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Breaking News

Children Safe After Gunman Shot Dead in Luxembourg Hostage Standoff

Aired June 1, 2000 - 1:37 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news at this hour on the ongoing daycare center crisis in Luxembourg. Reportedly, the hostage taker is shot, a siege perhaps under way at this moment.

Let's join CNNI's Fionnula Sweeney with the latest on this breaking story.

PATRICIA KELLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... daycare center was quickly cleared. Even as our crew was reporting the first shots fired, children were being carried out by uniformed police.

FIONNULA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going to interrupt Patricia Kelly there in Luxembourg and welcome viewers from the United States, as well as viewers from around the world. You're looking at pictures now from Luxembourg, the city of Luxembourg, northeast of the city of Luxembourg in central Europe where a daycare hostage standoff would appear to be over.

We understand that within the last half hour, police decided to take the course of an armed assault against a daycare center where a lone gunman had been holding some 25 young children hostage and three teachers. This hostage siege began some 28 hours ago in this city at the daycare center, and the hostage taker released some eight children yesterday and four on Thursday afternoon. The age of the children ranges from something like 22 months up to the age of 11.

Now, the pictures you're looking at are of the crisis center where parents of the young children have been gathering since this hostage scene began on Wednesday afternoon. Helicopters are circling overhead and we understand the armed assault began because a CNN video crew was able to film it as it was beginning some 30 minutes ago.

Let's bring in our correspondent on the scene there, Patricia Kelly -- CNN's Patricia Kelly.

Perhaps you can recap what happened, how it began.

KELLY: Well, about 20 minutes ago...

(AUDIO GAP)

... crew on the spot reported that an armed assault had started on the daycare center, 25 children and three adult teachers kept hostage there by a lone gunman armed also with a grenade and a knife. They reported shots being fired. And even as they were telling us that the shots were being fired, they were reporting the first children being carried by uniformed police out of this daycare center.

Now, we are standing -- the shots you are seeing is the crisis center where parents are waiting anxiously for the return of their children; 25 children and three adults. We are told there are no injuries. But the lone kidnapper was shot dead. Luxembourg police report he was shot by a Luxembourg sniper.

This hostage crisis has lasted 28 hours. The hostage taker took 37 children and three adult teachers hostage on Wednesday; eight were released during the course of Wednesday...

SWEENEY: I'm going to interrupt you now, Patricia, because I understand that we have video that CNN took of the start of this armed assault within the last 20 minutes or so. So apologies for interrupting, Patricia, but we'd like to go to these live pictures which you're, first of all, seeing of some of the children that we understand to have been released following this armed assault on the daycare center within the last 20 minutes or so. We were able to report this because a CNN camera crew had been filming the daycare center and was able to establish what they saw as the beginning of an armed assault on the daycare center.

Patricia, may I ask you, what were the gunman's demands? What did he want? Patricia, once again, may I ask you what were the gunman's demands and what did he want?

KELLY: He was asking for publicity for what he believed was injustice in his life from the Luxembourg authorities, who had removed his children from his custody and placed them in care. This happened about four years ago. He wanted a car to the airport, a plane to leave the country. Police said earlier that he wanted to go to Libya, but neighbors of his say that he wanted to return to his original home country, Tunisia. The man had Tunisian and Luxembourg nationality.

All during the course of this day, the police have said that they believed this situation would be able to be ended peacefully. They say that the man had stressed on numerous occasions during talks with them that he loved children, that he did not want to harm these children and all their teachers. But it's -- finally, after 28 hours, the man, we're told, was reportedly becoming more and more agitated, more and more nervous. He was armed with a hand grenade and a handgun and a knife, and a Luxembourg police sniper killed him and shot him dead, that shot fired roughly 25 minutes ago.

As those first shots were being fired, the first children were being carried out of the day center by uniformed police.

SWEENEY: Patricia, let me ask you: How common is this kinds of seized in Europe, specifically Luxembourg? And how much experience have police in Luxembourg in dealing with this kind of situation?

KELLY: Well, actually, it's not common at all in Luxembourg. Nobody in the police can remember anything like this happening, certainly not involving children. There was small hostage situation involving adults many, many years ago. So they do have very little experience.

But this town is close to the German border and the Luxembourgers instantly were in contact with German police. A special intervention squad trained in hostage crises and terrorism -- antiterrorism were immediately dispatched to this town, and the daycare center was surrounded by heavily armed police almost from the beginning.

All access on roads were cut off and negotiation was established with the hostage taker. He initiated the contact. He used a mobile phone to call police to make his demands, to reassure them that he did not intend to harm the children, that all he wanted was a chance to air his grievances and a chance to leave Luxembourg and start a new life elsewhere with his own children, who used to be students at this daycare center until they were removed from his custody by the authorities, for what reason we know not, and placed into care.

HALL: You just heard CNNI reporting on the breaking news situation out of Luxembourg. The hostage crisis there is over, where an armed gunman had held some 25 children and three adults at a small school in a town of Wasserbillig. No injuries reported except for the gunman reportedly shot dead by Luxembourg authorities. That crisis lasted some 28 hours, children now being released safely, presumably to their parents. That situation is over.

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