French Alps Shooting Leaves 4 Dead, 2 Little Girls Survive

PHOTO: Gendarmes block access to a killing site near Chevaline, French Alps, Sept. 5, 2012.
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She stayed so still, police thought she was dead.

For eight hours, a 4-year-old girl lay under the body of her mother, beside another unidentified female with a Swedish passport, in the back-seat of a BMW in a car park near the town of Chevaline in the French Alps, officials said.

In the front seat of the vehicle, her father was slumped over, shot dead. A few feet away from the vehicle, her older sister was shot in the head three times and badly beaten, but still alive.

"We usually see this kind of scene in a movie rather than real life," Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud said, adding that the reason for the "dramatic nature" of the killings was unknown, but that the killer did not shoot haphazardly, but "targeted his victims."

The Annecy Tribunal identified the owner and apparent driver of the car as Iraqi-born Saad al-Hilli, reportedly a resident of Claygate in the London-suburb of Surrey and the secretary of a Wiltshire-based aerial photography company, AMS 1087. The Surrey police are working with French authorities to assist the investigation of the incident that left four people dead and one in critical condition.

Al-Hilli's wife was named by neighbors in Claygate as Iqbal, and the couple's daughters as Zainab, 7, and Zeena, 4, the BBC reported.

While Zeena suffered no physical injuries, Zainab is in a medically induced coma and is due to be operated on again, according to the BBC. Both girls are under police protection in the hospital.

Police have no motive, suspects or weapon, although they believe the shooter used an automatic pistol, which are banned in France.

"This is an ongoing investigation being carried out by the French police and we are unable to confirm any details about the incident," Surrey police said in a statement.

The British ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, said in Annecy, "Clearly, this is a terrible, tragic event, a brutal murder, but also a traumatic experience for these two young girls," the BBC reported.

"We are talking about an extreme savagery act," Maillaud said, speaking at a news conference in Annecy this afternoon.

French police have been unable to confirm the identities of the victims in the car, but the passport details of the car owner matched those of a man registered as missing at a nearby holiday campsite. The BMW passengers are believed to be a family that was coming to the end of their holiday, having arrived in France at the end of August.

"This is not your typical incident," a spokesman for the British Foreign Office told ABC News. "With multiple killings, gathering evidence is much more difficult."

He did not comment on the victims' identity.

Another victim, a cyclist identified by French media as Sylvain Mollier, a father-of-three from Ugine en Savoie, also suffered gunshot wounds and was found dead close to the car.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague tweeted, "Terrible, tragic shooting in France. British Embassy team on the scene. Our thoughts are with the young girls who survived and the family."

The British deputy ambassador went to the scene of the killings, having first visited Zainab in the hospital. The ambassador was also on his way from Paris.

The main witness was a British cyclist and ex-RAF officer who discovered the scene near Lake Annecy Wednesday evening. He had been passed by another cyclist on the climb that leads to the parking lot where the shooting took place.

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