Hostage drama forces Merkel to scrap rally

19th August 2013, Comments 0 comments

A man claiming to be carrying a gun took three hostages Monday in the town hall of a German city where Chancellor Angela Merkel had been due to give a campaign rally later in the day.

While the Merkel event was cancelled, police negotiated with the hostage-taker, who after five hours freed one of the captives, a deputy mayor of the town of Ingolstadt north of Munich.

The hostage-taker was believed to be a 24-year-old man who had been stalking a female town hall employee, and who had been committed to a psychiatric institution.

He was carrying a real or imitation handgun, police said.

The perpetrator had previously been barred from the town hall premises, said the Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann. Mayor Alfred Lehmann said the man had a history of violent assault and intimidation.

The man took hostage deputy mayor Sepp Misslbeck, who was later freed, as well as Misslbeck's secretary -- thought to be the victim of his stalking -- and the city government's complaints manager, local media reported.

Police declined to speak about the hostage-taker's motives or demands.

A police tactical response unit arrived shortly after the hostage drama started around 9:00 am (0700 GMT) and stood by, while some 200 officers cordoned off the town centre.

Merkel had been due to speak at a rally of her conservative party outside the town hall ahead of September 22 elections, along with political ally, Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer, who is also running for re-election next month.

The hostage drama was not thought to be related to the political event, said a police spokesman, as Merkel's conservative party and its Bavarian sister party cancelled Monday's appearance.

© 2013 AFP

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