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Multiple fatalities as Austrian police seek to detain poacher

A shootout between police and an alleged poacher in Austria has claimed at least four victims. Police have surrounded a farmhouse where the man is reportedly barricaded with a large amount of powerful weaponry.

Police commandos surrounded the house on Tuesday after the gunman holed up at the location had shot dead at least three policemen and an ambulance driver.

A wide cordon was formed around the site, near the town of Melk, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Vienna, with army vehicles also deployed.

A regional police official said that attempts to contact the man inside the building had so far proved unsuccessful. Public broadcaster ORF said that the suspect was a 55-year-old poacher wanted for repeatedly shooting deer and removing their heads, while leaving the rest of the body behind.

Interior Minister Karl-Heinz Grundböck said the man had fled by car after he was approached by Cobra police commandos who wanted to search the vehicle late on Monday. When the car had hit a ditch the suspect allegedly shot at one of the commandos, who subsequently died.

The man was then said to have withdrawn to the woods where he fatally shot an ambulance driver, before fleeing on foot and shooting at two more police officers.

One of those died, while the other was reported to have been taken hostage in a carjacking. That officer was reported to have been found dead in his vehicle on Tuesday.

The provincial government of the state of Lower Austria ordered that black flags be flown from public buildings to honor the dead.

rc/dr (AFP, dpa)