ROUBAIX, France: A gunman was killed by police after taking a woman and her two children – including a one-year-old baby – hostage in the northern French town of Roubaix near France’s border with Belgium.
The incident came at a tense time with France on high alert following the terrorist shootings and bombings in Paris and as police in both countries hunt for suspects linked to the attacks that left 130 dead.
Officials insisted the hostage situation that lasted several hours was not linked to terrorism, but was related to an attempted robbery.
Police were alerted at about 7pm French time after a manager at the Crédit Municipal bank in Roubaix was approached by gunmen, who were reportedly carrying automatic weapons, and ordered to open the bank safe.
It was unclear whether the victim managed to alert the police or if they happened to be patrolling, but officers spotted the gunmen, shots were fired and the robbers fled.
After a high-speed chase, they took refuge in a house in a residential area of the town where they were besieged by about 50 members of an armed rapid response team.
The siege ended at about 10pm when the hostages were freed unharmed. One gunman was killed and a second arrested. Lille public prosecutor Frédéric Fèvre told journalists “two or three other gunmen” had fled.