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French hostage drama ends without bloodshed

world Updated: Dec 14, 2010 02:23 IST

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Masked French gendarmes detained a 17-year-old who took a class full of preschoolers hostage on Monday, releasing all the children safely after hours of tense negotiations that drew nationwide attention. Past incidents

“The hostage-taking is over,” Jean-Marc Magda, aide to the mayor of the eastern French city of Besancon, told The Associated Press by telephone. All 20 children who had been taken hostage and their teacher were released safely, he said.

The hostage-taker was detained, and remained inside the school with officers from a specialist gendarme force brought in to deal with the situation, Magda said.

French television showed a wide-eyed girl being draped with a green blanket and carried away from the school. Police and worried families had surrounded the school since early in the day. The motives of the hostage-taker were unclear. Besancon Mayor Jean-Louis Fousseret said the teen 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 hostage-taker initially seized a class of 20 children but released 14 throughout the morning, including one who “more or less escaped,” said Besancon Mayor Jean-Louis Fousseret. Five or six children and the teacher were believed to be still in the preschool when the officers entered around lunchtime, Fousseret said on i-tele television.

The masked gendarmes pointed their firearms at the school’s windows and doors as they entered, in images shown on French TV. They were in contact by telephone with the hostage-taker before the last group of children was released.

Families huddled around the school, with children bundled against the cold. Emergency workers draped a blanket over one woman’s shoulders as she wept, in images shown on i-tele television. The hostage-taker did not threaten the children and allowed them to go to the bathroom throughout the ordeal, Education Minister Luc Chatel said from the scene.