Hostage drama ends after Merkel cancels rally

Police armoured vehicles stand in a side street during a hostage situation, in Ingolstadt August 19, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

BERLIN: A hostage drama in Germany ended without fatalities Monday, police said, after the tense nine-hour standoff forced Chancellor Angela Merkel to cancel a campaign rally in the same town.

A police operation ended the confrontation, leaving the 24-year-old hostage-taker slightly injured and his two remaining captives – including a woman he had been stalking – unharmed, police said.

The man, a psychiatric patient who had carried either a real or imitation handgun, had entered the town hall of Ingolstadt north of Munich at around 9 a.m., taking initially four hostages.

The man freed one female captive almost immediately, and a male hostage five hours later when he released the town’s deputy mayor, Sepp Misslbeck, around 2 p.m.

More than 200 police had cordoned off the historic town center of Ingolstadt, where campaign posters still advertised Merkel’s canceled campaign event ahead of Sept. 22 national elections.

Police and a psychiatrist kept negotiating with the man, whose only demand was a doner kebab.

News came shortly before 6 p.m., after shots had been heard, that the drama had ended with the two remaining captives freed unharmed.

The hostage-taker, who police said was slightly wounded, was taken away in an ambulance, said the local Donau Kurier daily in an online report.

“It’s a horrible situation,” town Mayor Alfred Lehrmann had said earlier. “The staff were deeply dismayed and didn’t know how to react ... It’s a very bad day for Ingolstadt.”

Lehmann said the man had a history of violent assault and intimidation, adding that the term “stalker” seemed too harmless.

The man was a former friend of the deputy mayor’s receptionist who had been barred from contacting her by a court order but approached her anyway, local media reported.

Police arrested him in mid-2012 and he was placed in psychiatric care. A trial that ended last month, with other unspecified charges, led to a suspended sentence of one year and eight months behind bars.

The man had already entered the town hall building earlier this month, which led to him being barred from the complex, said the Bavarian interior minister, Joachim Herrmann.

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

The hostage drama was not believed to be related to the political event, said a police spokesman.

Merkel’s conservative party and its Bavarian sister party canceled Monday’s appearance in Ingolstadt as well as a separate event in the city of Regensburg.





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