Nursery siege ends peacefully

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A sword-wielding teenager who took children in a French nursery hostage was arrested today and all the youngsters freed unharmed.

A spokesman for the mayor of Besancon said: "the hostage-taking is over" and 20 children and their teacher were released safely.

Their 17-year-old captor was detained by a specialist gendarme force brought in.

Besancon Mayor Jean-Louis Fousseret said the boy had been treated for depression but had not taken his medication in recent days. The mayor did not confirm reports that the youth had requested a gun to commit suicide.

The boy initially seized a class of 20 children but released 14 throughout the morning, including one who "more or less escaped," said Mr Fousseret.

Five or six children and the teacher were believed to be still in the pre-school when the officers entered around lunchtime.

The masked gendarmes pointed their guns at the school's windows and doors as they entered. They were in contact by phone with the teenager before the last group of children was released.

Families huddled around the school, with children bundled against the cold.

The youth did not threaten the children and allowed them to go to the toilet throughout the ordeal, Education Minister Luc Chatel said from the scene.

The incident took place at the Charles Fourier pre-school in Planoise, a area of housing projects with a big immigrant population on the western edge of Besancon.