International News

Pakistani student among 10 killed as gunman opens fire in Texas high school

Ten people, mostly students, were killed when a teenage classmate armed with a shotgun and a revolver opened fire in a Texas high school on Friday, the latest deadly school shooting to hit the United States after the Florida massacre earlier this year.
The gunman — arrested on murder charges — was identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old junior at Santa Fe High School. He was being held on capital murder charges, meaning that he could face the death penalty.
Students informed authorities that a gunman — later identified by law enforcement agencies as Pagourtzis — opened fire in a classroom at Santa Fe High School shortly before 8 AM CT (1300 GMT) on Friday and that they fled in panic after seeing classmates wounded and a fire alarm triggered a full evacuation.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said 10 people died and another 10 were wounded in “one of the most heinous attacks that we´ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools”.
Texas flags across the state are being lowered to half-staff in memory of those who lost their lives in the school shooting at Santa Fe High School today.
“Nothing can prepare a parent for the loss of a child,” Abbott told reporters in Santa Fe, located about 30 miles (50 kilometres) southeast of Houston.
Emergency crews gather in the parking lot of Santa Fe High School — where at least eight students were killed — in Santa Fe, Texas, US, May 18, 2018. AFP/Daniel Kramer
Among those killed was Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student studying in the US facilitated by the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programme.
In a letter sent to the other YES programme students, Megan Lysaght, the program manager (Inbound) at American Councils for International Education, wrote: “It is with [the] greatest sadness in my heart that I need to inform you that one of our YES students, Sabika Sheikh of Pakistan, was killed today in the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.
“Please know that the YES program is devastated by this loss and we will remember Sabika and her families in our thoughts and prayers. We will have a moment of silence in her memory today.”
Lysaght also informed other YES programme students that help and emotional support were available through coordinators and host families, as well as “Religious Advisors”.
Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry has expressed heartfelt condolences for the victims of the tragic incident at the Santa Fe High School in Texas this morning 1/3
The Pakistan Embassy in Washington, DC, tweeted confirmation that Sheikh was among the deceased. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, “expressed heartfelt condolences for the victims of the tragic incident.”
Among the victims was Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Sabika’s family and friends”. Ambassador Chaudhry 2/3
Our Consul General in Houston is in touch with the authorities concerned to ascertain facts 3/3
“‘Our thoughts and prayers are with Sabika’s family and friends,” said Ambassador Chaudhry. “Our Consul General in Houston is in touch with the authorities concerned to ascertain facts.”
With less than a month until going home to her friends and family, Sabika Sheikh, a YES exchange student from Pakistan, was killed in the #SantaFeHighSchool shooting. If this had happened to me when I was on YES in Jordan it would be “terrorism”-why is it different when it’s here
Earlier, Ariel Russell, a fellow YES programme student, had tweeted the news of Sheikh’s death.
The shooting was the latest in a long series of deadly ones at US schools. Seventeen teens and educators were shot dead at a Parkland, Florida, high school in February, a massacre that stirred the nation’s long-running debate over gun ownership.
‘Sabika was going to return home next month’
A resident of Karachi, Sabika Sheikh — killed Friday in the Santa Fe high school shooting — was the eldest of three sisters. She was studying in the US under the YES programme since August 2017 and was due to return to Pakistan next month.
“Sabika was going to come home on June 9,” her grieving father told Geo News, adding that the family received the shocking news about her death after iftar on Friday night.
“It is still so very hard to believe that [Sabika is dead],” he said, adding that his daughter was “a very obedient child”.
When asked what he would say about governmental action and terrorist acts, he said: “[Such] terrorist attacks can happen anywhere and they need to be condemned.”
“She [was loved] and she loved everyone. She was all ready to return home,” said Sabika’s brother.
‘Suspect wanted to commit suicide’
The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office identified Pagourtzis and said he had been charged with capital murder in a post on its Facebook page. More charges could follow.
Speaking to reporters before the teen was identified, Abbott told reporters that the suspect had used a shotgun and a .38 revolver taken from his father in the fourth-deadliest mass shooting at a US public school.
“Not only did he want to commit the shooting, but he wanted to commit suicide after the shooting,” Abbott said, citing a police review of the suspect’s journals.
“He didn’t have the courage to commit suicide.”
Two other people are in custody, Abbott said.
Investigators are talking to the suspect, Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said.
One is in custody, a second one detained. An injured police officer is being treated, the extent of his injuries are unknown.
Abbott said that investigators had seen a T-shirt on the suspect’s Facebook page that read “Born to Kill.”
Explosive devices had also been found at the school, located about 48 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Houston, and off campus, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted.
Police were searching two homes and a vehicle linked to the suspect, where they have found multiple homemade explosive devices, Abbott said.
‘The guy behind me was dead’
Courtney Marshall, a 15-year-old freshman at the school, said the gunman came into her art class shooting.
“I wanted to take care of my friends, but I knew I had to get out of there,” Marshall said, saying that she saw at least one person hit. “I knew the guy behind me was dead.”
Orlando Gonzalez said that his 16-year-old son Keaton, fled the attack, but one of his friends was shot and wounded.
“I was really worried, I didn’t know what was going on … I almost couldn’t drive,” Gonzalez said. “I just imagine what he’s going through … He’s still scared.”
The school has some 1,462 students, according to federal education data.
US President Donald Trump called the latest school massacre “absolutely horrific.”
We grieve for the terrible loss of life, and send our support and love to everyone affected by this horrible attack in Texas. To the students, families, teachers and personnel at Santa Fe High School – we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever…
“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others,” Trump said at the White House.
Days after the Parkland shooting, Trump said that elected officials should be ready to “fight” the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group. Early this month he embraced that group, telling its annual meeting in Dallas “your Second Amendment rights are under siege.”
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution protects the right to bear arms.
While no major federal gun controls have been imposed since Parkland, the administration is pursuing a proposed regulatory ban on “bump stocks,” which enable a semi-automatic rifle to fire a steady stream of bullets.
The devices were used in an October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 59 people but have not played a role in other major US mass shootings.