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Gunman wounded, ending French hostage incident, police say

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 21, 2012 -- Updated 0100 GMT (0900 HKT)
  • NEW: President Hollande hails the police operation and safe release of hostages
  • The hostage-taker was shot in the hand and thigh, the Toulouse prosecutor says
  • The man has "psychological troubles" and his motivation is not clear, he says
  • The gunman claims to be linked to al Qaeda, police say

Editor's note: Are you there? Please send your photos.

Paris (CNN) -- A hostage-taking incident in Toulouse, France, ended with shots fired, the gunman wounded and the last two remaining hostages freed, police union spokesman Christophe Crepin said Wednesday.

The gunman, who said he was with al Qaeda, took four people hostage at a bank five hours earlier, police said.

He released one of them, a woman, after about three hours, Crepin said, and a second hostage was released about an hour after that.

The incident ended after the man emerged from the bank with a hostage and attempted to shoot police officers, Crepin said.

Rep. King on France bank siege

A hostage negotiator had earlier spoken to the gunman by phone, Crepin said. Described as a man in his 20s or 30s from France's Haute-Garonne region, the gunman was "very, very agitated" during the talks, he said.

Authorities have not officially identified the hostage-taker, security police spokesman Frederic Tamisier said.

He said the two remaining hostages were freed after the shootout, in which the gunman was "not badly" injured.

Toulouse prosecutor Michel Valet said the gunman fired two shots as the action began.

He said the four hostages are all safe and sound.

The hostage-taker is in a Toulouse hospital, he said, but not in a critical condition.

He has two injuries -- one in the left hand and the other in the right thigh -- which, Valet said, indicate that police sought to neutralize him to protect the hostages, rather than trying to kill him.

The hostage-taker was armed with a pistol that usually fires rubber bullets but can be converted to fire lethal rounds, Valet said. No more shots were fired from either side once the hostages were secured, he added.

"We can consider that things have ended rather well, no police officers injured, that the four hostages are not injured either, and that the hostage-taker, while he may be injured, his life is apparently not in danger," he said.

Valet said the man suffers from "psychological troubles, and his acts are linked to these claims which are badly defined, badly expressed. At this hour, it is difficult to know exactly what is driving his behavior, (which is) everything but rational."

President Francois Hollande hailed the professionalism shown by the police in bringing the situation to a close.

"I rejoice that all the hostages were liberated, safe and sound, and that the hostage-taker was captured," he said in a written statement.

The incident happened several hundred yards from the scene of a standoff between police and a gunman earlier this year that ended with the gunman dead.

In March, police cornered Mohammed Merah, who was wanted in the killing of seven people. He was killed March 22 by police after the 32-hour siege of a Toulouse apartment.

Crepin said Wednesday's hostage-taking was an armed robbery that went wrong. The hostages were the director of the bank and three employees, he said.

Valet's office was in charge of the situation, he said.

Photographer Jenet Gautier, who lives near the bank, said the neighborhood was calm during the incident and the situation was not comparable to the Merah siege.

A high school in the area was evacuated, staff there said.

Investigations shed new light on Toulouse terrorist shootings

A local real estate agent told CNN that police told her to stay inside and keep her doors locked.

Marie Cluzaud, 28, said she was scared but didn't hear any noise connected to the hostage-taking. Streets were blocked off, she said.

In the March standoff, Merah was wanted for the killings of three French paratroopers, a rabbi and three Jewish children ages 4, 5, and 7. Two other people were seriously wounded in shootings blamed on him.

CNN's Stephanie Halasz, Saskya Vandoorne, Dheepthi Namasivayam, Ines de la Cuetara and Alex Felton contributed to this report.

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