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Gunman attacks Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people

Published: Updated:

A gunman who’s believed to have spewed anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media barged into a baby-naming ceremony at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday and opened fire, killing 11 people in one of the deadliest attacks on Jews in US history.

The 20-minute attack at Tree of Life Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood left at least six others wounded, including four police officers who dashed to the scene, authorities said.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, traded gunfire with police and was shot several times. Bowers, who was in fair condition at a hospital, was expected to face federal hate-crime charges.

“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 late-afternoon news conference, characterizing the slaughter as a “terrible and unspeakable act of hate.”

Pittsburgh shooter robert bowers
Pittsburgh shooter robert bowers

The shooting came amid a rash of high-profile attacks in an increasingly divided country, including the series of pipe bombs mailed over the past week to prominent Democrats and former officials.

The shooting 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.”

Bob Jones, head of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office, said that worshippers “were brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith,” though he cautioned the shooter’s full motive was not yet known.

SWAT police officers respond after a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Reuters)
SWAT police officers respond after a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Reuters)

The social media site Gab.com said the alleged shooter had a profile on its website, which is popular with far-right extremists. The company said the account was verified after the shooting and matched the name of the gunman.

A man with the same name posted on Gab before the shooting 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.”