Italian police Wednesday rescued 51 children taken hostage by their school bus driver who doused the vehicle in petrol and set it alight.
According to Italian authorities, the school bus driver had hijacked a school bus with 51 students aboard before setting the vehicle ablaze in an apparent protest over Italy’s migration policy.
The children were getting off the bus as the fire was started and although some of them were hospitalised, no one was reported to have been 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.
San Donato police have however arrested the driver, He was stopped after ramming three patrol cars. During the descent of the children from the vehicle, he set the bus on fire,” said a tweet by the Carabinieri.
Police spokesman Marco Palmieri said the driver — a Senegalese, 47, with Italian citizenship — told officers after he was arrested: “Stop the deaths at sea, I’ll carry out a massacre.”
Greco added that he could not rule out a terrorist connection in the incident.
The 51 students in year two of secondary school 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. Armed with two canisters filled with petrol and a cigarette lighter, he menaced the children, took their telephones and tied them up with electric cable.
One of the children managed however to get a call through to their parents who in turned phoned the police. They blocked the bus in the street and broke open the back windows to get the children out before the vehicle went up in flames.
“I want to put an end to it, I want to stop the deaths in the Mediterranean,” several reports cited the driver as saying.
His motives were not immediately clear and the reference to the Mediterranean could be to the thousands of migrants who have crossed from North Africa to Italy, many of them losing their lives on the dangerous journey.
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