A man in his 40s has been arrested and charged with murder after a suspect opened fire at a synagogue in Pittsburgh during a baby-naming ceremony. The shooting is being investigated as a federal hate crime.
A man with several guns stormed into the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the US city of Pittsburgh on Saturday, killing 11 worshipers. Six other people were injured, including four police officers who were shot at by the assailant as they entered the building, according to reports.
The synagogue is close to downtown Pittsburgh in a neighborhood that is the hub of the city's Jewish community.
Police say the suspect told officers that Jews were committing genocide and that he wanted them all to die. The man has now been charged with murder. He faces 29 criminal counts and could face the death penalty.
Baby naming ceremony
The city's public safety director, Wendell Hissrich, described the scene in the city's Squirrel Hill neighborhood as "a horrific crime scene." He added: "It’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen." The attack is being considered a hate crime and will be a federal investigation.
A "bearded heavy-set white male" in his 40s was taken into custody, according to local television station KDKA. He was taken to hospital with multiple bullet wounds he sustained after being confronted by a tactical police unit.
Saturday's shooting happened during a baby naming ceremony, according to Pennsylvanian Attorney General Josh Shapiro. It was not immediately clear whether the baby was harmed during the shooting.
The US Department of Justice announced it will file hate crime and other criminal charges against the gunman.
"Hatred and violence on the basis of religion can have no place in our society," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. "These alleged crimes are reprehensible and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation."
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'Blind anti-Semitic hatred'
US President Donald Trump, speaking at Joint Base Andrews following the shooting, condemned what he described as an act of "hate," and praised the actions of law enforcement for doing "an outstanding job."
When asked by a reporter about gun control, Trump suggested that an armed guard inside the synagogue would have been able to stop the suspect. Trump also said such shooters should receive the death penalty and "suffer the ultimate price."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel denounced the incident as "blind anti-Semitic hatred."
"We all have to stand up against anti-Semitism, everywhere," she said in a statement shared by a German government spokesman.
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Netanyahu decries shooting
The governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, who traveled to the scene of the shooting, said: "This 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."
Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, condemned the shooting in a video message posted on Twitter. "We stand together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh. We stand together with the American people in the face of this horrendous anti-Semitic brutality."
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The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the US rose 57 percent in 2017, according to a report by Jewish civil rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released earlier this year.
shs, aw, kw/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters)