Man suspected of taking hostages in N.H. demands to speak to Hillary Clinton, authorities say

Friday, November 30, 2007 | 2:06 p.m. CST; updated 4:57 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

ROCHESTER, N.H. — A deranged man wearing what appeared to be a bomb strapped to his chest walked into a Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign office Friday, took several hostages and demanded to speak to the candidate, authorities said

The man released at least three hostages as the afternoon wore on, but nearly four hours after the standoff began, police said they were still dealing with a hostage situation and the man had not been taken into custody.

"We're confident we have the resources available to end this safely," Capt. Paul Callaghan said at a briefing. He repeatedly refused to say how many hostages were taken and how many remained.

Clinton was in the Washington area at the time, and extra security precautions were taken to protect the former first lady, who still has a Secret Service detail, said a law enforcement official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation.

The man entered the simple storefront office along the town's main street around 1 p.m., ordered people onto the floor and then let a mother and her baby leave, said State Police Maj. Michael Hambrook.

About two hours later, a woman in a green sweater was led away from the building by a SWAT team member. Authorities, some carrying shields and guns, had the building surrounded, and laid wiring up to the building's entrance before the woman was released. It was unclear if the wiring helped authorities communicate with the suspect.

The office, in a town of 30,000, is one of many Clinton has around New Hampshire.

The suspect was an older man known around the town to be mentally unstable, the law enforcement official told the AP. He walked into the campaign office and opened his jacket, revealing what appeared to be a pipe bomb.

The law enforcement official said the man also demanded to speak with Clinton.

Witness Lettie Tzizik told television station WMUR of Manchester that she spoke to the woman who was released first and that she was crying, holding the infant.

"She said, 'You need to call 911. A man has just walked into the Clinton office, opened his coat and showed us a bomb strapped to his chest with duct tape,''' Tzizik said.

Clinton was scheduled to give an address at the Democratic National Committee meeting in Vienna, Va., Friday afternoon, but DNC Chairman Howard Dean announced from the podium that Clinton would not speak.

"We are in close contact with state and local authorities and are acting at their direction," Clinton said in a statement. "We will release additional details as appropriate."

Authorities sent a tactical bomb unit to assist local police, and the area was evacuated, Hambrook said. A nearby school was in lockdown.

The small Clinton office is located in the New England community's downtown area in a strip of several storefronts, and has large glass windows with a campaign sign out front. Police with guns drawn crouched behind cruisers across the street from the office.

Workers for Sen. Barack Obama's campaign office also evacuated, a campaign spokesman said. The office is four doors away from Clinton's. Staffers in John Edwards' office, a few buildings away, evacuated as well.

Associated Press writer Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.

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