US police look into 'hate crime' after Palestinian students shot

AFP , Monday 27 Nov 2023

Three university students of Palestinian descent were wounded Saturday in a shooting in the northeastern US city of Burlington, Vermont, in what police said appeared to be a "hate-motivated crime."

Palestinian college students
Palestinian college students Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ali and Kenan Abdulhamid who were shot in Burlington, Vermont on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Husam Zomlot official account on X.


The shooter, who is still on the loose, was described by police as "a white man with a handgun."

"Without speaking," the police said, "he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled on foot."

The incident occurred amid high tensions, and occasional violence, on college campuses and elsewhere in the United States over the Israeli war on Gaza.

A police statement said two of the victims were in stable condition, and the third suffered "much more serious injuries." It said two are US citizens and one a legal resident.

While there has been no official confirmation of the shooter's motive, the police confirmed that two of the young men were wearing keffiyehs, the traditional black and white Palestinian scarf.

And a statement from Burlington police chief Jon Murad said: "In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime."

He added: "Now that the victims are safe and receiving medical care, our next priority is identifying, locating and apprehending the suspect."

A statement from a spokesman for the victims' families said all three were graduates of the Ramallah Friends School, a private Quaker school in the West Bank, and are now attending different universities in the northeastern US.

"As parents," the statement said, "we are devastated by the horrific news that our children were targeted and shot... We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation. We will not be comfortable until the shooter is brought to justice."

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee said, "We have reason to believe this shooting occurred because the victims are Arab." It called on Vermont authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.

The White House said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the shooting.

Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator and past presidential candidate, called the attack "shocking and deeply upsetting," adding, "Hate has no place here, or anywhere."

The shooting came as civil rights groups have warned of a rise in hate crimes against Arab and Muslim Americans.

Last month, a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death in Illinois, while his mother was wounded. A 71-year-old suspect has pleaded not guilty.

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