TBILISI: An armed man took a dozen hostages at a bank in Georgia's second-largest city of Kutaisi on Tuesday, demanding a large sum of money, officials said.

The Black Sea nation's interior ministry said the suspect was holed up at a Bank of Georgia branch in the town of around 150,000 people in central Georgia.

“For the moment, there are 12 hostages in the building,“ it added in a statement.

The ministry said police had deployed to the bank to resolve the crisis.

An investigation was opened into a “terrorist act, hostage-taking and illegal possession of firearms”, the ministry added.

The independent Mtavari TV station aired a mobile phone video shot by one of the hostages, which shows what he says are two explosive devices on the entrance door.

“He (the hostage-taker) says these are bombs which will explode if the door opens,“ the hostage says.

Another video shows the alleged hostage-taker -- a masked gunman in military fatigues -- and the bank interior.

A female hostage is heard saying: “His demand is two million dollars within three hours. He has a hand grenade and there are bombs which will explode.”

In October 2020, a gunman took 43 people hostage in a Bank of Georgia branch in the western city of Zugdidi.

He freed all the hostages, escaping with an unspecified amount of cash, and has never been detained. - AFP

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