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Bus Carrying 40 Hijacked in Russia

July 31, 2001

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MOSCOW (AP) _ A bus carrying at least 40 people in southern Russia was seized Tuesday by gunmen demanding safe passage to an airport, officials said. Two people were reported injured.

Security forces quickly sealed off the airport at Mineralnye Vody, where the bus was heading, said Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for the Ministry of Emergency situations. A special anti-terrorist squad was sent to the airport, Russian media reported.

The Interfax news agency said that the hijackers were also demanding the release of five Chechens charged with hijacking a plane.

The bus was heading from the city of Nevinnomyssk to Stavropol when it was seized about 7 a.m. The acting chief of the Nevinnomyssk police department was shot while holding talks with the hijackers, said the Federal Security Service in Stavropol.

Earlier reports said that one of the drivers on the bus had been shot and thrown out of the vehicle.

Four passengers, two women and two children, were released before the bus departed from Nevinnomyssk in the Stavropol region, the duty officer said. He declined to give his name. He said officials believed there were 41 people on the bus, including the hijackers.

President Vladimir Putin was following the hijack situation, Alexei Gromov, the president’s chief spokesman, told the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Mineralnye Vody, about 550 miles south of Moscow, is a popular resort town in the Caucasus Mountains not far from separatist Chechnya and has been the scene of bus hijackings and bomb blasts in recent years.

In 1992, two armed hijackers seized a bus with 18 passengers in Mineralnye Vody and demanded the release of two jailed friends. The hijackers fled to Chechnya and were given asylum by rebels.

In July 1994, four Chechens hijacked a bus with 41 passengers and demanded $15 million. Five hostages and a kidnapper were killed, 15 people were wounded and the surviving gunmen were arrested.

In March, 21 people were killed in a bomb blast at the market in the city.

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