Hostages unharmed as Toulouse gunman is captured
A GUNMAN who took four people hostage in a bank in Toulouse has been captured, and his captives released unharmed.
Police said the man was slightly injured in the operation to capture him.
The announcement came soon after a series of gunshots were heard from the area of the bank.
Authorities say the gunman had psychiatric problems in the past and claimed he was acting for religious reasons.
Some reports said he claimed allegiance to al Qaida.
Tensions have been high in the French city since March, when another gunman Mohamed Merah who also said he was with al-Qaeda killed seven people, including three Jewish schoolchildren.
The incident began when a man entered a CIC bank branch in central Toulouse at about 11am local time and took the bank director and three other people hostage.
The bank is in the same district where Merah was shot and killed by police after a siege.
The area around the bank was cordoned off, and neighbouring buildings were evacuated, including a school. Officers from a specialized police unit, the GIPN, arrived at the scene.
The bank describes itself as the second-largest retail bank in France and the leading bank insurance group, with thousands of branches in France and around the world.
The gunman said he wanted the elite RAID national police force to come and negotiate with him, police said. RAID led the 32-hour stand-off with Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, in his Toulouse apartment.
Merah, an Islamic radical who had trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan. was eventually shot in the head in a gunfight.
French intelligence officials said at the time that they found no operational ties between Merah and al Qaida despite his claim.
His brother is in custody after being handed preliminary charges of complicity to plotting the killings at a Jewish school in Toulouse and of paratroopers in Toulouse and nearby Montauban.
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