March 21 (UPI) -- A 47-year-old bus driver was arrested by Italian police after he had allegedly hijacked his own vehicle and then set it on fire with more than 50 children aboard.
The ordeal lasted 40 minutes Wednesday as the suspect, angry at the government's policy towards migrants, ordered a teacher to tie the children's hands behind their back as he threatened that no one would leave the bus alive, ANSA reported.
The suspect, Ousseynou Sy, a Senegalese national with a criminal record for sexual molestation and drunk driving, hijacked the bus while driving the 51 middle school students from their school to a sporting event.
During the drive he started making threats and brandishing a knife, the Telegraph reported.
"He shouted 'Stop the deaths at sea, I'll carry out a massacre," said police spokesman Marco Palmieri.
Two teachers and an assistant were also on the bus, Carabinieri police said in a statement on Facebook.
The teacher who tied up the students with zip-ties did so lightly and one student was able to call the police.
The man, who has Italian citizenship, was driving the bus towards Milan, ramming cars along the busy highway until coming to a stop at a police roadblock.
He then splashed the vehicle with gasoline before setting it on fire, police said.
Police then smashed the windows to get the children out of the smoking vehicle.
Twelve students and two adults were sent to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and burns.
The suspect was also sent to hospital.
The hijacking comes days after Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini restated that Italy's ports are closed to migrants.
On Monday, he had tweeted "the ports were and remain CLOSED" in response to an article stating that 50 migrants were en route to Italy.
#20marzo #bus di una scuola sequestrato e dato alle fiamme. I complimenti di @Eli_Trenta ai@_Carabinieri_ di San Donato Milanese che hanno arrestato il responsabile dell'assurdo gesto: grazie per aver salvato le vite di 51 bambini e perché rendete le nostre città più sicure— Ministero Difesa (@MinisteroDifesa) March 20, 2019
Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta thanked the police for saying the children's lives.
The suspect will likely face kidnapping, attempted mass murder and resisting arrest charges as well as possible terrorism-related charges.