1 000s pay tribute to Chapel Hill victims

2015-02-13 07:43
Namee Barakat watches during funeral services for his son, Deah Shaddy Barakat. (Chuck Liddy, AP)

Namee Barakat watches during funeral services for his son, Deah Shaddy Barakat. (Chuck Liddy, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Winston-Salem - Thousands of mourners attended the funeral prayers on Thursday for three young Muslims killed in North Carolina, and the father of two of the victims urged US authorities to probe whether religious hatred was a motive for the murders.

Newlywed Deah Barakat, aged 23, a University of North Carolina dental student, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, aged 21, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, aged 19, a student at North Carolina State University, were gunned down on Tuesday in a condominium about 3km from the UNC campus in Chapel Hill.

Police charged the couple's neighbour, Craig Stephen Hicks, aged 46, with murder. Investigators say initial findings indicate a dispute over parking prompted the shooting, but they are looking into whether Hicks was motivated by hatred toward the victims because they were Muslim.

The FBI said it was opening its own preliminary inquiry, separate from local police investigations. A statement by FBI spokesperson Shelley Lynch did not specify if the inquiry would include whether the shooting was a hate crime.

The case has garnered international attention and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan criticized President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday for not speaking about the incident.

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

The Turkish president, a devout Muslim who has been outspoken against what he sees as rising Islamophobia in the West, has strained relations with Obama on issues such as the war in Syria. The White House said on Wednesday it would wait for the results of the police investigation before commenting on the killings in North Carolina.


Mourners pray during a funeral service at the Method Road Soccer Complex. (Corey Lowenstein, AP)

The murders have prompted vigils and the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter on social media, and raised concerns among some Muslim advocates in the United States who say they have seen an increase in threats against their communities in recent weeks.

Speaking to mourners in a field near a mosque in Raleigh, the women's father, Mohammad Abu-Salha, called on Obama to insist that the FBI investigate the case as a possible hate crime.

"This has hate crime written all over it," he said. "If they don't listen carefully, I will yell."

He said the victims' families did not want revenge or care about Hicks' punishment, but rather sought to ensure that other young people in the United States would not suffer similar violence.

The FBI designates as hate crimes those that are motivated or partly motivated by bias against race, religion, ethnicity, disability, gender or sexual orientation. Such crimes generally carry greater penalties.

According to FBI statistics, US law enforcement agencies reported roughly 6 900 offenses motivated by bias in 2013. Of those, 165 offenses were crimes resulting from bias against Muslims, the data shows. None were murders.

Angry over parking, noise

Hicks' wife and some neighbours have said he appeared angry about parking at the condominium where he lived, not motivated by hatred of Muslims.

A paralegal student at Durham Technical Community College since 2012, Hicks portrayed himself on Facebook as an atheist and filled his social media page with anti-religion posts.

Neighbor Samantha Maness, aged 25, said he was known in the condo community as someone quick to anger over parking troubles and noise. He had confronted her and friends in the past when he thought they were being too loud, she said.

She said she never saw him show any animosity along religious or racial lines, describing his behaviour as "equal opportunity anger towards the residents here."

The suspect's wife of seven years, Karen Hicks, told news station WRAL she believed her husband grew upset when he returned home from school on Tuesday and found someone in his designated parking space.

She suspects something in him "snapped the wrong way", she said in a videotaped interview.

Police in Chapel Hill had not released any new details about their investigation on Thursday.

Read more on:    us  |  us shootings  |  religion

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.