Hostage siege ends calmly as gunman surrenders

9th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

SABLE-SUR-SARTHE, France, March 9, 2006 (AFP) - A disgruntled unemployed teacher took 21 students and two adults hostage in a high school in western France late Thursday, before surrendering to police and releasing his captives unharmed, officials said.

SABLE-SUR-SARTHE, France, March 9, 2006 (AFP) - A disgruntled unemployed teacher took 21 students and two adults hostage in a high school in western France late Thursday, before surrendering to police and releasing his captives unharmed, officials said.

The 33-year-old man laid down his gun after an hour of negotiations with police, bringing an end to a five-hour drama in the town of Sable-sur-Sarthe, southwest of Le Mans.

The surrender "happened without any violence," the top government official for the region, Stephane Bouillon, told journalists at the scene. "The hostage-taker had respect for the children and the young people he had with him."

"He just wanted someone to listen to him, to understand his distress," he said, adding that the man had previously received medical and psychological treatments for personal problems.

Bouillon initially said the teacher had used a fake gun to sequester the hostages, but police said later it was a handgun which fired rubber bullets and could be deadly.

The drama began Thursday afternoon, when the man was let into the Colbert de Torcy high school -- where he worked two years ago -- and proceeded to a vocational training classroom where he took the 21 students aged between 16 and 18 years hostage along with two supervisors.

The state school, which has 1,500 students enrolled, was quickly evacuated and an elite police squad and negotiators were called in.

Bouillon said the man, whom he did not publicly identify, had demanded to meet Francois Fillon, a senator from France's ruling UMP party who was national education minister up to June last year, and who used to be mayor of Sable-sur-Sarthe.

Bouillon's cabinet director, Patrice Hatton, said the teacher had also demanded to speak directly to the media to explain his grievances.

School staff described the man as depressed by his out-of-work status but uninterested in harming the youths. "He said he wouldn't hurt the children," according to employee Didier Mercier.

Officials and students outside the school said the hostages had been allowed to use their mobile phones to communicate with their families and friends during their ordeal.

One employee at the school, Bernadette Mercier, said the unemployed teacher was known to be depressed, "apparently because he hasn't found work since leaving the school two years ago."

But, she said, "we never expected this sort of thing from him."

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin congratulated police on the bloodless resolution of the incident, aides told AFP.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who had interrupted a trip to the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe to follow the events, also hailed the outcome.

Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie praised the national police's team of negotiators sent from Paris to the western town, saying it had proved "once again its professionalism and its ability to master the most delicate of situations".

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article