Ubisoft Montreal hostage-taking report being probed as hoax: media

Montreal (AFP) –

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A report of a possible hostage-taking at the Montreal offices of French video game company Ubisoft that brought out a massive police response Friday was being investigated as a hoax, said local media.

Canadian broadcasters TVA and Radio-Canada cited unnamed police sources saying what had originally been reported as a hostage situation ultimately turned out to be a prank call from someone inside the building who'd demanded a ransom.

Police would not immediately confirm the reports.

Authorities had announced on Twitter that the massive deployment started at about 1:30 pm, but offered few details while urging people to "avoid the area" near St-Laurent Boulevard and St-Viateur Street in Montreal's Mile-End neighbourhood, close to downtown.

Authorities later updated in a statement that "no threat has been detected so far. No injuries were reported."

About 100 staff were evacuated.

"We are currently in contact with the authorities," Ubisoft spokesperson Antoine Leduc-Labelle said.

Television images showed the streets around the brick building cordoned off and heavily armed officers entering, as well as dozens of Ubisoft workers who appeared to have barricaded themselves on the rooftop.

A company employee reached by telephone told public broadcaster Radio-Canada that about 50 people were led to the rooftop terrace by managers who then barricaded the door leading to the stairwell with furniture.

The staffer said people were cold but in good spirits.

Others were seen by an AFP journalist at the scene being escorted out of the front entrance.

"Oh my God what the fuck is happening," tweeted Ubisoft senior community developer Eric Pope, who was working from home. "This is insane. This is my team on the roof."

A police spokesperson told AFP that "police officers were dispatched to the scene to respond to a 911 call."

"The information has still not been validated," the official said, adding that "officers specializing in this type of intervention are currently on the scene and are carrying out checks."

Ubisoft is best known for video game titles such as Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, Far Cry and Assassin's Creed.

Some 4,000 people would normally be working at its Montreal offices but many have been teleworking during the Covid-19 pandemic.