French police arrest hostage-taker who made demands from Israel

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — French police arrested the man who on Thursday took six people hostage at a bankand demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

The man is 34 years old and was identified in the French media only by his first name, Mehdi. He released all the hostages gradually on Thursday and surrendered himself to police. He was believed to be armed.

Prior to his arrest, Mehdi told the media from the local branch of the BRED bank at the center of Le Havre, a coastal city located about 100 miles northwest of Paris, that his demands included Israel releasing “Palestinian children unjustly imprisoned” and allowing greater access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

He has a history both of Islamist radicalism and of psychiatric problems, Liberation reported.

In 2013, Mehdi had already taken four people hostage at another bank, CIC, in Paris, demanding housing solutions for himself and his son, according to Le Monde.