Italian cops rescue 51 kids taken hostage by school bus driver , Latest World News - The New Paper

Italian cops rescue 51 kids taken hostage by school bus driver

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Police rescue all children and adult chaperones; driver arrested

ROME: Italian police on Wednesday rescued 51 children taken hostage by their school bus driver, who doused the vehicle in petrol and set it alight apparently in protest at migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.

Some of the children were tied up during the 30-minute ordeal, which saw the bus slam into a car.

The ordeal was brought to an end by police after one of the children was able to call for help. No one was seriously injured.

"It is a miracle, it could have been carnage. The police were outstanding, blocking the bus and getting the children off," said Milan prosecutor Francesco Greco.

Photos showed the burnt-out shell of the bus and the car, which were travelling on a road near Milan. Driver Ousseynou Sy - a 47-year-old Italian citizen of Senegalese origin - explained under questioning that he wanted "to draw attention to the consequences of migration policies", according to his lawyer.

The 51 students in Year 2 of secondary school in Crema were coming back from a sports outing accompanied by three adults when the driver abruptly changed route, announcing he was taking them all hostage.

"No one is getting out of here alive," he said, according to several of the students.


Planning the hijack over several days, Sy "wanted the whole world talking about his story", said Mr Alberto Nobili, head of counter-terrorism at the Milan public prosecutor's office .

He posted a video on YouTube to explain his actions and said "Africa - arise", directed at family and friends in Crema but also in Senegal.

The driver, armed with two canisters filled with petrol and a cigarette lighter, threatened the children, took their telephones and told the adults to tie them up with electric cable.

"He threatened us, said if we moved, he would pour the petrol and set it alight. He kept saying there were so many people in Africa who kept dying and that it was the fault of (Deputy Prime Ministers) Di Maio and Salvini," a rescued girl told Italian media.

Mr Luigi Di Maio and in particular Mr Matteo Salvini, who is also Interior Minister, have taken a hard line against migrants.

Prosecutor Greco said the man kept two children close to him, brandishing the lighter. The bus crashed into a car, from which a father and son escaped before it burst into flames.

One of the children managed to pick up a phone that had been dropped and call their parents who in turn phoned the police.

Police blocked the bus and broke open the back windows to get the children out before the vehicle went up in flames.

A dozen children and two of the adults were taken to hospital for smoke inhalation while the arrested driver also needed treatment for burns to his hands. - AFP