Gunman takes children hostage

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The Independent Online

A man who took 35 children and staff hostage at a Norwegian nursery school yesterday had released all but five children and two adults by afternoon and demanded to see a lawyer, police said.

A man who took 35 children and staff hostage at a Norwegian nursery school yesterday had released all but five children and two adults by afternoon and demanded to see a lawyer, police said.

A lawyer was on the way to the scene while negotiators continued discussions with the man, whose identity was not released.

Police surrounded the old, red wooden building in Hjelmeland, a town of about 2,500 people some 185 miles west of the capital Oslo. Family members were taken to a crisis centre set up in a nearby school.

Police said they believed the man was armed when he took about 25 preschool children and 10 staff members hostage. No injuries were reported.

"The children who were released are fine, all things considered," said Olav Sonderland, chief of police in Stavanger, the region's main town. "But using children for something like this, in Norway or anywhere else, is a very serious matter... these are children who are under age six."

City officials knew something was wrong when they called the preschool at about 11:30am (9.30 GMT). "When we said we were calling from the city, the man hung up and we knew something was wrong. We have no male employees at the preschool," city manager Fred R Johansen was quoted as saying, in internet editions of Norway's largest newspaper, Verdens Gang.

The preschool yard was surrounded by heavily-armed police and ambulances.

There were conflicting reports about a motive. Verdens Gang reported the man was believed to be the father of one of the preschool children, but other media reported that he was interested only in a female staff member whom he was holding alone in a room. The main regional newspaper, Stavanger Aftenbladet, said the woman had talked to police by telephone and did not see the situation as dramatic.

It was unclear where the five children left were being held.

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