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32 killed in varsity shootout

Deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history

BLACKSBURG (Virginia): A gunman opened fire in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech on Monday, killing 32 people in the deadliest campus shooting in United States' history. The gunman was killed but it was not clear if he was shot by police or took his own life.

``Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions,'' said Virginia Tech president Charles Steger. ``The university is shocked and indeed horrified.''

In Washington, the White House said President George W. Bush was ``horrified'' by the shootings.

The university reported shootings at opposite sides of the 2,600-acre campus, beginning at about 7:15 a.m. local time at West Ambler Johnston, a co-ed residence hall that houses 895 people, and continuing about two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering building.

Some of the dead were students. One student was killed in a dorm and the others were killed in the classroom, Virginia Tech Police Chief W.R. Flinchum said.

The name of the gunman was not released. It was not known if he was a student.

Before Monday, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history took place in 1966 at the University of Texas, where Charles Whitman climbed to the 28th-floor observation deck of a clock tower and opened fire. He killed 16 people before police gunned him down. In the Columbine High School bloodbath near Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

After Monday's shootings, all entrances to the campus were closed and classes cancelled through Tuesday. The university set up a meeting place for families to reunite with their children and made counsellors available.

``There's just a lot of commotion. It's hard to tell exactly what's going on,'' said Jason Anthony Smith, 19, who lives in the dorm where the shooting took place.

Lockdown

Aimee Kanode, a first-year student, said the shooting happened on the 4th floor of the West Ambler Johnston dormitory, one floor above her room. The resident assistant in Kanode's dormitory knocked on her door about 8 a.m. local time to notify students to stay put.

``They had us under lockdown,'' Kanode said. ``They temporarily lifted the lockdown, the gunman shot again.'' ``We're all locked in our dorms surfing the Internet trying to figure out what's going on,'' Kanode said. — AP, Agencies.

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