PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire (AFP) — Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton vowed to fight on with her White House campaign Saturday, despite an earlier hostage drama at one of her offices.
"I don't see any changes in my campaign or my schedule," Clinton told reporters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, near the town of Rochester where Friday's standoff occurred, adding "I don't see any way this will affect me."
Clinton who was not in New Hampshire at the time of the incident, but flew to the northeastern US state to meet the hostages, their families and police teams, described the standoff as "obviously a very difficult situation."
"For me and my campaign it was a very tough and difficult day," she said, adding that the hostages had expressed "a lot of relief, a lot of gratitude."
A man claiming to be armed with a bomb walked into the New Hampshire office at around 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) Friday, taking three women, a man and a baby hostage and reportedly demanding to speak to the former first lady.
The man, believed to have a history of mental illness, surrendered to police around five hours later and was charged with kidnapping.
A young woman initially raised the alarm after fleeing the building with her baby almost immediately after the hostage-taker entered Clinton's office.
Witness Lettie Tzizik told local television station WMUR she spoke to the woman shortly after she fled the building to a nearby shop.
"A young woman with a six-month or eight-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," WMUR quoted her as saying.
Armed police rapidly arrived on the scene, with units setting up across the street while negotiators established communication.
The hostage-taker, named by police as Lee Eisenberg, released another captive around two hours into the standoff before giving up the last two around three hours later.
Live television images showed Eisenberg surrendering to police with his hands in the air before getting down on the ground, being arrested by armed officers and taken to a police vehicle.
The suspected bomb turned out to be several road flares strapped to his body with duct tape.
US media said that Eisenberg was well known locally, had a history of mental problems and wanted to draw attention to the state of psychiatric health care in the United States.
He had reportedly been scheduled to appear in court Friday for a domestic violence hearing and had previously spent time in jail. He was also believed to be going through a divorce and reportedly had a history of alcohol abuse.
Sherman Ejarque from The Governor's Inn in Rochester interviewed Eisenberg for a job as a dish washer earlier this year and told AFP the hostage-taker "seemed like a habitually unemployed drifter."
The incident came as campaigning for the 2008 White House race began heating up towards the first nominating contests in Iowa, just five weeks away on January 3, followed by the first primaries in New Hampshire on January 8.
Clinton, who was first lady during her husband Bill Clinton's tenure in the White House 1993-2001, has been riding high in the polls, but she remains a deeply polarizing figure.
A New York senator and a veteran of the fiercely partisan war raging through US politics, she has in the past lambasted a "vast right-wing conspiracy" which she says has targeted her and her husband.
An object of anger since her husband's 1992 White House campaign, she has also provoked the ire of anti-feminists and conservatives, which is being whipped up again as she strives to be America's first woman president.
And despite polls showing the race narrowing in key states ahead of the Iowa caucuses, she still leads nationwide in almost every significant opinion survey of the Democratic field.
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