Gunman hijacks tourist bus in Philippines(AP photo)

Gunman hijacks tourist bus in Philippines

The gunman released seven of the tourists, including three children and an elderly man, as the drama near Manila's historic tourist district was played out live on national television.

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No shooting was reported but the standoff dragged into the afternoon with no resolution in sight.

"He is armed with an M-16 assault rifle," Metro Manila police commander Director Leocadio Santiago said.

Police said they were negotiating with the gunman, a former policeman identified as Rolando Mendoza who was discharged in 2008 for his alleged involvement in drug-related crimes and extortion.

They said he seized the bus in a desperate bid to be reinstated.

Philippine authorities said 22 tourists from Hong Kong were originally on board the bus, along with the local driver and two other Filipinos. Earlier, police had said the tourists were South Koreans.

"We have never had anything like this before -- we are very much concerned," said Joseph Tung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong. "We hope the tour members will be released as soon as possible."

He said the tourists on the bus were aged between four and 72. They were on a three-day tour and were scheduled to return to Hong Kong late Monday.

Tung said the council, which represents Hong Kong's travel sector, had not been told of any ransom demands for the hostages' release. FULL STORY