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Greece Gunman Hijacks Tourism Bus

November 4, 2000

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ A gunman hijacked a bus carrying more than 30 Japanese tourists after killing his mother-in-law and a friend in a village in southern Greece, police said. Police moved to block the bus’ route toward the capital.

The hijacker, identified as a 52-year-old metal worker, ordered the bus to head north toward Athens after seizing it near the ancient site of Epidauros, about 109 miles southwest of the capital, authorities said. None of the passengers were immediately reported to be injured.

Police set up road blocks along the main north-south highway connecting the capital and intended to attempt to stop the bus in Corinth, 52 miles west of Athens, they said. A police negotiator and a psychiatrist were on their way to speak to the hijacker.

The gunman, Christos Kendiras, originally from the port of Piraeus, apparently shot at a patrol motorcycle as it approached the bus, police said. The policeman was not injured, they added.

Before the hijacking, Kendiras shot and killed his mother-in-law, 77-year-old Georgia Spyrou, just outside the village of Galata, about 31 miles southwest of Athens at about 8:30 a.m., police said. He then drove into Galata and shot and killed a friend, who was not immediately identified, they added.

After the shooting, Kendiras drove north to Epidauros, where he used a container of fuel to set fire to his car before stopping the passing bus. It was not immediately clear how he stopped or boarded the bus.

Speaking to a local television channel by cellular telephone, Kendiras said he intended to kill Spyrou. ``I wanted to kill my mother-in-law,″ he said.

He appeared agitated, speaking disjointedly about family problems and rambling, ``If I didn’t kill her she’d be going in for heart surgery anyway, the people were going to give money for nothing.″ Local media said he demanded to make a statement to television channels, but police were keeping media far from the bus.

According to initial media reports, Kendiras was distraught that his wife had left him and blamed his mother-in-law.

It was the third time in the past 1 1/2 years that a hijacker has taken a busload of passengers hostage. 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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