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A dismissed policeman armed with an assault rifle hijacked a bus packed with tourists, and killed most of its passengers in a 10 hour-hostage drama shown live on national television until last night.

Former police senior inspector Rolando Mendoza was shot dead by a sniper at past 9 p.m. Mendoza hijacked the bus and took 21 Chinese tourists hostage, demanding his reinstatement to the police force. The hostage drama dragged on even after the driver of the bus managed to escape and told police that all the remaining passengers had been killed.

Late into the night assault forces surrounded the bus and tried to gain entry, but a pair of dead hostages handcuffed to the door made it difficult for them. Police said they fired at the wheels of the bus to immobilize it. Police used hammers to smash windows, door and windshield but were met with intermittent fire from the hostage taker. Police also used tear gas in an effort to confirm if the remaining hostages were all dead or alive. When the standoff ended at nearly 9 p.m., some four hostages were rescued alive while Mendoza was killed by a sniper.

Initial reports said some 30 policemen stormed the bus. Shots also rang out, sending bystanders scampering for safety. It took the policemen almost two hours to assault the bus because gunfire reportedly rang out from inside the bus. Mendoza hijacked the tourist bus in the morning and took the tourists hostage.

Mendoza, who claimed he was illegally dismissed from the police service, initially released nine of the hostages during the drama that began at 10 a.m. and played out live on national television.