A man armed with a box cutter barricaded himself inside a day-care center in southern Italy on Wednesday with 11 children and a teacher, but police captured him hours later and all the hostages were released unhurt .

Police entered the classroom after the man stepped away from the door and they apprehended him without a struggle, said Renato Cortese, the top police official at the scene. The man had released five of the children during the siege, and Cortese said all the remaining children and the teacher were eventually released unhurt.

RAI state television showed footage from inside the classroom, with the man waving the box cutter and shouting as children milled around him, some of them crying.

Police had said the man demanded to speak to journalists, and the RAI cameras were apparently allowed into the classroom and recorded his comments, which were unintelligible.

Santi Giuffre, police chief in Reggio Calabria, said the man was complaining about judicial problems, and felt himself "a victim of persecution."

Several of the man's relatives, including his father, brother, uncle and a cousin, had been at the scene and were taking turns speaking with him, Cortese said in a telephone interview.

A crowd of onlookers and parents had formed outside the center.