Chapel Hill murders: Fund set up by slain US Muslim Deah Barakat raises money for refugees

Kheira Benkreira (left) and Hasnia Bekkadja attend a vigil held by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC on Feb 12, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Kheira Benkreira (left) and Hasnia Bekkadja attend a vigil held by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC on Feb 12, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A charity fund set up by one of the three Muslim students murdered in North Carolina has been flooded with donations in the days since the brutal attack.

University of North Carolina dentistry student Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, had been hoping to raise US$20,000 (S$27,090) so he and other dentists could provide dental care at a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey.

Mr Barakat was killed along with his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, when they were shot execution-style on Tuesday in the peaceful North Carolina university town of Chapel Hill.

In the days since the attack, donations dwarfed Mr Barakat's original goal, with nearly US$330,000 raised by Friday afternoon.

"Have you ever felt helpless about the situation in Syria and felt like you can't do anything about it? This is your opportunity to help," Mr Barakat says in a video presentation on the YouCaring.com site.

A description adds that the dental situation in Syria and at refugee camps is desperate.

"Hundreds of students are currently in need of urgent dental care, mainly consisting of fillings and extractions," the site says.

"Following each procedure, we will provide oral hygiene instructions and fluoride treatment to prevent future tooth decay." Barakat's neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, has been charged with three counts of murder over the killings, which sparked outrage amongst Muslims worldwide.

Police have said they believed a parking dispute was the catalyst for the attack, but added they had not ruled out the possibility that hatred of Muslims had motivated Hicks.

The victims' families, however, insist the killings be prosecuted as a hate crime.

Hundreds of people left comments on Mr Barakat's fundraising page.

"My heart weeps as I read about the loss of these three wonderful young people," wrote commenter Ann Sullivan.