Monday, April 16, 2007

US university massacre - 33 dead

At least 30 people have been shot dead by a gunman. Not in Iraq but in the US. This is a country often known for gun-crime but the latest massacre has shocked a nation. The shooting occurred at a University in Virginia at around 7:15 a.m Local time. The news broke slowly on UK screens, much of the news coverage taken up with the Defence Secretary’s statement in parliament following the ‘cash for stories’ row that has dominated the UK press over the last week. But by 16:00 BST [15:00 GMT] most news stations were covering the story. According to early reports at least 20 students had died at the hand of a gunman, apparently an ‘Asian’ who was ‘looking for his girlfriend’. Suggestions of jealousy were cited later by the Sky News Washington correspondent, as being behind the shooting. A press conference held several hours later cleared up some of the confusion behind the incident; the worst school shooting in US history.

Officials confirmed that 33 people were dead including the gunman, and that 51 were being treated in hospital. Two had been killed in a dormitory, the first scene to which the police had been called. Here the police found the doors chained shut from the inside. Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said initial reports had indicated the shooting at the Ambler Johnston dormitory was “domestic in nature”. A ‘lock-down’ of that building was put in place, but that did not cover the whole campus. Between the time the initial call came in, and an e-mail was sent to students, nearly two hours had elapsed and a second incident was under way. This was at Norris Hall were most of the victims died, some 28 students at the hands of a gunman whose identification has not yet been confirmed.
Calls to this incident were received at around 09:15 a.m and police were soon surrounding the building. However, Chief Wendell Flinchum said “there was not a shoot out between officers and the shooter”.

The Virginia Tech President added that the names of the victims would not be released until the next of kin were notified. Officials said that at this point there was no conclusion as to whether there’s a connection between two shootings. The BBC correspondent speaking from Washington said it was clear that the authorities “had not obtained all the answers”. But according to the authorities the Red Cross, the FBI and ATF were all working together []

President Bush has said he was “horrified” on hearing of the incident and that “our nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones”. But there may be political fallout to come. Questions are already being asked as to why there was a two hour gap between the two incidents and no warning to those other than at the dormitory building. Gun control will also be another issue raised following this tragic incident.

And it was an incident which had been captured not only by news broadcasters, but by students on the campus. Jamal Albarghouti had used his Nokia N70 camera phone to shoot several seconds of footage which captured 27 shots on the soundtrack. He told CNN that he felt compelled to shoot the video, but he was very saddened and shocked by the shooting. Jamal who had originally come from Palestine, and had lived for several years in Riyad in Saudi Arabia, said he had experienced a bombing in Saudi Arabia but added “I never thought I’d experience something like this here”. His short video was broadcast by CNN i-report, FOX and Sky News amongst others. But the gravity of the sound that rings out in the video did not reflect the true horror of what happened at the receiving end of those bullets [BBC].

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