Austria police storm house after gunman shoots four dead

The BBC's Bethany Bell says that shots were heard from the farmhouse earlier

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Austrian special forces have stormed a farmhouse where a man suspected of killing three policemen and an emergency worker is holed up.

A government spokesman said the house near Melk in Lower Austria was being searched but there is no word on the condition of the suspect.

The man is heavily armed, reported state broadcaster ORF quoting police.

The suspect, who has not been named, had earlier been arrested for poaching but escaped in a stolen police car.

He then fled to his house where he is believed to have a large number of weapons and ammunition.

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Around 100 special forces officers had been surrounding the property on the outskirts of Melk, about 90km (55 miles) west of the capital Vienna, ORF reported.

Sporadic shots were earlier fired at officers, who described the situation as "terrible and very explosive".

Police have so far failed to make contact with the gunman, ORF reported, adding that relatives of the suspect have been brought in to help.

As darkness fell, officers from Austria's elite "Cobra" police unit started a search of the farmhouse and surrounding buildings, the Austria Press Agency reported.

Paramedic shot

Police had tried to apprehend the suspect late on Monday after receiving information that he had been poaching.

However, the man - said to be in his mid-50s - reportedly opened fire after driving into a ditch near the town of Annaberg, injuring a police officer who later died in hospital.

Armed police block the road around the farmhouse Armed police quickly sealed off the area

A paramedic was shot dead as he tried to help the officer, and a second policeman was injured, reports said.

The gunman then fled on foot, killing a second police officer and taking a third hostage.

He stole their police car and drove, with his captive, some 60km to his farmhouse.

Officials later reported that they had discovered the body of the third policeman at the farm.

A large section of the surrounding area has been cordoned off, with police in body armour and carrying machine-guns manning road-blocks.

Armoured police vehicles have also been deployed.

An earlier information blackout was lifted after information was leaked by the media.

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