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Father takes child hostage, halting flights at Hamburg airport

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Father takes child hostage, halting flights at Hamburg airport
Officers of the German Federal Police (Bundespolizei) on October 11, 2023. Photo: JENS SCHLUETER/AFP.

On Sunday German police negotiators were trying to convince a father armed with a weapon and perhaps explosives to free his four-year-old daughter that he was keeping hostage at Hamburg airport, where flights were suspended, authorities said.

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The 35-year-old man has barricaded himself and the child in his car at the foot of a Turkish Airlines plane, demanding to be allowed on board after a custody dispute with the mother.

He had rammed his car through the security area onto the apron where planes are parked on Saturday evening, firing two shots in the air and throwing two  burning bottles out of the vehicle, police said.

"Our negotiators continue to be in contact," with the man, police said on X, formerly Twitter, adding that the conversations were in Turkish.

"We now think he is in possession of a loaded weapon and perhaps explosives," police added.

The father, a Turk according to the daily Bild newspaper, had at first demanded to be allowed to fly to Turkey with his daughter.

"That's no longer the aim of negotiations," a local police spokesperson said.

"We believe that the child is physically well," police spokeswoman Sandra Levgruen told regional television channel NDR. "That's what we can see and what we gather from telephone conversations with the man responsible for what has happened. We can hear the child in the background."

"I don't want to talk about her mental state," the spokeswoman added. "We are talking, talking and talking again," with the father, and "trying to find a peaceful solution," she added.

Police had brought psychologists and teams of negotiators as well as rapid response units.

Authorities said a dispute over custody of the child was believed to be the cause of the incident, with the wife of the driver placing an emergency call alerting police to the abduction of her child.

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"We are on site with a large contingent of emergency services. We are currently assuming a static hostage situation," police had posted earlier on X from the northern city.

Levgruen said it was a "very good sign" that the father remained in contact with the authorities over a prolonged period of time.

On Sunday morning the airport management posted on X saying, "The police operation continues, air traffic remains suspended until further notice."

On Saturday evening, 17 flights scheduled to land in Hamburg were diverted.  Another 286 flights were scheduled for Sunday, carrying some 34,500 passengers.

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