SA shocked by US campus shooting rampage

South Africa was shocked by the shooting rampage at the United States’s Virginia Tech University, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad said on Tuesday.

“This is a shocking event that highlights serious malfunction in many societies,” he said during a weekly briefing at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

“We hope the necessary lessons will be learned in such tragedies that are now becoming a common occurrence in the Western world.”

On Monday, 32 people were shot dead in the deadliest shooting rampage in US history, before the gunman turned the gun on himself.

The event also triggering shock and sympathy in the rest of the world, along with questions over gun culture in the US. As far away as Australia and Japan, world leaders offered condolences to the victims’ families while voicing their horror at the senselessness of the massacre.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard recalled how a 1996 rampage by a lone gunman in Tasmania that killed 35 people had forced his government to rethink the whole issue of gun control.

“We took action to limit the availability of guns and we showed a national resolve that the gun culture that is such a negative in the United States would never become a negative in our country,” Howard said.

He extended his sympathies to the families of those killed and wounded, saying universities and schools should be “a sanctuary of learning, friendship and social interchange”.

In Canada, Public Security Minister Stockwell Day said “the shock and horror of this act has reverberated” throughout the country, while Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff added: “Such a senseless act leaves Canadians stunned and horrified.”

‘Asian-looking’ gunman

Some of the survivors of the massacre at Virginia Tech described the gunman as “Asian-looking” and the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reported that police had identified him as a 24-year-old Chinese student who arrived in the US last August on a visa issued in Shanghai.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao was unable to confirm the report.
“As far as we know, this matter is still under investigation and we can’t speculate on that,” Liu said.

He added that Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing had sent a telegram to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressing “shock, condolences and our sincere solicitude to the US government and those affected by the shootings”.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was “shocked” and “saddened”, a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said. Along with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, the queen is set to pay a two-day visit to Virginia early next month to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement, her first visit to the US in 16 years.

In New York, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett opened a speech to business leaders by saying “how horrified we are by the shooting ... and how our hearts go out to those affected”.

Among other foreign governments to offer condolences was Iran, with which the US cut ties in 1980 after the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran by Islamic revolutionary radicals.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the massacre was “against divine and humanitarian values”.

Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine was in Tokyo when news of the shooting at Virginia Tech broke and Japan, which has strict gun-control laws, was quick to offer its sympathies. “I would like to express condolences from the bottom of my heart,” chief government spokesperson Yasuhisa Shiozaki said.

French President Jacques Chirac expressed his “horror and consternation” in a statement from his office. He “offered President George Bush, the families of the victims and the American people his most sorrowful condolences and his total solidarity, both personally and in the name of the French people”, the statement said.—Sapa, Sapa-AFP

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