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Hostage drama stymies Merkel campaigning

A nine-hour hostage drama at a city hall in southern Germany has ended with the release of two remaining detainees. The incident forced Chancellor Angela Merkel to call off an election campaign event in Ingolstadt.

Police in Germany's southern city of Ingolstadt said on Monday that a hostage-taking at city hall ended without fatalities.

Two female hostages were freed and a 24-year-old man who had carried a real or imitation handgun was taken away with slight injuries in an ambulance.

At the start of the drama, the man, whom police had described as a convicted stalker, initially freed another woman and five hours later Ingolstadt's deputy mayor.

The suspect had entered city administration offices at 9 a.m., local time. Police and a psychiatrist began negotiations. More than 200 police cordoned off the historic town center.

Shots were heard in the afternoon when the remaining two women hostages were freed and the suspect was taken away in an ambulance.

Local media said the man was a former friend of the deputy mayor's receptionist, who was among the last two hostages to be freed. The man had previously been barred by court order from contacting the woman.

Campaigning interrupted

As the drama unfolded, the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats, cancelled a campaign event outside Ingolstadt's city hall planned for the early evening.

The chancellor had been due to join Bavaria's CSU premier Horst Seehofer, whose CSU is also campaigning for re-election in the southern state of Bavaria next month. That poll will precede Germany's federal election due on 22 September.

Ingolstadt's Mayor Alfred Lehmann described Monday's drama as a "horrible situation."

"The staff were deeply dismayed and didn't know how to react... It's a very bad day for Ingolstadt," said Lehmann.

ipj/kms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)