Wed, 08 Jul 2020

A gunman holding a busload of passengers hostage in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday was shot dead by police, officials said, ending the hours-long hijacking.

Dozens of people were trapped on the bus after it was commandeered by the gunman on a heavily transited bridge connecting Rio with the neighbouring city of Niteroi.

At least six people - four women and two men - were freed.

Around 31 people had remained on the bus throughout the terrifying ordeal.

Heavily armed police including military and snipers had surrounded the bus as they negotiated with the gunman, who G1 news reported had been armed with a gun, a tazer and gasoline.

"This is the police that we want to see," a military police spokesman told local media.

"It was necessary for the sniper to neutralise (the hijacker) and save people on the bus.

"He (hijacker) died at the scene."

None of the hostages were injured, police said.

A live broadcast of the situation showed several ambulances parked near the bus, receiving hostages as they were released.

The gunman reportedly boarded the Rio-bound bus at 05:30 (08:30 GMT) and began threatening passengers.

Around four hours later a sniper shot dead the hijacker.

Several lanes of traffic on the busy Rio-Niteroi bridge spanning Guanabara Bay were paralysed during the hostage situation.

Commuters stopped on the bridge could be seen standing outside their cars and taking photos with their smartphones.

Rio state Governor Wilson Witzel tweeted that he was following the situation and was in direct contact with the military police commander.

"The absolute priority is the protection of hostages," Witzel said.

The gunman - a young man wearing a white T-shirt and dark-colored trousers - poked his head out of the bus at one point, showing his face, G1 reported.

The identity of the hijacker has not been released.

It is not clear if he made any demands or what his motivation was for taking the hostages.

Police special forces had negotiated with the hijacker.

"We ask the population to stay calm. Our police are at the scene," military police tweeted.

This is not the first time a gunman has hijacked a public transit bus in Rio.

In 2000, a gunman stormed a passenger bus in a fashionable neighborhood of the city. The hours long hijacking of bus 174 was later turned into an award-winning documentary.

The hijacker and one hostage were killed.

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