Desert, may God help them go through. Those who are at sea, may God help them arrive safely.