Teenage gunman releases two hostages

A teenage gunman has released two of the four youngsters he took hostage today at a school in south-western Germany, police said.

A teenage gunman has released two of the four youngsters he took hostage today at a school in south-western Germany, police said.

The two were unharmed, police said. Police SWAT teams surrounded the building in Waiblingen, Germany, and negotiated via cellphone with the youth who had demanded €1m and a getaway car.

About 100 students were in the Friedensschule, or Peace School, for lessons when a 16-year-old former student walked in and sat down in a second-floor computer room around 2:30 p.m. (1230 Irish time), witnesses and police said. Minutes later, he stood up and pulled out a handgun, they said.

Students said he warned them to remain calm and then gave a mobile phone number to a teacher.

He then sent her and all but four students out of the room and made them close the curtains, before calling police himself.

“He said, ‘If you don’t keep quiet something will happen,‘” said Marc, an 11-year-old student.

With no shots fired, it was not clear whether the gun was loaded or a toy. Students said the gunman was able to enter unnoticed because it was fairly common for kids to sit down at unoccupied computers.

Police spokesman Thomas Keller described the hostage-taker as making “a calm impression” while talking with police. He has demanded cash and a vehicle during negotiations, Keller said.

The hostages were all sixth-graders, around 12 years old, he said.

Police still hope to resolve the stand-off at the grade 1-10 school about five kilometres (3 miles) north-east of Stuttgart without violence.

“We will do everything we can to solve this peacefully, without using force. And for that negotiations with the suspect are needed,” police spokesman Uwe Bieler said on N24 television.

The incident comes six months after one of the world’s worst school shootings in the eastern city of Erfurt, when a 19-year-old former student went on a rampage at the Gutenberg high school, killing 13 teachers, two students and a police officer before turning the gun on himself.

Germans were confronted with the spectre of school violence on such a scale for the first time, and parliament took the step of passing a bill to tighten Germany’s already strict gun laws, including raising the age for gun ownership. The Erfurt gunman, Robert Steinhaeuser, had licenses for both the pistol and pump-action shotgun that he used in the attack.

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