'Hostages held' in France bank
| January 1st 1970
Four people have been taken hostage in a bank in the southern French city of Toulouse by a man claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, police say.
The man fired a shot and demanded to speak to the elite police unit that shot Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah.
Merah, who claimed al-Qaeda training, killed seven people in Toulouse before he was shot dead by police in March.
However, police official Cedric Delage said the man took hostages after an attempted armed robbery went wrong.
The area around the bank has been cordoned off and a nearby school has been closed.
"We do not know if his claim about al-Qaeda is serious or a fantasy," a police union source told the regional newspaper Ouest-France.
The BBC's Christian Fraser, in Paris, says the bank is 100 metres (330ft) from Merah's flat, in an area adjacent to the barracks where the elite Raid police unit was based during the siege of Merah's flat.
No Raid officers are at the scene yet, our correspondent says.
A police official told the Associated Press no injuries had been reported so far.
Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, killed seven people in three separate attacks. His victims included three children and a teacher at a Jewish school, and three soldiers.
He was shot dead by a police sniper on 22 March after commandos stormed his flat.
In the wake of the shootings, the French authorities set up an investigation into whether Merah had accomplices and into possible Islamist indoctrination practices in prisons.
Merah filmed his attacks and sent the footage to police.
On 7 June, a man armed with a gunshot took hostage a security guard at the French weather service, Meteo France. The hostage-taker fired several shots and was seriously injured when police returned fire.
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