Monthly Archives: August 2012

Wisconsin Gurudwara holds first service since deadly attack

Funeral service at USA

Funeral service at USA

 

Oak Creek (Wisconsin), Aug 13 (PTI) Grieving members of the Sikh community held the first service at the Gurdwara here since the killing of six worshippers by a white supremacist a week ago and offered prayers for the victims. The mourners assembled inside the prayer hall of the Gurudwara yesterday, bowed before the Guru Granth Sahib and chanted hymns and prayed for the six worshippers who were killed in the shootout inside the Gurdwara last Sunday. They also prayed for the quick recovery of the three individuals who were injured in the tragic incident including the police officer who fought the neo-nazi gunman. Wade Michael Page, 40, an ex-army veteran, went on a shooting spree killing six Sikhs and injuring three others, including a police officer, at the Gurdwara here last Sunday before dying of a self-inflicted gun shot wound. Those attending the Sunday service said the ceremony today involved cleaning up the pole which had a flag on top. Outside, community members raised the American flag from half-staff and hoisted a new Sikh flag in an elaborate ritual surrounded by hundreds who’d come from across the country. The service included devotional hymns and prayers and the closing of the Sikh holy book. The holy book has been read in its entirety over the past three days. Women sang hymns as a group lowered a flag pole outside the Gurdwara here. The pole which was covered with orange cloth was first removed by about 50 men and boys. Thereafter the pole was washed with water and milk. The pole was finally wrapped with a new orange cloth. “The six people who died were some of the most beloved people here,” said Kanwardeep Kaleka, whose uncle Satwant Singh Kaleka was among those killed in the incident. “That they died in this house of God brings us even more peace,” he was quoted as saying by the local media. The Gurdwara was opened for the public on Friday, six days after the deadly shooting with over 100 community members returning to clean it ahead of the funeral for the victims.

Gurdwara Head truns into Hero in US attack

Gurdwara Head

Gurdwara Head

New York: The 65-year-old head of the small US town Gurdwara turned out an unlikely hero of the Wisconsin shooting incident as he confronted the ‘neo-Nazi’ gunman with his kirpan to save dozens of women, children and other worshippers from being shot down.

Sadwant Singh Kaleka’s, the head of the Wisconsin Gurdwara, unequal battle may not have lasted long as the 40-year-old former US Army ‘psy-ops’ veteran Wade Michael Page killed him mercilessly by his 9mm handgun.

But his heroism slowed down the racist killer, providing vital moments for women and children to flee the attacker and bolt themselves in rooms round the complex, US media reports said.

The women and children who were preparing meals for the congregation were in direct line of attack of the the gunman, but Kaleka’s brave effort to stab Page to slow him down has won widespread acclaim and praise in Wisconsin.

“He turned into an unlikely hero to save the place which he had devoted to build,” said Amardeep Kaleka, his son.

“Whatever time he spent in that struggle gave the women time to get cover,” he said.
 
Relatives said Kaleka was widely regarded as the founder of the Oak Creek temple that was attacked by Page, a disgraced former US army soldier and racist, who is widely thought to mistaken bearded and turban-wearing Sikhs for Muslims.

As Kaleka confronted the gunman, Page had already shot at least one person in the temple’s car park. He then went on to kill six Sikh worshippers before going back outside to ambush the police when he heard approaching sirens.

The killer was then “put down” in a gunfight after severely wounding one police officer.

Kaleka and his family came to the United States from India in 1982. He built a successful business, and devoted every extra dollar he earned into building the Oak Creek Gurdwara.

Parishioners described him as the kind of man who, if you called him at two in the morning to say a light had gone out at the temple, would be there at 2:15 am to change the bulb.

In stark contrast, Page, 40, was a disgraced soldier, in the army from 1992 to 1998, before being discharged for a “pattern” of misconduct including drunkenness and going Awol.

Pictures show him heavily tattooed. Neighbours said that he had a tattoo commemorating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on his right arm, a common indicator of far-Right and anti-Muslim affiliations.

 

US gurdwara shooting: Demented ‘white’ man kills 6, injures 3 critically

Satwant Kaleka, Temple President

Satwant Kaleka, Temple President

 

A gunman killed six people and critically wounded three at a gurdwara during Sunday services before police shot him dead in an attack that authorities are treating as an act of domestic terrorism (when somebody “does active terrorism within the US”).

FBI launches thorough probe into gurudwara shooting

Gurdwara shooter had 9/11 tattoo

Witnesses said the gunman opened fire when he entered the kitchen at the gurdwara of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee at about 10.30 am CDT (3.30 GMT) as women prepared a Sunday meal, forcing worshippers to flee.

Watch video: SGPC condemns US Gurudwara shooting

The suspect was a bald, white man, approximately 40 years old, said Thomas Ahern, a spokesman for the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Authorities did not release his identity.

Four people were shot dead inside the sprawling temple. Three, including the gunman, were killed outside.

The gunman ambushed and shot a police officer who was responding to a 911 call and helping a shooting victim, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said. A second officer shot and killed the gunman.

Edwards said he had no identification for the shooter nor information on what kind of weapon or weapons he had. The victims’ identities and descriptions were not made public.

The wounded officer, a 20-year veteran, was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive. Hospital officials said two other victims, also in critical condition, were being treated.

Law enforcement personnel surrounded and searched a gray, two-storey house in the Cudahy neighbourhood presumed to be the residence of the gunman on Sunday evening. Generators and floodlights were set up along the middle-class block.

Obama condemns attack, says US enriched by Sikhs

A police source confirmed that a search warrant had been issued for the house, and a bomb squad was on the scene.

Temple member and US Army Reserve combat medic Jagpal Singh, 29, said people who were at the service when the shooting broke out described to him a scene of chaos and confusion.

Worshippers scrambled to escape the gunfire, but some tragically ran in the wrong direction. Others survived the rampage by locking themselves in bathrooms, he said.

Singh said eyewitnesses described the shooter as a white man who was either shave-headed or bald.

DOMESTIC TERRORIST

Turban-wearing Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is overseeing the probe into shootings, Edwards said.

We’re treating this as a domestic terrorist incident, he told reporters. Officials had no details about a possible motive.

Milwaukee’s Froedtert Hospital said three male victims included one who had been shot in the abdomen, one in the extremities and face, and a third who was hit in the neck.

The Oak Creek shooting was the latest in a series of suburban US gun rampages. Organizations fighting gun violence rate Wisconsin’s gun safety laws from low to moderate. There are no limits on the number of firearms that can be purchased at one time, nor on the possession or transfer of assault weapons, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Sunday’s attack came just over two weeks after a gunman opened fire at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 58. In January 2011, then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was the target of an assassination attempt in which six people were killed and 13 were wounded in Tucson, Arizona.

The gunman is worse than the one at the theater a couple of weeks ago because he targeted an entire community, said Jagatjit Sidhu, who was among dozens of temple members and onlookers gathered near the sealed off temple.

Some witnesses at the scene had said there was more than one gunman, but Edwards said reports of multiple gunmen were common in incidents that involved only one shooter.

We believe there was one but we can’t be sure, he said. Officers finished sweeping the temple only after hours of searching, and Edwards said the investigation was just starting.

President Barack Obama said he was deeply saddened and pledged his administration’s commitment to fully investigate the shooting.

Obama was briefed by counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and FBI director Bob Mueller and told the situation at the temple was under control.

The president said that he wanted to make sure that as we denounce this senseless act of violence we also underscore how much our country has been enriched by our Sikh community, the White House said in a statement.

SIKHS IN US

The Indian embassy in Washington said it was in touch with the National Security Council about the shooting and an Indian diplomat had been sent to the Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

The temple in Oak Creek, south of Milwaukee, was founded in October 1997 and has a congregation of 350 to 400 people. There are an estimated 500,000 or more Sikhs in the United States.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 by Islamist militants, Sikhs have sometimes been confused publicly with Muslims because of their turban headdress and beards.

Members of the Milwaukee Sikh community complained to police and a state representative last year about an upturn in robberies and vandalism at Sikh-owned gas stations and stores.

In September 2001, a Sikh gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona, was shot dead by a man who was said to be seeking revenge on Muslims for the hijacked plane attacks on the United States.

Phoenix police said they were in contact with local Sikh leaders and had increased patrol presence around the three temples in the city until further notice.

New York police said they were increasing security at Sikh temples as a precaution. There are no known threats against temples in the city, they said in a statement.

Sapreet Kaur, executive director of the Sikh Coalition civil rights organization, said Sikhs had been the target of several hate-crime shootings in the United States in recent years.

The natural impulse of our community is to unfortunately assume the same in this case, he said in a statement.

Badals react:

The Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal who is also president of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) described the incident in Oak Creek Gurdwara in United States as most painful and condemnable.

Both Badals tonight have asked the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to take up this issue with US Authorities and the authorities there should preserve the security and sanctity of sikh shrines. Interestingly Badal (Senior) is likely to leave to US tomorrow night on a private tour.

Meanwhile, SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said, “It is unfortunate that firing has taken place in a gurdwara. The guilty should be brought to the book.”

Reacting to the news, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said Sikh community was shaken by the incident of firing in gurdwara in Wisconsin. “Even as the motive of the attack is not yet clear, the Sikh community is shaken after the reports of firing in gurdwara in Wisonsin. The Indian government should take up the matter with US to ensure that the Sikhs and their religious places in US are not subject to incidents like these,” Makkar said, adding that SGPC condemned the incident. “We want India to take up the matter with US and do the needful to get justice for the families of victim and those held hostage as per reports,” Makkar said.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh said it was unfortunate that such an incident had occurred at a gurdwara. “Though it is not clear so far that what is the motive behind the incident, but the firing in the gurdwara is unfortunate and deserves to be condemned,” said Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh.

Sikh religious leadership condemns attack on Gurdwara in US

Amritsar: The Sikh religious leadership today condemned the attack on a Gurdwara in Wisconsin in which seven people were killed.

“It is a highly unfortunate incident which has taken place in America leaving six innocent devotees dead. This is a security lapse on the part of US Government,” Giani Gurbachan Singh, the head priest of Akal Takht, the highest Sikh temporal seat, said here.

He said that the time has come for US-based Sikhs to adopt all kinds of possible security measures in the entry point of Gurdwaras by installing close-circuit cameras so that surveillance on suspected elements can be kept.

The Jathedar also said that he has directed the SGPC President to send a special team of Sikhs to the US to investigate the cause of the attack.

He said that prayers will be held across various Gurdwaras in India, including the Golden Temple here, for the departed souls.

President Shiromani Gurdwara Pharbandhak Committee (SGPC), Avtar Singh Makkar, “I am leaving for Delhi to meet the US Ambassador and the External Affairs Minister to take up the issue with the US authorities concerned. The cause of this brutal attack on innocent Sikhs must come out so that such incidents could be prevented in future”.

He further said that two SGPC members Surinder Singh and Amarjit Singh Chawla and member of Sikh Student of Federation, Paramjit Singh Khalsa, who were currently on a visit to Canada, have been asked to reach the US to give an account of the incident to the SGPC.

US shooting: US Ambassador offers prayers at Delhi Gurdwara

New Delhi: Reaching out to the Sikh community in the wake of the shooting incident at a Gurdwara in Wisconsin, US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell today offered her prayers at a Gurdwara here and said the incident will be probed thoroughly.

“…United States through the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as the local police will conduct a thorough investigation into this crime,” Powell told reporters after visiting Gurdwara Bangla Sahib here.

She offered her condolences on behalf of the entire US Mission here over the incident, which claimed seven lives, terming it a “ghastly act of violence”.

“We are deeply saddened by it, particularly that it happened in a house of worship,” she said.

The Ambassador was presented a ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ by the Gurdwara authorities on her visit.

Six people were killed in the attack on the Gurdwara during Sunday morning prayers in Wisconsin by at least one gunman who was also shot dead, police there said.

Early in the day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed shock and sadness over the incident and hoped the authorities there will ensure “conditions” that such violent acts are not repeated.

He welcomed US President Barack Obama’s statement on the tragic incident.

 

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