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Michelle Obama meets with gurdwara victims

Posted on Aug 24, 11:34AM | IANS

Reaching out to the Sikh community, US first lady Michelle Obama met with families of those killed in the Aug 5 massacre at the gurdwara in Wisconsin to offer her support.

"It's my honour to be here with you. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances, but I am anxious to meet with the families and lend whatever support I can," she told them as in a private meeting at Oak Creek High School Thursday evening.

Obama spent about 30 minutes with them, moving from family to family to offer her condolences and concerns, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported citing Sikh families.

Temple secretary Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal and Oak Creek Mayor Stephen Scaffidi greeted Obama before the meeting, which was closed to reporters.

"It was very graceful of her. It means a lot to us," Dhaliwal said after the meeting.

The family of Oak Creek police Lt. Brian Murphy, who was shot more than eight times by alleged white supremacist Wade Michael Page met privately with Obama in a separate room. It was not clear whether he was there, Journal Sentinel said.

Six worshippers, including four Indians, were killed and four others, including Murphy were injured in the shooting by Page who later shot himself.

Afterward, Amardeep Kaleka, whose father, temple president Satwant Kaleka, was killed trying to fend off Page, told the Journal Sentinel: "It felt sincere. She knew about my father and what he'd done. She called him a hero... and said he should be remembered for the good that he had done."

Before the meeting, Gurjeet Singh said his uncle, Santokh Singh, was not about to miss the event. Santokh Singh was critically injured.

"He's very excited. He can hardly walk or stand because of the stitches, but we're going," Gurjeet Singh was quoted as saying of his uncle.

Santokh Singh was released from Froedtert Hospital last week.

Those killed in the rampage include temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka; three priests, Prakash Singh and brothers Sita and Ranjit Singh; Paramjit Kaur; and Suveg Singh Khattra.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)