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Overflow Crowd Attends Funeral Of Pakistani Girl Killed In Texas

The coffin of Santa Fe High School shooting victim Sabika Sheikh, 17, is carried during her funeral service in Stafford, Texas, on May, 20.
The coffin of Santa Fe High School shooting victim Sabika Sheikh, 17, is carried during her funeral service in Stafford, Texas, on May, 20.

An overflow crowd of hundreds of people attended the funeral in Texas of Sabika Sheikh, the Pakistani exchange student killed in the May 18 mass shooting at a high school.

The ceremony took place on May 20 at an Islamic center in Stafford, Texas, which is not far from Santa Fe High School, where the massacre took place.

As she did not have family members in Texas to help organize the service, the Islamic Society for Greater Houston planned the funeral, keeping it open to the public.

"She doesn't have any family here, but she has all of us and this whole community that is mourning," said M.J. Khan, president of the society. "We are all there to be her family."

She had been staying with a host family in the Santa Fe area. Her host father, Jason Cogburn, said Sabika and his family learned from each other, and his family even fasted with her during Ramadan.

"We loved her and she loved us," he said. "She will be very missed, but she will always be loved."

Sabika, 17, was among eight students and two teachers who were killed when a 17-year-old shooter identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire with a shotgun and a handgun before surrendering to police.

Her funeral was the first for any of those killed in the shooting.

The girl's father, Abdul Aziz Sheikh, told AFP at the family home in her hometown of Karachi that "we are still in a state of denial. It is like a nightmare."

She was studying in the United States under the State Department’s Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, which provides scholarships for students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend an academic year in the United States.

Her father said Sabika had dreamed of working for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.

He added she was expected to return to Karachi next month for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The Islamic Society called the shooting "an act of terror" and said such events "remind us as to what world we live in, where sanctity of life is not valued."

The society said it had also offered to help with the transportation of the student's body back to Pakistan, where her family will also hold a service.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner cited Sabika's desire to be a diplomat as he mourned the student.

"Even through her death, she will continue to be a diplomat. Even in her death, she is pulling the relationships between Pakistan and the United States, specifically the Houston area, even closer, " he said.

The Houston area -- about 55 kilometers from Santa Fe -- has some 60,000 people of Pakistani decent.

With reporting by AFP, USA Today, and CNN
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