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1999: Students 'kill dozens' at Denver school

AUDIO : Columbine students talk about the massacre

A shooting spree by two American high school students is feared to have left up to 25 people dead and injured at least 15 others.

The students, wearing balaclavas and trench coats, rampaged through Columbine High School in Denver, Colorado, firing automatic weapons and throwing homemade bombs.

The bodies of the two suspects, who had apparently shot themselves, were later found in the library.

Explosive devices are said to have been found on or near the suspects' bodies.

They have been named as Eric Harris, 18, and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold.

'Trench coat mafia'

The pair are said to have belonged to a group known as the "trench coat mafia" who boasted about owning guns and were alienated from the other children.

One girl told police she was in the library when one of the boys burst in and began firing shots.

"He said he would kill everyone who had been mean to him and his friends over the last year," she said.

Other witnesses said the gunmen were targeting students from ethnic minorities and popular athletes.

As FBI agents and specialist firearms teams made their way through the carnage, a bomb set on a time device exploded.

At least 12 other bombs were found throughout the school, said police.

Three people believed to be friends of the suspects were arrested and were led away in handcuffs.

But a police spokeswoman said they were not thought to be directly involved in the shootings.

Columbine High School - which has 1,800 pupils - is situated in the middle-class suburb of Littleton.

US President Bill Clinton has sent his condolences to the town.

"The prayers of the American people are with you," he said

In Context
The Columbine shooting was one of a spate of killings at US high schools.

The final number of dead was 15, including the two attackers, and was at the time the greatest loss of life of any of the incidents at the time.

Soon afterwards US Vice-President Al Gore backed a bill to bring in tougher gun controls but it was thrown out by the US Congress.

In April 2001 the families of most of the victims of the Columbine school shootings were awarded $2.5m (1.8m) after suing the gunmen's parents and the men who sold them the weapons.

Eight years after the Columbine attack, a 23-year-old student killed 32 people and himself at Virginia Tech University in what became the United States' worst mass-shooting.


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