Washington: A gunman on Saturday opened fire at a Jewish synagogue in the US city of Pittsburgh, killing at least 11 people and injuring several others including three policemen, in the deadliest “anti-Semitic attack” in America in years.
Shooter Robert Bowers, 46, surrendered after he was injured during an exchange of fire with the police, according to local media reports.
Though officials are yet to come out with an official toll, local media reports said that 11 people have been killed while six others including three policemen injured in the incident.
The shooter, described as a white, heavy set with beard, was being questioned and treated at hospital. The FBI is investigating this as a “hate crime”. Before opening fire, he reportedly yelled, “All Jews must die!”
FBI agents reached the ‘Tree of Life’ Congregation Synagogue at Squirrel Hill area in Pittsburgh, where a large number of people had gathered for a morning service when the shooting took place. The motive was not immediately known.
President Donald Trump described this as a devastating situation.
“Events in Pittsburgh are far more devastating than originally thought,” Trump said as he reiterated that those responsible for such mass shooting be given death penalty.
He was considering cancelling an election campaign rally in Illinois in the aftermath of the shooting that has shocked all Americans.
“What happened today is a horrible, horrible thing. It looks definitely like it’s an anti-Semitic crime. That is something you wouldn’t believe could still be going on,” Trump told reporters after he stepped off Air Force One in Indianapolis.
“It would seem to be an anti-Semitic crime,” said Trump, whose daughter Ivanka Trump is married to Jew Jarred Kushner.
“A lot of people killed, a lot of people very badly wounded. They say as a crime scene it’s one of the worst that some professionals that have seen many many crime scenes, they say it’s one of the worst,” Trump said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “I was heartbroken and appalled by the murderous attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue today”.
According to NBC news, shooter Bowers was armed with an AR-15 style rifle in addition to multiple handguns.
In his multiple social media accounts, Bowers showed his anti-Jew sentiment in particular vented his anger against Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society or HIAS.
“HIAS likes to bring invaders to kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughters. Screw your optics, I am going in,” he said on the social media platform Gab, an alternative version of Twitter.
In another Gab message, Bowers said that he did not vote for Trump, nor did he ever wore a cap of MAGA (make America great again).
The shooting came days after recovery of a series of package bombs sent to several present and former high-ranking officials.
Prominent among them include former president Barack Obama, ex-vice president Joe Biden, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Indian-origin US Senator Kamala Harris.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said: “We all feel the pain of the murder of eight Jews at a Shabbat service. We will stand together like a rock against hatred and against those who try to harm Jews all over the world. I send condolences to the families of the murdered and a speedy recovery for the wounded. The entire Jewish people now stands alongside the Jewish community of Pittsburgh”.
Ivanka said: “America is stronger than the acts of a depraved bigot and anti-semite. All good Americans stand with the Jewish people to oppose acts of terror & share the horror, disgust & outrage over the massacre in Pittsburgh. We must unite against hatred & evil”.
“Praying for the fallen, the injured, all the families impacted, and our courageous first responders. God bless them all,” Vice President Mike Pence said.
“What happened in Pittsburgh today was not just criminal – it was evil – an attack on innocent Americans and an assault on our Freedom of Religion. There’s no place in America for violence or anti-Semitism, and this evil must end,” he said.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in a statement said that this violent attack is the “deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the United States since 2014”.
“It is simply unconscionable for Jews to be targeted during worship on a Sabbath morning, and unthinkable that it would happen in the United States of America in this day and age,” it said.
According to Michael Eisenberg, past president of Tree of Life Synagogue, the shooting happened during weekly Shabbat services at the Jewish synagogue. At the time, three simultaneous congregation services were taking place.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said: “The shooting in Pittsburgh this morning is an absolute tragedy…These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans. My thoughts right now are focused on the victims, their families and making sure law enforcement has every resource they need. We cannot accept this violence as normal”.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum strongly condemned it and reminded all Americans of the dangers of unchecked hatred and anti-semitism which must be confronted wherever they appear and called on all Americans to actively work to promote social solidarity and respect the dignity of all individuals.
“My heart goes out to the Jewish community of Pittsburgh and to the families broken apart by this senseless tragedy,” Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said.