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February 14, 2007
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FBI rules out terrorism in Utah shooting

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) " The FBI said Wednesday it has no reason to believe the shooting spree that killed five people in a shopping mall was an act of Islamic terrorism, leaving a young Bosnian immigrant's motives a mystery.

"It's just unexplainable," FBI agent Patrick Kiernan said. "He was just walking around and shooting everybody he saw."

Sulejman Talovic, 18, fired randomly at shoppers Monday, killing five and leaving four others with bullet wounds before he was shot dead by police.

"We are Muslims, but we are not terrorists," the boy's aunt, Ajka Omerovic, said Wednesday at the family's house. She rejected any religious motive for the shooting and said the family can't explain it.

The Talovic family fled war-torn Bosnia for Utah in 1998 "to be free," she said.

Talovic's parents don't speak English and aren't answering knocks on their door. Omerovic said the boy's mother is distraught and that the father " her brother " normally works "dusk to dawn" in construction.

Authorities, meanwhile, are investigating how Talovic acquired one of his weapons, a .38-caliber pistol, which is illegal for a teenager to possess, said Lori Dyer, in charge of the local office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Those efforts were delayed Wednesday when an East Coast storm shut down ATF offices, she said.

Talovic was heavily armed with ammunition, a shotgun and a .38-caliber pistol.

"You can buy long guns at 18. That's not a problem. The handgun he shouldn't have had, so obviously we're going to look at where he got that gun," Dyer said.

Omerovic said Talovic never displayed any guns. "We want to know, who sold these guns to him," she said.

Police tape was removed from the parking lot and Trolley Square reopened Wednesday, although it was up to each shop whether to resume business.

Workers repaired pillars damaged by shotgun blasts and covered broken windows with plywood.

"We're opening the mall, not in the sense of business as usual but to let the healing begin," said Tom Bard, an executive at Scanlan Kemper Bard Cos. of Portland, Ore.

A card store called Cabin Fever " where some of the bodies were found " won't reopen until Feb. 21, but the owner offered free Valentine's Day cards outside the door. The sign said: "Don't forget to tell someone you love them today."

John and Amanda Redford of Ogden, in town to celebrate their second wedding anniversary, walked around the mall.

"Just curious," John Redford said. "It's pretty weird to know that it just happened a couple of days ago."

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said the rampage could have been even worse if not for the quick actions of an off-duty officer from Ogden, Ken Hammond, who engaged Talovic in a shootout before other officers arrived.

Talovic wanted to "to kill a large number of people," Burbank said Tuesday.

At 16, Talovic was taken out of high school by his mother to work, Salt Lake City school district spokesman Jason Olsen said Wednesday. He was employed at Aramark Uniform Services, where managers refused to comment.

Talovic was a legal U.S. resident, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Talovic was only 4 when he and his mother fled their village of Talovici on foot after Serbian forces overran it in 1993, people close to the family told The Associated Press.

He lived as a refugee in Bosnia from 1993 to 1998, when his family moved to the United States, they said.

During that period, he spent some time in Srebrenica, the northeastern enclave where up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in 1995 by Serb forces.

Talovic left Srebrenica two years before the massacre, but acquaintances suggested it may have left an indelible mark on the quiet little boy they knew.

"That's why I'm convinced the war did this in Utah," said Murat Avdic, a friend of the family. "There cannot be any other reason."

Four people who were shot at the mall remained in hospitals, two in critical condition and two listed as serious on Wednesday.

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The Post Independent Updated Feb 14, 2007 04:16PM Published Feb 14, 2007 04:16PM Copyright 2007 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.