Bus hijacker surrenders, frees hostages in Bulgaria

SOFIA Tue Jan 27, 2009 11:09pm IST

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SOFIA (Reuters) - An armed man surrendered to police after hijacking a bus and holding 37 people aboard hostage for two hours in Bulgaria on Tuesday, officials said.

The 33-year-old man, who officials said had mental health problems, had forced the bus driver to stop at a petrol station near the town of Lovech, 125 km east of the capital Sofia, demanding meetings with journalists and police officers.

"The case ended successfully ... The man surrendered and handed over his gun. All the passengers are in good health," a police spokeswoman said.

Police officers have searched the hijacked bus, travelling from Sofia to the Black Sea town of Varna, and found no explosives even though the hijacker had said a bomb had been planted in the luggage compartment.

Police said the hijacker had demanded that officers bring a man who he blamed for a car accident last year which he said had resulted in his girlfriend having a miscarriage.

The hijacker later told a local television station the child has been born earlier this month, but the man had tried to run over the woman when she was pregnant.

Interior Minister Mikhail Mikov, who went to the site, said hijacker had personal issues and mental problems, the state news agency BTA reported.

One of the released passengers told Bulgarian television the hijacker was not violent.

"I was a little bit scared, especially after I heard there was a bomb on the bus. But he told us that no one would be hurt," Maria Dimitrova, 20, said.

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