Police commandos and armoured cars surrounded an Austrian farmhouse yesterday after a gunman allegedly shot dead three police and a paramedic.
The man was holed up in his house at Grosspriel near Melk, some 90 kilometres west of Vienna, police spokesman Johann Baumschlager said.
The gunman reportedly has large amounts of ammunition and a powerful hunting rifle able to pierce protective clothing. Baumschlager called the situation "terrible and very explosive".
Reports said that "Cobra" police commandos had late on Monday attempted to stop the man, a well-known poacher thought to be in his mid-50s, in his car after a tip-off that he was hunting illegally.
He reportedly opened fire after driving into a ditch, shooting one of the police commandos in the neck, who died two hours later in hospital.
While the commando was still receiving medical attention the poacher opened fire again, killing an ambulance driver and leaving a second policeman injured.
The suspect then fled on foot and opened fire on two other police officers, killing one and taking the other hostage.
He stole their police car and drove, with his prisoner, some 60 kilometres to his farmhouse.
Police said the dead body of the officer had been found in the police car at the farm.
The house was surrounded by some 100 police yesterday morning, but by evening they had still not been able to make contact with the gunman, despite help from acquaintances.
In the meantime he fired several shots at the police. Reports said that the man's children may be inside the house with him. The surrounding area was cordoned off.
"The gunman keeps shooting at the Cobra forces ... The Cobra forces are working very slowly and carefully," a police spokesman said. Journalists, who were kept at a distance from the scene, saw a hearse and three armoured personnel carriers driving towards the farm.
The poacher is well known in the local area for evading police and licensed hunters, leaving heads of dead animals on roads.