Hijacker killed after taking Australians hostage
Klaudia Lee and Fiona Tam
A hijacker armed with explosives who took 10 Australian tourists and their translator hostage in the central mainland city of Xian was shot dead by police yesterday after negotiations broke down.
Xia Tao hijacked a coach at the Bell and Drum Tower square shortly before 10am, Xinhua reported.
The square is a popular tourist attraction in the city in Shaanxi province , home to the famed terracotta warriors.
Taking hostages, especially foreigners, is rare in China.
The Xinhua report did not identify where the tourists came from, but the Xian government and the Australian embassy in Beijing confirmed the hostages were Australian.
Janaline Oh, a counsellor for public affairs at the Australian embassy, said there were 10 Australians on a tourist bus in Xian when the hijacking took place.
'Nine of them were released earlier on and were taken to safety, but one of them - a 48-year-old woman from New South Wales - was not released. The Chinese security officials had to intervene to rescue the woman,' Ms Oh said, without confirming reports that the hijacker was shot dead.
Xinhua said Xia, still holding the remaining Australian hostage and the translator, had convinced police concerned about the possibility of multiple casualties in the city centre to agree to his demand to move to another vehicle headed for the airport.
After several failed police attempts to persuade the hijacker to surrender, officers shot him dead as the vehicle neared an airport highway toll booth nearly 23/4 hours after the incident began, the report said.
Ms Oh said she did not know the hijacker's motive. She said the tourists, none of whom were harmed, flew to Shanghai once their ordeal was over.
'The Australian government is pleased that all the hostages are now safe and the embassy in Beijing and consulate general in Shanghai are providing consular assistance to the Australians,' Ms Oh said.
Xinhua said Xia was a worker from Xian's Yanliang district. The case was still under investigation, it said.