US & Canada

Dylann Roof on murder charges over Charleston shooting

A woman weeps outside church Image copyright Getty Images

The man suspected of shooting dead nine people at an African-American church in Charleston has been charged with nine counts of murder and one weapons possession charge, police say.

Dylann Roof made his first court appearance at a bail hearing on Friday.

Relatives of the dead made statements in court and some told him they forgave him for his alleged crime.

Police are treating the killings at the Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday night in South Carolina as a hate crime.

He was arrested the following day more than 200 miles away in North Carolina and then flown back to Charleston.

In court in Charleston, the 21-year-old spoke to confirm his name, age and address and said he was unemployed.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has said Mr Roof should face execution.

"We will absolutely want him to have the death penalty," she told NBC News.

The victims of the shooting, which took place during a bible study group, included the pastor.

Image copyright EPA
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Governor Nikki Haley said she wanted Mr Roof to face execution

Mr Roof reportedly sat with them for nearly an hour before pulling out his handgun and perpetrating the massacre.

One survivor recalled him saying: "You all rape women and you're taking over our country."

President Barack Obama described the event as yet another tragedy caused by guns in society.

His wife Michelle, who is travelling in Italy, said: "I pray for a community that I know is in pain with the hope that tragedies like these will one day come to an end."

The city's mayor Joseph Riley called the massacre an act of "pure, pure concentrated evil".

He said that while the community had faced challenges, nothing in the past century matched this shooting.

The victims

Image caption Clockwise from top left: Cynthia Hurd, Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons Sr
  • Cynthia Hurd, 54
  • Rev Clementa Pinckney, 41
  • Rev Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26
  • Ethel Lance, 70
  • Rev Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
  • Susie Jackson, 87
  • Rev Daniel Simmons Sr, 74
  • Myra Thompson, 59

The victims of the Charleston shooting

After the shooting, Mr Roof was arrested in Shelby when police received a tip from a florist who noticed his distinctive haircut.

"I saw the pictures of him with the bowl cut. I said, 'I've seen that car for some reason.' I look over, and it's got a South Carolina tag on it," florist Debbie Dills told the Shelby Star.

She followed Mr Roof for 25 miles until police made the arrest.

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Media captionIn the US, 7,000 people were victims of hate crimes in 2013. Who's committing these crimes?

More details have been emerging about the 21-year-old, with one acquaintance saying he had complained that "blacks were taking over the world".

Joey Meek said that he and Mr Roof got drunk a few weeks ago, and his friend said "someone needed to do something about it for the white race".

When Roof was identified as the suspect, a photo emerged showing him standing in a wooded area wearing a jacketed emblazoned with flags from apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia - now black-led Zimbabwe.

How world viewed attack

"Racist shooting stirs up America's worst ghosts," writes Spain's El Pais.

The US events are "so shocking that they are unspeakable," writes Italy's La Stampa.

"Pain, fear and anger have engulfed America after the shooting, exacerbating the racial demons of a deeply fractured society," says Frederic Autran, the New York correspondent for France's Liberation.

Writing in Russia's popular Moskovskiy Komsomolets daily, Melor Sturua accuses Mr Obama of ducking the real issue by opting to describe the killings as "senseless" rather than "racist".

In Iran, the conservative Fars News Agency says that "racism is a dark phenomenon which has its roots in the heart of the American society".

The official Xinhua agency in China said the violence "mirrors the US government's inaction on rampant gun violence as well as the growing racial hatred in the country".

Sources: BBC Monitoring, AP

Whether Mr Roof had a connection to any of the 16 white supremacist organisations that operate in South Carolina is not clear.

However, the massacre in one of the nation's oldest and most prominent traditionally black churches has served as a reminder that black churches have long been a target for violence throughout the history of US race relations.

Charleston officials are planning a prayer vigil for Friday evening.

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