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Guards taken hostage at Delaware US correctional facility

Four guards are among several people who have been held hostage at an American state prison. Police and the FBI are at work negotiating with those responsible.

Four people - three guards and a counselor - were taken hostage on Wednesday morning at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Facility in Smyrna, Delaware, according to state officials.

The situation began around 10:30 a.m. local time (15.30 UTC) when a correctional officer at the facility made a radio call for immediate assistance at a building housing over 100 inmates, Delaware State Police spokesperson Richard Bratz said during a press conference.

Initially, authorities said five people had been taken hostage, but the number was later revised to four. Bratz said that the first of the hostages was released around 2 p.m. and taken to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Hours later, a second hostage was released. One official said 27 inmates had also been released from the building, though it was not clear if they had also been held hostage. 

Standoff ongoing

"We are doing everything we can to assure the safety of everyone involved," Bratz said, adding that authorities were negotiating with the hostage-takers in the hopes of ending the standoff peacefully.

According to one official who spoke to the media, there had initially been little communication between police and those inside the building. Later reports said that inmates had phoned the local newspaper, The News Journal in Wilmington, to explain that poor conditions in the prison had spurred them to take the guards hostage. One of the hostage-takers also invoked Donald Trump's name, saying he feared the new president would make the conditions worse. 

Police and firefighters had been called to the scene and were stationed around the perimeter of the building.

The James T. Vaughn Correctional Facility is the largest such institution for men in the state of Delaware, according to the Department of Correction's website. It houses minimum, medium and maximum security inmates, of which there are around 2,500 in total.

The facility was placed on lockdown, as were all prisons in the state per Department of Corrections (DOC) policy. Spokeswoman Jayme Gravell provided few details but described the situation as an isolated incident, adding that there was no threat to the public.

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