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Thursday, April 22, 1999 Published at 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK

World: Americas

Killers' parents pray for victims

Tributes to the shooting victims are left in a snowy park by the school

The parents of the Colorado school killers have expressed their "heartfelt sympathy" to the victims of the massacre and their families.

The families of Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, issued separate statements as police investigated whether their sons had had accomplices in their devastating rampage through Columbine High School, in which 13 people were killed.

"Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt apologies go out to the victims, their families, friends, and the entire community," the Klebold family said.

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Denver: Some are suggesting the parents must have known what their sons were planning
"Like the rest of the country, we are struggling to understand why this happened, and ask that you please respect our privacy during this painful grieving period."

Harris' parents said: "We want to express our heartfelt sympathy to the families of all the victims and to all the community for this senseless tragedy."

Website investigated

Detectives have begun examining the Internet site believed to have been be used by the two students. The site is being dismantled by the service provider, America Online.

The BBC's Rob Watson: "A community in shock and mourning"
Reports say the site contained racist threats and information on how to build bombs but the company denied the killers had used it to post warnings of their attack.

As the investigation continued, memorial services were held across the city, and counsellors offered support to those touched by the tragedy.

[ image:  ]
But while some people came to the school's shrines to pray for the gunmen's families, others have suggested that they should have known what their sons were planning.

Harris and Klebold rampaged through Columbine High School with guns and bombs, killing 12 students and one teacher before turning the guns on themselves.

(Click here for a map showing the school layout)

The pair, who reportedly belonged to school clique called the Trenchcoat Mafia, wore long black coats and masks and laughed repeatedly as they targeted their victims.

'Could not have worked alone'

Sheriff John Stone said they found so many home-made bombs that he doubted that just two people could have carried them into the school.

More than 30 devices were found, including pipe bombs, timed explosives and improvised hand grenades.

One bomb was rigged to the petrol tank of a car in the school car park.

The BBC's Liz MacKean: "They blew apart the community's sense of its own security"
"There was a lot of planning put into this. It took a considerable amount of time to make it," said Sheriff Stone.

The county's prosecutor, Dave Thomas, said: "There is some belief that there are other people at least knowledgeable about this."

[ image: Police question a pupil believed to be a friend of the suspects]
Police question a pupil believed to be a friend of the suspects
Police have taken books and computer equipment from the homes of the two suspects to try to determine whether anyone else helped them with the massacre.

Three people, believed to be friends of the suspects, were arrested in a field near the school and led away in handcuffs.

A police spokeswoman said they were wanted for questioning and were not thought to be directly responsible for the shootings.

Shrine for the dead

[ image: Pupils help their wounded classmates]
Pupils help their wounded classmates
The bodies of the 13 dead were finally removed from the school on Wednesday evening - more than 24 hours after they were killed. The remains of the two teenage gunmen were also removed.

Throughout Wednesday, pupils wearing blue and silver ribbons, the colours of Columbine High School, returned in tears and clung on to each other as they laid flowers at two shrines.

It was the worst massacre in a string of school shootings that have rocked US communities in recent years.

Calls for gun control

The shootings have once again prompted calls for tighter gun control.

[ image:  ]
Colorado legislators have responded by withdrawing a plan to permit possession of concealed firearms, and the most powerful gun lobbying organisation in America, the National Rifle Association, has decided to scale back its annual conference in Denver next week.

US President Bill Clinton used a speech to White House volunteers on Wednesday to express national shock at the tragedy.

"We have to take this moment once again to hammer home to all the children of America that violence is wrong, and to show children by the power of our own example how to resolve conflicts peacefully," he said

[ image:  ]

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