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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Toulouse gunman releases female hostage

gunman claiming links to al-Qaida who took four people hostage in a Toulouse bank today has released one of the four, a woman. Prosecutor Michel Valet said the gunman said he was “acting not for money but for his religious convictions.” Tensions have been high in the French city since March, when another gunman, Mohamed Merah, who also said he was with al-Qaida, killed seven people, including three Jewish schoolchildren. The latest 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 Paris headquarters of co-operative bank CIC is in contact with police in Toulouse, a bank spokesman said but would not comment further. 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 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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