news Monday, March 09, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | February 12, 2015 | 10.20 am IST

Three young Muslim people were fatally shot in an apartment complex near the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, authorities said Wednesday.

The victims were identified as Deah Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu Salha, 21 and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu Salha, 19, who shared an apartment.

The shooter, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, surrendered to authorities "without incident", authorities said.

Barakat was a second year student at UNC's dentistry school and his wife planned to enroll there in the fall, the university said.

Both Barakat and his wife were graduates of North Carolina State University where Razan was a sophomore studying design.

North Carolina capital Raleigh's WRAL.com said Chapel Hill police were looking into the possibility that Tuesday evening's shooting resulted from a long running dispute over parking at the apartment complex.

Pending definitive information on the motive, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urged authorities to consider whether anti-Muslim sentiment may have played a role.

"Based on the brutal nature of this crime, the past anti-religion statements of the alleged perpetrator, the religious attire of two of the victims, and the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in American society, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case," Nihad Awad, CAIR's national executive director, said in a statement.

Hicks' Facebook page includes the banner "Atheists for Equality" and statements critical of religion, while a recent photo of the three victims shows the two women wearing headscarves.

“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.”, said police chief, Chris Blue, according to New York Times. While the victims' families called it a hate crime, Hick's wife, Karen , however insisted that the crime had nothing to do with religion. 

However, according to the 911 caller on Tuesday, five to ten gunshots were heard along with the sounds of children screaming. According to the second 911 caller, eight shots were heard followed by a pause and then more shots, said the report. 

With inputs from IANS

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