A self-proclaimed al Qaeda militant took hostages at a bank in the southern French city of Toulouse on Wednesday, close to where "scooter shooter" Mohamed Merah lived and was shot dead by police in March.
The man fired a shot and took four people, including the bank's manager, hostage and wants to negotiate with the elite RAID police unit that shot dead al Qaeda-inspired killer Merah, police said.
"We're taking measures so we can start a dialogue" with the hostage taker, Toulouse prosecutor Michel Valet said at the scene, where police have set up a 220-yard (200-meter) cordon around the bank.
Parents of pupils at a nearby school were sent text messages telling them to pick up their children, witnesses said, and rapid-intervention police units were dispatched from southern cities Bordeaux and Marseille.
The RAID unit that shot dead Merah after he went on a killing spree is based in Paris, hundreds of miles to the north.
The bank and Merah's former apartment are within 550 yards (500m) of each other in Toulouse's Cote Pavee neighborhood.
Merah was killed at the end of a 32-hour siege of his apartment 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.
The 23-year-old, who also claimed to be an al Qaeda militant, filmed himself carrying out the attacks and reportedly confessed to police before he was shot dead.
Copyright 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.
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