A hostage standoff near the French capital of Paris has ended, with the gunmen apparently fleeing the clothing retail store where they had held nearly 20 people.
The standoff emerged as gunmen entered the Primark store in Villeneuve-la-Garenne neighborhood in suburban Paris. Press reports said special forces were dispatched to the area to contain what is believed to have originally been an attempted robbery.
“Around 6:30 am (0530 GMT), two or three armed criminals went into the Primark store for what we think was initially an attempt at armed robbery,” said the police source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another unnamed police official also confirmed that the armed assailants had entered the store in a bid to rob the shop.
This is while another police source has reportedly said that a store employee first alerted a friend through a text message about the robbery attempt, saying they had been taken hostage by two armed men.
Police officers halted all traffic in the area surrounding the Qwartz shopping center, where the Primark store is located, while all other stores in the immediate area have remained shut.
Television images showed several elite police officers entering a side door of the shopping center in mid-morning hours as the entire area around the site remained closed to the public due to the security situation.
According to law enforcement sources, there was no immediate signs of a political motive for the armed robbery.
Latest reports indicate that the hostage situation has ended at the Primark clothing store, with police evacuating the 18 employees that were held by armed robbers there.
French special forces are now searching for the gunmen at the shopping center north of central Paris.
Meanwhile, the local Le Parisien newspaper has identified one of the armed suspects involved in the robbery attempt as an employee of the retail store.