Pittsburgh officials on Saturday said 11 people were killed and six others were injured when a man opened fire during a baby naming ceremony at a synagogue
Pittsburgh: A gunman barged into a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday and opened fire, killing 11 people in one of the deadliest attacks on Jews in US history.
Pittsburgh officials on Saturday said 11 people were killed and six others were injured when a man opened fire during a baby naming ceremony at a synagogue.
The gunman is believed to have spewed anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media.
The attack, which lasted 20 minutes at Tree of Life Congregation left six others wounded, including four police officers who dashed to the scene.
The suspect, who was identified as Robert Bowers, traded gunfire with police and was shot several times.
Bowers, who was in fair condition at a hospital, was charged late Saturday with 29 federal counts, including hate crimes and weapons offenses. It wasn’t immediately known if Bowers had an attorney to speak on his behalf.
“Please know that justice, in this case, will be swift and it will be severe,” Scott Brady, the chief federal prosecutor in western Pennsylvania, said at a news conference, characterizing the slaughter as a “terrible and unspeakable act of hate.”
The mass shooting came amid a rash of high-profile attacks in an increasingly divided country, one day after a Florida man was arrested and charged with mailing a series of pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and little more than a week before the midterm elections.
The killings also immediately reignited the longstanding national debate about guns: President Donald Trump said the outcome might have been different if the synagogue “had some kind of protection” from an armed guard, while Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf noted that once again “dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way.”
Authorities say that just before 10 am, Bower entered the large synagogue with an assault-style rifle and three handguns. Three separate congregations were conducting Sabbath services in different areas of the large building, according to Michael Eisenberg, the immediate past president of the Tree of Life. The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office said it was told by victims that a brit milah — a ritual circumcision ceremony at which a baby boy also receives his Hebrew name — was also taking place, though law enforcement officials later said no children were among the dead or wounded.
The survivors included Daniel Leger, 70, a nurse and hospital chaplain who was in critical condition after undergoing surgery, his brother, Paul Leger, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Daniel Leger was scheduled to lead a service Saturday morning, he said.
The mass shooting raised immediate alarm in Jewish communities around the country. Authorities in New York City, Chicago and elsewhere increased security at Jewish centres.
Bowers, who had no apparent criminal record, expressed virulently anti-Semitic views on a social media site called Gab, according to an Associated Press review of an archived version of the posts made under his name. The cover photo for his account featured a neo-Nazi symbol, and his recent posts included a photo of a fiery oven like those used in Nazi concentration camps used to cremate Jews during World War II.
Other posts referenced false conspiracy theories suggesting the Holocaust — in which an estimated 6 million Jews perished — was a hoax. He wrote of a Jewish “infestation,” using a slur for Jews.
Gab confirmed Bowers had a profile on its website, which is popular with far-right extremists.
Before the shooting, the poster believed to be Bowers also wrote that “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
HIAS is a nonprofit group that helps refugees around the world find safety and freedom. The organization says it is guided by Jewish values and history.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, said the group believes Saturday’s attack was the deadliest on the Jewish community in US history.
With agency inputs
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Last Updated Oct 28, 2018, 11:00 AM IST