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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 12:43 GMT
School shooting plot foiled
Columbine High
The shooting "could have been worse than Columbine"
A high school in the United States where three teenagers had allegedly plotted a mass shooting is open for classes, after it was declared safe by the police.

The plot to use explosives and guns to kill fellow pupils - before killing themselves - was foiled after a caretaker found a letter outlining their plans.

Police in New Bedford, Massachusetts, feared the planned attack could have been worse than the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.

The three students, one aged 17, the others 15, were arrested on Saturday, after searches at their homes uncovered bomb-making instructions, knives, shotgun shells and pictures of the suspects holding what appeared to be handguns.

Two other students were being questioned and faced possible arrest, according to the authorities.

The arrests followed a month-long investigation.

School search

On Sunday, 40 police officers and five bomb-sniffing dogs searched the high school, which has 3,300 students, and found no new evidence of the alleged plot.

Officers also searched 4,000 lockers at the school.

"We didn't think we were going to find anything," said police lieutenant Richard Spirlet.

"But we want to put the public at ease," Lt Spirlet said.

Statistics released by the US Education and Justice Departments earlier this month showed violent crimes in US schools had fallen slightly.

Between 1992 and 1999, cases of violence in schools were down from 48 crimes per 1,000 students to 33 per 1,000 and the number of students bringing weapons to school had dropped by 42%.

See also:

01 Nov 01 | Education
Crime rates fall in US schools
18 Jul 01 | Education
School shootings warning signs
26 May 00 | Americas
When children kill
21 May 99 | Americas
New gun law follows school shooting
21 Apr 00 | Americas
Columbine marks tragedy
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