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At least 8 killed in shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue; suspect in custody

The gunman, a white man, was in custody. He was identified as Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old local man. He used a military-style AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, which has been in multiple mass shootings, and a handgun.

world Updated: Oct 28, 2018 01:03 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
First responders surround the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where a shooter opened fire Saturday.(AP Photo)

At least 8 people were killed in a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburg shortly after it opened for Shabbat services Saturday, a holy day for Jewish people, and six people were wounded, including police officers.

The gunman, said to be a white man, was in custody. He was identified as Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old local man from Pittsburg. And he used a military-style semi-automatic assault rifle AR-15, which has been to have been used in multiple mass-shootings, and a handgun.

The suspect opened fire at the congregation at around 10:30, came out and exchanged fire with police officers before he was arrested, after suffering a bullet injury himself.

Bowers has reportedly posted anti-semitic comments on his social media accounts, and is reported to have used them also during the shooting. In one post on Twitter, before the account was taken down, he had railed against an organization that aids in immigration of Jewish people.

The synagogue, called the Tree of Life at Squirrel Hill, which has a large Jewish community in Pittsburg, was also hosting a “bris”, naming ceremony of a newborn boy.

Local officials described the scene inside the synagogue as “very bad” and said the shooting will be treated as a hate-crime.

It’s “a terrible thing what’s going … in our country,” President Donald Trump said to reporters. But when asked if it was time to take a look at gun laws, he said the tragedy might have been averted if there was an armed guard — “some kind of protection” — inside the synagogue, in line with what has said before about other such mass shootings. He suggested arming teachers after a mass shooting at a Florida school.

The president also said killers such as the one involved in the Saturday shooting should be given the death punishment, and soon.

.Anti-Defamation League, a body that fights anti-semitism in the United States, has said the number of anti-Semitic incidents shot up by 57% in 2017, which the body said was the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since 1979, when the body was funded.

“The sharp rise was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.started,” it has said in its annual report.

ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote on Twitter: “We are devastated. Jews targeted on Shabbat morning at synagogue, a holy place of worship, is unconscionable. Our hearts break for the victims, their families, and the entire Jewish community.”

First Published: Oct 27, 2018 20:47 IST