County reacts to suspects’ capture

Reactions Thursday to the probability that the D.C. area snipers have been caught ranged from relief that life would be getting back to normal to renewed concerns about terrorist organizations.

Several Prince William County residents said even though the sniper task force has ruled out a connection to al-Qaida or other Islamic terrorist groups for now, they believe the snipers may be linked.

“This morning was the first I heard of the demand for $10 million,” said Jean Shipley of Dumfries. “Maybe they were asking for that to support some cause.”

John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, were acting on their own behalf when they allegedly murdered 10 people and wounded three others, law enforcement officials said.

They may have been terrorist sympathizers, authorities said, but have not been linked to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Osama bin Laden, or other international terrorist groups.

The two were apprehended at a rest area near Frederick, Md., early Thursday morning while sleeping in their 1990 Chevrolet Caprice.

But prior to that, the snipers had demanded $10 million from authorities, threatening more violence would occur.

Muhammad converted to the Muslim faith some years ago, has a military background and served in the Gulf War, all of which was suspicious to some.

“I think they’ll find out there was a larger connection,” said Wajidally Khan, a former Muslim from Guyana who converted to Christianity. Khan operates a kiosk at Potomac Mills Mall. “I was a Muslim. I know what the Muslim faith really teaches,” he said. “It’s not love humanity, it’s all about revenge and war.”

The anti-climactic way the 21-day reign of terror ended also surprised Curtis Roberts.

“It was almost too easy. I thought it was going to be really messy and end up in a shootout. Instead it was almost like they said ‘We got our quota, so now we can stop,’ ” he said.

But issues much closer to home were the main thing on some people’s minds. “So we may be able to celebrate Halloween,” was the first reaction of Belinda Mathis of Woodbridge. “I have a neighborhood full of kids that want to go to the Pumpkin Patch. Last year after Sept. 11, we didn’t have one trick-or-treater — not one.”

Bob Berarducci, who drives a white van with a ladder rack for American Air Services of Woodbridge, said it means people will stop looking at him and taking down his license plate. “I scared a few people,” he said.

At the Sunoco station on Sudley Road near Manassas where 53-year-old Dean Harold Meyers of Gaithersburg was gunned down two weeks ago, there was no crouching or looking around as motorists stepped out of their cars. “When people came in this morning they were all smiles,” said owner Dennis Ocampo.

Staff writer Diane Freda can be reached at (703) 878-4723.

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