Six hostages taken in Paris supermarket siege

22nd October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Six supermarket employees were taken hostage by armed robbers in a store near Paris on Wednesday, sparking a police siege, before being released unharmed as their captors were detained.

Some 200 police deployed around the LIDL discount store in an industrial zone in Sevran north of Paris after it was attacked just before 6am (0400 GMT), as the cashiers were setting up for the day.

Two attackers threatened staff with a pistol and a tear gas canister demanding the keys to the store safe, before taking five women and a man hostage, deputy state prosecutor Solange Moracchini told reporters.

Some 200 riot police, gendarmes, plain-clothes officers and hostage-negotiation experts, backed by a helicopter, deployed at the scene where they negotiated the release of the hostages during a three-hour siege.

Paris management of the German supermarket chain confirmed none of its employees had been hurt.

"All the hostages have been freed. They were not harmed, they are being cared for by the police officers who negotiated with the hostage-takers," said Michel Lemble, LIDL France's head of human resources.

Two suspects, aged 30 and 31, were taken into custody, the local police prefecture told AFP. They are expected to be charged with kidnapping, assault and theft. One has a criminal record for similar offences.

The first suspect surrendered after three hours of negotiations, the prefecture said. Armed police sent in to search the store found an accomplice hiding inside.

An AFP photographer at one point saw two people emerging from the LIDL store, with their hands in the air before being searched and handcuffed by police. But one of the two now appears to have been a hostage, not a suspect.

There were no customers inside the supermarket at the time of the attack, which took place before opening hours, Lemble said.

A clerk at the supermarket, Marie-Madeleine Die, told AFP that her colleagues were trained to discreetly alert police in the event of a robbery.

Three women hostages were released after two hours. Two were set free in a second wave, while the last hostage, the store manager, was freed after three hours in capitivity, Lemble said.

No shots were fired on either side, according to police union official Christophe Ragondet. The hostages, who were described as "traumatised", were taken into psychological care by police counsellers.

Police had cordoned off the area, ordering all employees of neighbouring stores to stay inside, until the siege was over.

Lemble said LIDL's 1,400 supermarkets in France had been targeted by thieves before, sometimes as often as once a day, but that it was the first case of a hostage-taking.

LIDL France already offers its staff training on how to respond to armed robbery and may now bring in new measures on hostage situations, he said.


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