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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April, 2003, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
German bus hijack ends
The bus after it was stormed by police
It was the second hijacking inside two weeks
A man who hijacked a bus in the north German city of Bremen has freed all his hostages unharmed and surrendered to police, the authorities say.

Eyewitnesses told Germany's N24 television network that no shots were fired as the hijacking ended about 170 kilometres (105 miles) away, on the A7 motorway south of Hanover.

The gunman is said to have given himself up a few hours after it halted.

Police vehicles and ambulances had followed the bus down the motorway for four hours before forcing it to stop.

Throughout the journey, the hijacker had sat behind the driver, threatening him with his gun.

Originally there had been 18 people on board including a number of children but three either fled or were released in Bremen while others were freed in stages.

The A7 is one of Germany's main north-south arteries and its closure as a result of the hijacking caused long tailbacks in busy Friday afternoon traffic.

'Southern' appearance

Negotiations are thought to have led to the release of about eight hostages, including one complaining of heart trouble.

A police spokesman said the hijacker had seemed "mentally unbalanced" and "confused".

Map showing Bremen and Hildesheim

He "did not want to see police around" and had asked for water, drinks and a mobile telephone, the spokesman added.

The man is also reported to have asked for Bremen mayor Henning Scherf to mediate, and for a second driver, so that he could continue his journey.

Heiner Melloh of Bremen police said the man appeared to be about 20 to 25 years old and of southern appearance - a description used for people from Mediterranean or Arab countries.

Second hijacking in two weeks

The hijacking started at about 0900 (0700 GMT).

The driver called police at 0917 to say he was diverting from his usual route.

The hijacker and bus driver
The hijacker sat behind the driver, holding a gun
The bus at first appeared to be heading for Hanover but it bypassed the city and continued its journey.

It was brought to a halt near the town of Hildesheim south of Hanover.

The BBC's correspondent in Berlin says the hijacker's motive is unknown.

It is the second hijacking in two weeks in Germany.

On 11 April an armed man hijacked a double-decker bus in Berlin after a bank robbery.

Police stormed the vehicle and overpowered him after a four-hour standoff, rescuing his two hostages unharmed.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's George Eykyn
"They staged an accident to force the bus to stop"



SEE ALSO:
Berlin bus hijack siege ends
11 Apr 03  |  Europe



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