FRANCE: Police shoot Muslim gunman, claiming to be al-Qaeda, who took four people hostage at Toulouse Bank

A MUSLIM gunman, who took four hostages at a bank in the French city of Toulouse, was detained following a police raid Wednesday. The gunman, identified as Fethi Boumaza, was shot and wounded by the police during the stand off.

FRANCE 24 French police stormed a bank in Toulouse Wednesday, arresting a gunman  who claimed to be an Al-Qaeda militant and freeing his hostages after a seven-hour siege.

The 26-year-old, who had taken four bank employees hostage in the morning in the same area where serial killer Mohamed Merah lived and was shot dead by police in March, was wounded in the assault, police sources said.

The two other hostages, both women, had been released earlier, and no police officers were injured in the operation, which took place at 4:45 pm local time (1445 GMT), police said. Police shot the man as he was trying to exit the bank holding one of the hostages and waving his gun. He was wounded and returned inside, where he was apprehended.

The gunman, identified as Fethi Boumaza, was wounded in the left hand and right thigh, local prosecutor Michel Valet said, adding that while his injuries were “significant”, his life was not in danger.

Nearly seven hours earlier the man had entered the CIC bank, demanded money then fired a shot and taken the bank manager and other staff hostage, saying he wanted to negotiate with the elite RAID police unit that killed Merah, the Muslim who killed a rabbi, three soldiers and three Jewish children in Toulouse in March.

Valet said the gunman had claimed to act based on his religious beliefs but had seemed confused. “These were poorly defined and poorly expressed religious claims,” he said. 

Merah was killed at the end of a 32-hour siege of his flat after he shot dead seven people – three soldiers, and three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse – in a wave of killings that shocked the country. Merah, 23, who claimed to be acting for Al-Qaeda, filmed himself carrying out his attacks and reportedly confessed to police before he was shot dead.

France has the largest Muslim population in Europe.