18 Jun 2015

Nine dead after church shooting in US

6:22 pm on 18 June 2015

Nine people have died in a shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, officials say.

City police chief Gregory Mullen said eight of the victims were killed inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Thursday evening, while another person died shortly afterwards.

Police are now searching for a white male suspect in his 20s.

"I do believe it was a hate crime," Mr Mullen said.

A meeting was going on at the time of the shooting on Wednesday evening (local time) at the church, US media say.

In a tweet, Charleston police wrote: "Suspect in shooting on Calhoun St is a w/m approx 21 slender small build wearing a grey sweat shirt blue jeans timberland boots clean shaven."

Helicopters were seen hovering above the area.

"I will say that this is an unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy in this most historic church," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley was quoted as saying by the Post and Courier newspaper.

A group of worshippers was later seen praying near the church.

"We want some real answers now," one of the worshippers was heard saying.

The 19th Century Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of the oldest in the US.

Denmark Vesey - one of the church's founders - was a leader of a failed slave revolt in 1822.

- BBC -

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