Developing

Alabama Hostage Boy 'Doing Well' After Rescue

A boy who was held hostage for a week is safe and his captor dead after FBI agents stormed an underground bunker in Alabama.

Officials said the raid went ahead after negotiations with 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes deteriorated and he was seen with a gun.

"Mr Dykes was observed holding a gun," FBI Special Agent Steve Richardson said.

"At this point, the FBI agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child."

The five-year-old, so far identified only as Ethan, was being treated at a hospital, authorities said.

"I visited with Ethan. He is doing fine," Agent Richardson told reporters.

"He's laughing, joking, playing, eating - the things that you would expect a normal 5 to 6-year-old young man to do. He's very brave, he's very lucky, and the success story is that he's out safe and doing great."

The boy's great uncle, Berlin Enfinger, told ABC News that he was relieved to be home after his rescue a day earlier.

"He's happy to be home, and he looks good," Mr Enfinger said.

Dykes snatched the boy, who has Asperger's syndrome, from a school bus last week after killing the driver, Charles Poland.

Authorities initially declined to elaborate on how they had observed Dykes or on how he died.

However, an official in Midland City, citing information from law enforcement sources, said a high-tech camera had been inserted into the bunker and that police had shot Dykes. 

Daryle Hendry, who lives about a quarter of a mile from where Dykes was holed up, said he heard a boom followed by a gunshot.

"Right now, FBI special agent bomb technicians are in the process of clearing the property for improvised explosive devices," the FBI said in a written statement.

"When it is safe to do so, our evidence response teams, paired with state and local crime scene technicians, will process the scene."

Neighbours described Dykes as a loner who hated the authorities.

They said he once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property, and patrolled his garden at night with a torch and a firearm.

But he was also a decorated Navy veteran, having spent around five years in Vietnam.

He had had some scrapes with the law in Florida, including a 1995 arrest for improper exhibition of a weapon. The misdemeanour was dismissed. He also was arrested for marijuana possession in 2000.

He returned to Alabama about two years ago, moving onto the rural tract about 100 yards from his nearest neighbours.