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One guard freed in French prison hostage standoff: source

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Paris (AFP)

An inmate armed with a homemade weapon took two guards hostage at a high-security prison in northwest France on Tuesday before one of the hostages was released, a source involved in the incident said.

The inmate was still holding the second hostage, a female trainee, as police special forces arrived by helicopter at the Conde-sur-Sarthe Penitentiary Centre, which holds dangerous or radicalised prisoners and those with serious discipline problems.

The prisoner, armed with the improvised weapon, had taken the guard and the female trainee hostage during prisoner meal time, authorities said.

A justice ministry source said the inmate has a history of psychiatric problems and hostage taking. He has convictions for robbery, rape and for a murder of a prison cellmate.

Elite units had arrived at the prison by three helicopters, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

The Prisons Administration Directorate confirmed a hostage situation without giving any further details. It said the justice ministry had alerted its crisis unit.

Security measures were increased in Conde-sur-Sarthe after a prisoner stabbed two guards with a homemade knife in March. After failed negotiations to end a standoff, security units launched an assault, wounding the prisoner.

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