Our Shock And Grief - Dylann Roof Family

The family of Dylann Roof have extended their deepest sympathies to families of the Charleston shooting victims and expressed shock and grief.

The suspected Charleston gunman's family said in a statement they are "devastated and saddened".

"Words cannot express our shock, grief, and disbelief as to what happened that night," the statement said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed this week. We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims' families offering God's forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering."

During a court hearing earlier on Friday, relatives of some of the nine victims of the shooting said they forgave the suspect.

The 21-year-old Roof is accused of killing nine worshippers during a Bible group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

All victims were black, and Roof, who is white, is said to have planned a race attack for months , but was not taken seriously, according to a friend.

He feared "blacks were taking over the country" and talked about segregation, said his friend Joey Meek.

Authorities are investigating the shooting as a hate crime and as a possible "act of domestic terrorism".

"Our hope and prayer is for peace and healing for the families of the victim, the Charleston community, and those touched by these events throughout the state of South Carolina and our nation," said the statement by Roof's family.

Roof has not spoken during the hearing, except for answering briefly the judge's questions. Reports said he had confessed, but police have not confirmed the reports.

The suspect, who is unemployed, has been described in US media as a loner and has had previous run-ins with the law.

A photograph on Roof's Facebook page shows him dressed in a jacket adorned with the flags of Apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Barack Obama said racism remains a "blight" that the US has to "combat together".

The President also reiterated his support for gun control legislation, saying tragedies like the one in South Carolina call for a response beyond grief.