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Bank Robber Hijacks Berlin Bus

April 11, 2003

BERLIN (AP) _ Two masked men robbed a Berlin bank on Friday, then one of them took passengers on a city bus hostage, police said.

At least one shot was fired aboard the bus, but no one was believed to have been injured, police spokesman Christian Matzdorf said. N-24 television reported that more than 20 passengers were on the bus when it was hijacked at a stop outside the bank, but police said they had no precise figure.

Most of the hostages were let go or escaped before the yellow double-decker _ apparently cornered by unmarked police cars _ came to a stop on a thoroughfare between a commuter rail bridge and a highway ramp in the Schoeneberg district, about an hour after the holdup.

Police sharpshooters took up position along a wall about 20 yards away, while police commandos in helmets and bulletproof vests surrounded the bus, some occasionally peering in the windows.

Officials were negotiating with the hostage-taker in person and by cell phone to free two remaining captives, a passenger and a policewoman who followed him onto the bus after the holdup, said Matzdorf.

He refused to say whether the hijacker had made demands.

The earlier gunfire on the bus could have come from the hijacker or the captive policewoman, Matzdorf said.

The bus was commandeered after two men held up a Commerzbank branch in a busy shopping street in the southern district of Steglitz.

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