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US hostage drama involving child in fourth day

Students walk to board a school bus in Manhattan's East Village on January 15, 2013 in New York City
Students walk to board a school bus in Manhattan's East Village on January 15, 2013 in New York City. A hostage drama involving a five-year-old boy dragged into its fourth day Friday, with the abductor holding the child in an underground bunker in the sou

A hostage drama involving a five-year-old boy dragged into its fourth day Friday, with the abductor holding the child in an underground bunker in the southern US state of Alabama.

The motive of the abduction in the town of Midland City remained unclear, said Kevin Cook, spokesman for the Alabama State Troopers.

The hostage-taker has been identified in US media reports as Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65-year-old retired trucker. Authorities say he stopped a school bus Tuesday and demanded that several children be turned over to him. When the driver defended the kids, the assailant shot and killed him, and took away one boy.

It was yet another tragedy in the epidemic of gun violence in America.

The child, whose name has not been released, was still being held Friday in an underground bunker in a rural area, Cook told AFP.

State police and other law enforcement officials are communicating regularly with the kidnapper, Cook said, although he would not say how. News reports said it was through a narrow ventilation pipe sticking up out of the bunker.

Cook said the child is apparently in good physical condition. But news reports quoted one local official as saying the boy is crying for his parents.

"The child's safety is our utmost concern," Cook said.

The slain bus driver, Charles Poland, 66, was described as a quiet man who enjoyed a simple life with his wife, Jan.

People who knew him said it was hard for Poland to discipline children on his bus when they misbehaved, an Alabama newspaper, the Dothan Eagle, reported.

"It says in the Bible the meek will inherit the earth," Poland's brother-in-law, Melvin Skipper, was quoted as saying. "He was the meekest man I knew."

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