US school shooting victims mourned

The host family of a Pakistani student killed in a US school shooting shooting speak at her funeral.
The host family of a Pakistani student killed in a US school shooting shooting speak at her funeral.

Congregations in the deeply religious Sante Fe community near Houston have gathered for their first services since a gunman blasted his way into a high school and killed 10 people two days ago.

Dayspring Church pastor Brad Drake acknowledged the pain wracking the town of 13,000 people as the deaths of eight students and two teachers are mourned.

"They will never be forgotten in this community, these young people, children just going to school," Drake said, before reading out the names of the dead, including a slain student, Angelique Ramirez, who attended services at Dayspring.

"We have families today that are grieving a grief that none of us can comprehend."

Hundreds of members of Houston's Muslim community also turned out for the first funeral, a service for 17-year-old Sabika Sheikh, an exchange student from Pakistan who aspired to be a foreign diplomat.

Her host mother, Joleen Cogburn, recalled asking Sheikh why she wanted to study in the US. She said the student said she wanted to learn American culture and share Pakistani culture with Americans.

"And I want us to come together and unite," she told Cogburn.

"I don't know if they know us the way they should."

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Sheikh continues to be a diplomat "because even in her death, she is pulling the relationships between Pakistan and the United States, specifically the Houston area, even closer."

Her body is due to be returned to Karachi.

The services coincided with the new head of the powerful National Rifle Association, Oliver North, saying he wants to expand membership of his organisation and that mass shootings are related to a culture violence rather than the availability of guns.

"The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence," North told Fox News.

"They've come through a culture where violence is commonplace. All you need to do is turn on a TV, go to a movie."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott attended Arcadia First Baptist Church and hugged parishioners as they arrived on Sunday.

Among them was Monica Bracknell, an 18-year-old who survived the shooting, who stopped to tell Abbott the attack should not be turned into a political battle over gun control.

Surrounded by television cameras, photographers and reporters, she told Abbott guns were not to blame.

"People are making this into a political issue," she said she told him.

"This is not a political issue. It's not a gun-law issue."

The suspect, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, has been jailed on capital murder charges.

Pagourtzis' family issued a statement saying the bloodshed "seems incompatible with the boy we love."

Australian Associated Press