British police end armed hostage-taking at bowling alley

British police ended an armed hostage siege on Sunday, saying there were no casualties after a gunman took two staff members hostage at a bowling alley in a leisure complex in central England.

Police say it was not a terrorist incident and a man is under arrest

Police were called to Bermuda Park in Nuneaton, central England, for a reported hostage-taking incident at a bowling alley. (Aaron Chown/Associated Press)

A gunman who reportedly held two employees hostage at a central England bowling alley was arrested Sunday night after armed police moved in. He was treated at the scene and taken to a hospital.

The two workers held for roughly four hours were released unharmed, police and ambulance officials said.

Details about the gunman's condition were not released. He has not yet been charged or identified.

Warwickshire Police Superintendent Alex Franklin-Smith said specialist firearms squads and police negotiators rushed to Bermuda Park, the shopping centre where the bowling alley is located, when reports of a possible hostage situation came in.

"We are pleased that we were able to bring this incident to a peaceful resolution and that there were no injuries," he said.

The bowling alley's operations director, Chris Clegg, said the two hostages were checked by medical personnel and appeared to be fine.

Earlier, Warwickshire police had warned the public to stay away from the shopping centre in Nuneaton, about 7.5 miles north of the town of Coventry, but said the problem was not terrorism-related.

The West Midlands Ambulance Service said on Twitter one suspect had been treated at the scene and taken to hospital by ambulance. Two other men were assessed but determined to be uninjured.

Mehdi Afshar, chief executive of MFA Bowl, which owns the alley, was quoted by the BBC as saying the police had stormed the building and ended the siege. 

During the incident Warwickshire police warned the public to stay away from Bermuda Park, a shopping and leisure centre in Nuneaton, about 12 kilometres north of the town of Coventry. 

Amshar told Sky News earlier that he was informed two of his employees were held at gunpoint at the company's Nuneaton branch.

Amshar said he believed the gunman was an ex-husband or former boyfriend of an employee, but he couldn't be sure.

Man says customers were allowed to leave

All customers were able to leave the premises during the incident and were unharmed, Amshar said. 

An eyewitness told Sky a nearby restaurant was put in lockdown.

"We got notification that someone had a shotgun inside the bowling alley," the witness, Sarah Fleming, told Sky News when the incident was still ongoing. "Then we had notification from the police that he actually had hostages.

"Everyone has been a bit up in the air, don't know what's going on," she said. "Everyone is a little bit scared at the minute."

Staff at the restaurant Frankie and Bennie's confirmed to CBC News that they were in lockdown.

Police and helicopters on scene

Another witness from the restaurant, Carl Lenton, described a "quite scary" situation unfolding outside.

"There were police cars arriving, there was a helicopter, police dogs, armed police stood all around the bowling alley, around the outside of it," Lenton said.

The complex houses a movie theatre, restaurants, a gym and bowling alley.

One man said on Twitter that he was stuck at the Odeon Cinema, which was also reported to be on lockdown.

Witness Dean Rogers told the Coventry Telegraph newspaper there were up to 30 armed officers at the scene.

Pictures on Twitter showed several police cars near the complex and local media reported that roads leading to it had been closed off. Some people were being allowed to leave the complex, a witness told Sky News.

The Coventry Telegraph said its reporter had seen an air ambulance land at the scene to join three other ambulances.

Heightened response

The police response may have been heightened by concerns about a possible extremist attack. Britain's official terrorist threat level is set as "severe," indicating an attack is thought to be highly likely.

Gun crimes are rare in Britain, which has strict firearm control rules.

One man who said he was at a children's party at the bowling alley said he initially thought it was a joke when a staff member told him to leave because a gunman was inside.

"I looked up and there was a guy, probably 20 or 30 feet away, walking towards us with a sawn-off shotgun sort of slung over his shoulder," Lawrence Hallett told Sky News. He added the man was "basically shouting and had a very aggressive demeanor about him."

With files from Reuters and CBC News