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Hammer-wielding Malaysian takes kindergarten hostages

A Malaysian man wielding a machete and a hammer has taken 30 children and teachers hostage at a kindergarten, triggering a standoff with police.

District police officer Suhaimi Ahmad said the man barged into the kindergarten in a residential area of southern Johor state early in the morning.

Police cordoned off the area and were negotiating with the man, he said.

He denied a report that one child had died and said the situation was under control.

The Star newspaper said in its online edition that the man told negotiators to give him a gun or he would kill the children. It said a psychiatrist, Lau Keen Lee, spoke to the man from outside the building and he appeared to have calmed down.

"He is hungry now and wants some food," it quoted Lau as saying. The man and the children were on the top floor of the two-floor building, it said.