updated 5/15/2007 3:04:18 PM ET 2007-05-15T19:04:18

Three gunmen hijacked a bus in northern Italy on Tuesday and set it on fire after freeing the passengers, officials said. An off-duty police officer was reportedly injured.

The bus was traveling south from Alessandria to Acqui Terme, cities southwest of Milan, when the gunmen took it over and forced the driver to turn onto a road heading in the opposite direction, a Carabinieri paramilitary police official in nearby Novara said.

The official spoke on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.

An off-duty police officer who was on board tried to intervene and was stabbed, but was not seriously wounded, the ANSA news agency said.

The gunmen allowed the passengers to get off the bus when it returned to Alessandria, but forced the driver to keep driving to the outskirts of Novara, Sky TG24 reported from the scene.

The hijackers exchanged gunfire with police when the bus stopped, then set it ablaze before fleeing, the Carabinieri official said. One of the gunmen was apprehended and authorities were seeking the other two, the official said.

The official said the gunman who was apprehended was being treated for an unspecified injury.

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