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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 23:34 GMT 00:34 UK
Pentagon to help in sniper hunt
Police load Linda Franklin's body into an ambulance
Linda Franklin was an FBI intelligence analyst
The Pentagon has agreed to help law enforcement agencies in their hunt for the serial sniper who has killed nine people in the Washington suburbs.

Following a request from the FBI at the weekend, the Pentagon is to provide manned, fixed-wing reconnaissance aircraft capable of relaying information quickly.

Sniper attacks
2-3 Oct - Five people killed in Montgomery County, Maryland
3 Oct - Man killed in Washington DC
4 Oct - Woman injured in Fredericksburg, Virginia
7 Oct - Boy injured in Prince George's County, Maryland
9 Oct - Man killed in Manassas, Virginia
11 Oct - Man killed in Fredericksburg, Virginia
14 Oct - Woman killed in Falls Church, Virginia

The US army has also been approached about checking military records in the search for possible links to the attacks.

Earlier on Tuesday, police said ballistic evidence confirmed that the killing of a woman on Monday was linked to the other sniper attacks that have terrorised the Washington DC area for the past fortnight.

Nine people have been killed - all by a single shot - and two wounded in the attacks.

Police have released composite pictures of two white vans similar to a vehicle seen by witnesses near the scene of the attacks.

FBI officials also confirmed that the latest victim, 47-year-old Linda Franklin from Arlington, Virginia, worked for their agency as an intelligence analyst. But police said she was not involved in the hunt for the sniper.

New evidence?

The US military is banned from direct law enforcement within the US, and Pentagon says its role in the hunt for the sniper is simply to support civilian agencies.

There was some additional information that we were able to get from [Monday's] case - I am confident that it is going to lead us to an arrest

John Manger,
Fairfax County police chief

Military personnel will fly the reconnaissance planes accompanied by federal officers. Any action taken will be up to the civilian authorities, Pentagon officials say.

BBC Pentagon correspondent Nick Childs says it is hoped that the planes can reduce critical response time in the case of any further attacks.

After Monday's attack, the sniper again escaped, despite the immediate deployment of dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement agents.

They closed roads around the Falls Church area, about 10 miles (16 kilometres) west of Washington DC, where the shooting occurred.

The place where the attack happened is particularly busy and is known as Seven Corners because of the number of roads meeting there.

The latest shooting may provide the police with vital new evidence, although BBC correspondents say that authorities have refused to confirm that one witness may have seen the sniper holding the rifle to his shoulder.

White van

There are further reports that another witness took down the licence plate of a van seen speeding away from the scene shortly after the shooting.

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose
Police are searching for a white van seen near the attacks

"There was some additional information that we were able to get from last night's case and I am confident that that information is going to lead us to an arrest, Fairfax County police chief John Manger said.

Police say they are also continuing to investigate sightings of a cream-coloured Chevrolet Astro van with a broken rear light and a ladder rack on top seen in the Falls Church area.

After the earlier attacks, police had said they were looking for a white van.

Witnesses hope

The latest victim suffered a single shot to the head by a high-velocity rifle as she and her husband loaded up their car outside a shopping centre at about 2115 Monday (0115 GMT Tuesday).

Monday's shooting came after a weekend of respite for people in the area, many of whom hoped that the killing spree had ended.

However it appears that the killer may be following a pattern of carrying out attacks during the week and resting during the weekend.

Another possible clue for profilers examining the case is the geographical proximity of the attacks.

The first five victims were killed within a few miles of each other in Washington's Maryland suburbs, and the sixth person who died was shot on a street corner in Washington, close to the Maryland state border.

There have been three confirmed sniper attacks in Virginia - two of which proved fatal.

The BBC's Matt Frei
"Linda Franklin was shot standing next to her husband"

Key Stories



Trail of terror
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See also:

15 Oct 02 | Americas
13 Oct 02 | Americas
12 Oct 02 | Americas
15 Oct 02 | Americas
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