Chapel Hill shooting: thousands mourn slain students at funeral

Turkish president criticises Barack Obama for failing to condemn the attack on three young Muslims

Peopleduring a vigil at the University of North Carolina following the murders of three Muslim students
(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Thousands of mourners have attended a funeral for the three Muslim students fatally shot in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Tuesday.

Officials believe 21-year-old Yusor Abu-Salha, her 23-year-old husband Deah Barakat and her 19-year-old sister Razan Abu-Salha were killed by their neighbour Craig Stephen Hicks.

Authorities suspect Hicks, 46, was motivated by an ongoing dispute over parking spaces, but the victims' families believe he was prejudiced against their Muslim faith.

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Police have said they will "exhaust every lead" to determine whether it was indeed a hate crime. Hicks was charged for the murders after giving himself up to police.

Following a private ceremony in Raleigh, an estimated 5,500 people attended the funeral, held at the athletic fields of North Carolina State University, where all three victims had been students.

Rajini Vaidyanathan, a BBC correspondent reporting from the scene, said people told him time and time again it was a hate crime and "the victims' religion can't be divorced from the context of the crime".

One friend who grew up with the three victims told Vaidyanathan: "You have to have a lot of hate in your heart to kill three people in cold blood, and over a parking spot, it's ridiculous to say this was just that."

The New York Times claims Hicks was such a "disruptive presence" in his housing complex that residents last year held a meeting to talk about him. Neighbours told the newspaper he was "irritated about noise, irascible about parking, hostile to religion".

Meanwhile, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout Sunni Muslim, has accused US President Barack Obama of failing to speak out about the attack.

During a visit to Mexico, he said: "If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don't make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you".

"As politicians, we are responsible for everything that happens in our countries and we have to show our positions."

Chapel Hill shooting: three Muslim students gunned down

11 February

Three young Muslim students have been shot dead near the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Local media reports have identified the three victims as Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

Soon after the shooting, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks turned himself in to the local Sheriff's Office. He was arrested on three counts of first degree murder, local news station WRAL reports.

The shooting took place in the early evening at an apartment complex off the university campus. Police responding to reports of gunfire pronounced the three victims dead at the scene. All three were shot in the head, with some suggesting the attacks were carried out "execution style", the Independent reports.

Barakat, a Syrian-American, was a dental student at the University of North Carolina, and took part in charity work in the Middle East. He had been organising a fundraiser for Syrian refugees in Turkey and planned to travel to the region to help provide dental care. His wife and her sister were both students at North Carolina State University.

According to their Facebook accounts, Barakat and Yusor Mohammed were married two months ago. Yusor Mohammed's most recent photo shows her smiling as she dances with her father at their wedding reception.

Police are yet to offer a motive for the shootings.

The hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter soon began trending on Twitter in response to the murders.

#MuslimLivesMatter started in response to tragic #ChapelHillShooting that claimed lives of 3 young American Muslims— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) February 11, 2015

May Allah rest their souls. #ChapelHill #MuslimLivesMatter— Hilary Banks (@_FermeLaFRESH) February 11, 2015

#MuslimLivesMatter because the world is quicker to announce terrorist attacks then our sufferings— Diana (@lunarnomad) February 11, 2015

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