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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

France’s ‘Spider-Man’ granted citizenship after heroic balcony rescue

Mamoudou Gassama was filmed scaling a building to save 4-year-old boy

Mamoudou Gassama from Mali leaves the presidential Elysee Palace after his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, France, 28 May 2018. The 22-year-old migrant is being honored by Macron for scaling an apartment building over the weekend to save a 4-year-old child dangling from a fifth-floor balcony. Thibault Camus / EPA 
Mamoudou Gassama from Mali leaves the presidential Elysee Palace after his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, France, 28 May 2018. The 22-year-old migrant is being honored by Macron for scaling an apartment building over the weekend to save a 4-year-old child dangling from a fifth-floor balcony. Thibault Camus / EPA 

A Malian immigrant who scaled a building to rescue a 4-year-old child dangling from a Paris balcony is to receive French citizenship, President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed.

Mamoudou Gassama, 22, was hailed as the "Muslim Spider-Man" and received widespread praise for his act of heroism after a video of his feat went viral on social media. He is shown clambering up the building with his bare hands to reach the child in just seconds, preventing the boy from falling to his death.

He has been likened to Spider-Man for his daredevil climb up to the building’s fourth floor, which took place in front of cheering onlookers in 18th district, located in the north of the city, on Saturday.

But his highest praise was received at the Élysée Palace, France’s presidential residence, where he met Mr Macron on Monday.

The French leader confirmed that Mr Gassama would become a naturalised citizen, handing him a medal for courage and announcing that he would be offered a role in the fire service.

"Bravo," Mr Macron said to Mr Gassama during a one-on-one meeting in a gilded room at the palace. The medal was awarded for courage and devotion.

"Because this is an exceptional act... we are obviously, today, going to regularise all your papers," Mr Macron told him, "and if you wish we will start nationalisation procedures so you can become French".

It marked a stunning turnaround for the young Muslim, who arrived in Italy in 2014 after spending a year in Libya, where he said he had been detained and beaten.

"I didn't think about it, I climbed up and God helped me," he told Mr Macron. The video showed him putting one leg over the balcony before hauling the child over the ledge.

The Malian had been in the area to watch a football match in a local restaurant when he spotted the group gathered outside the building.

“I did it because it was a child,” French newspaper Le Parisien quoted him saying. “Thank God I saved him.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo wrote on Twitter that the city would help Mr Gassama in any way it could after his act of bravery. He currently resides in Montreuil, a commune in the eastern suburbs of the French capital.

"He explained to me that he arrived from Mali a few months ago with the dream of making a life for himself here," she posted to Twitter. "I replied that his heroic act is an example for all citizens and that the City of Paris will obviously be keen to support him in his efforts to settle in France."

There will be no honours for the child’s parents. French media reports said the father had left his son unattended in the apartment to go shopping. Police have questioned him and he is due to appear in court on suspicion of child negligence. The mother was away at the time of the incident.

The feat of the Malian revived memories of another of his fellow countrymen to receive French citizenship for an act of heroism. Lassana Bathily saved six hostages at a kosher supermarket in Paris, where an ISIS sympathiser had laid siege to the building in the aftermath of the assault of the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Mr Bathily led the civilians, including a baby, into hiding and then to safety.

Fear only grabbed Mr Gassama once he had pulled the boy away from the ledge. "I felt afraid when I saved the child ... [when] we went into the living room, I started to shake, I could hardly stand up, I had to sit down," he added. "I did not think of the floors ... I did not think of the risk”.

But would he do it all again? “Of course!" he told Le Parisien.

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