"Loner" shoots 13 dead at Azerbaijan college

BAKU Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:03am EDT

1 of 4. The body of a victim of a shooting at a university is carried down bloodstained steps to a van in Baku April 30, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Trend News Agency/Emin Mamedov

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BAKU (Reuters) - Thirteen people were killed at a university in Azerbaijan Thursday when a gunman went from floor to floor firing on teachers and students after the bell rang for morning classes.

The gunman, a Georgian citizen of Azeri origin described as a loner by local media, was among the dead.

The government said it did not see a political motive behind the shooting at the prestigious State Oil Academy in Baku, capital of the mainly Muslim former Soviet republic which exports oil and gas to Europe from the Caspian Sea.

Witnesses said the shooting began shortly after classes began at 9.00 a.m. (0400 GMT).

"He climbed from the first floor to the sixth, shooting people mainly in the head from a Makarov pistol," the state prosecutor's office said. The Makarov is a Russian-made semi-automatic pistol.

Thirteen people were killed and 13 wounded. Blood stained the steps to the university and staff and paramedics carried out bodies in bags.

A witness said one student had tried to stop the gunman, approaching him and shouting: "Don't shoot, don't shoot!" He was shot in the head.

"SHARE YOUR GRIEF"

The gunman killed a security guard and a cleaner as he entered the building, before opening fire on students and teachers, Azeri ANS television reported. Two foreigners -- from Syria and Sudan -- were among the dead, a police source said.

"We all share your grief in these hard days," President Ilham Aliyev said in a message to the families of the victims. "The government ... will undertake all measures regarding this incident."

Police found three ammunition belts and 71 bullets on the body of the gunman, reported to be 29 years old. Officials could not confirm how he died, but Azeri media reported he shot himself in the head.

A senior aide to Aliyev said the motive did not appear to be political, Azeri Trend news agency reported. "Such incidents happen in many countries," Ali Hasanov said.

Novosti-Azerbaijan agency said the man had gone to Baku looking for work, having recently left his family in Russia to return to Azerbaijan. They described him as a loner who had fallen out with his father.

Azerbaijan is a mainly Muslim but secular country of 8.3 million people on the shores of the Caspian Sea. A BP-led oil pipeline ships high quality Azeri crude to the Mediterranean.

(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze and Matt Robinson in Tbilisi; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Robert Woodward)

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