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Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco warned rioters and looters late on Thursday that National Guard troops were under her orders to "shoot and kill" if needed to restore order.
"These troops are battle-tested. They have M-16s and are locked and loaded," she said. "These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will."
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Top officials have confirmed that the storm killed thousands of people and have made a desperate plea for help to restore order to New Orleans and the surrounding region.
"Three hundred of the Arkansas National Guard have landed in the city of New Orleans," Ms Blanco said.
"These troops are fresh back from Iraq, well trained, experienced, battle-tested and under my orders to restore order in the streets.
"They have M-16s and they are locked and loaded.
"These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will."
Colonel Henry Whitehorn of the Louisiana State Police said the law and order situation in the city was "bad".
But he said anarchic conditions around the Superdome stadium and central business district where up to 20,000 refugees had been sheltering were "stabilising".
He admitted that a number of police officers who had lost everything in flooding after Hurricane Katrina had handed in their badges, unwilling to take the fight to looters.
fresh back from Iraq, well trained, experienced, battle-tested
Originally posted by soficrow
In three days they manage to deploy plenty of firepower but little food and water?
Makes ya wondah, don' it?
Good catch Gools.
Frightened Japanese, European and American tourists say police fired over their heads to end their attempt to leave New Orleans.
Stranded since Hurricane Katrina hit the city on Monday, the 200 tourists were thrown out of their hotel on Thursday morning and said they were confronted by police as they attempted to get to buses to take them to safety.
Turned back to the centre of New Orleans, where looters were still roaming the lawless streets, the tourists huddled together on their suitcases under a pavilion next to the Mississippi River.
The hotel in the French Quarter told the tourists to leave as their safety could no longer be guaranteed.
The tourists saidpolice gave them conflicting information.
At one stage they were told to head to the Superdome arena or the city's convention centre, where deadly shootings and rapes have been reported among thousands of refugees.
Later, the tourists were told to make their way to a highway overpass where buses would take them to safety