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Man takes hostages, demands Japan PM resign: media

A man armed with a knife took five people hostage at a Japanese bank Thursday, police said, with local media reporting he was demanding Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's cabinet resign.

The man began the siege at the Zoshi branch of the Toyokawa Shinkin Bank in central Aichi prefecture around 2:20 pm (0520 GMT), a police spokesman said without elaborating.

Wielding a survival knife, he took four employees and a female customer captive and was demanding the Noda cabinet step down, as well as asking to speak to journalists, local media said.

The hostage-taker was originally said to be in his 30s or 40s, but later media reports suggested he was in his 50s.

Public broadcaster NHK said there was no report of injuries among the hostages more than four hours after they were taken captive, and the man had made no demands for money.

However, he was asking for 10 days' worth of food and water, the Asahi Shimbun said.

Broadcasters said he had also demanded cigarettes and a lighter.

Television footage showed a man who appeared to be a police officer carrying a megaphone and a plastic bag to a side door of the building.

Shutters were down all over the building, but lights could be seen on inside.

Television footage showed the area around the bank sealed off and guarded by police officers.

Noda last week called an election for December 16. He is expected to lose, with polls suggesting the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party will be the biggest party.

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