A gunman opened fire on Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in the US city of Pittsburgh on Saturday, leaving 11 people dead in what appeared to be one of the worst anti-Semitic attacks in American history.
The shooter — identified by media as a 46-year-old white man — reportedly yelled anti-Jewish slurs as he launched the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue during a baby naming ceremony.
US media report that he was later taken into police custody and transferred to hospital as federal investigators said they were treating the attack as a hate crime.
Multiple US media identified the shooter as Pittsburgh resident Rob Bowers, whose online posts were reportedly rife with anti-Semitic comments.
President Donald Trump hit out at a climate of “hate” in America and beyond — while his daughter Ivanka, a convert to Judaism, denounced a “depraved” attack and Vice President Mike Pence called it “an assault on our freedom of religion.”
“There must be no tolerance for anti-Semitism,” the president told supporters at a campaign event for next month’s midterm elections. “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.”
As police cars, ambulances and a SWAT team surrounded the synagogue in the historically Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh’s public safety director, confirmed “multiple fatalities” and at least six people injured including four police officers whose condition was not immediately clear.
“The scene is very bad inside,” Hissrich said. “It’s a very horrific crime scene, one of the worst that I’ve seen, I’ve been on plane crashes. It’s very bad.”
The attack comes at a time of sharp tensions in the United States — a day after a Trump supporter from Florida was arrested for mailing explosive devices to a series of Democratic figures, setting the country on edge ahead of close-fought midterm elections on November 6.