Obama condemns 'outrageous' murders of Muslim students

Obama condemns 'outrageous' murders of Muslim students

WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
Obama condemns outrageous murders of Muslim students

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the White House summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection in Palo Alto, California. Reuters photo

U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 13 condemned the "brutal and outrageous" execution-style murders of three Muslim students in North Carolina at the hands of a neighbor 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 Feb. 12 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 Erdoğan 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," Erdoğan 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 Erdoğan'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 Feb. 13, an embassy statement said, calling their deaths a "horrific tragedy and immense loss."