Russian security forces have stormed a hijacked bus in southern Russia, freeing all 25 hostages seized by two gunmen more than 12 hours earlier. Explosions shook the bus and shots rang out as members of Russia's elite Alpha anti-terrorist group rushed the vehicle, shooting one of the gunmen dead and wounding the other. All of the hostages on the bus survived. One of them was said to have been cut by flying glass during the Alpha squad assault.
Forty-one people were on the bus when it was seized shortly after 7 o'clock Tuesday morning near the southern Russian city of Stavropol. Several of the hostages were released at various times throughout the day, including one man who was shot at the start of the drama.
Negotiations to resolve the crisis lasted throughout the day as the bus stood blocked on a highway bridge just outside the airport at Mineralnye Vody, a resort town in the Caucuses about 900 kilometers south of Moscow.
Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov had said earlier in the day that the government would not make any concessions to terrorists.
Television pictures showed troops and armored vehicles deployed around the bus as Russia's elite Alpha anti-terrorist group was dispatched to the scene along with a team of hostage negotiators. Temperatures reached 38 Celsius in southern Russia Tuesday and a doctor was allowed on board to care for some of the hostages who were suffering due to the conditions inside the bus.
The gunmen had been demanding freedom for five Chechens serving time for a 1994 bus hijacking in the same area.
That part of southern Russia has been the scene of several bus hijackings and bombings in recent years. In 1992, two armed men hijacked a bus with 18 people on board. There were two bus hijackings in 1994, including an incident in which five hostages and a kidnapper were killed and 15 people were wounded.