Gunman Takes Over Bus In Germany, Seizes Hostages
COLOGNE, Germany (AP) _ Police stormed a city tour bus today to end a daylong standoff that began when a gunman killed the bus driver and took 15 to 20 passengers hostage. The gunman and one passenger were also killed.
Police raided the bus about an hour after the gunman shot an escaping passenger in the chest, badly injuring him. A policeman was also shot and seriously wounded early in the standoff.
Police found a woman passenger dead and said it appeared the gunman killed her before their assault. It was not immediately known how the gunman died.
He had been holding the passengers hostage in the bus for hours, parked at a trade fair center with its curtains drawn.
``It’s very unlikely the hostage was killed in the police attack,″ said police spokesman Peter Massen. He did not say how the gunman died, but police fired several times as they stormed the bus.
The man’s motives were not known.
``Politics, a nut case, a robbery? We don’t know why anyone would get onto a tour bus and start shooting people,″ Massen said.
Before the drama ended, four passengers, including the badly wounded hostage, had escaped. That man was shot as he ran from the bus toward police hiding behind trash cans and in doorways of the exhibition center buildings. Police dragged him into an ambulance and sped to a hospital.
Three German passengers escaped earlier: an 11-year-old boy and middle-aged man who jumped out the back window after passengers broke it, and a woman who got off the bus on the gunman’s orders to get his belongings from the luggage compartment.
Journalists who witnessed the man and boy escape said a handgun was pointed through the back window but was not fired.
The boy suffered only cut hands, police said.
The gunman had fired repeatedly at police, shooting one officer in the stomach when he responded in the first patrol car. Police said he was expected to survive.
The dead driver was found slumped in his seat on the bus.
The gunman shot him in an argument after the bus had stopped at the huge fairgrounds along the banks of the Rhine River so passengers could see across to the panorama of Cologne, marked by the sharp black spires of the historic Cologne Cathedral.
Police spokesman Wolfgang Beus said it was believed there were 15 to 20 people on the bus, about three of them children, when the hostage-taking began.
After about six hours, police established contact with the gunman and said he spoke to them in ``broken English.″ But Massen said police had not ruled out that the gunman was German, saying: ``Maybe he was faking it.″
The blue and white bus was parked under the tower of the massive, red-brick fairgrounds buildings, surrounded by police wagons, jeeps and patrol cars. About 200 yards away, on the other side of the tower, police held back hundreds of reporters and onlookers.
Police gave conflicting accounts of how they were notified. One spokesman said the driver radioed that he was being threatened with a gun; another said passersby heard or saw the shooting and reported it.
Most of the police information came from the tourist who first escaped. The gunman told her to get his bag from the underside luggage compartment. She went outside, found the compartment locked, and ran, police said.
The woman said the gunman had boarded the bus at 10 a.m. with tourists at the crowded plaza in front of the cathedral. Under cloudy skies, with occasional rain, they drove for about 40 minutes through the downtown area and then to the fairgrounds along the river, she said.