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Page last updated at 05:17 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009

Post office hostage drama in US state of Virginia ends

Suspected hostage-taker in Wytheville, VA (23 December 2009)
The suspected hostage taker told police he had a military background

A man suspected of taking hostages in a post office in the US state of Virginia has been arrested after a stand-off lasting several hours, police say.

Authorities in Wytheville persuaded Warren Taylor to give himself up and release three people he was holding.

Mr Taylor was reported to have entered the post office pushing a wheelchair and claiming to be carrying explosives.

He initially fired shots from the building but no-one was reported to have been injured.

"We're just grateful it ended peacefully," the Associated Press news agency quoted Police Sgt Michael Conroy as saying.

"This is just the best outcome we could hope for."

Earlier reports said the suspect was holding five people but some of those were later accounted for.

A witness told CNN that he and two other employees had escaped as the situation was unfolding.

Sgt Conroy of the Virginia State Police said Mr Taylor entered the post office at about 1430 local time (1930 GMT).

Police negotiated with him by telephone but he made no demands other than a request for a pizza, said Pete Rendina, spokesman for the US Postal Inspection Service.

Mr Taylor is reported to have told police he had a military background.

'Explosives device'

Local media reported the hostage taker was in a wheelchair, although witnesses later said they saw him walking inside the building. He emerged from the post office in the chair.

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Sergeant Michael Conroy of Virginia State Police described the hostage crisis

The town's mayor, Trent Crewe, told reporters police had been "acting on the assumption there is an explosive device of some kind in some location".

Police had cordoned off the scene and advised people to evacuate homes and businesses in the immediate area.

Local businesswoman Susan Holman told the Wytheville Enterprise newspaper police had warned the man had "enough explosives to take out the whole block".

However Sgt Conroy said no explosives had yet been found on the man or in the building.


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