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1993: French police rescue child hostages
Masked police commandos have freed six girls with their nursery teacher and shot dead an armed man, ending a two-day hostage crisis at a nursery school in Paris.

One team burst into the booby-trapped classroom while the hooded gunman was dozing at 0725 local time. The unidentified man, who had 16 sticks of dynamite strapped to his body, was shot three times in the head with guns fitted with silencers.

At the same time a second team went over to the children and covered them with mattresses so they did not see the shooting. Within minutes the girls were reunited with their parents and seemed unperturbed by the dramatic events of the last 46 hours.

Their teacher, Laurence Dreyfus, aged 30, has been hailed a national heroine for keeping the children calm throughout the ordeal and telling them the man with the gun was "hunting wolves".

She was allowed out of the room at intervals to collect food and to reassure parents. At one point, she smuggled in a video camera used by the police to plan their rescue.

The interior minister, Charles Pasqua, said Mrs Dreyfus and Capt Evelyne Lambert - an army doctor who was allowed to stay with her and the hostages - would be awarded France's highest civilian award for bravery, the Legion of Honour.

The lone gunman, who called himself the Human Bomb, burst into the Commandant Charcto nursery school in the suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine on Thursday morning.

There were 21 three- and four-year-olds in the classroom at the time but after painstaking negotiations 15 children were released in batches chosen by Mrs Dreyfus.

The gunman demanded 12m ($18.5m) as a ransom, saying his motives were purely financial, and he had planned his escape meticulously.

The authorities granted him part of the money but decided to use force to end the crisis after he said he wanted to take at least one child with him as a human shield.

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Laurence Dreyfus
Ms Dreyfus calmed her charges by telling them the gunman was "hunting wolves".

In Context
The Human Bomb was later identified as 42-year-old Eric Schmitt, an Algerian-born French citizen and a loner. His computer business had been made bankrupt two years before and 18 months later he was made redundant from an electrical firm.

He had no previous convictions apart from two for speeding and drink-driving. He had spent seven years in the army where he had learned to handle firearms.

In an interview given to Paris-Match magazine a few days after the end of the hostage crisis, the teacher Laurence Dreyfus said she had found it hard to come to terms with all the praise heaped upon her.

As well as the Legion of Honour she was also awarded the Unesco human rights medal.

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