July 5, 2002
0057 IST

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Three dead, six injured in LA airport shooting

By Correspondent

Three people were killed and at least six injured on Thursday at the Los Angeles International Airport when an unidentified gunman opened fire at the ticket counter of Israeli El Al Airlines.

Plainclothes Israeli security personnel, attached to El Al, opened fire on the gunman and brought him down.

Three, including the gunman, were killed outright. The injured have been transported to a nearby hospital.

The gunman, wearing a suit, was described as a man in his 40s, while reports said that a middle-aged lady was also one of the fatalities. No identifications have been made till now.

The Tom Bradley International Terminal was shut down and evacuated. Ambulances and police cars flooded the area to take away victims. Authorities, however, said that this is not a total shutdown of the airport. The airport is accepting international incoming flights, but no outgoing flights for now, authorities added.

However, there is no evidence, as of now, to prove that the airport was a target for a terrorist attack.

The LA police have taken two people in for questioning. Police officials said that they are not, for now, 'suspects' but fall in the category of 'material witnesses'.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also been handed over the charge of probing the incident, and FBI special agent Richard Garcia in a press conference described the incident as 'isolated', ruling out any terrorist angle.

However, Israel's foreign minister blamed terrorists, but didn't offer any evidence to support his claim and his office declined further comment.

The incident, which occurred at 14:30 EDT, came amid heightened security around the United States as Americans celebrated the first Independence Day holiday since the September 11 suicide hijack attacks on New York and Washington.

In another incident, a small plane crashed into a crowd of people at a theme park in San Dimas, California -- a few miles away from Los Angeles airport.

Latest reports said that one person was killed, and six injured in the incident.

Preliminary reports said that the pilot had trouble controlling the plane on a climb. The crash, thus, is being put down to the craft malfunctioning, though investigators are on site and the probe continues.

The former head of El Al airport security in the US, Marvin Badler, confirmed to Fox News that El Al does indeed have armed security personnel, both uniformed and plainclothes, in airports across the country.

Asked how security personnel could carry weapons inside airports in contravention of existing regulations, Badler told Fox News that such security personnel did in fact carry weapons, and that they were allowed to do so, within certain limited areas at and near the airline's ticketing terminals.

Badler said that El Al security personnel had strict, unambiguous orders, including shoot-to-kill in such situations.

Meanwhile, as part of ongoing anti-terrorism operations, US security agencies had last month conducted a nationwide check of airport security.

The checks comprised attempts to smuggle fake guns, knives and explosives through airport security controls.

Eighty-seven such fake smuggling attempts were carried out across 32 American airports. The LA airport had one of the largest failure rates, estimated at 41 per cent.

Los Angeles International Airport, known as LAX, is the world's fourth-busiest airport based on passenger loads.

Airport Security By Year
Weapons discovered at US airports last 10 years

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