A small prayer circle forms nearby where police are responding to a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
A small prayer circle forms nearby where police are responding to a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Reuters/ Randall Hill

Nine people shot dead in 'hate crime' at US church

UPDATE:

POLICE have confirmed nine people are dead after a shooting at a church in South Carolina.

The suspect of the attack is still at large.

Reuters is reporting another other person was wounded and taken to a hospital.

Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen described the shooting as a hate crime, Mullen said: "It is unfathomable that somebody in today's society would walk into a church when people are having a prayer meeting and take their lives."

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley says the church as an important part of city's African-American history.

"This is an unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy in this most historic church, an evil and hateful person took the lives of citizens who had come to worship and pray together," Riley told the Post and Courier newspaper in South Carolina.

Police respond to a shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Police respond to a shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Reuters/ Randall Hill

EARLIER:  THERE are reporters a gunman has shot as many as eight people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

The Charleston Police Department has told reporters the shooting occurred at the Emanual AME Church at about 9pm local time on Wednesday night.  

Police are now searching for the gunman, believed to be a 21-year-old white man.

They have given a description of the alleged attacker on their Twitter account.

The church has one of the oldest and largest black congregations south of Baltimore, according to its website.



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