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Bomb squad checks home of Britons slain in France

By Raphael Satter

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 10 2012 5:30 a.m. MDT

A member of the Royal Logistic Corps bomb disposal team walks with a police officer close to the home of Saad al-Hilli, in Claygate, England, who was shot dead with three others while vacationing in the French Alps, Monday Sept. 10, 2012. UK police say they have evacuated homes near the house of a British-Iraqi couple slain while vacationing in the French Alps because of concerns about items found at the property.

PA, Steve Parsons, Associated Press

LONDON — British police called in a bomb squad Monday to the suburban home of a British-Iraqi couple slain while vacationing in the French Alps — the latest twist in a brutal and mysterious killing that has made headlines around the world.

Authorities also evacuated neighbors living nearby and expanded their security zone around the home in Claygate, a village 17 miles (27 kilometers) southwest of London.

Investigators on both sides of the English Channel have spent nearly a week trying to trace the perpetrators of a shooting rampage that killed Saad al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal, a woman believed to be his mother-in-law and a French cyclist.

The couple's daughters, 4-year-old Zeena and 7-year-old Zaina, survived the shooting.

The extreme violence used in the slayings — the adult victims were each shot twice in the head with automatic handgun rounds, among other injuries — has led to fevered speculation about the motive behind the crime.

British police said in a terse statement that the bomb squad had been called in "due to concerns around items found at the address" in Claygate.

"An assessment of items found at the address is currently being carried out as a precaution," the statement said. "Officers have extended the cordon surrounding the property and neighbors in the immediate area have been temporarily evacuated."

Police have been searching the home for three days, appearing to focus on a shed at the back of the garden.

Maj. Chris Hunter, a retired British bomb disposal expert who is not working on the case, said Monday's unexpected decision to call in a bomb squad may be because officers had previously been looking for a "very different sort of evidence."

Authorities are probing whether an alleged financial dispute between Saad al-Hilli and his brother Zaid played a role. Friends have described tensions between the two over their late father's assets, but Zaid has denied any conflict.

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