June 17, 2006

Five youths dead in New Orleans shooting

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Five teenagers were shot to death
early on Saturday morning in New Orleans in one of the worst
mass killings in the history of the city, police said.

A 16-year-old, a 17-year-old and three 19-year-olds were
found shortly before dawn in and near a sport utility vehicle
surrounded by semi-automatic handgun shell casings, said police
spokesman John Bryson.

"The carnage and the number of deaths appear to be leading
toward (a motive) of retaliation and/or drug related. I don't
think we have ever in the history of the city had five people
gunned down inside a vehicle," he said.

The central city area where the youths were killed has also
been the scene of previous drug-related arrests, he said.

But no weapons or drugs were immediately found on the
victims, and neither the motive nor number of assailants were

"It's obvious the intent of the shooter was not to scare
these guys but to kill 'em," he said. "I can imagine how the
fathers are going to feel to get this news that their sons were
murdered the day before Father's Day. That's pretty bad."

Three bodies were found in the vehicle, which was smashed
against a telephone pole. A fourth man was found dead on the
sidewalk and a fifth, who was found critically wounded and
later died, was nearby on the street.

The murder rate in New Orleans, once one of the most deadly
cities in the United States, slowed to a trickle after
Hurricane Katrina forced the evacuation of the city last year.

The city has had 52 killings so far this year, less than
half the more than 100 reported in the first half of 2005, but
residents and local media report a growing feeling that crime
is coming back quickly. About half of city residents are
estimated to have returned from areas that they evacuated to
for the storm.