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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March 2008, 12:28 GMT
Terracotta city tourists' ordeal
Reports from China say a man has been shot dead after taking 10 Australian tourists hostage.

The incident began when the man hijacked a bus carrying the tourists and their translator in the central city of Xian.

He later released them but was killed by police when negotiations for his surrender failed.

Details are scarce, but correspondents say this type of incident is extremely rare in China.

Xian is one of China's most popular tourist destinations, with its main attraction being the Terracotta Army, a collection of ancient life-size figures.

Rare attack

The ordeal for the tourists began just before 10am (0200 GMT), when the hijacker, armed with explosives, boarded the tourist bus near the historic square in Xian.

Nine of the hostages were quickly released, but a 48-year-old woman from New South Wales was held longer, according to Janaline Oh, a spokeswoman for the Australian Embassy in Beijing.

"Chinese security authorities intervened and secured the release of the woman," Ms Oh told reporters. "The Australian government is pleased that the woman is now safe."

Police agreed to the hijacker's demand for another vehicle, and according to state news agency Xinhua, they tried to negotiate with the man.

But "after repeated unsuccessful entreaties by the police, they took the resolute step of opening fire", Xinhua said.

China rarely experiences attacks on tourists.

The country is currently preparing for an influx of foreign visitors for the Olympic Games in August.

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