Standoff continues with Komotini hostage-taker

Police negotiators were on Thursday night trying to talk round a sacked factory worker who shot and wounded three people and was holding two others hostage at a plastics plant near the northern city of Komotini.

The gunman, a 52-year-old divorced father of two who was sacked from the Helesi plastic bin manufacturing plant last August, is said to have opened fire on his manager and other employees with a hunting rifle after an attempt to be reinstated in his job failed.

Police were called to the plant shortly after 1 p.m., about 10 minutes after the 52-year-old is said to have started shooting. Former employees said he had come to the factory in a bid to speak to his ex-boss and seek re-employment as well as the payment of wages he claimed to be owed. When his employer refused, the man drew a gun and shot several times, injuring his 51-year-old employer in the arm and ribs and a 30-year-old Bulgarian worker in the leg. During the panic that ensued, the gunman took hostage two company drivers, who has still not been released late last night.

When the police arrived on the scene, the gunman refused to hand himself over and fired his gun again, injuring one officer slightly in the hand.

In the commotion, the injured manager and worker managed to get away and were transferred to a local hospital where they both underwent surgery. Doctors said later that they were both stable and that their injuries were not life-threatening.

Meanwhile the standoff between the police and the 52-year-old was continuing late last night. Officers were hoping that the man, who claimed not to have eaten for four days, would eventually surrender due to fatigue.

Dozens of officers had taken up position around the plastics plant earlier in the day and there were reports that they might attempt to storm the premises and disarm the gunman, but no such initiative had been carried out by late last night.

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