Gunman takes children hostage

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The Independent Online

An unidentified man has taken about 35 children and staff hostage at a Norwegian nursery school.

Police have surrounded the building in Hjelmeland, a town of about 2,500 people some 300 kilometers (185 miles) west of the capital, Oslo.

"We have information from the man himself that he has a weapon. I can't say more than that," said Olav Sonderland, chief of police in Stavanger, the region's main town. He said authorities were negotiating with the man.

About 25 preschool children and 10 staff members were being held hostage, Sonderland said. The state radio network NRK reported that police knew who the 40-year-old man was and had been in touch with him but he had made no demands.

"The situation is calm and we are in contact with the man. Our goal is to solve this peacefully," Sonderland said. He refused to comment on reports by local media that threats had been made or whether any demands had been made.

Norway's largest newspaper, Verdens Gang, said the man was believed to be the father of one of the preschool children and wanted to get in touch with one of the female staff.

The regional newspaper Stavanger Aftenbladet reported that the man was alone in one room with a female staff member, who had told police by telephone that she did not see the situation as dramatic.

"The situation around the nursery school seems calm. The children are allowed to take turns going out in the yard, and they are getting food," local official Sigbjoern Schmidt said.

More police were on their way to the scene. NRK said a large area around the building were being evacuated.

The man's name and other details were not released.