Three people were killed when a gunman screaming "Allahu Akbar" shot at police and took hostages in a supermarket in southwestern France on Friday, in what Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said appeared to be a terrorist act. A police union official claims the gunman has been killed by French Police forces.
According to French President Emmanuel Macron, 16 people were wounded at a supermarket in the southern town of Trebes by a gunman claiming to be part of the Islamic State group.
The Islamic State said in a statement released online that a "soldier of the caliphate" had carried out the attack. The jihadist group gave no other details.
Macron called the attack an act of "Islamist terrorism", but said security services were still checking whether the Islamic State group was really behind the attack as it claims.
The attacker was known to authorities for petty crimes but was not considered an Islamist threat, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said, adding that he was believed to have acted alone.
The gunman demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the survivor of the 10-man Islamic State cell that terrorized Paris in November 2015, refusing all pleas to shed light on the attack that left 130 dead or another one in Brussels.
The mayor told LCI TV that the man entered the shop screaming "Allahu Akbar, (God is greatest) I'll kill you all."
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According SGP police union, the gunman killed a man and wounded another in the town of Carcassonne before taking the hostages Trebes, apparently whilst stealing their vehicle. The two towns are about 20 minutes' drive away from each other.
Another person was hurt but their condition was not known, Mayor Eric Menassi said. The hostage-taker was alone with one police officer in the supermarket and all other hostages had been freed, he told BFM.
LCI TV said the second victim was also dead and that 12 people were wounded.
The hostage situation in Trebes seemed to be a "terrorist act," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told reporters on Friday.
"The hostage situation is ongoing. The operation is not over," Philippe said during a visit to Mulhouse. "All the information we have as I speak lead us to think that this would be a terrorist act."
BFM TV said the hostage-taker has claimed allegiance to Islamic State. The Paris prosecutor's office said counter-terrorism prosecutors were investigating the incident but did not comment on the possible Islamic State allegiance.
Earlier, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb headed to the scene after talking with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is following the situation closely, according to a security official.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack in France. "The civilized world must unite and act together to defeat terrorism," the prime minister said. "I send condolences to the families of those murdered and to the French people on behalf of the Israeli government."