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Man Releases German Kids Held Hostage

April 12, 2005

ENNEPETAL, Germany (AP) _ Four schoolchildren were set free unharmed Tuesday after being held in a cellar for more than five hours by a man wielding two knives, police said. Police sharpshooters had surrounded the house where the children were being held hostage.

The man pulled the four girls, the oldest of whom is 16, off a public bus he had commandeered and forced them into the cellar of a nearby house at about 1 p.m. (1100GMT). They were freed unharmed just after 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), but no other information was immediately available, police spokesman Joerg Blaszyk said.

It was not clear whether the man had been arrested.

The man took the four girls captive after commandeering the bus, which was filled with schoolchildren on their way home from school in the town of Ennepetal, said Ulrich Rungwerth of the North Rhine-Westphalia state Interior Ministry.

The mother of one child on the bus said the man told them he wanted to bring his family to Germany from Iran.

Renate Schulte said her 16-year-old son, Marvin, who escaped after the man forced the bus driver to stop, told her the man read a statement saying his children were in Iran and he wanted to be allowed to bring them to Germany.

The man then herded some of the children to the back of the bus and tied several of them together by their belt buckles with a cord. He told the children to stay calm and said he wanted to talk to the German government, Marvin Schulte said.

``He didn’t seem aggressive,″ the boy said. ``He said we should stay quiet and he didn’t want to harm us.″

The man, described by witnesses as being in his 40s, forced the bus driver to stop and hustled the group of captives off the bus, but apparently let several of them go.

He forced the others toward a house where a woman was returning home and forced her to give him the front-door key, Marvin Schulte said. The man pushed the woman aside, shoved the children into the house and locked the door. Neighbors said the man lived in the area.

Police sharpshooters and other officers quickly surrounded the home, and other officers established contact with him by telephone, Blaszyk said.

The hostage-taking rattled the small-town calm in an area of single-family homes in Ennepetal, between the cities of Duesseldorf and Dortmund.

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