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Four hostages released after hold-up near Toulouse; suspect arrested

Blagnac town centre, near Toulouse, southern France
Blagnac town centre, near Toulouse, southern France Olybrius, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Four women have been freed after being held hostage for five hours by an armed teenager at a bar on the outskirts of the southern French city of Toulouse on Tuesday. The suspect was arrested after drawn-out negotiations, according to the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

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According to Toulouse chief prosecutor Dominique Alzeari, the gunman, who was not identified publicly, burst into the bar in the suburb of Blagnac in the afternoon, firing two shots and allegedly warning he "would fire on police if they approached".

The gunman released the female owner of the bar first, then a short time later the three other women who some witnesses said included bar staff.

The women, for their part said they had not been harmed during the hold-up.

Police reportedly brought the suspect's mother to the scene, apparently to help with negotiations.

"It was a delicate operation" explained Jean-Baptiste Dulionthe, chief of the special police unit called to intervene (Raid).

"It was a very long negotiation to convince (the suspect) calmly and get him to surrender."

Connection to Yellow Vest violence

The teen, "who is nearly 18, has a police record for incidents of violence, notably against police officers, for robbery, and also for participating in December in a 'yellow vest' (anti-government) protest during which he was arrested," Alzeari earlier told a news conference.

The prosecutor said the young man had left a letter at his home "in which he seemed fairly depressive, or at least worried about his state of health."

"He also made mention of the 'yellow vest' movement but stating that the act he was about to commit would not go beyond what turned out to be not so impressive."

He was not "someone who was classed as dangerous" previously, he said.

The mayor's office in Blagnac said earlier there was "no suspicion of a terrorist motive" in the incident, an evaluation shared by police.

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