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WASHINGTON: A shooting at a church in the US state of Alabama left two people dead and one wounded Thursday, police said.

It happened at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the town of Vestavia Hills and a suspect is in custody, the town’s police department said on Facebook.

The shooting took place as the church was holding a potluck dinner, the church said on its website.

Nine dead in three mass shootings across United States

Police captain Shane Ware told reporters a lone assailant entered the church and started shooting.

Three people were hit: Two have died and the other is being treated, he said.

The United States is in the midst of a particularly gruesome chapter of its epidemic of gun violence.

The most fatal case in this stretch was a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead on May 24.

Since the start of the year more than 20,000 people have died of firearm violence in the United States, according to an NGO called the Gun Violence Archive.

This includes deaths by suicide.

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