French Man Releases Student Hostages, Parent Unhurt

PARIS — An armed man who took hostages Tuesday morning at a school complex just south of Paris has released them all unhurt and been taken into police custody, authorities said.

The drama began early in the day as parents dropped their children off at the complex, which includes nursery and elementary schools, in the town of Vitry-sur-Seine, a commuter town with residents from a variety of socio-economic classes. French schools are closed for the summer, but still run activities.

Most hostages, who included children, were freed fairly quickly, police said, though one parent was held for several hours. All were unhurt. Police officials spoke on condition of anonymity because their rules don't allow them to comment on ongoing investigations.

Shortly after releasing the last hostage, the man walked out, said Pierre Dartout, the prefect of the Val-de-Marne region. Teams from the elite Raid police force had been negotiating with him and took him into custody, also unhurt.

The man's motivations were unclear. Ludovic Magne, a police union representative, said that he was incoherent in his discussions with the Raid police. He is currently undergoing psychological exams to see if he is fit to be kept in police custody, Magne said.

Little was known about the hostage-taker, but a judicial official said he was in his 30s, lives in Vitry and had no police record. The official also spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

One police official said the man was carrying a gun; others said they did not know what weapon he had.

In late June, a man took four employees of a bank hostage in Toulouse. Authorities at the time said he appeared to be mentally ill and ranted disjointedly about religious motives.

Toulouse is the southern French city that was terrorized by a gunman whom police say claimed links to al-Qaida and killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers. The suspected perpetrator, Mohamed Merah, was killed after a long standoff with the Raid police.

Earlier report

An armed man took hostages Tuesday morning at a school complex just south of Paris, authorities said. Children were initially among the hostages, but the man is now holding only a parent.

One police official said the man was carrying a gun; others said they did not know what weapon he had.

The prefect of the Val-de-Marne region said that the officers from the elite Raid police force were in contact with the man in order to negotiate with him. Pierre Dartout said a parent of one of the children was being held and that homes and buildings around the complex had been evacuated.

The man took the hostages in Vitry-sur-Seine, a commuter town with residents from a variety of socio-economic classes. Another police official said that all the children at the complex, which includes nursery and elementary schools, were safe.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of police rules.

French schools are on summer vacation, but many are running summer activities.

In late June, a man took four employees of a bank hostage in Toulouse. Authorities at the time said he appeared to be mentally ill and ranted disjointedly about religious motives.

Toulouse is the southern French city that was terrorized by a gunman whom police say claimed links to al-Qaida and killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers. The suspected perpetrator, Mohamed Merah, was killed after a long standoff with the Raid police.

By Erin B 07/10/2012 04:34:00