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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 02:14 GMT
Athens bus hostages are released
Remaining hostages leave hijacked bus in Athens
The hostage-takers had threatened to blow up the bus
A bus hostage drama ended in Athens early on Thursday, when two hijackers freed their last six hostages.

The two armed Albanians had released 17 of the original 23 people taken hostage in small groups over the day, after seizing the bus on Wednesday morning.

They had threatened to blow up the bus if a ransom of 1m euros (700,000) was not paid.

But police said that the two men turned out to have no explosives, although they were armed with shotguns.


"The bag they had was empty," Police Chief Giorgos Angelakos said. "They said they had explosives to try to show us that they could do serious harm."

He added that the two men, named as Gaz Resuli and Leonard Murati, both 24, had asked for a plane to Russia to create a smoke screen, when in fact they wanted money and passage to Albania.

The last hostages - thought to be four women and two men - finally walked off the bus, their hands above their heads, at about 0045 (2245 GMT Wednesday).

The gunmen themselves then left the bus with their hands on their heads.

Day-long crisis

The crisis began at about 0600 (0400 GMT) on Wednesday after the men boarded the bus in the suburb of Pikermi.

Parents of one of the female hostages
There will be huge relief for both relatives and authorities
They closed curtains and fired shots through the roof, stopping the bus outside the Moratone nightclub in another suburb, Gerakas.

But the bus driver, the ticket collector and a female passenger immediately escaped from the bus - the driver taking the ignition keys with him allowing the vehicle to be cordoned off.

The hostage-takers then issued a series of shifting demands, though reporters say there were no apparent political motives for the hijacking.

Police praised the action of the driver, who had apparently received anti-terrorist training for the Olympics.

Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis was also full of praise for the police.

"The experience we gathered during the Olympic Games was not wasted," he said.

The hijackers' shifting demands suggested the gunmen were desperately trying to manoeuvre out of a trap of their own making, says our correspondent Richard Galpin from Athens.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis delayed his departure for an EU summit in Brussels because of the crisis.





SEE ALSO:
Greek police kill bus hijacker
16 Jul 99 |  Europe
Two killed in bus ambush
29 May 99 |  Europe



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