Poland: Man holds three Jewish teenagers hostage

A drunken man from Kuwait, claiming he had a bomb, briefly held three Jewish teenagers captive today in their room in a Polish hotel where they were staying for Holocaust commemoration ceremonies, police said.

A drunken man from Kuwait, claiming he had a bomb, briefly held three Jewish teenagers captive today in their room in a Polish hotel where they were staying for Holocaust commemoration ceremonies, police said.

The three 16-year-old Brazilians were pulled into a sixth-floor room of Warsaw’s Holiday Inn after 9am (8am Irish time) by a 23-year-old identified as Mohammad A, said national police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski.

Witnesses alerted hotel guards, who rushed to the site but called police when the Kuwaiti said he had explosives, Warsaw police spokesman Marcin Szyndler, said.

Police stormed the room just before 10am (0900 BST) and took the suspect into custody without incident, Mr Sokolowski said. None of the captives was harmed and police found no explosives.

Police detained the man and determined that he was from Kuwait, but he was too intoxicated for further questioning, Mr Szyndler said. The man had no visa for residence in Poland and officials were checking whether his stay was authorised, he said.

If prosecutors charge him with holding the teenagers against their will, he could face up to five years in prison, Mr Szyndler said.

It was not immediately clear what the suspect wanted, but David Peleg, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, said he had been informed the man was intoxicated.

“As far as we know at this stage ... a man was behaving wildly on the ground floor of the Holiday Inn hotel in central Warsaw. He was apparently drunk,” Mr Peleg told Israel Radio. “He took refuge in one of the rooms where there were three Brazilian Jewish youths, who were taking part in The March of The Living,” a commemoration at the former Nazi Auschwitz death camp.

In Warsaw, Israeli Embassy spokesman Michal Sobelman confirmed the Jewish youths were from Brazil. He could give no further details.

A barman at the Holiday Inn said the suspect had a beer in the bar in the morning but had no money to pay for the drink, and someone else covered the 15 zlotys (£3.50) cost. The man said he was from Kuwait, the barman said.

Mr Szyndler said the Jewish teenagers did not need medical care and were taken to a police station for questioning about the incident.

“It all did not take long, probably only minutes,” Mr Szyndler said. “Luckily, it ended only with threats.”

The hotel was evacuated for a routine search. The area around the hotel was sealed off and police vans, ambulances and firefighters’ trucks were at the scene.

About 10,000 people from around the world, mostly Jewish, took part in the March of the Living on Thursday, an annual event at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau that honours the memory of some 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

At least 1.1 million people, including Jews, Poles and Roma, perished in the camp’s gas chambers or from starvation, disease and forced labour. The camp was liberated in January 1945 by Soviet troops.

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