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A police officer holds his weapon as he flies on a helicopter over the scene of the standoff. Leo Correa

Gunman shot dead by police after holding bus passengers hostage in Rio

The man boarded a bus in Rio de Janeiro earlier today.

LAST UPDATE | 20 Aug 2019

A GUNMAN HOLDING a busload of passengers hostage in Rio de Janeiro has been 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 neighboring 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. None of the hostages were injured, police said.

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 taser and petrol.

Brazilian military police tweeted that they had “neutralised” the man.

“This is the police that we want to see,” a military police spokesman told local media. “It was necessary for the sniper to neutralize (the hijacker) and save people on the bus. “He (hijacker) died at the scene.”

The gunman reportedly boarded the bus at 5.30 am local time (9.30am Irish time) 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 paralyzed during the hostage situation.

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

Brazil Rio Hostage Access to the bridge was blocked during the situation. Leo Correa / PA Images Leo Correa / PA Images / PA Images

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

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. 

It had been unclear if the hijacker had made any demands or what his motivation was for taking the hostages.

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. 

- © AFP, 2019

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