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Australian FM pleased with safe release of hostages
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Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said in Canberra on Wednesday he was pleased the hostage crisis involving Australian tourists in Xi'an of China was resolved so quickly and the hostages were safe.

"Our Embassy in Beijing and our Consulate-General in Shanghai are providing consular assistance to the Australians affected by this incident," Smith said.

Earlier reports said a resident of Xi'an City's Yanliang District, Xia Tao, hijacked a bus and took a foreign tourist and a translator as hostage in the downtown Zhonggulou Square at 9:52 A.M.. Armed with explosives, he called for negotiations with police.

The police accepted Xia's demand to change buses and to go to the airport to avoid violence in the downtown core.

The police shot and killed Xia when the bus approached the airport toll station at 12:36 P.M. after unsuccessful negotiating, according to the local public security bureau.

The hostages were unharmed.

(Xinhua News Agency March 7, 2008)

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