Friday 24 November 2017

Terror returns to Toulouse with siege at bank

Henry Samuel in Paris

A gunman claiming to be an al-Qa'ida militant brought terror to the southern French city of Toulouse for the second time in three months yesterday after taking hostages at a bank close to where the jihadi killer Mohamed Merah was shot dead.

Setih Boumeza (26), who has a history of mental illness, entered the CIC bank branch in central Toulouse, fired one shot and took four people hostage.

He claimed he was armed with explosives and demanded to negotiate with France's RAID commando unit -- the same squad that shot dead 23-year-old Merah in March after a 32-hour stand-off.

The seven-hour siege began mid-morning, when Boumeza demanded money, fired a shot and took the bank manager and other staff hostage.

But it soon emerged that Boumeza was a schizophrenic, who, according to one source, had "stopped his treatment".

By mid-afternoon, Boumeza had released one female hostage in exchange for food and water. He let a second woman go free a couple of hours later.

Just as the situation appeared to be turning into a stalemate, Boumeza came out of the bank with a hostage and waving his gun. He was shot and wounded in the left hand and right thigh.

Despite his injuries, he managed to get back into the bank and tried to set the building on fire. Three detonations were heard as police stormed the bank, capturing Boumeza and freeing the remaining two hostages unharmed.

The gunman was taken to hospital. Michel Valet, a local prosecutor, said his injuries were "significant" but his life was not in danger.

The siege had grim echoes of the attack three months ago when Merah killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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