How four women were freed in a hostage drama in Toulouse

A teenager is being questioned by police after taking four women hostage at a bar on the outskirts of the southern French city of Toulouse.

How four women were freed in a hostage drama in Toulouse
Police in Blagnac just outside Toulouse. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

The women were freed “safe and sound”, officials said.

The 17-year-old hostage-taker remained holed up alone in the establishment in the north-west Blagnac suburb of the city for a couple of hours afterwards before finally being arrested following protracted negotiations, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Twitter.

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,” Toulouse chief prosecutor Dominique Alzeari earlier told a news conference.

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

The gunman, who was not identified publicly, 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,” he 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 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 to the scene, apparently to help with negotiations.

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French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.