Five people were found dead after commandos smashed their way into a flat in Karlsruhe, southern Germany, where a gunman had taken hostages in a bid to stop bailiffs evicting him. The gunman is said to be among the dead.

"Special forces broke into the apartment after smelling smoke and found the bodies. Probably one of them is the gunman," police spokesman Juergen Scheufer told Reuters.

Police were called to the apartment block after residents heard shots being fired.

The gunman was described by AFP as heavily armed. News channel NTV said he had at least one hand grenade.

Scheufer said the gunman, who was holed up in a top-floor flat, had several hunting weapons but did not establish direct contact with the police.

The police team found the bodies of the suspect, as well as those of the court bailiff who had sought to evict him, the locksmith who had accompanied him, the woman who was supposed to take over the apartment and another person, said Scheufer.

The man opened fire when the bailiff attempted to eject him for failing to pay his rent. Police blocked off the Nordstadt section of the city and called in commando teams.