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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Pakistani family faces 'nightmare' after daughter killed in Texas shooting

Abdul Aziz learned about his 17-year-old daughter's killing from CNN

Aziz Shaikh (L), father of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, who was killed with others when a gunman attacked Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., is comforted by a relative at his residence in Karachi, Pakistan May 19, 2018. Akhtar Soomro / Reuters
Aziz Shaikh (L), father of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, who was killed with others when a gunman attacked Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., is comforted by a relative at his residence in Karachi, Pakistan May 19, 2018. Akhtar Soomro / Reuters

Abdul Aziz learned about the US school shooting in which his 17-year-old daughter was killed from CNN, with the story airing live as he broke his Ramadan fast thousands of miles away in Pakistan.

In those chaotic first moments of confusion and terror he called his daughter Sabika Sheikh's phone over and over. She did not answer.

"I kept calling her and sent her messages on WhatsApp. Never before had my daughter failed to reply," Aziz told AFP news agency, fighting back tears at his home in the southern port city Karachi Saturday, just hours after he and his wife had their worst fears confirmed.

"We are still in a state of denial. It is like a nightmare," said Aziz. His wife sat nearby, visibly still shocked and seemingly unable to speak as friends and relatives tried to comfort her.

Sheikh, an exchange student at the Santa Fe High School in Texas, was killed along with nine others after a heavily armed student opened fire on his classmates Friday. Thirteen people were wounded.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old student at the same Santa Fe High School, is being held on two charges in relation to the mass shooting: aggravated assault to a public servant and capital murder, which means he could face the death penalty.

It was the latest school shooting to rock the US, and came just three months after the massacre in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed, sparking an unprecedented grassroots, student-led gun control movement.

In Pakistan, the Santa Fe shooting has unleashed an outpouring of sympathy and horror over the tragic murder of Sheikh, who had been in the US for 10 months and was just weeks away from coming home.

Sheikh's father said she had always excelled in school, and had dreamed of serving in Pakistan's foreign office.

She had been due to return to Karachi in time for Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam's most revered holidays, marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in which families come together and celebrate with days of feasting.

"She was coming back soon," her father said.

"There is a general impression that...life is safe and secure in America. But this is not the case".

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Read more:

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The suspect in the Texas school shooting began his attack by firing a shotgun through an art classroom door, shattering a glass pane and sending panicked students to the entryway to block him from getting inside, witnesses said.

Mr Pagourtzis fired again through the wooden part of the door and fatally hit a student in the chest. He then lingered for about 30 minutes in a warren of four rooms, killing seven more students and two teachers before exchanging gunfire with police and surrendering, officials said.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, the county's chief administrator, said he did not think Friday's attack was 30 minutes of constant shooting, and that assessment was consistent with other officials who said law enforcement contained the shooter quickly. But authorities did not release a detailed timeline to explain precisely how events unfolded.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the assailant got a handgun and shotgun from his father, who owned them legally. But it was not clear whether the father knew his son had taken them or if the father could face prosecution. State law makes it illegal to give a gun to anyone under 18, except under the supervision of an adult for hunting or sport shooting.

In their first statement since the massacre, Pagourtzis' family said Saturday that the bloodshed "seems incompatible with the boy we love".