- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

The capture of two suspects in the serial sniper case has captivated the world, in what was already a top story around the globe, international journalists said.

"It's got top billing. It's making as much of an impact in Europe as it is on the West Coast of the U.S., if not more of an impact," Shane Mcelhatton, editor for RTE Irish radio in Dublin, said this morning.

Even before the capture of 42-year-old John Allen Muhammad and 17-year-old Lee Malvo, the sniper story had vaulted to the top of broadcasts and newspapers around the world, with strong and varied reactions from audiences.

"I was back in London 10 days ago, and everybody's talking about it in the pubs," said Nick Bryant, a reporter for the British Broadcasting Corp. "It's playing huge in London. It has led every news bulletin for days."

He also said the world audience is intrigued because the United States is considered the world's last superpower, but its residents were living in a "state of psychological siege."

The random slayings of 10 persons by the sniper had also helped reinforce the Europeans' belief that the United States is rife with guns and a nation plagued by homicides, said Ralf Hoogestraat, a reporter for German RTL TV.

"If you have so many guns around, there has to be some victims," he said.

Mr. Bryant agreed.

He said few British residents own guns and cannot understand why so many are available in the United States.

As proof, Australian cameraman Peter Crithery said the story took off only after it was learned the killings were the work of a methodical sniper.

"When you have mass shootings people think, 'Oh, it's in America,'" said Martina Fitzgerald, a reporter for Irish RTE radio following the story from Dublin. "But now people are glued to it."

In the Middle East and Asia, the sniper story is news but not the top story.

Thebet Elbardicoi, of the Al Jazeera network, said one reason is residents are accustomed to such violence.

Another reason, he said, is the network receives direct communication from Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorist network.

"But they would be shocked that someone could have the cold blood to keep doing this over and over," Mr. Elbardicoi said. "It's not like he's angry and did something once. He's a cold-blooded murderer."

North Korea's recent disclosures about developing nuclear weapons has overshadowed news in South Korea about the sniper.

Peter Chang, working on a documentary about the sniper and sending footage to the Korean Broadcasting System, said Koreans are getting little information, but people in the media were concerned because they thought the attacks could be terrorism."

In Ireland, the sniper story has at times attracted more interest than news about misconduct among Catholic priests and calls for the resignation of Cardinal Desmond Connell.

"The church thing is huge," Ms. Fitzgerald agreed. "To move the church story off the top was quite a thing because there's major revelations right now about the clergy."

Though the story gets mixed reactions around the world, the reporters said everybody was shocked by the sniper's ability to evade capture.

Mr. Hoogestraat's colleagues in Germany told him it was "amazing to see a sniper on the loose and the best police forces unable to track him down."

The sniper attacks likely created the most unease in Canada, said reporter Christian Latreille of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

"We're on the air each half-hour, six hours a day," he said. People in Montreal were concerned that sniper attackes could happen there.

"It's 10 hours away. We're not Americans, but we share the same way of life, so it touches us. People are ready for anything since 9/11."

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