Paris grocery hostage-taking: Heroic victim tried to save others before he was killed

A undated handout photo released on Jan 10, 2015 shows Yohan Cohen, 22, who died on Jan 9 in a hostage-taking at a Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris. He has been heralded as a hero for trying to save his fellow hostages from a gunman holding a Kala
A undated handout photo released on Jan 10, 2015 shows Yohan Cohen, 22, who died on Jan 9 in a hostage-taking at a Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris. He has been heralded as a hero for trying to save his fellow hostages from a gunman holding a Kalashnikov rifle, or AK-47. -- PHOTO: AFP

Jewish deli hostage victim Yohan Cohen has been heralded as a hero for trying to save his fellow hostages from a gunman holding a Kalashnikov rifle, or AK-47.

British newspaper The Telegraph reported that during the horrific incident on Jan 9, Mr Cohen, a 22-year-old cashier at the store, had aimed a weapon left on a store counter at hostage taker Amedy Coulibaly, only to find that it was not working.

The paper quoted one of the survivors, Mickael B, who declined to give his full name. The man who was there with his three-year-old son, told of the dramatic moment when Mr Cohen attempted to fight back.

"Suddenly one of the customers tried to grab one of his (Coulibaly's) guns which he'd left on the counter. It wasn't working. The terrorist had put it there because it had blocked after the first shots," he said.

Israeli media reports however have quoted Mr Cohen's cousin as saying that the brave man wrestled with the gunman before being killed. Mr Cohen had been working for a year at the store to save up to marry his girlfriend, it was reported.

Four others were killed during the siege.

Coulibaly, 32, had sworn allegiance to the militant group Islamic State. He was killed by French security forces shortly after he took down the four hostages on Jan 9. He also killed a policewoman the day before storming the supermarket in the east of Paris.

France's three days of terror started on Jan 7 when the Kouachi brothers Cherif and Said attacked satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's offices and killed 12 people in total. They were also killed by French security forces on Jan 9.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg