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Greece Gunman Hijacks Tourism Bus

November 4, 2000

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ A car repairman hijacked a bus carrying 33 Japanese tourists Saturday after killing his mother-in-law and a friend in a village in southern Greece, police said.

Police negotiators and psychiatrists were speaking to the gunman by mobile telephone, authorities said.

Heavily armed members of the anti-terrorist squad, two police helicopters, more than 20 police cars, seven motorbikes and several ambulances and fire trucks shadowed and isolated the moving bus. No other vehicles were being allowed within more than a mile.

None of the passengers was reported to be injured.

The gunman, identified as 52-year-old Christos Kendiras, shot and killed his mother-in-law, 77-year-old Georgia Spyrou, just outside the port village of Galata, police said.

He then drove into Galata and shot and killed Stamatis Taktikos, a friend he believed was having an affair with his wife, police said.

After the shootings, Kendiras drove about 20 miles north to Epidauros, a theater dating from the 4th century BC about 110 miles southwest of Athens.

In Epidauros, police said he used a container of fuel to set fire to his car and then stopped the passing bus. It was not immediately clear how he stopped or boarded the bus, which was carrying the 33 Japanese tourists as well as a Greek tour guide and driver.

Kendiras first ordered the bus to head north toward Athens, but then directed the driver to turn around and head to Galata, where the killings took place, police said.

Reporters from the Antenna and Alpha television channels who spoke to the gunman said he had not yet threatened to kill any of the passengers.

``All I can say is everyone is very well″ on board the bus, said Aris Marinis, from the Panolympia Express travel agency responsible for the tour bus. He did not release any information on the ages or hometowns of the passengers.

The tourists arrived in Greece two days ago on a three-day trip to the Peloponnese, he said.

At one point in hostage drama, Kendiras apparently shot at a patrol motorcycle as it approached the bus, police said. The policeman was slightly injured by broken glass from his bike’s shattered windshield.

Speaking to local television channel Alpha by mobile phone, Kendiras appeared agitated and spoke disjointedly about family problems. He said his wife had been cheating on him and he blamed her mother.

``I wanted to kill my mother-in-law. In other words, if I didn’t kill her she’d be going in for heart surgery anyway, the people were going to give money for nothing,″ said Kendiras, an auto body shop worker originally from the port of Piraeus.

Two police negotiators and two psychiatrists were also speaking to Kendiras on the telephone, authorities said.

``He seems to want to externalize his internal problems″ said Dimitris Efstathiadis, general secretary of the public order ministry.

Police set up road blocks along the main north-south highway connecting the capital with southern Greece and initially said they would attempt to stop the bus in Corinth, 52 miles west of Athens.

But the hijacker ordered the bus to change routes several times.

It was the third time in the past 1 1/2 years that a hijacker has taken a busload of passengers hostage in Greece. In May 1999, an Albanian armed with a hand grenade forced a bus to drive to Albania with eight hostages. Albanian police stormed the bus, killing the hijacker and one captive. Two months later, another Albanian seized a bus and tried to take it to Albania. He was killed by a police sniper after a 24-hour standoff.

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