| John Allen Muhammad, one of the two men arrested by the police in Maryland,. (Reuters)
Frederick (Maryland), Oct. 24 (Reuters): Police arrested two men at a highway rest stop in rural Maryland today, in the first big break in a hunt for culprits in 10 sniper slayings which have traumatised the suburbs around the nation’s capital.
Authorities announced little beyond the arrest of “two individuals” found sleeping in a car.
Government sources identified one of the men as former US soldier John Allen Muhammad, a Gulf war veteran. Media reports said the other was John Lee Malvo, Muhammad’s 17-year-old step-son.
“We got our guys,” one investigator was quoted as saying by NBC-TV. Washington’s WUSA-TV said the men “are considered suspects, according to our sources.”
But a spokesman for Montgomery county, Maryland, said it was too soon to tie the pair definitively to the sniper killings. “People are jumping ahead. Give us time to do our job,” he said, adding the two were being questioned in Rockville, Maryland, headquarters of the sniper task force.
A US government source said Muhammad served more than a decade in the armed services and was an Army mechanic in a combat support unit. “He was not a member of the elite ranger battalion at Fort Lewis (near Tacoma, Washington state) and would not have received any sniper training such as that given to special forces troops,” the official said.
Maryland state police spokesman Maj. Greg Shipley said a passing motorist had alerted authorities after noticing two men sleeping in a car that matched a description given out a few hours earlier by the task force investigating the seemingly random shootings which felled victims with just one bullet.
“Shortly after 3.30 this morning (0730 GMT), a tactical response team arrested two individuals from that vehicle who were sleeping in the vehicle who were taken into custody without incident,” Shipley told a pre-dawn news conference.