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Man charged with murder after three Muslim students killed

The incident occurred last night in North Carolina.

Updated 3.15pm

A SHOOTING IN the US has seen questions over the media coverage of the tragedy.

A young man and two young women, all reported to be Muslims, were shot in the Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.

Police said they responded to a report of gunshots in the area of Summerwalk Circle. There they discovered three people, who were reported dead at the scene.

Shooter

A North Carolina man espousing anti-religious views has been charged with the murders of the three Muslim students, who include a husband and wife.

The shooter, identified as Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was being held in Durham County Jail on three counts of first-degree murder, Chapel Hill police said.

The victims were identified as Chapel Hill residents Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh.

Hicks turned himself in after the shooting Tuesday in Chapel Hill, just outside the campus of the University of North Carolina.

“Mr Hicks has been charged with three counts of 1st degree murder,” the police said in a statement.

Anti-religious posts

A Facebook page believed to belong to Hicks showed dozens of anti-religious posts, including one calling himself an “anti-theist” saying he has a “conscientious objection to religion” and others memes denouncing Christianity, Mormonism and Islam.

His page also showed a photo of a loaded revolver, alongside a video of a puppy and a promotional clip for Air New Zealand.

One post read:

I’m not an atheist because I’m ignorant of the reality of religious scripture. I’m an atheist because religious scripture is ignorant of reality.

“Given the enormous harm that your religion has done in this world, I’d say that I have not only a right, but a duty, to insult it,” he posted under the religious beliefs tab.

Photos of the three victims circulated on social media, including recent wedding pictures of Barakat and Abu-Salha.

Reports said Barakat was a second-year student in dentistry there while his wife was planning to begin her dental studies in the fall.

Razan Abu-Salha was a student at North Carolina State University, according to the UNC university newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel.

Our Three Winners

A Facebook community –– Our Three Winners –- has been set up for posts about the three students.

“Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha have returned to their Lord,” the site’s creators state. “They have set an example in life and in death.”

The site features a photo of the three smiling at what appears to be graduation ceremony. The women wear Muslim head scarfs, one of them also in a blue graduation cap.

Barakat’s brother Farris mourned the deaths, writing “it doesn’t make sense” on his own Facebook page:

Please pray for them, their friends, and the family. I haven’t even begun to fully comprehend what has happened. But I know for sure those three together have done so much we are all proud of.

Police in Chapel Hill have not disclosed a possible motive for the attack. They were not immediately available for comment.

The police website released a statement confirming the three deaths and saying the department is “questioning a person of interest in the crime and has reason to believe that there is no ongoing threat to the public.”

Deah Barakat was in the UNC School of Dentistry, and involved with the charity Syrian Dental Relief. 

On his Facebook page, he reported being part of a group who provided free dental supplies and food to homeless people.

Media silence?

However, the US media was initally accused of ‘silence’ for what was perceived as a lack of coverage of the shootings.

The shooting is being discussed on Twitter using the hashtag #muslimlivesmatter.

The hashtag #blacklivesmatter emerged in the wake of the deaths of a number of black men in the US.

As of this morning, the Chapel Hill shooting is being reported by a number of US media outlets:

chapel hill shooting

- Additional reporting - © AFP, 2015

Read: Five dead as man kills ex-wife and three children>

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