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If you’re traveling one of the toughest bus routes on Earth you might want to be in a vehicle tough enough to take everything thrown at it. That bus is called a Rhino Runner and it’s a cross between a local metro bus and a tank.

One route the Rhino Runner runs is what’s called “Route Irish,” the local name for the highly dangerous road between the secure Green Zone in Baghdad and the Baghdad Airport. There were so many ambushes, Improvised Explosive Devices, and insurgent attacks on this route that only helicopters were used for some time and State Department personnel were forbidden to travel the highway.

That’s where the Rhino Runner comes in. The Runner is the toughest bus on the planet and it only takes passengers to where no unprotected vehicle could possibly go. And its had more than a few opponents take shots at it.

In November 2004, a convoy of three Rhino Runners was on Route Irish when a suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden BMW between the first and second vehicles. At a distance of two meters from the second Rhino Runner the terrorist detonated more than 250 pounds of explosives creating a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. There was a dust cloud over 1,000 feet long.

There were seventeen passengers and a driver on the second Rhino at the time of the explosion. There were no injuries at all in what the Army called a “massive explosion.”

Here is an account of an Army Captain who was in the second Rhino Runner:

“While traveling to the airport in one of your Runner buses, a civilian vehicle suddenly veered close to my bus, which was very unusual, then cut closely in front of us. Before anyone could react, the driver detonated a huge bomb, and we were engulfed in a large sea of orange flames, and the bus severely rocked.””I quickly checked the other passengers for injuries, and found them all to be OK, with the exception of some sore ear drums. Area soldiers quickly escorted us from the Runner, and as I left the bus, I saw a large crater, but absolutely no sign of the suicide vehicle – it had been completely obliterated. Soldiers later found the nearly 400 pound engine 100 yards from the explosion site.”

Several weeks later another two buses were attacked in Baghdad by a BMW sedan loaded with an estimated 1,000 pounds of explosives. Once again, the bomb was detonated between the two Runners causing a huge explosion. None of the forty passengers on either of the buses were injured.

The Rhino Runner, manufactured by Labock Technologies of Florida, is a hand-made bus built from the chassis up. Everything is custom made and Rhino Runners are built to withstand every caliber of bullet, including armour-piercing rounds. The composite armour is so light it floats on water, and a special one-way bulletproof glass prevents bullets from coming in but you can shoot out through the glass just fine. The bus comes in seating configurations of 17, 24 and 36 and has run-flat tires when you don’t want to go out and change one. It weighs 13 tons, has 12 gun ports and costs about $275,000.

The buses are not just used by the US military but also by: The United Nations, The Vatican, Lloyd’s of London and the Department of Justice for the nation of Columbia. It is also the vehicle that takes Saddam Hussein and other V.I.P. prisoners between their confinements and the Iraqi Tribunal.

The vehicle’s interior is quite spartan and comes in any color you want… as long as it’s a muted gray. But despite the drab colors and hard seats, the Rhino Runner continues to be the ride of choice on the most dangerous roads in the world.