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Texas church shooting leaves at least 26 dead

Twenty-six people are dead after a gunman opened fire during a service at a Texas church, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Sunday.

Abbott said the attack at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas was the “largest mass shooting in the state’s history.”

Some 20 people had been transported to local hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to severe, authorities said.

The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72.

Authorities did not identify any of the victims, but Pastor Frank Pomeroy said his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was among the dead.

Frank Pomeroy and his wife were out of town and not at the services Sunday, he told ABC News.

The gunman was seen at a local gas station across from the church at 11:20 am (1720 GMT) dressed in black and wearing tactical gear before crossing the street and firing his weapon outside the church, said Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

He continued to fire as he entered the church, killing two people outside the building and 23 inside. Another person later died in hospital, Martin said.

A local resident stopped the gunman, ending the carnage at the church, Martin said.

The resident grabbed his rifle and rushed to the First Baptist Church, where he “engaged” the gunman. The suspect then dropped his gun and fled in his car.

He was pursued by the local resident and was later found dead by police in his car, Martin said. It was unclear whether the gunman had killed himself or if he was shot by the pursuing citizen.

Local authorities did not identify the gunman, but local media said he was Devin Kelley, 26, of nearby New Braunfels, Texas.

Police were investigating a motive for the attack.

US President Donald Trump said he was following developments in the apparent mass shooting from Japan, where he meeting with Japanese officials as part of a five nation Asia tour.

“May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan,” Trump wrote on Twitter from Tokyo.

Abbott said he had spoken with the president.

The incident occurred at the small First Baptist Church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, which is home to fewer than 700 people about 56 kilometres outside San Antonio.

Local residents expressed shock that such an attack could occur in their small, close-knit community.

Pastor Paul Buford of another area church told reporters the community consists of just two petrol stations, two churches, a post office and a Dollar General discount store.

“We’re holding up as well as we can. We’re a strong community. We’re strong in our faith,” he said. “We are strong in believing that anyone who was killed there in the the church is with the Lord.”

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