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43 hostages freed in Georgia after hours-long stand-off at bank

After being held for several hours by an armed man holding up a bank in Georgia, 43 hostages have been freed, the country's foreign ministry said early Thursday.

Tbilisi, 22 October 2020 (dpa/MIA) – After being held for several hours by an armed man holding up a bank in Georgia, 43 hostages have been freed, the country’s foreign ministry said early Thursday.

According to media reports, the hostage-taker was wearing a military uniform and demanding a 500,000-dollar ransom.

The foreign ministry said it was continuing to investigate and did not specify whether any money was exchanged.

The armed man broke into the bank in the city of Zugdidi at around 2.30 pm (1100 GMT) on Wednesday.

Images in Georgian media showed the man, wearing a balaclava and with a grenade in his hand, leaving the bank building alongside three men.

It was not clear who the hostages were. Initial reports said there were only 20 but the foreign ministry later clarified the number.

In the afternoon, authorities announced that task forces had cordoned off the area around the bank and started an operation to “deactivate” the man.

After negotiations with the police, he began to release individual hostages, including a pregnant woman.

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