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Chicago baby dies after being shot in suspected gang attack

By Renita Young

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A 6-month-old girl died on Tuesday after she was shot in an apparent gang-related attack targeting her father as he changed her diaper on the front seat of a van, Chicago police said.

"This is another tragedy, because no child, certainly not an infant, should be a victim of gang violence," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told a news conference.

The death was the latest blow to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and leaders of Chicago, who have struggled for a year to curb a wave of gun violence involving gang members.

Police said baby Jonylah Watkins' father, Jonathan Watkins, stood outside of his van, using the front passenger seat as a changing table, when a gunman fired shots at the man, striking the baby girl as well.

Jonylah Watkins was shot five times and taken to Comer Children's Hospital where she was pronounced dead Tuesday morning after undergoing surgery, the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said.

Fighting among gangs has claimed a mounting toll of lives in some predominantly African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods of Chicago over the last year. Chicago surpassed 500 homicides last year for the first time since 2008, and the deadly pace continued in January with 42 but subsided a bit in February.

One of the January victims was Hadiyah Pendleton, a high school girl gunned down at a city park just days after she had traveled to Washington to perform at President Barack Obama's inauguration. First Lady Michelle Obama attended her funeral and the president came to Chicago last month to speak about gun violence and push for his gun control proposals to Congress.

Officer John Mirabelli, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, said that Jonathan Watkins, the father of the baby, may have been affiliated with a gang. After the shooting, the gunman ran into a nearby lot where a blue minivan waited for him and drove away.

"It's very clear that whoever was doing this was targeting at the father, and exclusively at the father," McCarthy confirmed.

(Editing by Greg McCune and Matthew Lewis)

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