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Obama, Romney halt campaigns after cinema shooting

21 july 2012, 14:20
US President Barack Obama and his rival Mitt Romney suspended campaigning Friday out of respect for the victims of a shocking shooting at a Colorado movie theater that left 12 people dead, AFP reports.

Obama dropped a planned re-election campaign event in Fort Myers, Florida and instead spoke there about the shooting spree at a Batman movie showing, saying the killings were "beyond reason."

He cut his appearance short and headed to the airport where he boarded Air Force One for a return to the White House.

His campaign team said they were pulling all contrast ads in Colorado, one of the key battlegrounds of the 2012 election, and Romney's team said they were taking similar action.

At least 12 people were killed and around 40 others wounded in the midnight rampage at a movie theater in the Denver area showing "The Dark Knight Rises."

Obama earlier released a statement saying he and his wife Michelle were "shocked and saddened" by the incident.

"My administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time," he said.

Obama and Romney have been engaged in a fierce race for the White House, with the campaign turning increasingly acrimonious and personal in recent weeks. But on Friday the candidates put the bruising bitterness aside.

In Florida Obama made a plea for unity, saying it would not be appropriate to hit out at his campaign rival during a period of national mourning.

"I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters that we face as a country, and the differences between myself and my opponent in this election," he said.

"But this morning, we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family."

Romney altered a event in Bow, New Hampshire, where he was expected to talk about the economy but instead made a somber, three-minute statement about the shooting and asked people to pray for the victims and their relatives.

"Our hearts break with the sadness of this unspeakable tragedy," he said.

"Ann and I join the president and the first lady and all Americans in offering our deepest condolences for those whose lives were shattered in a few moments of evil in Colorado."

He picked up on the same theme as Obama, telling his supporters that "I stand before you today not as a man running for office, but as a father and grandfather, a husband and an American."

"The answer is that we can come together. We will show our fellow citizens the good heart of the America we know and love," he said.

Romney and Obama each expressed their hope and commitment that those responsible for the crime be brought to justice.

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