Armed Bandits Hijack, Torch Bus in Northern Italy

Three armed men hijacked a regional bus traveling in northern Italy on Tuesday and set it on fire after freeing the passengers, officials said. An off-duty police officer was injured and two of the three hijackers were apprehended.

The bus was traveling south from Alessandria to Acqui Terme, cities southwest of Milan, when the men — armed with a pistol and knives — took it over and forced the driver to turn off the highway and onto a state road heading in the opposite direction, a carabinieri official in nearby Novara said.

An off-duty police officer who was on board tried to intervene and was stabbed, but was not in serious condition, the official said.

The hijackers allowed the passengers to get off when the bus reached Alessandria again, but then forced the driver to keep going before the bus came to a stop near Trecate, on the outskirts of Novara farther to the north, Sky TG24 reported from the scene.

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There was an exchange of fire and the gunmen set the bus on fire before fleeing, officials said. Two of the gunmen, both Albanian, were apprehended and authorities were seeking the third, the Novara carabinieri official said.

Another carabinieri official, who declined to give his name, said one of the gunmen who was apprehended was being treated for an unspecified injury.

Late Tuesday, fire crews and investigators picked through the burned-out skeleton of the bus as it continued to smolder. Sky TG24 said the men had doused the vehicle with gasoline they had brought with them before torching it.

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