- NEW: A second hostage has been released, a police union spokesman says
- A hostage negotiator is speaking to the gunman, the spokesman says
- The gunman claims to be linked to al Qaeda
- Toulouse was the site of a rampage that left seven dead in March
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Paris (CNN) — A gunman who says he is with al Qaeda took four people hostage at a bank in France on Wednesday, police in the city of Toulouse said.
He released one of them, a woman, after about three hours, police union spokesman Christophe Crepin said, and a second hostage was released about an hour later.
Police are at the scene, and a hostage negotiator is speaking to the gunman by phone, he said.
The gunman, described as a man in his 20s or 30s from France’s Haute Garonne region, is “very, very agitated,” Crepin said.
Authorities have not officially identified the hostage taker, security police spokesman Frederic Tamisier said.
The gunman fired at least one shot as the situation began, authorities said, and a second shot was fired later.
The incident is taking place several hundred yards from the scene of a standoff between police and a gunman earlier this y
ear that ended with the gunman dead.
In March, police cornered Mohammed Merah, who was wanted in the killing of seven people. He was killed March 22 by police after the 32-hour siege of a Toulouse apartment.
Crepin said Wednesday’s hostage-taking was an armed robbery that went wrong. The hostages were the director of the bank and three employees, he said.
The office of the Toulouse prosecutor, Michel Valet, is in charge of the situation, he said.
Photographer Jenet Gautier, who lives near the bank, said the neighborhood is calm and the situation is not comparable to the time of the Merah siege.
A high school in the area has been evacuated, staff there said.
A local real estate agent said police told her to stay inside and keep her doors locked, she told CNN.
Marie Cluzaud, 28, said she was scared but had not heard any noise connected to the hostage-taking. Streets are blocked off, she said.
Merah was wanted for the killings of three French paratroopers, a rabbi, and three Jewish children ages 4, 5, and 7. Two other people were seriously wounded in shootings blamed on him.
CNN’s Stephanie Halasz, Saskya Vandoorne, Dheepthi Namasivayam, Ines de la Cuetara and Alex Felton contributed to this report.
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