Skip to main content

US President condemns Chapel Hill shooting as UN chief calls for probe

President Obama says no one should be targeted for who they are as he breaks his silence over the Chapel Hill shooting
A group of Palestinians protest against the Chapel Hill shooting in front of the United Nations office in Gaza City, Gaza on 12 February, 2015 (AA)

President Barack Obama on Friday condemned the “brutal and outrageous murders” of three Muslim-Americans in the US state of North Carolina.

“No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship,” Obama said in a statement.

Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan, 19, were fatally shot in their home on Tuesday in Chapel Hill, near the University of North Carolina.

Their neighbour, Craig Stephen Hicks, surrendered to police after the attack and has been charged with three counts of fist-degree murder.

Mainstream media within the United States was slow to report on the murders, saying that the murder was due to a previous parking dispute, but the killings have since generated international outrage and condemnation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the US leadership on Thursday for not yet making a statement and taking a firm stand against the murders.

“Why are you still silent?” he asked at Mexico’s Matias Romero Institute. “An international fight against terrorism is a must,” he added. “Both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are crimes against humanity.”

The Abu-Salha sisters are Jordanian of Palestinian descent. Nasser Judeh, the Jordanian Foreign Minister, said on Friday that his country was awaiting results of US police investigations of the murders.

Jordanian activists have called for staging a rally on Saturday in Amman to condemn the “American criminal who killed three Muslims in cold blood”.

The funerals in North Carolina for the three victims attracted thousands of mourners from various walks of life, which Obama said shows that “we are all one American family".

More than 5,000 mourners attended the funeral on Thursday of the victims, which according to his spokesperson, prompted the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to say he was “deeply moved” by the mourning crowds.

Stephane Dujarric, the UN spokesperson, told reporters in New York that the UN chief “extends his deepest condolences to the families…and the communities in which these three proud Americans lived and served”.

“At a time of troubling tensions stoked by those who seek to twist the teachings of faith and sow division, these three young people represented the best values of global citizenship and active community compassion to build a better world for all,” Dujarric continued.

Dujarric had tweeted: “Ban Ki-moon urges authorities to fully investigate #ChapelHillShooting- including as possible hate crime.”

The FBI has opened an inquiry into the case.

“Whenever anyone is taken from us before their time, we remember how they lived their lives - and the words of one of the victims should inspire the way we live ours,” the US president said.

In an interview with StoryCorps, an oral history project with weekly broadcasts on National Public Radio, Yusor Abu-Salha pointed to the blessing of growing up in a diverse community.

“Growing up in America has been such a blessing,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. There’s so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions- but here we’re all one. One culture.”

Authorities said an initial investigation pointed to “an ongoing neighbour dispute over parking” as the motive behind the killings, but the victims’ religion triggered broad speculation that the murders were a hate crime.