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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Russian 'ninja' arrested in Italy
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

A man dressed as a ninja posing at a Japanese cultural festival
Ninjas were assassins or spies in 14th Century Japan
Italian police have arrested a Russian "ninja" who had been spreading fear across farmlands in the north of the country.

The man, camouflaged in an all black suit, had robbed several farmers and their families at knife point, police say.

Police had been searching for him for several weeks.

Ninjas were trained for stealth. They first appeared in 14th Century Japan and were famed as assassins and spies.


For several weeks the police had been scouring the countryside looking for shadows.

The "ninja" was known to have struck several times - his head wrapped in a black bandana, a powerful bow in one hand and a knife strapped to his leg.

He targeted isolated farms late at night forcing farmers to hand over cash and valuables at arrow point.

His victims were usually so afraid they didn't report the attacks until some days later.

But on Monday night the "ninja" was outwitted.

As he smashed through the door of a farmhouse, a feisty old pensioner was waiting for him.

Former soldier

The old man came down the stairs but tripped on the last step letting off his rifle.

Startled, the "ninja" made his escape, hopping onto a bicycle and racing off into the nearby cornfields - followed by police who were quickly on the scene.

Police eventually trailed him to an abandoned farmhouse where he was arrested.

He was later identified as Igor Vaclavic, a former soldier from the Russian army.

He was caught carrying night scopes and a head torch.

When asked about his chosen disguise, he told police he had been inspired by his boyhood idol - Robin Hood.

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