Hostages at Toulouse Bank Freed, Suspect Detained

Posted June 20th, 2012 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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A gunman who took four hostages inside a bank in Toulouse, France, has been arrested and his captives freed.

Police say the suspect was slightly injured in their efforts to free the hostages, but the hostages themselves were unharmed.

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 that the gunman was acting for religious reasons, not for money.

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.