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Live: Top Sikh body to meet PM, US ambassador

by FP Staff  Aug 6, 2012 12:30 IST

#Gurdwara shooting   #NewsTracker   #Temple shooting  

12.54pm: The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee, the top Sikh religious body, says it will send a committee to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and India's ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao, to demand Sikhs be protected from future attacks.

12.37pm: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed his sadness and condolences with the victims of the gurdwara shooting in Wisconsin. The full text of the statement is as follows:

I am deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the shooting incident that has resulted in the loss of precious lives and injuries to devotees attending a prayer service at a Gurudwara in Wisconsin, USA.

That this senseless act of violence should be targeted at a place of religious worship is particularly painful. I send my deepest condolences to the families that have been bereaved in this incident. Our thoughts are with them in this moment of their grief.

India stands in solidarity with all the peace-loving Americans who have condemned this violence. We welcome the US President's statement on the tragic incident. We hope that the authorities will reach out to the grieving families and ensure conditions that such violent acts are not repeated in the future.

12.04am: More details are coming to light about the shooting incident in the Oak Creek gurdwara. Associated Press has quoted the police chief of a Wisconsin city where a gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple as saying that the suspect "ambushed" one of the first officers to arrive at the scene as the officer tended to a shooting victim.

Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said the suspect shot the officer multiple times outside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on Sunday morning. A second officer then exchanged gunfire with the suspect and fatally shot him.

Edwards says the officer who was ambushed is undergoing surgery at a nearby hospital and is expected to survive.

Police earlier said the officer who was shot had killed the gunman, but released updated information later Sunday afternoon.

11.22am: Officials investigating Sunday's shooting at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, have declined to release the names of the victims, but media reports have pieced together some details from the Sikh community.

Local Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cited a frequent temple goer Manminder Sethi, a dentist who works in Brown Deer, as saying he knows one of the priests, Parkash Singh, was killed.

Sethi said Singh, in his mid 30s, has lived in Oak Creek for several years and recently returned to India to bring his wife, daughter and son to live with him in Wisconsin.

Among those who were shot was the president of the temple, Satwant Kaleka, who was taken to Froedtert Hospital, the report said.

His nephew Gurmit Kaleka said Satwant is 65-years-old. He is married with two grown sons. One is a former police officer. Satwant Kaleka has been president of the gurdwara since about 1996 and had reportedly never felt threatened or unsafe in any way.

Deepinder Dhaliwal said Satwant Kaleka, his brother in law, was shot in the back. Dhaliwal said his sister, the president's wife, called him while hiding inside the building with a few other women.

Darshan Dhaliwal, who identified himself as a leader at the temple, said between 20 and 25 women who were cooking lunch in the basement and between five to 10 children had been able to leave the temple at about 1pm.

Journal Sentinel quoted Dhaliwal as saying they heard the gunshots and hid in closets for more than an hour before escaping. Dhaliwal said the temple had not been the subject of any threats or graffiti recently.

Gulpreet Kaur's mother was inside the kitchen when the shooting started. She took refuge inside a pantry with about 15 people.

"Two bullets passed by on either side of her, her friend was hit in the foot," said Kaur, 24, who grew up in Oak Creek.

Parminder Toor, 54, and other women also were in the kitchen, cooking at the time of the attack. She said two little kids ran in, an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old, and said there was shooting. They all ran into a pantry.

There were 16 people in the pantry for two hours and they were crying. All the food was left cooking in the kitchen, Journal Sentinel said.

The women could smell the oil burning as they continued to hide from the gunman. Eventually, police knocked on the door.

"The police officers knocked on the door, they were scared and didn't want to open it," said Toor's daughter-in-law, Jaskiran Toor, 27.

11.09am: Indian consulate authorities are doing all they can to aid the victims and US agencies should take quick and prompt action against those responsible for the shooting in a gurdwara in Wisconsin, Minister of state for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said today.

“A senior official has gone from Washington to Wisconsin and the Consulate General in Chicago is also monitoring the situation,” Kaur told reporters today.

We from the ministry and embassy are in constant touch with US police agencies", she said.

Urging US authorities to take fast and prompt action in the case, Kaur said that her heart went out to the victims of the shooting.

Latest:

According to the latest reports, six people have been killed in the Gurdwara shooting, with 25 others wounded. The gunman opened fire at the temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a town outside Milwaukee.

The gunman, who is believed to have been shot dead, has been identified as a "bald, white man with a 9/11 tattoo."

CTV News reports that, the Wisconsin police has termed this as an act of 'domestic terrorism'. According to the report, Police Chief John Edward that crime was being viewed as an act of “domestic terrorism,” which refers to a terrorist activity carried out by someone from within the United States.

NBC News reported, citing officials, that the suspect served in the US Army, and had "some kind of radical or white supremacist views". But officials said that as far as was known, he was not in any kind of radical organisation, and other than a few traffic offences, had no criminal record.

Suspect's home being searched

Mike De Sisti, a multimedia journalist with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the local paper that has been providing the most extensive coverage on the gurdwara shooting, is currently near the suspected gunman's home that is being searched.

On Twitter, @mdesisti says that FBI are currently searching the top floor of a duplex in Cudahy. Earlier, he reported that armed FBI agents were marching in the neighbourhood. "Not sure what they were doing," he noted.

Read reports, including interviews with the shooting survivors and relatives of victims, from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.

AP reports: Police in Wisconsin have evacuated homes in a Milwaukee suburb northeast of the Sikh temple where an unknown gunman killed six on Sunday morning. The evacuations are in Cudahy, which is about six miles from the temple in Oak Creek.

Police have roped off four blocks in a neighborhood with a mix of duplexes and single-family homes. They appeared focussed on one house.

FBI agents were on the scene with an armored truck, a trailer and other vehicles. Milwaukee County sheriff's spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin says the department's bomb squad is also on the scene, but she has no details on why the unit was called.

The lone gunman killed six people and critically wounded three at a gurdwara during Sunday services before police shot him dead. The attack is being treated as domestic terrorism, police said.

The gunman opened fire when he entered the kitchen at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee at about 10:30 a.m. CDT (1530 GMT) as women were preparing a Sunday meal, witnesses said. They described the shooter as a white man.

'Shooter had 9/11 tattoo'

The lone gunman who killed six Sikhs at the gurdwara had a 9/11 tattoo, according to one of those who were present at the scene.

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks in the US, there were reports of several random attacks on Sikhs, evidently because - as Reuters reported - turban-wearing Sikhs were mistaken for Muslims, particularly after pictures of a turbaned Osama bin Laden were flashed on television.

As writer Meeta Kaur observed on Firstpost, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, "wearing the turban suddenly made us the enemy" (Read that article here).

SWAT teams at the gurdwara in Wisconsin where a gunman killed six Sikhs before being brought down. Reuters.

President Barack Obama has responded to the shooting. In a statement, Obama said:

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss, which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney too called it a "senseless act of violence." In a statement, Romney said:

“Ann and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims of today’s shooting in Wisconsin. This was a senseless act of violence and a tragedy that should never befall any house of worship. Our hearts are with the victims, their families, and the entire Oak Creek Sikh community. We join Americans everywhere in mourning those who lost their lives and in prayer for healing in the difficult days ahead.”

Being treated as domestic terrorism

Reuters reported earlier: A gunman killed six people and critically wounded three at a Sikh temple during Sunday services before police shot him dead, and the attack is being treated as domestic terrorism, police said.

The gunman opened fire when he entered the kitchen at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee at about 10:30 a.m. CDT (1530 GMT) as women were preparing a Sunday meal, witnesses said. They described the shooter as a white man.

Turban-wearing Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is overseeing the probe into shootings, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said. "We're treating this as a domestic terrorist incident," he told reporters.

Four people were shot dead inside the sprawling temple. Three, including the gunman, were killed outside.

The gunman ambushed and shot a police officer several times when he responded to a 911 call and was helping a shooting victim, Edwards said.

A second officer shot the gunman dead. Edwards had no identification of the shooter or what kind of weapon or weapons he had. The wounded officer, a 20-year veteran, was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive, he said.

The Oak Creek shooting is the latest in a series of gun rampages in the suburban United States.

The shooting came little more than two weeks after a gunman opened fire at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 58. In January 2011, then-congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords was the target of an assassination attempt in which six people were killed and 13 were wounded.

"The gunman is worse than the one at the theater a couple of weeks ago because he targeted an entire community," said temple member Jagatjit Sidhu.

He was among dozens of temple members and onlookers who gathered in a parking lot near the temple after police sealed the building off.

Lone gunman

Witnesses at the temple had said there was more than one gunman, but Edwards said reports of multiple gunmen were common in incidents that involved only one shooter.

"We believe there was one but we can't be sure," he said. Officers finished sweeping the temple only after hours of searching, and Edwards said the investigation was just starting.

President Barack Obama said he was "deeply saddened" and pledged his administration's commitment to fully investigate the shooting.

Obama was briefed by counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and FBI director Bob Mueller and told the situation at the temple was "under control."

"The president said that he wanted to make sure that as we denounce this senseless act of violence we also underscore how much our country has been enriched by our Sikh community," the White House said in a statement.

The Indian embassy in Washington said it was in touch with the National Security Council about the shooting and an Indian diplomat had been sent to the Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

Milwaukee's Froedtert Hospital said three men had been brought in wounded and were in critical condition. One had been shot in the abdomen, one in the extremities and face, and a third was hit in the neck.

Sikhs in the US

The Sikh faith is the fifth-largest in the world, with more than 30 million followers. It includes belief in one God and that the goal of life is to lead an exemplary existence.

The temple in Oak Creek was founded in October 1997 and has a congregation of 350 to 400 people. There are an estimated 500,000 or more Sikhs in the United States.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 by Islamist militants, Sikhs have sometimes been confused publicly with Muslims because of their turban headdress and beards.

In September 2001, a Sikh gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona, was shot dead by a man who was said to be seeking revenge on Muslims for the hijacked plane attacks on the United States.

Members of the Milwaukee Sikh community complained to police and a state representative last year about an upturn in robberies and vandalism at Sikh-owned gas stations and stores.

New York police said they were increasing security at Sikh temples as a precaution. There are no known threats against temples in the city, they said in a statement.

Sapreet Kaur, executive director of the Sikh Coalition civil rights organization, said Sikhs had been the target of several hate-crime shootings in the United States in recent years.

"The natural impulse of our community is to unfortunately assume the same in this case," he said in a statement.