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3/9/06-Sable-sur-Sarthe, France

Former Teacher Has Taken 18 Students Hostage

An armed former teacher has taken 18 students hostage at a high school in northwest France, a spokeswoman for the city's mayor and police officials said this afternoon.

Other reports indicated two adults also were being held in the school in Sable-sur-Sarthe, about 220 kilometers (140 miles) southwest of Paris, but the spokeswoman could not confirm that. She had no reports of any injuries in the incident.

The police officials said the man broke into the classroom at the Colbert de Torcy High School around 2 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Thursday.

French media reports said the former teacher was demanding to talk to the country's former education minister Francois Fillon, who is the town's mayor.

Fillon and police officials were negotiating with the hostage-taker, the spokeswoman said.

Prosecutor Jean Elek informed the families of the captive students of the situation, court officials told The Associated Press.

It was not clear what type of weapon the man was carrying, a spokesman for local authorities in Sable-sur-Sarthe told Reuters. France Info said he was aged 33.

Police cordoned off the area in Sable-sur-Sarthe, which is near Le Mans, the town famed for its 24-hour annual car race.

 
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