OTTAWA — An armed man hijacked a U.S.-bound Greyhound bus near Montreal on Friday, forced the driver to take him to Ottawa and held several hostages at gunpoint outside Parliament for six hours, then surrendered to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The unidentified gunman gave up peacefully about 5 p.m. PDT after releasing the driver and the last of about 10 passengers who were on the bus when he seized control of it. No one was injured, police said.
An elderly passenger who was released when the hijacking began said that the gunman claimed to have explosives and threatened to blow up the bus, police said. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the CTV broadcast network said that he had demanded the release of political prisoners in Lebanon.
After boarding the New York-bound bus in Montreal, the gunman seized control of the vehicle at Champlain Bridge outside the city and ordered the driver to head toward Ottawa, 100 miles away. Once in the capital, he ordered the driver to park the bus on the front lawn of Parliament.
The gunman released several hostages at intervals during the afternoon. Besides the elderly man released on the Champlain Bridge, two hostages, a man and a woman, left the bus shortly after arriving at Parliament Hill. A young woman was released three hours later and a fifth, a woman, walked off the bus about half an hour before the hijacker surrendered.
Police and witnesses said the gunman, who was French-speaking, fired at least three shots outside Parliament, sending passers-by scurrying for cover but injuring no one.
Police sniper units and paramilitary teams immediately surrounded the Parliament buildings.
The bus driver could be seen shouting to officers through a small window, the CBC said.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was on Parliament Hill earlier in the day, but not at the time of the incident, his office said. He left Parliament about noon to attend a private function.
The Speaker of the House of Commons at first advised members to stay in the chamber for safety, but after the shots were fired, members were escorted from the building.
President Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica was speaking at a news conference a short distance from Parliament as the crisis developed.
Unaware of the hijacking, Arias said, "Political violence (in Canada) in the worst of times has been limited to the madness of a few."
Greyhound spokeswoman Liz Hale said the bus was bound from Montreal to New York City with 11 passengers and the driver, Roger Bednarchuk of Montreal.