LONDON — Police said today that a gunman was holding possibly as many as 100 people hostage in a London nightclub, and a witness who escaped said he believes members of the Kuwaiti royal family were among them.
Ambulance officers who drove to the scene to await developments said they had no reports of anyone being hurt.
Armed police also were outside the building housing Tokyo Joe's, a club popular in London's Middle Eastern community and located off Piccadilly.
Police said negotiations were being conducted with the aid of an interpreter, although the man spoke some English. They said they do not know his nationality.
Others who got out of the club said the man appeared to be Middle Eastern.
Staff and visitors who were in the street said the police were called early today after a man with a gun was seen walking through the packed club toward the basement area about 2 a.m.
Dennis Tuerena, 38, the doorman, said he was standing in the reception area when he came face to face with a man armed with two guns, a knife and what appeared to be a bomb.
"There were some people moving at the time and this man just pushed them back and ran in," Tuerena said. "He had a shotgun in one hand, a handgun in the other and a knife pushed in his trousers that was like a little sword or a rapier."
Tuerena said he led two club members to safety through an emergency exit before the gunman realized what was happening.
Yacoub Ibrahim, who said he is in London on vacation and had been inside, told a reporter that members of the Kuwaiti royal family were in the club. Ibrahim said he had not seen them since he escaped and believed they were still inside.
Jamal Elamery, an Egyptian working in London for a Saudi Arabian family, said he was on his way into the club to join friends when he was caught in a crowd of people leaving it.
"I was just going in when I saw a lot of people panicking and leaving. I turned round and joined in the rush," he said.
Others who managed to get out said about 200 people were in the club when the gunman entered.
After daylight with the siege more than four hours old, a police officer said: "People are still trickling out of the premises. I think as the opportunity arises they break for cover. A handful of people have come out in the last hour, mainly women," he said.