ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Axe-wielding Iranian asylum seeker killed by police in Swiss train hostage situation

Speaking in Farsi and English, hostage-taker holds 14 passengers, train conductor for four hours before authorities storm train, execute maneuver to keep him away from hostages

Swiss police officers stand next to a train, where passengers traveling from Yverdon to Sainte-Croix were earlier held hostage, in Essert-Sous-Champvent, western Switzerland on February 8, 2024. (Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)
Swiss police officers stand next to a train, where passengers traveling from Yverdon to Sainte-Croix were earlier held hostage, in Essert-Sous-Champvent, western Switzerland on February 8, 2024. (Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

A 32-year-old Iranian asylum-seeker was killed by police after he used an axe and a knife to seize more than a dozen hostages for several hours on a train in western Switzerland, police said Thursday. No passengers were injured in the incident.

The man took the hostages early Thursday evening and police, alerted by passengers, sealed off the area while the train was stopped in the town of Essert-sous-Champvert, police in the French-speaking Vaud region said Friday.

The man, speaking Farsi and English, demanded that the train engineer join the 15 hostages, with the ordeal dragging on for nearly four hours, from around 6:35 pm to 10:30 pm.

Nearly four hours after the incident began, police stormed the train after trying to negotiate with the man through an interpreter. More than 60 police were involved.

“The hostages were all freed safe and sound,” a police statement said. “The hostage-taker was mortally injured during the operation.”

Vincent Derouand, a spokesperson for the Vaud prosecutors’ office, said an investigation was underway in part to determine the man’s motive.

An ambulance drives past a road blocked by Swiss Gendarmes leading to a train station in Essert-Sous-Champvent, western Switzerland, on February 8, 2024. (Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

“At this stage of the investigation, the motives of the perpetrator are not known,” he said. The hostage-taker’s identity, he added, was still not officially confirmed, and checks were being carried out.

The man was shot dead by a police officer after allegedly rushing at him with the axe.

Negotiations with the suspect took place in part via WhatsApp and with the help of a translator speaking Farsi, the predominant language in Iran.

Authorities ultimately decided to storm the train and executed a maneuver to keep the man away from the hostages, according to Sauterel.

“It’s an unprecedented event given the number of victims, 15 hostages, and the intervention of 60 police,” Swiss Prosecutor General Eric Kaltenrieder told local television.

Hostage situations are rare in Switzerland, but do occasionally occur.

In January 2022, criminals took a couple and two employees of a company hostage in an attempt to gain access to vaults where precious metals were kept, but ultimately fled without the loot.

In November 2021, the director of a watch company and members of his family were taken hostage at his home, with the assailants stealing gold and taking off for neighboring France.

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