Two of Waco cult victims had gunshot wounds: FBI and White House reasons for raid differ

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FORTY-ONE bodies, including two with bullet wounds in the head, have been found amid the charred remains of the former fortress headquarters near Waco of David Koresh and his followers.

The gunshot wounds bolstered claims that Koresh and his praetorian guard, the 'Mighty Men', may have killed fleeing cult members as fire swept through their Texas compound hours after the FBI began to pump in tear gas.

According to the Justice Department, the two did not die in a shoot-out between federal agents and Branch Davidian cult members at the start of the seven-week siege that ended when the FBI sent in tanks on Monday.

However, the White House and FBI yesterday gave increasingly contradictory and confusing accounts of the circumstances that prompted the Clinton administration to agree to send in the FBI - an operation that ended with the loss of 86 lives, including 24 Britons and at least 17 children. The White House said the raid was approved because there was abundant evidence of child abuse, but the FBI cited totally different reasons.

The Justice Department said the two corpses with bullet wounds were unlikely to have been hit by exploding ammunition, and it was unclear whether they had committed suicide. But the spokesman lent further weight to the 'execution' theory by saying one victim had singed clothes, suggesting an attempt to flee, and both were found on the edge of the compound. The FBI has said police did not open fire.

While the FBI repeated its claim that the cult members started the fires in which they perished, there were also reports that the building erupted in flames because of a booby trap bomb, intended for federal agents. The cult also had tanks of fuel that may have exploded.

As the agency sought to underscore its case that Koresh was responsible for the Waco carnage, it released details of two letters that that the cult leader wrote to the FBI earlier this month in which he threatened to cause a massive explosion.

Investigators have found a huge stockpile of weapons in the wreckage. A search warrant outlining the reason for the raid on the cult by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on 28 February has been made public, stating that the Branch Davidians had amassed nearly dollars 200,000 ( pounds 130,000) of weapons, including kits to turn rifles into automatic weapons.

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