1 killed as armed men attack bank in France, take hostages, but no link to terrorism: Officials

Police cordon off an area near the hostage situation in the French town of Roubaix on Nov 24.
Police cordon off an area near the hostage situation in the French town of Roubaix on Nov 24.PHOTO: AFP

LILLE (AFP) - French police killed one man after his heavily armed group took the family of a bank manager hostage in a northern town on Tuesday (Nov 24), officials said, adding that there was no terrorist link.

A group of heavily armed men wielding Kalashnikovs tried to seize the manager of a local bank branch in Roubaix to make him open the safe, local prosecutor Frederic Fevre said.

When police arrived, the manager escaped and the assailants instead holed up in his house in an upmarket neighbourhood of the town, taking his wife, their daughter and their 11-month-old baby hostage.

One of the suspects opened fire at police with a Kalashnikov, prompting security forces to return fire, Mr Fevre said.

After two hours, a specialist police unit launched an assault on the house, freeing the captives, killing one of the suspects and arresting a second in the back garden, Mr Fevre said.

Other members of the group got away, Mr Fevre said, adding the precise number who had fled was unknown.

"It was a criminal operation" and not associated with terrorism, Mr Fevre told reporters.

The incident came as France remained on a high state of alert following its worst militant attacks.

Roubaix lies about 100km from the Belgian capital of Brussels, which is on an unprecedented security lockdown.

On Nov 13, gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in simultaneous attacks on a concert hall and restaurants in central Paris and on the national stadium to the north of the French capital.