Le Havre, France (Reuters)-A gunman took six hostages as hostages in a bank in northern France on Thursday and surrendered to elite police after a six-hour operation to release his captives.
On August 6, 2020, police were near the bank where an armed person was protecting a hostage in Le Havre, France. REUTERS / Gonzalo Fuentes
The 34-year-old hostage patient with a history of mental illness, wearing a balaclava, raised his palms with both hands, slowly came out of the building, and then the person raising the weapon put him in handcuffs.
Dennis Jacobs of the Alternative Police Union said that all the hostages were not harmed, although shocked.
The police of the bomb squad took action after the man told the officer that there was explosives in the bag. A national police representative told Reuters that he was holding a pistol.
The man initially took six people hostage. According to Jacob, five people were subsequently released after the man was arrested, and the sixth was taken to a safe place.
Two police union officials said the hostage-takers were believed to have Islamic sympathy, but there was no official confirmation.
In recent years, militant attacks have shocked France. Four policemen were killed in a knife attack in Paris in October 201
Yves Lefebvre, the head of another police union at SGP Unite, said that law enforcement authorities and security service watch lists know that there are approximately 170,000 hostage-takers in Le Havre in the English Channel.
He said: “We know that he has been radical and suffers from a serious mental illness.”
Another source, a senior police official, said that during the incident, the man spoke to support the Palestinian cause. When he walked out of the bank, it seemed that a green banner was hanging over his shoulders.
The police blocked the area around the bank on Avenue Strasbourg, a wide passage in the centre of Le Havre.
An employee at the Burger King exit, about 100 meters from the bank, said that the police had told them to lock an entrance on the same street as the hostage, but did not order them to close it.
When the fifth hostage was released, a man in a pink shirt can be seen on the Reuters TV screen being taken away from the bank by a police officer in protective clothing.
“Very proud and grateful,” former Prime Minister Edward Philippe, who is now the mayor of Le Havre, wrote on Twitter, praising the police.
The hostages were held in a branch of Brady Bank, a medium-sized lender on the ground floor of a six-story residential building.
Additional reporting by Benoit Van Overstraten, Richard Lough, Caroline Pailliez and Tangi Salaun in Paris; Written by Christian Lowe; Editing by Tom Brown and Daniel Wallis