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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military to Join Hunt For Sniper in Washington

WASHINGTON -- As the U.S. military prepared to join the manhunt Wednesday for a sniper who has killed nine people in two weeks, police were confident they had new leads in the case that could lead them to the random killer.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld planned to announce the unusual deployment of military planes in the search for the gunman who has terrorized the region but who was reportedly seen for the first time as he struck on Monday night at a suburban Virginia mall.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that at least one eyewitness and possibly others had seen the shooter aim and fire at his victim, 47-year-old FBI anti-terror analyst Linda Franklin, who was killed by a single shot to the head.

A senior defense official, meanwhile, told Reuters U.S. military crews would relay surveillance information obtained with sophisticated sensors to help civilian law enforcement more quickly track the killer who has spread fear across the region by picking off random victims with a high-velocity rifle.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said Rumsfeld agreed to supply the high-tech assistance from the sky but that the U.S. military, barred by law from engaging in domestic policing, would not be directly involved in police work.

The aircraft should give a major boost to the search for the sniper, who has struck 11 times in two weeks, killing nine people and badly injuring two others in Washington and neighboring Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

With the death of Franklin, the ninth victim who was killed outside a Home Depot store in Falls Church, Virginia, west of Washington, police said new evidence from the scene could help them catch the serial killer.

While refusing to confirm reports that witnesses had seen the shooter get out of a van to fire and then get back in, police did release composite pictures of two white vans similar to the one already being sought in connection with the shootings, a Chevrolet Astro van or a Ford Econoline van.

The Post said some witnesses had caught a glimpse of the sniper and had provided at least partial license plate numbers.

Authorities said Franklin had not been involved in the sniper investigation and was considered another random victim.

The gunman again eluded authorities in spite of the quick deployment of dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement agents who shut down major roads around the scene and searched vehicles.

The sniper attacks began with a 15-hour shooting spree on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3 that left five people dead in suburban Maryland and one in the capital city. Two others have been shot dead in the city's southwestern suburbs in Virginia.