Armed convict holding two hostages in Brussels

An armed convict, free on a day pass to see his children, held their babysitter and her daughter hostage in a downtown apartment Thursday, continuing a tense standoff with police that began the previous night.

Police deployed snipers and cordoned off a wide area around Brussels' central railway station, saying the man was armed with a handgun and a grenade.

The incident began Wednesday around 7 p.m. (1700GMT) in an apartment above a bar, said police spokesman Wim De Troy.

Almost 24 hours later, police were still locked in a standoff with the hostage-taker and imposed a news blackout.

"It began with four hostages," De Troy told reporters earlier.

They were the hostage-taker's "two daughters, aged 9 and 2, the childminder and her daughter. After intense negotiations the children were freed (late Wednesday) night," he added.

He said hostage-taker Farid Bamouhammad, 36, is upset at care arrangements for his children while he serves time for a series of violent offenses, including a 2000 hostage-taking in a suburban hamburger restaurant that also involved his oldest daughter, reports The AP.

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