VIENNA: Police commandos and army tanks surrounded an Austrian farmhouse on Tuesday after a gunman allegedly shot dead three policemen and a paramedic, apparently in cold blood.
The man was holed up in his house at Grosspriel near Melk, some 90 kilometres (55 miles) west of Vienna, police spokesman Johann Baumschlager said.
The gunman reportedly has large amounts of ammunition and a powerful hunting rifle able to pierce protective clothing. Baumschlager called the situation "terrible and very explosive".
Reports said that "Cobra" police commandos had late on Monday attempted to stop the man, a well-known poacher thought to be in his mid-50s, in his car near Annaberg after a tip-off that he was hunting illegally.
He opened fire, however, reportedly after driving into a ditch, shooting one of the police commandos in the neck, who died two hours later in hospital.
While the commando was still receiving medical attention the poacher opened fire again, killing an ambulance driver and leaving a second policeman injured.
The suspect then fled on foot and opened fire on two other police officers, killing one and taking the other hostage, reports said.
He stole their police car and drove, with his prisoner, some 60 kilometres to his farmhouse.
Police said on Tuesday afternoon that the dead body of the officer had been found in the police car at the farm.
The house has been surrounded since around 7:00 am (0500 GMT) by some 100 police, who have so far failed to make contact with the gunman, despite help from acquaintances.
In the meantime he has fired several shots at the police. An AFP photographer at a nearby police roadblock saw three army tanks heading for the farmhouse.
Reports said that the man's children may be inside the house with him. The surrounding area has been cordoned off.
The poacher was well known in the local area for giving police and licensed hunters the run-around, often leaving the heads of dead animals on roads.
He was said to have had his hunting licence revoked several years ago.