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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dagestani Hijacking Ends Safely

MAKHACHKALA, Southern Russia -- At least one armed man hijacked a bus Monday evening in Dagestan, a southern Russian republic neighboring Chechnya, and escaped across the border to Chechnya after freeing all passengers, officials said.

The hijacker or hijackers fled with a deputy of Dagestan's parliament, who volunteered to be exchanged for the passengers, officials said.

Reports were scanty and conflicting. The reported number of passengers ranged from 35 to 48.

NTV Independent Television reported that one man armed with a grenade boarded a city bus in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, and demanded to talk with Dagestani leaders.

A duty officer at the Federal Security Service in Moscow said the bus was seized by two armed men, who demanded to be driven to the city's airport and given a helicopter and $100,000.

The identity of the hijacker or hijackers was unknown, said the officer, who spoke on the customary condition of anonymity. A police search was under way.

Interfax cited a Dagestani police officer as saying the hijackers were suspected of being Chechens.

Last month, three members of a Chechen gang that kidnapped bus passengers in southern Russia in 1994 were sentenced to prison.

Last January, Chechen separatist guerrillas led by Salman Raduyev took hundreds of hostages in the Dagestan town of Kizlyar and then withstood days of Russian bombardment in the village of Pervomaiskoye before escaping back across the Chechen border.

But Monday's incident was more reminiscent of hijackings by Chechens before war broke out in Chechnya in December 1994. Small groups held up buses for ransom in neighboring regions on several occasions.