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Sunday, December 16, 2007

No leads as FBI joins hunt for US varsity killers

Washington/Baton Rouge (IANS): As the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) joined the hunt for the killers of two Indian students at a US university, the winter break there posed a new problem to investigators looking for leads.

The two Ph.D students, Chandrasekhar Reddy Komma, 31, of Hyderabad, India, and Kiran Kumar Allam, 33, of Kurnool, India, were found shot dead at the Louisiana State University (LSU) apartments at Baton Rouge Thursday night.

With final exams over Saturday, students who might have information useful to investigators started leaving for the holidays, police faced difficulties in identifying suspects and potential witnesses. "We're up against a rapidly ticking clock in terms of identifying potential witnesses," said Baton Rouge Police Department Sergeant Don Kelly, a spokesman for the law enforcement task force investigating the double murder.

"Police has some leads, but they have not been able to identify the prime suspects yet," Indian consul general in Houston S.M. Gavai told IANS on phone. He had also spoken to the LSU chancellor Sean O'Keefe and was told "FBI is also involved in the investigations besides the police of the university and the state."

The Indian ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, too spoke to Keefe and was assured that police was doing everything to apprehend the killers. Sen in turn assured of him of all help in investigating the crime. Sen also spoke to the spouses of the two slain students.

Two Indian officials, K.P. Pillai, consul at Houston and Alok Pandey, first secretary at the Indian embassy in Washington, had a series of meetings in Baton Rouge Saturday with the university authorities, police department, the Indian Students Association and the Indian-American community.

The autopsy of the two students has been completed, Pandey said. The bodies will be flown to India after embalming as requested by the victims' families.

The investigation focused on three black men who police said were seen late Thursday hurriedly leaving from the apartment complex where Allam lived and the shootings occurred. Police also searched for information about a possible fourth suspect, who they believed drove a getaway car.

But police had no real description of the men, other than to say they are young and got into small to mid-sized four-door car whose headlights were turned on only after the car had left the parking lot.

"That's the best information we have at this time. It's still very early in the investigation, and other leads may come forward," Kelly said.

"We have not established a motive ... All we know was there was a double murder," he said. There was no forced entry, and while some items were missing from the apartment, Kelly said it was too early to consider it an armed robbery.

Many students had already left campus before the killings, but with all examinations completed Saturday, an exodus started from the 28,000-student campus for the holidays.

Police patrols were stepped up near the Edward Gay apartments at the edge of the campus where the two students were shot in the head in a home attack. Officers on Saturday walked nearby streets, knocking on doors and asking people for any information they may have about the killings.

The apartment complex is home to 288 residents, 94 percent of whom are international students. With a contingent of 332, Indians form the largest group of international students from a single country at LSU, which has a total of 1,468 international students enrolled for 2007 fall semester.

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