Detectives are investigating whether the murder of an Indian student, who was gunned down in the street as he visited a city with friends, was racially motivated.
The 23-year-old victim, a postgraduate electronics student at Lancaster University, was part of a group of nine male and female Indian students who were visiting Manchester for a short break over the Christmas holidays.
As they walked from their hotel in Salford towards Manchester city centre in the early hours of Boxing Day, they were stopped by a man who began a short conversation with the victim before taking out a handgun and blasting him at close range.
The student, who has not been named, collapsed to the ground and was taken to hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
His family in India have been informed.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said it was an “awful” and “unprovoked” attack and pledged to “leave no stone unturned” in the hunt for the killer.
Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan, divisional commander for Salford, said: “This is a tragic incident and our first thoughts are for the family.
“There is going to be a huge amount of concern in the community and I can reassure the family and the community by telling them we have launched a major investigation and no stone will be left unturned until we find the people who are responsible for this.”
Mr Mulligan said a racial motive was not being ruled out, adding: “We are investigating every possible aspect.”
Armed response units were called to Ordsall Lane, Salford, at about 1.35am yesterday following the shooting, which took place a short walk from the hotel where the students were staying.
They had been walking towards the city centre and became aware of two men on foot on the other side of the street.
The gunman, a white male in his 20s who was wearing a grey top, crossed the road and engaged the victim in a short conversation before producing the gun and shooting the student in the side of the head.
The killer then ran back across the street before the pair fled towards Asgard Drive and the Ordsall housing estate.
The other man was of a heavier build and wearing a black jacket, police said.
The scene was yesterday sealed off for forensic examinations while officers were conducting increased patrols of the area.
Initial witness statements have been taken from the other eight students who were yesterday “in a safe place” being cared for by police until they return to university, police said.
Ch Supt Mulligan made a direct appeal for the killer and his accomplice to give themselves up: “You need to surrender yourselves to the police as soon as possible.
He added: “This was an awful attack which appeared to be unprovoked on a young student who was just going about his business.
“The sooner they hand themselves in the better because we will find them in due course.”
Lancaster University is expected to issue a statement on the murder later today.
Anyone with information is asked to call the incident room on 0161 856 5448 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
The attack took place just a few hundred yards from a pub where there was a fatal shooting in September.
Yesterday Mr Mulligan said, at this stage, that there was no connection between the two incidents.
He added: “There is bound to be anxiety in the community about this but we have got an increased police presence in the area, we have got a thorough investigation going on and we have done a huge amount to bring down crime in the area.
“I don’t want to detract from the seriousness of this incident but violent crime in the city is down overall and it seems rather crass to discuss that at this point but it’s important to say that, generally, Salford and Manchester are safe places to be.”