Indian dignitaries meet with Wis. Sikh survivors

Associated Press Modified: October 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012
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OAK CREEK, Wis. (AP) — All of India shares the pain of Wisconsin Sikhs as they grapple with the aftermath of a mass shooting at a suburban Milwaukee temple, the country's foreign minister said Thursday during a visit to the temple.

S.M Krishna, India's external affairs minister, Nirupama Rao, the country's ambassador to the United States, and Dutta Toma, counsel general of India in Chicago, toured the temple in Oak Creek for about an hour and half. Krishna addressed about 150 Sikhs in the temple's hall, reassuring them that the Indian government and its people were behind them. The Sikh faith has roughly 27 million followers worldwide, and the vast majority live in India.

"I convey the sympathy of a billion people," he said, referring to India's total population. "I come here not only to offer prayers at this sacred temple but to express our deepest condolences."

The Sikh community is still struggling to come to grips with the shocking attack on Aug. 5. Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran and white supremacist, arrived at the temple before Sunday services and opened fire with a 9 mm handgun.

He killed six worshippers and injured three others. He also wounded Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy as the officer responded to the scene. Page killed himself minutes later, after he was wounded in a firefight with another officer.

Page's motives remain unclear. The FBI declared the attack an act of domestic terrorism but is still investigating what drove Page and whether he had any help. Milwaukee FBI spokesman Leonard Peace said Thursday that probe is still ongoing and declined further comment.

Sikhs contend they're often mistaken for Muslims because they wear beards and turbans. Temple members pushed the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing last month to start collecting data on hate crimes against Sikhs.

Still, reminders of the shooting were everywhere in the temple Thursday. Banners signed by hundreds of well-wishers plastered the walls. A piece of paper with the direct number to the Oak Creek Police Department hung on a bulletin board, and an armed private security guard patrolled the parking lot.

The dignitaries stopped at Froedtert Hospital to visit Punjab Singh, a shooting victim who remains in serious condition, then moved on to the temple. The group got a warm welcome replete with handshakes and bowed heads.

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