A gunman who took six people hostage in a bank in northern France on Thursday surrendered and was arrested by the police.
The hostage-taker was identified as a 34-year-old man with history of mental illness, and was believed to have Islamist sympathies although there was no official confirmation to this.
After a six-hour operation conducted by elite police, the hostage-taker emerged slowly from the BRED bank in Boulevard de Strasbourge, Le Havre, wearing a balaclava and with his hands turned palms-up.
Bombed squad officers closed in on the building after the man claimed that there were explosives in a bag.
According to Alternative police trade union’s Denis Jacob, all six hostages were unharmed.
Negotiators were able to secure the release of five of the six hostages, while the last was taken to safety after the man was arrested.
A Reuters television footage showed that when the fifth hostage was freed, a man in a pink shirt could be seen being led away from the bank by a police officer in full protective gear.
Yves Lefebvre, head of police union SGP Unite, said that law enforcement authorities knew the hostage-taker, and that the man was on a security service watch list.
“We know that he has been radicalized and suffers a serious psychiatric illness,” said Lefebvre.
Another senior police official said that the man spoke in support of the Palestinian cause during the altercation, and walked out of the bank with what appeared to be a green-colored flag draped around his shoulders.
Le Havre’s mayor and former prime minister Edouard Philippe praised the police on Twitter, and wrote that he is “Very proud and grateful.”
France have been shaken with militant attacks in recent years, with four police officers killed in an October 2019 knife rampage in Paris and 130 people killed after coordinated bombings and shootings occurred in the capital in November 2015.