Three Muslim-American students killed near North Carolina university campus

Three young Muslims, including a newly-wed couple, were shot dead in their home in a North Carolina neighbourhood in the US.

Students Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were found shot dead at their apartment in Chapel Hill near the University of North Carolina (UNC) campus.

A 46-year-old man, identified by police as Craig Stephen Hicks, has been charged with three counts of first degree murder.

Police arrived at the building complex following reports of gunshots at 5:11pm on Tuesday. The man reportedly turned himself in later than evening.

All three victims were shot in the head, sources told WRAL news network. A motive has not yet been confirmed.

Barakat, a second-year dental student at UNC, and Mohammad, who was due to begin her dental studies, were married in December.

“It is with deep sadness that we share with you the news that the victims included Deah Barakat, a second-year student in the School of Dentistry, and his wife, Yusor, who had planned to begin her dental studies here in the fall. Her sister, Razan, a student at N.C. State University, was also killed,” UNC said in a statement.

The incident sparked widespread outrage on social media network Twitter, and the hashtag#ChapelHillShooting was trending across the US and around the world.

Several users circulated images of the smiling victims using the hashtag, while others called for more extensive media coverage. Others speculated the murders were a “hate crime”. A separate hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter began trending on Wednesday.

A Facebook page called ‘Our Three Winners‘ has been set up in memory of the victims.

“It sorrows us all to see what has happened here today. Please rely on each other and remember these beautiful souls in your happy thoughts. Their faith meant a lot to them, and it is in fact what helps us all feel at peace with the tragedy of their murder,” a post read.

Barakat and Mohammad have been described as “well-liked” and active members of the community, involved in several volunteer charity events.

A tweet by Barakat posted in January was also widely shared. “It’s so freaking sad to hear people saying we should ‘kill Jews’ or ‘kill Palestinians’. As if that’s going to solve anything,” it read.

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