Eight people, many of them women of Asian descent, have been killed in shootings at spas in the US state of Georgia. Police say the shootings took place at a massage parlour in Acworth, a suburb north of Atlanta, and two spas in the city itself.
South Korea later confirmed that four of the victims were of Korean descent. Officials say a year-old man was arrested and is suspected of involvement in all of the attacks.
No motive has yet been established, but there are fears the crimes may have deliberately targeted people of Asian descent. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans spiked in recent months, fuelled by rhetoric that blames them for the spread of Covid In an address last week, President Joe Biden condemned "vicious hate crimes against Asian-Americans who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated.
Two people died at the scene and three were taken to hospital, where two more died, sheriff's office spokesman Capt Jay Baker said. He later confirmed the victims were two Asian women, a white woman and a white man, and said a Hispanic man had been wounded.
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Less than an hour later, police were called to a "robbery in progress" at Gold Spa in north-east Atlanta. While there, officers were called to a spa across the street, called Aromatherapy Spa, where they found another woman shot dead.
Investigators who had studied CCTV footage then released images of a suspect near one of the spas. Capt Baker said investigators were "very confident" that the same suspect was the gunman in all three shootings. The identities of the victims have not yet been made public.
Authorities in South Korea said they were working to confirm the nationalities of the four women of Korean descent. Authorities say it is too early in the investigation to know if the victims were targeted because of their race or ethnicity.
But right now there is a great deal of fear and pain in the Asian-American community that must be addressed". It called the shootings "an unspeakable tragedy" for both the victims' families and the Asian-American community, which has "been reeling from high levels of racist attacks".
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Ben Crump, a leading civil rights lawyer, also took to Twitter, saying: "Today's tragic killings in Atlanta reaffirm the need for us to step up and protect ALL of America's marginalised minorities from racism. Atlanta police said they were increasing patrols around businesses similar to those attacked.
The New York Police Department's counter-terrorism branch said that while there was no known connection to New York city, it would "be deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution". The police department in Seattle also said it would increase patrols and outreach to support its Asian-American community.
Atlanta shootings: asian women among eight killed at three spas
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp praised law enforcement officials for their response to the shootings, and said: "Our entire family is praying for the victims of these horrific acts of violence. The White House said Mr Biden had been briefed on the "horrific" shootings.
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What do we know about the shootings? What has the reaction been? Asian-Americans in the US. You may also be interested in:. Related Topics.
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Atlanta Georgia Asian Americans. More on this story. Published 21 May.