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DES MOINES – All of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s Iowa campaign offices are closed. The decision comes after a hostage situation at an office in New Hampshire. A spokesman for the Clinton campaign tells KCRG-TV 9 News all offices in the state are closed for the time being.
A man claiming to have a bomb strapped to his chest walked in to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign offices in Rochester, N.H., today and took hostages, police and witnesses said.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has canceled her appearance before the Democratic National Committee in Vienna, Va., this afternoon as her campaign deals with the reports that two volunteers are being held captive.
Bill Shaheen, a co-chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s New Hampshire and national campaign, said in a telephone interview at 2:40 p.m. that the two hostages are both staff members in the Rochester campaign office, one of 16 offices that Mrs. Clinton has around the state.
Mr. Shaheen did not know the names of the two people.
He said that there had been no threats of violence against campaign offices of Mrs. Clinton herself in New Hampshire. “We’ve had no security issues, and I’m not even sure this is a threat to her, to my knowledge,” Mr. Shaheen said.
Mr. Shaheen said that the campaign’s New Hampshire spokeswoman, Kathleen Strand, was en route to Rochester to talk to authorities and the media gathering there. Mr. Shaheen was speaking from Boston and said he was leaving for Rochester shortly.
He said he had no knowledge about the apparent request of the hostage-taker to speak to Mrs. Clinton, or whether Mrs. Clinton would do so.
Clinton advisers said that Mrs. Clinton was monitoring the situation from a location in the Washington area; one adviser said he believed that she was at or heading toward the campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va. Another adviser said the campaign had been in touch with authorities in New Hampshire to confirm the details that had been reported in the media thus far. This adviser said the campaign was trying not to overtax the authorities with phone calls or information requests. “We’re letting them do their jobs,” this adviser said.
At the D.N.C. meeting in Virginia, Democratic national chairman Howard Dean made the announcement in a hotel ballroom, gasps were heard from the crowd of several hundred delegates and party officials.
“Details are sketchy at this time,” Mr. Dean said. “We will keep them in our prayers and hope for a resolution of this situation.”
Mrs. Clinton was scheduled to appear before the D.N.C. meeting this afternoon. Her rivals, Senator Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson addressed the crowd this morning.
Mrs. Clinton had already arrived here at the Sheraton Premier Hotel at Tysons Corner when reports of the hostage situation began to trickle in. She was in private meetings in the hotel, officials said, when the decision was made that she would not address the D.N.C. It was not for her own security reasons, officials said, but rather out of a concern for her staff in New Hampshire and she wanted to go monitor developments.
When Mr. Dean made the announcement that her speech had been canceled, dozens of her supporters wearing “Hillary” shirts who had arrived for her speech began to leave.
Robert Gibbs, a spokesman for Senator Barack Obama, said the Rochester offices of the Obama campaign — only a few doors down from the Clinton campaign — also had been evacuated, along with other businesses in the area. The Obama staff members were fine, he said.
As he addressed the D.N.C. this afternoon, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware commented on the incident, saying he heard about it as he was driving out here. “I pray to God it all works out as she heads to New Hampshire,” Mr. Biden said.
According to reports from WMUR-TV and the Union Leader, two workers taken hostage in the office on 28 North Main St. A woman and her baby told workers at a neighboring business that she was released by the hostage-taker.
“A young woman with a 6-month or 8-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,’” witness Lettie Tzizik said.
The woman said a man with pepper-and-salt hair in his 40s with what appeared to be a bomb duct-taped to his chest had entered the office and ordered everyone onto the floor, Ms. Tzizik said.
There are several police officers positioned across the street from the office, crouched down behind cruisers with guns drawn, according to a reporter at the scene.
“I walked out and I immediately started running, and I saw that the road was blocked off. They told me to run and keep going,” said Cassandra Hamilton, who works in an office adjacent to the building
Nearby businesses have been evacuated. .