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2001-08-01 Siege ends as sniper shoots Chechen hijacker

by Marcus Warren in Moscow

Wednesday August 01 2001

RUSSIAN special forces ended a siege yesterday by shooting dead a bus hijacker and freeing the 41 passengers.

They stormed the hijacked bus parked near an airport in southern Russia, ending a siege which began when a Chechen seized the vehicle and took its passengers hostage.

Troops from the elite anti-terrorist force, Alpha, went into action in the evening, with a sniper killing the hijacker. All hostages were released unharmed. Some reports suggested a second hijacker may have been captured.

A security spokesman said the operation began when commandos set off two concussion grenades. The noise prompted a hijacker to stick his head out a bus window whereupon a sniper shot him dead.

Television footage of the incident showed smoke rising from the bus seconds after vans and ambulances approached the bus. Smoke and stun grenades were thrown at the vehicle to disorientate the kidnapper.

Tension around the airport at Mineralny Vody mounted a few hours before the operation to storm the bus, when the terrorist fired several shots at security forces surrounding the area.

The hijacker was named as Sultan-Said Idayev and there were conflicting reports as to whether he had acted alone or with an accomplice.

Among his demands were Kalashnikov rifles, grenade launchers, ammunition and access to a helicopter.

He was also said to be demanding the release of four other Chechens convicted of hostage-taking in the turbulent region in similar circumstances in 1994.

(Daily Telegraph London)

- Marcus Warren in Moscow