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Learning English - Words in the News
30 January, 2008 - Published 13:16 GMT
Hostage gang arrested in Venezuela
Hostages held in branch of the Banco Provincial in Altagracia de Orituco, in the state of Guarico, look out of the bank's windows

Four gunmen who'd held more than thirty people hostage inside a bank in Venezuela have surrendered to police. The men escaped in an ambulance but were later stopped on a highway and surrounded. This report from James Ingham:

Listen to the story

It was a tense standoff that lasted more than twenty four hours - this quiet farming town suddenly at the centre of what many described simply as a nightmare. It began when four gunmen entered the bank intending to make a quick getaway. When they spotted a police patrol, they panicked and so began the siege - more than thirty people held hostage.

As the hold-up continued, some managed to make calls and send texts to friends and relatives. Others stuck hastily written notes in the windows pleading for help. The gunmen were demanding money and a guaranteed escape.

At first authorities refused but finally a deal was struck and the robbers fled the building in an ambulance, taking with them five hostages. The others were then able to leave. They emerged looking emotional, clearly relieved to be free.

But the drama was not yet over. Police had promised the gunmen that they wouldn't be followed but several hours later they were stopped on a highway and surrounded. The men released their remaining captives, threw down their weapons and surrendered; a tense ordeal ending without a shot.

James Ingham, BBC News, Caracas

Listen to the words

tense standoff
nervous and anxious disagreement where neither side is willing to change or compromise

the siege
the situation where a place (here, the bank) is controlled by people with guns who will not allow the other people there to leave freely

a person who is held against his/her will and not released until certain things are done (e.g. money is paid or here, the robbers are allowed to leave the bank without the police arresting them)

when a person uses violence or the threat of violence to steal something

a deal was struck and the robbers fled
an agreement (here, between the police and the thieves) was reached and the thieves escaped

emerged looking emotional
came out showing very strong feelings or emotions (usually anger or sadness)

they wouldn't be followed
no-one would go after them or try to catch them

here, the police stood in a circle around the robbers, giving them no chance to escape

people who are held against their will

very difficult, unpleasant or painful experience

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For teachers
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