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The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"Smoke bombs and stun grenades helped to overpower the assailant"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK
Riot police end hijack drama
Japan hijacking
Japanese riot police stormed the hijacked bus
Japanese riot police have arrested the teenager who hijacked a bus and fatally stabbed a passenger in south-west Saga city.

Police stormed the bus through the windows amid billowing smoke, arrested the hijacker and pulled out the passengers.

One officer was cut in the leg by broken glass from a window and was taken to hospital.

The nine passengers, driver and the 17-year-old suspect were not injured, police said.

Three women whom police said were stabbed in the neck by the hijacker were allowed off the vehicle for hospital treatment earlier in the day.

One woman, in her sixties, later died in hospital.

There is no indication as yet of the hijacker's possible motive.

Tense talks

The hijacking's dramatic end followed a 190-mile chase and hours of negotiations at a roadside rest stop.

The hijacker, whose name is not being released because of his age, was arrested on charges of taking hostages and carrying an illegal weapon.

The maximum penalty in Japan for taking and killing a hostage is death.

Passenger alerts police

The hijacking was the latest in a series of high-profile juvenile crimes in Japan.


Map showing where the hijack took place
The hijack took place near Dazaifu
The drama on the south-western island of Kyushu began after the bus, carrying about 20 passengers, left Saga city at 1300 (0400 GMT) on a one-hour journey to Fukuoka city.

The youth commandeered the bus near the town of Dazaifu in Fukuoka Prefecture, said Yamaguchi Prefecture police spokesman Junichi Takezaki.

News of the seizure emerged only when a woman passenger was allowed off the bus near the city of Moji to go to the bathroom, and she alerted the authorities.

Televised chase

Police then chased the 40-seater bus along the Sanyo Expressway in Yamaguchi Prefecture, as it headed east towards Hiroshima.

Pictures filmed from a helicopter and broadcast on Japanese television showed the white bus racing along the highway.

Police said the hijacker had held his knife against the driver's body.

Two passengers - a woman, followed by a man - leapt out of the moving bus to escape the mayhem inside.

One of them, 29-year-old Mikiko Matsuno, was injured by her fall and taken to hospital.

The male passenger who followed her, 52-year-old Masayuki Kishikawa, escaped with light injuries, police said.

Releases

About five hours after the hijacking began, the bus stopped near a tunnel and the hijacker released four male passengers, police said.


The white bus, surrounded by police cars
The hijacked bus is surrounded by police
Soon afterwards, police vehicles blocked the road and forced the bus to drive down a ramp into a nearby parking area.

Another passenger managed to escape through a window shortly after police brought the vehicle to a halt.

Negotiations began only after police surrounded the bus.

But four hours later, the bus suddenly started moving again and headed for Tokyo, surrounded by police cars - only to stop after 10 minutes at a service station.

Police delivered food and tea to the vehicle and resumed their talks with the hijacker, by now accompanied by his parents.

This led to the release of another hostage, a 72-year-old woman.

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