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Child hostages used in standoff

A city spokesman says three of the five children who were being held hostage Tuesday by two men barricaded in a home in the southern Chicago suburb of Harvey have been released and appear to be in good condition.

Negotiators were in talks with the men, who authorities said continued to hold a woman and two other children. At least one of the men was thought to be armed. Officers, including a SWAT team, surrounded the home for more than seven hours Tuesday, and the entire block of homes was evacuated.

"There have been no bumps in the road yet," Sean Howard, the Harvey spokesman, said. "We hope to get this resolved peacefully.

Howard said the first two children who were released appeared to be in good physical condition and were taken to a local hospital for observation. He said the third child, a 1-year-old, won't be hospitalized.

The first child has a breathing problem, Howard said. The men put the child on the front porch and a member of the SWAT team got the child, he said.

The standoff in Harvey, a city of 25,000 about 25 miles south of Chicago, followed a 911 call about a burglary in progress and the subsequent wounding of two police officers in an exchange of gunfire.

Howard told The Associated Press that authorities do not know the hostage-takers but have identified the hostages. He would not comment on the relationship between the hostages but said the woman is believed to be a nurse. He did not identify the children who were released.

"Right now, we don't want to jeopardize the integrity of negotiation process," Howard said. "We want to protect those children as much as we can. The less information right now, the better."

Two police officers were wounded by gunfire after responding to a 12:43 p.m. burglary report, Howard said.

Officer Darnell Keel, an 18-year veteran of the police force, was in stable condition at a hospital with a broken arm after an exchange of gunfire and would undergo surgery, Howard said. A second officer suffered a graze wound to an arm.

Twenty-six law enforcement agencies were assisting, Howard said. An armoured vehicle and officers in body armour with high-powered rifles could be seen in the neighbourhood. The state police SWAT team was on the scene, said Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond.

A nearby middle school was evacuated, but only staff members were in the building.

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