Published: 2018-10-28 12:31
Last Updated: 2018-10-28 13:16
11 jews were killed and 6 injured, in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, on Saturday, October 27, 2018, in what is being called the deadliest attack on Jews, in the USA.
The gunman barricaded himself inside the synagogue as he shot at a congregation for a baby naming ceremony, during the Sabbath. He started shooting at officers arriving at the scene, forcing them to use their vehicles as shields.
Two law officers were shot in initial confrontation, and a further two SWAT officers, as soon as they entered the building. No children were among the casualties.
Eventually the gunnman surrendered to the police, after being shot multiple times, and was found to be armed with a rifle and two handguns, stripped to his waistband and ankle, police said.
He told police at the scene, that he didn’t want any of the Jews inside to live.
Reports of an explosive device in the synagogue dispatched the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit to comb through the building.
Pittsburgh's Public Safety Director, Wendell Hissrich, told reporters that the scene was "One of the worst I've seen, and I've [worked] on some plane crashes. It's very bad.”
46-year-old Robert Bowers, who frequently expressed anti-jew opinions, and is part of the social network site “Gab”, wrote prior to his killing spree: “I’m going in” “Jews are the children of Satan.” Bowers accused the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) of bringing “invaders” into the US to “kill our people”.
Bowers now faces 29 charges, with 11 counts for using a firearm to commit murder, multiple counts of two hate crimes: obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, and in bodily injury to a public safety officer.
"The crimes of violence are based upon the federal civil rights laws prohibiting hate crimes," US Attorney Scott W. Brady, and FBI special agent, Bob Jones, said in a statement.
If Bowers is convicted of hate crime, he could face death penalty.
A Jewish non-governmental organisation, The Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism, said: "We believe this is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.
The Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, has one of the largest Jewish populations in Pennsylvania, and Sabbath is the busies day of the week.
President Donald Trump called the attack a "wicked act of mass murder”.
"These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans,” Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Wolf, said in a tweet, ”this is an absolute tragedy.”
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was "heartbroken and appalled”, and said in a video message: “We stand together with the American people in the face of this horrendous anti-Semitic brutality.”
These shootings come at a tense time for the US. Last Wednesday, October 24, a white man had killed two African-Americans at a grocery store in Kentucky, following a failed attempt to barge into a black church. On the same day, 14 mail bombs were sent to critics of President Trump, ahead of mid-term elections next month.
President Trump told reporters, on Saturday that “It's a terrible, terrible thing what's going on with hate in our country and frankly all over the world.”