Gunman surrenders after three-hour hostage ordeal on Rio bus

Gunman surrenders after three-hour hostage ordeal on Rio bus
Gunman surrenders after three-hour hostage ordeal on Rio bus

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A police officers stand guard outside the Novo Rio bus terminal after a gunman hold passengers hostage in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 12, 2024. — AFP pic

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 13 — A gunman wounded two people at Rio de Janeiro’s main bus station Tuesday and held 17 passengers hostage for three hours before being convinced to surrender, police said.

There were scenes of panic as gunshots rang out in the afternoon at the Novo Rio station through which some 38,000 people pass daily, with buses headed for all regions of Brazil.

Witnesses said a man opened fire before boarding the bus, where he took hostage 17 people, including children and elderly persons, for reasons police have not disclosed.

A 34-year-old man was shot three times in the chest and abdomen and was in a serious condition in hospital, said Rio health secretary Daniel Soranz.

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A second person, also hospitalised, was less severely injured.

“The hostage-taker surrendered, he was arrested, all the hostages were released, they are safe,” Colonel Marco Andrade of the military police announced about three hours after the crisis began.

The surrender came after agents from the elite Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) unit were deployed to the scene for “conducting negotiations,” according to police.

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Officers had cordoned off the station after evacuating all employees and passengers, who crowded in their hundreds outside while police tried to reason with the hostage-taker.

Images broadcast by the Globo news channel showed agents escorting a man in a colourful pink T-shirt, green Bermuda shorts and short hair towards a police van after the incident as passengers exited the detained bus, including a young woman with a baby in her arms.

The hostage-taker’s identity has not been revealed.

On social network X, Rio state governor Claudio Castro praised the “exemplary” action of police in bringing the drama to a close.

‘Everyone is desperate’

Televised images showed chaotic scenes at the station as fearful passengers scattered and a blue bus remained stationary in the middle of an empty parking lot.

“A man drew a gun, started shooting and entered the bus. I have two friends on this bus, everyone is desperate, we don’t know what will happen,” one witness told Globo.

Bus hijackings are not unknown in Rio.

In 2019 a hijacker armed with what turned out to be a fake gun held bus passengers hostage on a bridge outside the city for nearly four hours before being shot dead by police snipers.

In 2011, a similar incident left three people injured in the heart of Brazil’s most iconic city, long plagued by high crime rates linked to poverty and inequality.

And in 2000, a hostage-taker and a captive were killed in another bus hijacking that was broadcast live to a rapt audience and inspired the 2008 movie Last Stop 174.

Rio’s sprawling favelas, which crowd the metropolitan area’s hillsides, often overlooking picture-postcard beaches and lush mountains, are the epicenter of gang and drug-related violence. — AFP

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