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Charleston church holds first service after mass shooting

Members of Charleston's historic church gathered for the first service on Sunday after a gunman had opened fire earlier this week, killing 9 people. Other churches in the US were also commemorating the tragedy.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church held its first sermon on Sunday, less than a week after 21-year-old Dylann Roof had gunned down nine people there.

Placards with slogans and victims' names decorated with roses were put up on one of the church's gates ahead of Sunday's memorial service. Other churches in Charleston rang their church bells at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 UTC).

The service started with a message of love, recovery and healing:

"We still believe that prayer changes things. Can I get a witness?" the Reverend Norvel Goff said. The congregation responded with a rousing "Yes."

Citizens express solidarity

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was among those who attended the event at Emanuel. Mourners flocked from around the United States to pay their respects and express solidarity with the

victims' families.

"Sunday will not be a sad day for me; it will be a celebration for me. It will be a celebration for our family because our faith is being tested," said Malcolm Hurd, whose sister Cynthia, a 55-year-old librarian, had died in the shooting.

"There was an overwhelming feeling that made me drive here… A church is a place of worship, not a place for killing," said Monte Talmadge, a 63-year-old US Navy veteran, who drove nearly 500 kilometers (300 miles) from North Carolina to attend Sunday's service at Charleston.

Racist texts on shooter's website

Dylann Roof

Dylann Roof's photograph appeared on a website on Saturday

Dylann Roof had stormed into the 200-year-old Emanuel Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday night and had opened fire on worshippers attending a Bible study meeting. One of the dead included Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator personally known to President Barack Obama.

Roof was arrested one day later in North Carolina, 350 kilometers (215 miles) away from Charleston.

Photos of Roof appeared on a website on Saturday, showing the 21-year-old posing with a handgun and standing in front of a Confederate military museum and plantation slave houses. Investigators said the postings included racist texts that showed

Roof believed in the superiority of white people.

"I have no choice… I chose Charleston because it is the most historic city in my state and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to whites in the country," the website said.

mg/bw (AP, Reuters)

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