Tribune International Report

At least three people, reportedly Arab-American Muslims, were shot dead near the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the United States, police and media outlets said.

Deah Shaddy Barakat (right) and his wife Yusor at a recent UNC Basketball game. (From Barakat’s Facebook Page)

Deah Barakat (right) and his wife at a UNC Basketball game. (from Barakat’s Facebook Page)

Police have named the victims as 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

Officers were called to reports of gunshots at 5.11pm at an apartment block largely housing academics and young professionals on Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill police told local news outlets that Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was arrested and has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He is being held at the Durham County Jail.

According to Arab Daily News, the community is wondering if the massacre is the result of a hate crime by a White American with anti-Muslim feelings. Tensions have increased significantly in the past weeks following the reported massacre of the newspaper staff at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France. The students live in a region served by two universities with large Arab and Muslim populations, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University at Durham. Both universities are within a few miles of each other.

Social Media and Community Campaign – Our Three Winners

From a small pocket of mentions on the east coast of the US, the #ChapelHillShooting suddenly erupted around the world, prompting 28,000 tweets an hour by 9am GMT.

By 11am, the topic was being mentioned more than 55,000 times an hour. In total, it has already sparked at least 140,000 tweets.

The shooting has been met with an outpouring of anger on social media, particularly the Twitter hashtags #ChapelHillShooting and #MuslimLivesMatterwhere people posting new pictures of the victims studying and playing basketball claimed they had been “murdered execution style”.

Some compared the incident to the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, and others called on Barack Obama and senior religious figures to condemn the attacks.

“An American football and basketball fan, Mr Barakat was believed to be a dental student at the University of North Carolina and volunteered with a charity providing emergency dental care to children in Palestine,” Albawaba reports.

“He regularly posted on Twitter, and wrote in January: “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 added.

A community Facebook page set up in the memory of the three victims, called “Our Three Winners”, thanked people for their support and said it would carry “official announcements”.

While it was not immediately clear if it was set up by the family, it carried news that funeral arrangements would follow pending an update from the medical examiner.

“It sorrows us all to see what has happened here today,” another statement read. “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.”

Criticism over lack of mainstream media coverage on killings of Muslims

Mainstream media outlets, such as CNN and BBC, have not yet reported* the shooting incident yet. However, social media was inundated with updates and condolences over the deaths of the three Arab students.

Many have taken to social media to criticize double standards of mainstream US media over lack of coverage on killings of young Muslims.

* This story was published on 11 Feb. 2015 at 10:17 PM (Australia Time)