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US TV channel hostage taker killed

A man who railed against the Discovery Channel's environmental programming for years burst into the company's headquarters with at least one explosive device strapped to his body and took three people hostage at gunpoint before police shot him to death, US officials said.

The hostages - two Discovery Communications employees and a security guard - were unhurt after the four-hour stand-off. Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said tactical officers moved in after officers monitoring Lee on building security cameras saw him pull out a handgun and point it at a hostage.

An explosive device on the gunman's body detonated when police shot him, Mr Manger said. Police were trying to determine whether two boxes and two backpacks the gunman had also contained explosives.

A law enforcement official said authorities had identified James J Lee as the likely suspect.

NBC News reported that after its producers called Discovery's general number, a man identifying himself as James J Lee got on the phone and said he had a gun and several bombs.

"I have several bombs strapped to my body ready to go off. I have a device that if I drop it, if I drop it, it will ... explode," the man told NBC. He said he built the bombs in about three weeks. "I did a lot of research. I had to experiment," he added.

Mr Manger said the suspect held the hostages in the lobby area of the first floor. Authorities said they will methodically go through the building and identify any suspicious items. "The building is still a crime scene," Mr Manger said. "We still have work to do."

Mr Manger said police spent several hours negotiating with the armed man after he entered the suburban Washington building. None of the 1,900 people who work in the building were hurt, and most made it out before the stand-off ended.

Lee was convicted of disorderly conduct for a protest he organised outside Discovery's offices in February 2008. According to court records, he paid homeless people to carry signs and set off a scramble for money when he threw fistfuls of cash into the air, calling it "just trash".

Lee served two weeks in jail. County State's Attorney John McCarthy said Lee was ordered to stay 500 feet away from Discovery headquarters as part of his probation, which ended two weeks ago. A magistrate ordered a doctor's evaluation, but the result was not immediately available.

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