Police surround gunman in southern France after hostages released

Police officers secure the area around a bar in Blagnac near Toulouse.
Police officers secure the area around a bar in Blagnac near Toulouse.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A photo said to be of the scene uploaded to Twitter.
A photo said to be of the scene uploaded to Twitter.PHOTO: TWITTER

PARIS (AFP) – Four women were freed “safe and sound” on Tuesday (May 7) after being held hostage for five hours by an armed teenager at a bar on the outskirts of the southern French city of Toulouse, officials said.

But the 17-year-old hostage-taker remained holed up alone in the establishment in the north-west Blagnac suburb of the city, the top government official for the region, Etienne Guyot, told a media conference near the scene.

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,” added Toulouse chief prosecutor Dominique Alzeari.

He was not, however, “someone who was classed as dangerous” previously, she said.

The gunman, who was not publicly identified by the officials, burst into the bar in the afternoon, firing two shots and allegedly warning he would fire on police if they approached, Alzeari said.

He left a letter at his home “in which he seemed fairly depressive, or at least worried about his state of health, and he 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,” she 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.

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.

A delivery man who said he knew the father of the gunman told media outside the police cordon at the scene that the teen, named “Yanis”, was a local resident from a nearby downmarket neighbourhood.

He said police had brought the mother close to the bar, apparently to help with negotiations.

Around a dozen police vans could be seen in the area alongside two first responder vehicles, an AFP correspondent said.