NEWS
23/03/2018 16:18 SAST | Updated 23/03/2018 16:18 SAST

At Least One Dead In Fatal Hostage Situation In French Supermarket

French President Emmanuel Macron referred to the incident as a terror attack. At least two people, in addition to the perpetrator, are believed to be dead.

LA VIE A TREBES/ VIA REUTERS
Police are seen at the scene of a hostage situation in a supermarket in Trebes, Aude, France March 23, 2018 in this picture obtained from a social media video. LA VIE A TREBES/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT.
LA VIE A TREBES/ via REUTERS

A man took shoppers hostage at a supermarket in a southern French town of Trèbes on Friday, leaving at least one person dead according to local reports.

The incident began around 10:00 a.m. when the suspect trailed four local police officers in the town of Carcassonne, near the city of Toulouse, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said during a news conference.

One of the officers was injured, and local news reports indicate the man shot at them. He then drove to the Super U supermarket in Trèbes and took several people hostage, Philippe said.

He added that the hostage taker was still inside the supermarket with police as of 1:00 p.m., but that the remaining hostages had been freed. Authorities are investigating the situation as a possible terrorist incident.

Several eyewitness reports claimed the suspect said he was acting on behalf of the self-described Islamic State.

There were conflicting reports about the number of deaths, with Trèbes mayor Eric Menassi telling BFMTV that two had died and other reports saying one.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry refused to give any death toll, saying that the situation remains active.

"A man shouted and fired several rounds of shots," an anonymous eyewitness told France Info. "I saw a refrigerator door and asked people to come take shelter inside. Ten of us stayed in there for one hour. Amid more gunshots we finally left through a back door."

France has seen a number of major terror attacks in recent years, and the country is still under a state of emergency following the November 2015 Paris attacks in which ISIS supporters killed 130 people and wounded hundreds of others at a stadium, restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall. Earlier that year, al Qaeda-linked gunmen also attacked satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and took hostages at a Kosher supermarket in Paris.

Subsequent terrorist incidents in the country include a truck attack in the city of Nice, which killed 86 people when a driver plowed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day. Terrorism was a prominent campaign topic in France's 2017 presidential election, and since then major terror attacks in the country appeared to be on the decline.

Nick Robins-Early contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.