Reuters – Brazilian security forces in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday shot dead a man who hijacked a bus on a bridge across Guanabara Bay and took 37 people hostage, in a dramatic end to an incident that underlined the city’s daily grind of violence.
The hijacking began around 5 a.m. local time when a masked man commandeered a commuter bus on the bridge connecting Rio with the city of Niteroi. The man took 37 people in the bus hostage before freeing six of them, officials said.
About four hours later, the hostage-taker walked out of the bus, flung a backpack toward police and then fell to the ground as he tried to reenter the vehicle, TV images showed. Police officials said he was shot by a police sniper. They did not provide other details on the hostage-taker.
All hostages emerged from the bus unharmed.
“Congratulations to the Rio de Janeiro police for the successful action that ended the bus hijacking on the Rio-Niteroi bridge this morning,” President Jair Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter. “The criminal was neutralized and no hostage was injured. Today, no family-member of an innocent person will be in tears.”
Bolsonaro, a far-right former federal congressman who represented the state of Rio de Janeiro for nearly three decades, has long advocated that police take a tougher line in the face of years of rising crime. In 2015, he said Brazil’s military police should “kill more people.” Since taking office in January, he has sought to broaden access to guns and pushed measures to protect police if they kill on the job.
Although the number of murders in Rio has fallen sharply in recent months, the city’s police have killed 15% more people so far this year compared to the same period in 2018. A total of 881 people, or nearly five per day, died at the hands of police between January and June, putting it on track to be the highest number since records began in 2003.
This week’s bus hijacking also highlighted a grim reality of life in Rio, where many use specialized apps to safely navigate their way past daily gun battles between police, drug gangs, and vigilante militias comprised of current and former cops.
Local media reported the unidentified hijacker was armed with a plastic gun but there was no official confirmation. Hans Moreno, a passenger on the bus, told Globo News the hijacker had a pistol and a knife, and never explained to passengers the reasons for his actions.
As the hijacking ended, Rio’s Governor Wilson Witzel arrived by helicopter and bounded across the bridge to hug police involved in killing the hijacker.
Witzel, a close ally of Bolsonaro who also took office in January, says police should kill anyone with a rifle, and has ordered snipers to fire on suspects from helicopters.
Slideshow (8 Images)
In an interview with journalists at the scene, Witzel celebrated the outcome but lamented the death of the hijacker.
“We don’t want anyone to die, but … the police will act rigorously and will not be lenient with those who endanger other people’s lives,” he said, while also defending his previous arguments in favor of police shooting anyone with a rifle.
“Some people do not always understand that police work sometimes has to be this way. If they had not shot this criminal, many lives would not have been spared,” he said.
Activities paralyzed as Hong Kong unrest hikes
Hundreds of Hong kong protester has paralyzed today’s activities by forcing closure of bussiness hubs and institutions amid a mark of aggravated violence.
Local news says, a handful number of the Anti-govenment protesters occupied roads in the Central business district, home to some of the world’s most expensive real estate, during their lunch hour.
Protesters have torched vehicles and buildings, hurled petrol bombs at police stations and trains and vandalized prime shopping malls over the past week in some of the worst violence seen in more than five months of unrest.
Many were dressed in office attire and wore the now-banned face masks as they marched down a major thoroughfare that connects luxury shopping malls and glittering skyscrapers.
Hundreds of protesters also set up barricades near a popular shopping mall in the eastern part of Hong Kong island, dragging traffic cones and orange gates to block roads.
Some held up signs reading “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” and “Stand with Hong Kong”, slogans that have become rallying calls for the protest movement.
Across the harbor, black-clad protesters and university students maintained their blockades of major roads, including the entrance to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel that links Hong Kong island to the Kowloon area, and a highway between Kowloon and the rural New Territories.
Police fired tear gas near the tunnel early on Thursday to try to clear the protesters. Roads were strewn with bricks and other debris, leading to widespread traffic jams.
Thousands of students barricaded themselves inside campuses at several universities overnight, preparing stockpiles of food, bricks, petrol bombs and other make-do weapons as they hunkered down.
Dozens of riot police gathered outside several universities early on Thursday as students fortified their positions with metal poles, bricks and chairs.
At Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University, near the Kowloon entrance of the Cross Harbour tunnel, hundreds of students wearing gas masks readied for confrontations with police.
Israel kills Gaza gunman, militants fire rockets
An Israeli air-strike killed a Palestinian gunman on Wednesday and Gaza militants fired rockets into Israel as a spike in violence edged into a second day.
As dawn broke, air raid sirens sent Israelis rushing to shelters in towns near the Gaza border and deeper in the country.
The Israeli military said its forces targeted a Gaza crew preparing to launch rockets over the border. At least one man was killed. The Islamic Jihad militant faction identified him as a member of the group.
The worst fighting in months began on Tuesday, after Israel killed in Gaza a top commander of the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, accusing him of masterminding recent attacks against Israel and planning more in the near future.
In response, Islamic Jihad gunmen fired about 200 rockets into Israel throughout the day. Further Israeli air strikes on the group’s targets in Gaza killed eight Palestinians, seven of them militants, according to Palestinian sources.
However, it appeared that Hamas, the main militant group that rules Gaza, was staying out of the fighting for now. A diplomatic source told Reuters the U.N. Middle East envoy was on his way to Cairo to begin mediation to end the violence.
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