The police in US have intensified their search for a man they suspected of shooting dead nine people at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.
According to multiple US media reports, citing the FBI and other authorities, the suspect whose age was put at 21-year-old is Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina
The gunman was reported to have sat with other worshippers in a bible study meeting for up to an hour before opening fire, killing six women and three men including the church pastor.
The US Justice Department said it would carry out a federal hate crimes investigation in “parallel to and co-operative with the state’s investigation.
Charleston police chief Gregory Mullen had said that when police arrived at the scene eight people were already dead in the church and that one other person died later in hospital. There were three survivors, he added.
Media reports monitored concerning the incident quoted one woman survivor told her family that the gunman said he was letting her live so she could report what happened.
Meanwhile,police have released images from surveillance cameras showing the suspected gunman at the church, and also of a black four-door saloon car he was seen driving away in.
“This is a very dangerous individual who should not be approached,” Mr Mullen said.
Within a few hours of the release of the photos, US media were reportedly quoting the FBI among other authorities as confirming the suspect to be Mr Roof.
His uncle, Carson Cowles, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying he had recognised his nephew from the photo.
He described him as quiet and soft-spoken, and said he had received a .45-calibre pistol for his birthday, Reuters reports.
News of the shooting was met with shock and sadness within the community. Some residents formed prayer circles outside the church.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley has described the killing as “an unfathomable and unspeakable” tragedy.
Bystander Shona Holmes said: “It’s just hurtful to think that someone would come in and shoot people in a church. If you’re not safe in church, where are you safe?
Among those killed during the shooting was the high-profile 42-year-old Pastor of the church Clementa Pinckney, a father of two who was also a Democratic state Senator in South Carolina.
“It’s devastating, devastating that someone would go into God’s house and commit such a crime,” “It’s just a huge, huge loss,” one of his fellow Senator,Kent Williams reportedly told a CNN staff in a chat.
The shooting prompted angry protests and highlighted racial tension in the city.