Half-a-dozen children and their teacher were released safely on Monday after being held hostage for four hours by a teenager armed with two swords at a nursery in the eastern French city of Besancon.
Officials said the man, whom one described as suffering from a personality disorder, had been arrested and was being questioned by police from France’s elite GIGN force.
“There is no more violence, it all went calmly,” Besancon mayor Jean-Louis Fousseret told iTele television. “This is a person who is in a very bad mental state,” he added of the hostage-taker, who he said lived locally.
The children, aged four to six, were wrapped in green wool blankets and carried away by relatives who had waited anxiously outside as police negotiated with the hostage-taker by telephone.
Officials said the young man turned up at the Charles Fourier nursery shortly before 9am local time brandishing two swords and mumbling that he “wanted something”.
He initially took about 20 children hostage, later releasing 14 of them, and finally letting the last half dozen go free just before 1pm.
His motive was still unclear, although Jean-Marc Magda, administrative head of Fousseret’s office, told Reuters he was known to suffer from depression and psychological problems.
“He has a personality disorder. Contact has been made with his doctor,” Magda said.
Education Minister Luc Chatel was at the nursery, which was cordoned off from the public. Other children and nursery teachers had been evacuated and taken to a nearby school.
Earlier in the morning, some of the evacuated children cried as their parents arrived to take them away, a neighbour said. — Reuters