, BERLIN August 19- An man claiming to be armed took several hostages on Monday in the town hall of a German city where Chancellor Angela Merkel had been due to give a campaign rally later in the day.
Police blocked off the town centre of Ingolstadt north of Munich and contacted the hostage taker by phone, while Merkel’s conservative party cancelled the party event planned ahead of September 22 elections.
While police remained tightlipped, local media reported the hostage taker was thought to be a 24 year old escapee from a psychiatric ward, armed with a handgun, who had been stalking a female town hall employee.
The man was thought to have taken three hostages including deputy mayor Sepp Misslbeck, his secretary and the city government’s complaints manager the local Donau Kurier newspaper also reported online.
A police spokesman told national news agency DPA that the suspect was a young man armed with a real or imitation hand gun. However, police declined to speak about the hostage taker’s motives or demands.
The hostage drama started shortly before 9am (0700 GMT), a police spokesman earlier told AFP, adding that “it is a male perpetrator. He has several hostages”.
A police tactical response squad quickly rushed to the scene.
Bavaria’s state interior minister Joachim Herrmann also travelled to Ingolstadt, where a large number of police cordoned off the crime scene.