Palestinian man admits hijacking bus

A 24-year-old Palestinian man has admitted he was behind the hijacking of a bus on Monday evening in an incident that left passengers terrified in Skien, south-eastern Norway.

The hellish episode began at around 7.30pm when the man refused to buy a ticket and instead threatened the driver with an emergency hammer he found on-board the bus.

The 24-year-old then declined to let any of the passengers off the coach.  

”He told the driver he was not allowed to drive at less than 60 kilometres per hour. It was a scary experience,” one passenger, Sandra Svendsen, told newspaper VG.

Svendsen, 15, said she and her fellow passengers believed the hijacker was intoxicated. After several minutes had passed, one passenger shouted out that he had to pick up his children.

The hijacker then gave the driver permission to stop the bus. Sensing their opportunity, and much to the hijacker’s dismay, all of the passenger quickly slipped out of the bus once it had come to a halt.

”He became furious. He shouted to the driver:’ Don’t let them off, don’t let them off’,” said Svendsen.

Alone with the driver, the hijacker ordered his to continue the journey. By then, the police had begun to give chase, eventually catching up with the bus at nearby Bjørnstad.

Once the bus had stopped the 24-year-old took to his heels . He was arrested at 8pm, around 700 metres from where the bus had pulled in.

Police said the driver had emerged physically unscathed.

”But he was very shaken by the incident,” said investigating officer Jens Arne Bærland.

Prosecutor Odd Skei Kostveit said the 24-year-old hijacker was a stateless Palestinian who lived in Porsgrunn but did not have a Norwegian passport.

Police have encountered the man on several occasions previously in connection with intoxication and public order offences,

”The man appeared intoxicated on Monday evening and was recently released from psychiatric care,” said Kostveit.

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UPDATE: Norway bans big events as coronavirus hits ‘new phase’

Norwegian health authorities have called for all who can to work from home, and for all events involving more than 500 people to be cancelled, as the coronavirus infection in the country enters "a new phase".

UPDATE: Norway bans big events as coronavirus hits 'new phase'
Workers in Norway are encouraged not to use the bus or tram: Photo: Bonanza Grim Evensen/Ruter
The Norwegian Directorate of Health announced the new measures at a press conference on Tuesday evening, before confirming the limit on large gatherings and the call for homeworking in two press releases.  
“We are now in a new phase,” Director General Bjørn Guldvog said. “Over the last 24 hours we have received the first cases of infection that cannot be traced.” 
“I want to emphasise that the situation is serious. We all have to take responsibility. In this way, we can achieve what we have been talking about all along: To get the lowest possible spread of infection, and thus take care of all the people in Norway in the best possible way.” 
Norway's VG tabloid on Wednesday evening reported that there were now 407 cases in the country, collating reports from each municipality. This is considerably above the official 277 figure reported on Tuesday evening by the Norwegian Institute for Public Health, which takes longer to collate the municipal figures.  
Health Minister Bent Hoie told Norwegians they should start preparing for a medium pandemic scenario, where 22,000 people are hospitalised. 
“Measures taken must be based on good, professional assessments and implemented only when appropriate,” he said. “It may be that we see more radical measures.” 
At the press conference Line Vold, department director at FHI, said that at least five of the cases appeared to have no connection to travel abroad or to contact with anyone who had travelled abroad. 
“We are assuming that there not yet a lot of ongoing infection taking place that we have not yet discovered, but there will always be dark numbers, because we are unable to test everyone.” 
Shortly after the press conference, Dag Jacobsen, head of the intensive care unit at Oslo University Hospital, warned that the measures would not be sufficient to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed in future days as the number of infections increases. 
“The recommendation of the Norwegian Medical Association is a ban on all events over 50 participants, not 500,” he said. “The use of buses and trams must be limited. We should impose compulsory home office work for everyone possible. I don't think people realise how serious the situation is that we are facing.”