Suspect indicted in North Carolina triple Muslim murder

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, enters the courtroom for his first appearance at the Durham County Detention Center in Durham, North Carolina on Feb 11. Hicks, of Chapel Hill, is charged with killing three Muslim students near the University of North Caroli
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, enters the courtroom for his first appearance at the Durham County Detention Center in Durham, North Carolina on Feb 11. Hicks, of Chapel Hill, is charged with killing three Muslim students near the University of North Carolina. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A grand jury has indicted a North Carolina man on charges of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of three Muslim students, including a husband and wife, in the college town of Chapel Hill, police said Tuesday.

Craig Hicks, a 46-year-old espousing anti-religious views, was indicted for the murder last week of Chapel Hill residents Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, as well as her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh.

Police said the attack may have been triggered by a long-running dispute between neighbours over parking, although they were not ruling out the possibility of a hate crime.

A Facebook page believed to belong to Hicks showed dozens of anti-religious posts, including one calling himself an "anti-theist," saying he has a "conscientious objection to religion," and other memes denouncing Christianity, Mormonism and Islam.

Hicks, who turned himself in after the shooting outside the University of North Carolina, was being held without bond in the Durham County Jail.

Thousands gathered at a vigil last week on the UNC campus, mourning the victims whose killings rattled the tight-knit university town.