Senator Hillary Clinton was faced with an unexpected drama last night as police in the New Hampshire town of Rochester rushed to respond to a hostage crisis in her local campaign office.
A distraught man wearing what appeared to be a bomb walked into the office on the town's North Main Street shortly after 1pm yesterday and demanded to speak to the candidate before a six-hour saga that ended peacefully.
Shortly after releasing the last hostage, Leeland Eisenberg walked out of the storefront office, put down a homemade bomb-like package and was immediately surrounded by a Swat team with guns drawn.
The suspect was put on the ground, handcuffed and taken two blocks to the police office in the back of a tactical response vehicle.
Earlier, it appeared the man was holding at least four people hostage, assumed to be campaign workers for the senator, but allowed a woman with an infant to leave the office. The woman immediately went to a medical supplies office next door and alerted the police. All hostages were released safely.
New Hampshire is one of two states that will begin the all-important primary voting for the numerous contenders for both the Democrat and Republican Party nominations to run for president next year.
At the scene, police sealed off a large segment area of Rochester, urging hundreds of people to leave the area as they tried to gain control of the crisis.
By mid-afternoon police Swat teams and explosives experts had surrounded the Clinton office. Agents were engaged in preliminary negotiations with the man on the other side of the entrance.
The man was described as being in his forties. In a retail area, the office faade is a large shopfront window, decorated with a large "Hillary for President" campaign banner. Using loudspeakers, agents told the man inside that they did not intend to storm the office and offered to negotiate with by phone.
Mrs Clinton had been due to address a meeting of the Democrat National Committee in Virginia yesterday afternoon but cancelled her appearance on hearing of the events in New Hampshire.
Last night, Mrs Clinton expressed her relief that the situation had ended peacefully. "It's been a difficult, but eventually gratifying day the way it worked out," she said. "We've had nothing on our minds except the safety of these young people who work for me."
Intense campaigning has been under way in New Hampshire, which will soon reach a peak. The primary vote in the state could prove a make-or-break moment for Mrs Clinton.