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Mystery of US killer's old SA and Rhodesia flags

CORRESPONDENT
A picture on Roof's Facebook page showed him staring blankly at the camera and wearing a black jacket with patches of old South African flag and the flag of white-ruled Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe
He was photographed wearing an apartheid-era South African flag on his jacket but the young man who allegedly gunned down nine black worshippers in an American church seems to have no formal links to this country.

The 21-year-old - identified as Dylann Roof of Columbia, South Carolina - was arrested yesterday in North Carolina, a four-hour drive from the scene of the shooting, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

The attack was described as a ''hate crime'' by Charleston police chief Gregory Mullen.

A picture on Roof's Facebook page showed him staring blankly at the camera and wearing a black jacket with patches of old South African flag and the flag of white-ruled Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

A Facebook search revealed no connection between Roof and South Africa.

Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said officials were checking with US authorities on the suspect's nationality before taking any action.

US detectives were yesterday headed to Shelby, North Carolina - where Roof was caught at a traffic stop - to interview the suspect.

The shooter walked into the church on Wednesday night, sat in the congregation for about an hour then opened fire, Mullen said.

The victims, six females and three males, included the Rev Clementa Pinckney, who was the church's pastor and a Democratic member of the state Senate, according to colleagues. Several other people were wounded.

Roof had been described by police as extremely dangerous.

The shooting comes at a time of heightened racial tensions in America, after several killings of unarmed black men at the hands of white police in recent months.

"The fact that this took place in a black church obviously raises questions about a dark part of our history," US President Barack Obama said. "We don't have all the facts but we know that, once again, innocent people

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were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun."

A man who identified himself as Roof's uncle said earlier Roof's father had recently given him a handgun as a birthday gift and that Roof had seemed adrift.

"I don't have any words for it," said the uncle, Carson Cowles, 56. "Nobody in my family had seen anything like this coming."

A Justice Department spokesman said a hate crimes probe had been opened, with FBI agents working with local police.

"The heart and soul of South Carolina was broken," a tearful state Governor Nikki Haley said.

Jim Curley, owner of AC's Bar & Grill, which is a few blocks from the church, said locals were shocked anyone would carry out an attack in the popular tourist area.

"This is absolutely bizarre. This is really completely out of the blue... We have no idea what the motivation is."

But Curley said residents typically got along fine. "Generally, there's not a great deal of racial tension."

In April, in neighbouring North Charleston, a white police officer was charged after a video surfaced of him fatally shooting a fleeing black man in the back.

Charleston is known locally as The Holy City owing to its large number of churches and historical mix of immigrant ethnic groups that brought a variety of creeds.

According to its website, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest such church in the US southern states.

The church was founded in 1816 and in 1822 was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt, the website states.

TimesLive



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