Killers laugh during school rampage

It has happened again. A shooting frenzy in a U.S. school -- this time as many as 25 are dead.

"A suicide mission," is how Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone described the scene. If the number killed is confirmed at 25 it would be the worst school shooting in U.S. history.

One teenage girl said the two gunmen laughed and stuck a gun in her face while she begged for her life. All around her, she said, was the blood of other victims.

Witnesses say they saw two, perhaps three, students in black trench coats and black masks walking into the school in a suburb of Denver, just before the lunch hour. They were armed with guns and explosives and opened fire. One witness says they seemed to be shooting at random and shouting that they were seeking "revenge."

For hours students inside the building hid in fear for their lives. Some students took cover the school's choir room and were able to stay in touch with police by using their cell phones.

Hours later two students, thought to be the gunmen, were found dead in the library. Stone says they were not shot by police.

Ambulances and police cars arrived at the Columbine High School and secured the building. At least eighteen students were injured in the attack. All of them have been taken to hospital, where they are said to be in serious condition. One girl was reportedly shot nine times in the chest.

Some witnesses say the gunmen are part of an anti-social school gang called "The Trench Coat Mafia." They reportedly wear swastikas on their dark clothes and coats.

  • Recent shootings in U.S. schools

    Columbine High is in the middle-class part of Littleton, population 35,000. It opened in 1973 and has an enrolment of about 1,800.

    Authorities said they were able to clear 90 per cent of the students out of the building almost immediately. The rest were cleared out after the shooting stopped.

    At the time it was not known where the gunmen were hiding. The students were told to run out the building with their arms above their heads, to ensure that the gunmen did not try to escape hidden amongst the other students.

    Police also arrested three young men outside the school. They've been described as friends and suspected accomplices of the gunmen.

    U.S. President Bill Clinton went on nationwide television on Tuesday to express his condolences to the families and friends of the victims. He said he had "profound concern for the people of Littleton." And he said the challenge facing America is to teach its young people to resolve their problems with "words not weapons."

    Clinton says he will have more to say on the issue of violence in the school system later this week.

  • now