11 killed in US synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh
Washington, Oct 28: 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 four policemen, in the deadliest “anti-Semitic attack” in America in years.
The shooter, Robert Bowers, 46, surrendered after he was injured during an exchange of fire with the police, according to local media reports.
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich told reporters that there were 11 fatalities and six injuries including four policemen. “This does not include the shooter,” he said, adding that there were no children among fatalities or injured.
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 baby naming ceremony when the shooting took place. The motive was not immediately known.
FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Bob Jones said the investigation was in its early stages and there was no knowledge if the shooter was known to the law enforcement till this date.
“Gunman targeted (people) because of their faith. At this time, we believe that he was acting alone,” he said.
Describing the mass shooting as “pure evil”, US President Donald Trump said the nation and the world are shocked by the unimaginable incident.
“This wicked act of mass murder is pure evil, hard to believe, and frankly something that is unimaginable. Our nation and the world are shocked and stunned by the grief. This was an anti-Semitic act,” said Trump, whose daughter Ivanka Trump is married to Jew Jarred Kushner.
“We just don’t seem to learn from the past,” he said at a farmers’ event in Indianapolis.
“Our minds cannot comprehend the cruel hate and the twisted malice that could cause a person to unleash such terrible violence during a baby naming ceremony. This was a baby naming ceremony at a sacred house of worship,” the US President 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 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.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said: “We all feel the pain of the murder of 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”.
“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,” Vice President Mike Pence 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.
“We must all rise above the hay, move past our divisions and embrace our common destiny as Americans. It doesn’t mean that we can’t fight hard and be strong and say what’s on our mind, But we have to always remember those elements of love and dignity and respect,” Trump said.
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.