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GUNMEN SEIZE BUS, TAKE CHILDREN AND ADULTS HOSTAGE IN S. RUSSIA

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Four gunmen seized a bus and took 20 schoolchildren and adults hostage Thursday in the Caucasus mountains of southern Russia, authorities said.

Police surrounded the bus near Mineralnye Vody, a resort 800 miles south of Moscow, police spokesman Viktor Gusakov said.The men seized eight children on a school outing along with their teachers and parents. They forced the bus driver out and drove the bus themselves before being stopped by police in the village of Kangly, Gusakov said.

The gunmen demanded a helicopter, $10 million in U.S. currency, 100 doses of morphine, bulletproof vests, four assault rifles and a grenade launcher, said Yekaterina Glebova, spokeswoman at the Ministry for Emergency Situations.

Police said they were negotiating to try to free the hostages. They said the bus driver reported the men had a short-barrel assault rifle, a pistol and a grenade.

The bus was en route from Vladikavkaz in the North Ossetia region to Stavropol, Glebova said.

In a four-day drama in southern Russia last December, four kidnappers swapped a dozen schoolchildren from Rostov-on-Don for $10 million and a helicopter. Their getaway failed when the helicopter's engine stalled and they had to make a forced landing in the mountains, where they were captured.

None of the hostages was injured but not all the ransom money was recovered. The hostage-takers apparently tossed handfuls of $100 bills out of the helicopter during their emergency descent.