Charleston - Nine people were killed when a white gunman entered a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire, the city's police chief said on Thursday.
One other person was wounded and taken to a hospital, Chief Gregory Mullen told reporters about four hours after the shooting on Wednesday evening.
Describing the shooting as a hate crime, Mullen said: "It is unfathomable that somebody in today's society would walk into a church when people are having a prayer meeting and take their lives."
He also said that an all-clear had been sounded after an earlier bomb threat in the area of the church.
Also read: Balcony collapse in California kills at least six people
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley expressed his heartbreak at the events that unfolded at the church.
"This is an unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy in this most historic church, an evil and hateful person took the lives of citizens who had come to worship and pray together," Riley told the Post and Courier newspaper in South Carolina.
Charleston Police Department spokesperson Charles Francis said the shooting occurred at the Emanuel AME Church around 21:00 local time.
Police have provided no information on victims.