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TERRORISM

Italy bus hijacker says he ‘heard voices’ of drowned migrant children

The driver of a school bus who torched the vehicle to protest Mediterranean migrant deaths claimed on Friday he acted after hearing the voices of drowned children urging him on, media reports said.

Italy bus hijacker says he 'heard voices' of drowned migrant children
Photo: AFP

Insisting again that he did not want to hurt anyone, Ousseynou Sy, a 47-year-old of Senegalese origin, reportedly told investigators: “I heard the voices of the children in the sea who were telling me 'do something spectacular for us without hurting the children'.”

Earlier Friday other reports quoted Sy as saying he planned to use his young passengers as human shields and escape to Africa.

“I wanted to get to the runway at (Milan's) Linate airport using the children as human shields and from there head to Africa by plane,” Corriere della Sera daily quoted Sy as telling investigators.

Sy on Wednesday hijacked a bus while taking 12-13 year-olds from a gym to school in Crema, east of Milan.

Armed with two petrol canisters and a cigarette lighter, he threatened the youngsters, took their telephones and told the adults to tie them up with electric cable.

Their 40-minute ordeal ended when police managed to smash windows open and get those onboard out just as Sy set fire to the vehicle.

He now faces having his Italian citizenship, obtained through marriage in 2004, revoked.

According to the Corriere della Sera, Sy has told investigators he hates white people for having “invaded and colonised” Africa, forcing Africans to emigrate and “die in the Mediterranean”.

Alberto Nobili, head of Milan's counter terrorism police, said Sy had posted a video on Youtube with the message: “Africa, rise up.”

Media reports quoted him as saying he had no regrets as “it was something I had to do and would do again, 100 times. Why did I do it? To send a signal to Africa”.

He reportedly told investigators that Italy's impounding Tuesday of migrant rescue ship “Mare Jonio” off the Italian island of Lampedusa with 48 people aboard had been a tipping point for him.

Quoting three students on the bus, Messagero daily reported Sy had first attempted a hijack on Monday, two days earlier.

“He tried to change the route but a teacher intervened and said 'what are you doing? Stick to the right route'.”

That day, the trio said, Sy appeared very nervous, shouting insults at one child.

The government, in the shape of deputy prime minister, Luigi di Maio, and far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, say Rome could now revoke Sy's passport.

The debate has become increasingly heated in a country where Salvini's tough anti-immigration stance is popular with conservatives.

In February last year, Italy was similarly rocked when far-right militant Luca Traini fired on a dozen African migrants in the central town of Macerata, injuring six. The attack was an apparent response to the killing of a young Italian woman, allegedly by a Nigerian drug dealer.

The alleged perpetrator of last week's Christchurch massacre in New Zealand had scrawled Traini's name on one of his weapons.

Anti-mafia state prosecutor Cafiero de Raho warned La Stampa daily the time had come to “tone down” the rhetoric, citing the danger of people further feeding on existing extremism and racial hatred.

READ ALSO: Italy promises tighter checks on driving licences after school bus hijacking

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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