Gunman Takes Hostages at Toulouse Bank

Posted June 20th, 2012 at 11:05 am (UTC-5)
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A gunman holding hostages inside a bank in Toulouse, France, has released at least one of his four captives.

Police say the released hostage is a woman. They say talks are underway with the gunman to arrange the release of the hostages still inside the bank.

Authorities say they are trying to establish communications with the hostage-taker, who reportedly fired a shot earlier Wednesday. No injuries have been reported.

A French prosecutor told reporters that the gunman is acting for religious reasons, not for money.

One media report says the man is claiming to be a member of al-Qaida, but officials have said they cannot confirm it.

The neighborhood around the bank, which is near a school, has been cordoned off.

Wednesday's incident takes place in the same area where French police shot to death a radical Islamist in March, after the man went on a deadly shooting spree that started at a Jewish school. Mohamed Merah killed three children, a rabbi, and three French soldiers before police ended his life in a barrage of gunfire at his home.

Authorities say Merah confessed to the shootings before he died.

Merah's rampage spurred French authorities to conduct raids on suspected Islamist extremists in Toulouse and other locations. France also banned several international Muslim clerics from entering the country for a religious conference in April.