Hostages at Toulouse Bank Freed, Suspect Detained

Posted June 20th, 2012 at 3:10 pm (UTC-5)
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A gunman who took four hostages in a bank in Toulouse, France, has been arrested and his captives freed, after a six-hour standoff with police.

Police say the suspect was slightly injured in the efforts to free the hostages, but the hostages, all CIC bank employees, were unharmed. Two of the hostages, both women, were released earlier in the day and the final two were freed when the gunman was captured.

The police statement came soon after gunshots were reported in the area of the bank.

The man had claimed to be a member of al-Qaida, but French authorities said they could not verify that.

A French prosecutor told reporters the gunman said he was acting for religious reasons, not for money. The prosecutor also said there were indications the suspect had psychological problems.

Wednesday's incident took place in the same neighborhood 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.