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Pakistani exchange student killed in Texas school shooting

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Pakistani exchange student killed in Texas school shooting

Pakistani exchange student killed in Texas school shooting

Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, was among the ten killed in the school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, on Friday, 18th May, 2018. She had been studying in the US through an exchange program facilitated by the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programme.

The shooting began before 8:00 am, as the first classes were commencing in the school. Ten people, mostly students, were killed when another student in the school, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, opened fire with a shotgun and a revolver in the latest deadly school shooting to hit the United States.

According to Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, 10 people died and another 10 were wounded in what he called “one of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools.” He told reporters, “Nothing can prepare a parent for the loss of a child”.

Abbott said the gunman was apparently armed with a shotgun and a .38 revolver that were legally owned by his father. He had also thrown pipe bombs into a classroom at the start of the school day but there had been no ‘warning signs’ about the suspect which could indicate that he was disturbed or needed help. However, he had posted a picture on his Facebook page earlier of a T-shirt with the words ‘Born to Kill’ on it. The governor said journal entries by the gunman suggested he wanted to commit suicide but “he gave himself up”.

Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington DC, confirmed via Twitter that Sabika was among those killed. Aizaz Chaudhry, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US also expressed his heartfelt condolences for the victims of the tragic incident while US ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale, called Sabika’s family to express his condolence.

Megan Lysaght, the program manager at American Councils for International Education, stated in a letter addressed to the YES programme students, “It is with the greatest sadness in my heart 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.”

She addressed other students in the programme saying, “If you need extra support during this tragic time, please let your host family, local coordinator or placement organisation know. YES also has ‘Religious Advisors’ if preferred”.

Earlier this year, 17 people were killed at a Florida high school, after which a student-led campaign against gun violence was launched. The shooting at Santa Fe High School was the second mass shooting in Texas in six months. In November 2017, 26 people were killed in a Texas church by a 26-year-old Air Force veteran.

The Texas governor said he would convene roundtable discussions to formulate policies to prevent such mass shootings in the future while President Donald Trump who has so far shied away from gun control and in fact, proposed arming teachers, said he was “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.” He ordered US flags to fly at half-staff for the next few days.

A 14-year-old student, Hunter Mead, told AFP, “It was pretty quiet for a few seconds, and then we just hear someone like shoot a gun, and just like a ‘pow-pow-pow”.

After the news broke, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged lawmakers to take action on gun violence. “Every day that we fail to act on gun violence, we are failing our children,” she tweeted.

Among local politicians, Imran Khan and Shehbaz Sharif also expressed their grief over the shooting via Twitter.

We pray for Sabika and her family as well as all the other victims and their families who are faced with this irreplaceable loss.

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