Three members of a Muslim family in North Carolina’s university town of Chapel Hill have been shot dead in their home.
The incident has provoked massive speculation on social media with users saying thay this was a hate crime.
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The Independent reports: A family of three young Muslims has been shot dead in their home in a quiet neighbourhood of North Carolina in the US.
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Police have named the victims as 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
Officers were called to reports of gunshots at 5.11pm at an apartment block largely housing academics and young professionals on Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill.
The victims were found shot dead at the scene, while some residents described not even being aware there was an incident until police arrived. Sources told local WRAL News that all three had been shot in the head.
A 46-year-old man, named by police as Craig Stephen Hicks, has been arrested on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder.
Hicks described himself as an atheist on Facebook and posted regular images and text condemning all religions. Police said he handed himself in last night.
In a statement released on Wednesday morning (local time), Chapel Hill Police said that a preliminary investigation suggested the crime was “motivated by an ongoing neighbour dispute over parking”.
But the women’s father, Dr Mohammad Abu-Salha, who has a psychiatry practice in Clayton, told the North Carolina NewsObserver that he believed the shooting was based on the religion and culture of the victims.
“This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime,” he said.
He went on to allege that Hicks had “picked on” his daughter and her husband “a couple times before.”
“They were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far,” he said.
Police chief Chris Blue called the killing “senseless and tragic” and said the force’s “thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly”.
He said: “We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.”