A man who hijacked a school bus in Italy and set it alight was a known pedophile who had posted a video on YouTube saying ‘Africa – arise’, it has emerged.
Ousseynou Sy abducted 51 children, told them ‘no one would survive’ and set the bus on fire after they escaped in a 40-minute ordeal near Milan.
The 47-year-old driver, of Senegalese origin, told authorities he wanted to vindicate Europe-bound migrants who have died in the Mediterranean.
Italy’s interior ministry said in a statement that the driver had been previously caught driving while drunk and had sexually assaulted a minor.
The driver was said to have planned the hijack over several days, making preparations such as buying a canister of gasoline and restraints on Tuesday
Sy was being investigated on suspicion of kidnapping, intention to commit a massacre, arson and resisting law enforcement, with terrorism as an aggravating circumstance as the event caused panic.
Police broke windows at the back of the bus to reach the passengers and got all of them out without serious injuries.
The 47-year-old suspect is a father of two, whose ex-wife is Italian, and is originally from Senegal but is also an Italian citizen.
One of the middle school students described his terror in an interview with La Repubblica TV.
‘We were all very afraid because the driver had emptied the gas canister onto the floor (of the bus.) He tied us up and took all the telephones so we could not call the police,’ the student said.
‘One of the telephones, belonging to a classmate, fell to the ground, so I pulled off the handcuffs, hurting myself a bit, and went and picked it up. We called the Carabinieri and the police.’
Officials told Sky TG24 that the bus was ferrying two middle-school classes between school and a nearby gym in Cremona province, 25 miles from Milan.
The driver threatened the passengers, telling them ‘no one would survive today’ as he commandeered the bus, and ordered the children’s hands to be tied up.
Authorities said that an adult called an emergency operator, while one of the students called a parent, and they alerted officials who set up roadblocks.
The bus was intercepted on the outskirts of Milan by three Carabinieri vehicles, which were able to force it into the guardrail, commander Luca De Marchis said.
‘While two officers kept the driver busy – he took a lighter and threatened to set fire to the vehicle with a gasoline canister on board – the others forced open the back door,’ De Marchis said.