World Bulletin / News Desk
More than 100 advocacy and community groups called on the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday to launch a federal inquiry to investigate whether the murder of three Muslim students in North Carolina was a hate crime.
"The circumstances surrounding this incident ... warrant a federal hate crime investigation," the groups, representing America's Muslim, Arab, Jewish, Sikh and South Asian communities, among others, said in a letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder.
President Obama on Friday condemned the killing of three Muslim students in North Carolina as federal investigators said they had begun an inquiry into whether the fatal shooting here on Tuesday night was a hate crime.
“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,” the president said in a statement released by the White House. “As we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family.”
The Obama’s comments, coming as the F.B.I., federal prosecutors and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice announced they would look into the killings, followed growing pressure from Muslim groups around the country and the world who have complained about a lack of attention to the case.
After the Obama’s comments, investigators revealed in a search warrant that they had seized at least a dozen firearms — including handguns, shotguns, rifles and a black Bushmaster AR-15 — from Hicks’s apartment, which was in the same building as the married couple’s. The authorities also seized an extensive collection of ammunition, holsters, cases and scopes. Several of the weapons, including the AR-15, still had fully loaded magazines. Others, including a Sig Sauer .22 handgun, were empty of cartridges. Additionally, investigators seized two computer hard drive towers, a digital camera and three cellphones.
Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were fatally shot Tuesday in their home in Chapel Hill.
Local police have arrested their next door neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks and charged him with three counts of first-degree murder.
The incident happened "in the wake of a disturbing rise in especially threatening and vitriolic anti-Muslim rhetoric and activities,” said the letter. "Federal leadership is necessary in this case in order to send the strongest message to the public that acts of violence like these have no place in a civil society and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
The FBI on Thursday announced it had launched “a parallel preliminary inquiry to determine whether or not any federal laws were violated related to the case.”
The incident and its handling by the authorities have also drawn international outrage, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticizing U.S. leadership for not having made any statement about the murders.