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Bush directs feds to help find sniper

President calls attacks 'cowardly and senseless'

From Kelly Wallace (CNN Washington Bureau)


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A rash of sniper attacks in the metropolitan Washington area has captured the attention of the White House, which has directed the FBI to assist in the case.

"This is a very important issue of great concern," Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the president attended a political event. "This is traumatic for the families and the communities that have been affected and it's scary."

In a statement Monday evening, Bush called the shootings "cowardly and senseless acts of violence."

Six people have been killed and two others wounded in sniper attacks in the area since Wednesday. The latest victim was a 13-year-old boy, gunned down Monday as he was dropped off at school. The youth remained hospitalized in critical but stable condition Tuesday.

Fleischer outlined the ways the president has made resources of the federal government available to local officials.

The Bush spokesman said the president has directed the Education Department to provide any assistance needed to help schools, principals and administrators counsel students in the area.

Fleischer also said the FBI is assisting by helping with developing a profile of the shooter or shooters, placing agents in command posts in Montgomery County, Maryland -- where most of the shooting occurred -- and other sites and providing helicopter support.

The Bush spokesman said the FBI is also providing assistance with the "rapid start program," which is a computer program used to track, correlate and prioritize hundreds of leads. The FBI is also offering agents, as requested to follow leads, and has offered other assistance from local field offices and labs as needed, Fleischer said.

In addition, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is providing ballistics help, the Bush spokesman said.



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