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Gunman killed at Estonia ministry

A gunman opened fire in Estonia's defence ministry and tried to take hostages but died when police stormed the building, officials have said.

An official with the country's security police would not say how the shooter died, but a spokesman for the northern district prosecutor's office, Maria-Elisa Tuulik, said he apparently was shot and killed by the police.

The attacker entered the ministry in Tallinn at midday, threw a smoke bomb, fired shots and tried to kidnap two employees, but police quickly evacuated the building and officers wearing bulletproof uniform entered it, officials said.

Defence minister Mart Laar was not there at the time, ministry spokesman Hannes Kont said.

News footage showed several ministry employees climbing out a first floor window and jumping to safety while police cordoned off the area.

Hasse Svens, a journalist working for Swedish broadcaster SVT, was near the building when the shooting started.

"When I reached the defence ministry I heard several shots and a powerful explosion and also smelled the gunpowder smoke," he said by telephone.

Police would not identify the gunman, but Estonian media, citing unidentified ministry officials, said he was a former soldier.

The attack has shocked the tiny, serene Baltic nation of 1.3 million people that joined the Nato alliance in 2004.

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