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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 April, 2005, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
German police free girl hostages
Police at scene of Ennepetal hostage-taking
Police ended the five-hour hostage drama without bloodshed
Police in north-west Germany have stormed a cellar and freed four schoolgirls who were held hostage by an Iranian man armed with a kitchen knife.

The man snatched the teenage girls on Tuesday after seizing a bus filled with schoolchildren in Ennepetal, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

According to eyewitnesses, the man had said he wanted to get the German authorities to let his family join him.

The man had reportedly pulled the girls off the bus and into a nearby house.

The incident began at about 1300 (1100 GMT) in Ennepetal, a town near the industrial Ruhr Valley.

The kidnapper, aged about 50, reportedly dragged the children from the bus when it stopped at the roadside.

As a resident opened her front door, the kidnapper pushed her aside and forced the children in, the reports said.

Police quoted by Reuters said the kidnapper was still alive after the police assault.

A boy who witnessed the hostage-taking on the bus said the kidnapper had tied several girls together by their belt buckles with a cord.

Marvin Schulte, 16, said "he didn't seem aggressive".

"He said we should stay quiet and he didn't want to harm us," said Schulte, quoted by the Associated Press.


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See the scene of the hostage-taking




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