Obama condemns 'outrageous' murders of Muslim students

Obama condemns 'outrageous' murders of Muslim students

Obama had faced criticism for remaining silent over the execution-style murder of three young Arab-Americans. Fund to help Syrian refugees set up by one of the victims, meanwhile, is flooded with donations.
3 min read
14 February, 2015
Prayers were held outside the White House Friday over the Chapel Hill shootings (Anadolu)

US President Barack Obama on Friday condemned the "brutal and outrageous" murders of three Muslim students in North Carolina at the hands of a neighbour who espoused anti-religious views.

"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, three days after the trio were shot dead.

Police say they are investigating what may have been a parking dispute gone wrong, but have not ruled out a hate-based crime. Relatives of the victims however say they are convinced they were targeted because of their faith.

The president has faced criticism for not responding quickly enough to the deaths of the three students – Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his new wife Yusor Mohammad, 21; and her 19-year-old sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an inquiry into the fatal shootings, allegedly carried out by Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who railed against all religions on his Facebook page.

The three were buried on Thursday before a gathering of thousands.

"Michelle and I offer our condolences to the victims' loved ones. As we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family," Obama said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been one of those who criticized Obama for his silence in the days following the attacks.

"Three Muslims have been murdered in North Carolina and President Obama, (Secretary of State John) Kerry and (Vice President Joe) Biden have not made any statements about it," Erdogan said during a visit to Mexico.

"As politicians, we are responsible for everything that happens in our countries and we have to show our positions."

The State Department rejected Erdogan's criticism.

Jordan said it was closely watching the investigation, after it emerged that the slain sisters had dual citizenship in the United States and Jordan.

Alia Bouran, Jordan's ambassador to the United States, met the families of the murdered students on Friday, an embassy statement said, calling their deaths a "horrific tragedy and immense loss".

Fund flooded

Barakat's appeal for Syrian refugees

A charity fund set up by one of the three Muslim students murdered in North Carolina has been flooded with donations in the days since the brutal attack.

Barakat, 23, a dentistry student, had been hoping to raise $20,000 so he and other dentists could provide dental care at a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey.

In the days since the attack, donations dwarfed Barakat's original goal, with nearly $330,000 raised by Friday afternoon.

"Have you ever felt helpless about the situation in Syria and felt like you can't do anything about it? This is your opportunity to help," Barakat says in a video presentation on the YouCaring.com site.

A description adds that the dental situation in Syria and at refugee camps is desperate.

"Hundreds of students are currently in need of urgent dental care, mainly consisting of fillings and extractions," the site says.

"Following each procedure, we will provide oral hygiene instructions and fluoride treatment to prevent future tooth decay."

Hundreds of people left comments on Barakat's fundraising page.

"My heart weeps as I read about the loss of these three wonderful young people," wrote commenter Ann Sullivan.