US President Barack Obama on Friday 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.
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 Abu-Salha, 21; and her 19-year-old sister Razan Abu-Salha.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an inquiry into the shootings, allegedly carried out by Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who railed against all religions on his Facebook page.
The trio 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, a devout Muslim, 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 Friday.