WASHINGTON: At least nine people were killed in a shooting at a historic African-American church in US' South Carolina state, media reported on Thursday.
The shooting took place on Wednesday night at Charleston city's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in the South Carolina, CNN reported.
CNN said that nine people were killed.
“I do believe this is a hate crime,” Charleston police chief, Greg Mulle, was quoted as saying.
The shooter is still at large.
Police said the suspect in the shooting is a clean-shaven white man in his 20s, with a slender build. He was wearing a grey sweatshirt, blue jeans and boots.
“This is the most unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy,” The Washington Post quoted Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley as saying.
“People in prayer, coming together, praying and worshipping God, to have an awful person come in and shoot them is inexplicable, obviously the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible.”
The “message is there was one hateful person who did this dastardly deed”, the mayor added.
The Charleston Police Department has not yet identified the victims and said the toll might increase.
"It's really bad. It's a very bad scene," pastor Thomas Dixon said.
"Apparently the person just entered the church and opened fire. That part has not been fully articulated on what happened yet ... they are still looking for the suspect."
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in 1816 when African-American members of the Charleston's Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over burial grounds.
Every Wednesday evening, the church holds a Bible study in its basement.