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Sikh Temple Shooting: Fatalities In Oak Creek, Wisconsin Attack (PICTURES)

05/08/2012 21:29 BST | Updated 05/08/2012 21:53 BST

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At least six worshippers have been shot dead after a gunman opened fire on a congregation in a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Witnesses said several dozen people had been gathering for a service when the attack unfolded at around 10am local time.

Greenfield Police Chief Bradley Wentlandt said the first officer to arrive encountered a man police believe was the shooter. The two exchanged gunfire, and the suspect was killed, he said.

sikhs

A man wipes away a tear at the scene of the shooting

Mr Wentlandt said police do not believe a second shooter was involved. He said tactical units went through the temple. They found four people dead inside and three outside the building, including the suspected shooter, he said.

It's unclear how many others were wounded. Mr Wentlandt said he had been told the officer who exchanged gunfire with the suspect and another person had been taken to hospitals. He said the officer was shot multiple times and is in surgery.

The spokeswoman for the area trauma center said three victims were being treated there, including one in surgery.

Sukhwindar Nagr, of Racine, said he called his brother-in-law's phone and a priest at the temple answered and told him that his brother-in-law had been shot, along with three priests. The priest also said women and children were hiding in closets in the temple, Nagr said.

Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in bias attacks since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Washington-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents in the US since then, which advocates blame on anti-Islamic sentiment. Sikhs don't practice the same religion as Muslims, but their long beards and turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims, advocates say.

Sikhism is a monotheistic faith that was founded in South Asia more than 500 years ago. It has roughly 27 million followers worldwide.

Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair; male followers often cover their heads with turbans - which are considered sacred - and refrain from shaving their beards.

Photos from the scene:

Wisconsin Shooting