Paris - Four people were being held hostage in a French bank on Wednesday by an armed man claiming to have links with the al-Qaeda terrorist network, police said.
The drama began around 10:00 when the man entered a CIC bank in the south-western city of Toulouse and took the manager and three others hostage.
BFM TV reported that he had first demanded cash and that when the cashier refused to give him money, he pulled out a gun and fired a shot.
There were no reports of injuries.
Toulouse is where gunman Mohamed Merah, who also claimed links to al-Qaeda, shot dead three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi before being killed in a police raid on 22 March.
The bank is located in the same Cote Pavee neighbourhood where Merah, who also killed three soldiers, engaged police in a 32-hour standoff. He was shot dead in the final arrest operation.
Police said the hostage-taker demanded to speak with negotiators from the same elite Raid team that intervened against Merah.
Toulouse prosecutor Michel Valet said measures were being put in place "to begin dialogue". Police intervention teams were on their way to the scene, which had been sealed off by police.
The man's claims to be linked to al-Qaeda were being treated with caution by police unions, who said the situation looked more like a botched robbery.