NEW YORK (AFP) - A man believed to be armed with a bomb took over a campaign office of Democratic Party presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton in northeastern New Hampshire, US police said Friday.See Also:
National party chairman Howard Dean confirmed the hostage situation in the state, but said the former first lady was not among them.
"The city of Rochester police department is investigating a subject that has walked into the campaign headquarters of Hillary Clinton and is alleged to have an explosive device on his person," state police major Michael Hambrook said.
"Our understanding from Rochester is that the subject released a couple of people but that there may be other people inside the building," he said.
He added that a bomb disposal team had been deployed to the scene.
Dean said Clinton was dealing with the situation and "she is not going to be able to join us today" at the party's autumn meeting, held just over a month before the first nominating contest in Iowa.
It was initially unclear how many people were being held, or what the man's motive might be.
The incident came as campaigning for the 2008 White House race began heating up towards the first nominating contests in Iowa which are just five weeks away on January 3, and followed by the first primaries in New Hampshire on January 8.
US reports said several other buildings and schools in the area had also been evacuated, while television pictures showed armed police rapid response units on the scene.
Local television station WMUR said the man was in his 40s, with salt-and-pepper hair, and was wearing what appeared to be an explosive device strapped to his body, quoting police.
Witness Lettie Tzizik told the station she spoke to a woman shortly after she was released from the office by the alleged hostage-taker.
"A young woman with a six-month or eight-month-old infant came rushing into the store just in tears, and 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," it quoted her as saying.
Television station WCBV quoted Bill Shaheen, chairman of Clinton's New Hampshire campaign, as saying two staffers, who he described as volunteers, were being held hostage, while others were released.
"Hopefully, they're going to negotiate this so no one gets hurt," Shaheen said.
A spokesman for Clinton's rival, Barack Obama, in New Hampshire told AFP his campaign offices in the area had been evacuated, while it was reported that the offices of another Democratic hopeful John Edwards had also been closed.
"Our office has been evacuated, as has the surrounding area. Our staff are safe," said Obama spokesman Reid Cherlin.
Clinton, who was first lady during her husband Bill Clinton's tenure in the White House 1993-2001, has been riding high in the polls, but she remains a deeply polarizing figure.
Clinton, a New York senator and a veteran of the fiercely partisan war raging through US politics, has in the past lambasted a "vast right-wing conspiracy" which she says has targeted her and her husband.
But an object of anger since her husband's 1992 White House campaign, she has provoked the ire of anti-feminists and conservatives which is being whipped up again as she strives to be America's first woman president.
A USA Today poll in October gave Clinton a 53 percent favorable approval rating, compared to a 44 percent unfavorable rating.
And despite polls showing the race narrowing in key states ahead of the Iowa caucuses on January 3, Clinton still leads nationwide in almost every significant opinion survey of the Democratic field.
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