Greek bus hijackers want $1 million and plane
ATHENS - Two foreign gunmen, who hijacked a Greek bus with 26 passengers on Wednesday, have demanded a $1 million ransom and a plane out of the country.
Some Greek media quoted the Albanian ambassador as saying the hijackers "may be Albanian," but there was no confirmation.
Hundreds of thousands of Albanians live in Greece, many came from the neighboring country to help with construction work for last August's Athens Olympics.
About five hours after the 6:00 a.m. hijack, five hostages -- three women and two men -- were freed by the gunmen. Several hours later, two more hostages, a man and a woman, were released leaving 19 hostages aboard.
As the standoff gripped the nation, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis postponed his departure for a European Union summit in Brussels by one day until Thursday. EU leaders will discuss starting entry talks for Greece's old foe Turkey. "The figure of $1 million (ransom) has been mentioned in negotiations with the hijackers but they have given no other details regarding where they want to go to," a senior police official told Reuters.
The original driver, a ticket collector and a woman passenger managed to escape from the bus in the first seconds of the hijack when shots were fired during the takeover.
"They want a police bus to leave from in front of our bus, as well as a driver to take them to the airport," Matara said.
"As soon as the driver comes, they will release all women. At the airport, they want a plane to take them to Russia, and then they will release the rest of the hostages."
"I don't care what they are or who they are. I want them to release my wife," said an elderly man who was among dozens of relatives of hostages who rushed to the scene.
"She told me she is fine and things are quiet on the bus but she sounded terrified."
There have been no reports of injuries, but live television showed one gunman approaching the front of the bus and firing off two warning shots.
The curtains in the bus windows were closed, blocking views inside, and a police helicopter hovered above. Television pictures had earlier shown one man carrying a rifle and standing inside the bus near the front seats.
This is the first such incident since a November 2000 hijack of a bus carrying 35 Japanese tourists who were taken hostage by a man who surrendered to a TV talk show host after a 9 hour standoff. Previous hijackings, some involving Albanians, occurred in 1999.