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Turkey’s Erdogan scolds Obama for being ‘silent’ on slain Muslims students

Turkish president said lack of comment from White House was ‘telling’; meanwhile family of student push for hate probe

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reproached U.S. President Barack Obama and other senior officials for not speaking out publicly against the killings of three young Muslims in North Carolina this week.

Speaking alongside Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto during a state visit to Latin America's second-largest economy on Thursday, Erdogan said the silence of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry was "telling" and they should take a position following such acts.

"If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this and don't make a statement, the world will stay silent toward you," Erdogan said, condemning those responsible for the crime.

"I ask Mr. Obama, where are you, Mr. President?" he added.

The three Muslim students he was referring to were newlyweds Deah Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, a student at North Carolina State University. All three were gunned down on Tuesday in a condominium about 2 miles from the UNC campus in Chapel Hill.

Police charged the couple's neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, with murder over the incident. Investigators say initial findings indicated a dispute over parking prompted the shooting; they are looking into whether Hicks was motivated by hatred toward the victims because they were Muslim. Family members of the dead students have said they believe the attack was a hate crime.

Obama has made no public comment regarding the attack. Josh Earnest, the president's press secretary, has said the White House would await the results of the police investigation before commenting.

Turkey, a European Union candidate nation and member of the NATO military alliance, is a key U.S. ally. But Erdogan, a devout Sunni Muslim, has become increasingly outspoken about what he sees as rising Islamophobia in the West.

Last year, Erdogan said his relations with Obama have become strained and that he no longer spoke directly with him because he was disappointed by a lack of U.S. action over the war in neighboring Syria. Erdogan said he instead spoke with Biden over issues such as Iraq.

Despite working together to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), differences have arisen between the United States and Turkey over how best to tackle the insurgents.

Turkey has been an opponent of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, backing rebels fighting to oust him and allowing Syrian political opposition to organize on Turkish soil. It has long lobbied for international intervention in the war.

Wire services

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