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Nation, world stunned by synagogue shootings

Mourners react during a memorial service Sunday at the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Hall at the University of Pittsburgh, a day after 11 worshippers were shot dead at a synagogue in the city. [Photo/Agencies]

Suspected gunman murdered 11, wounded 6, could face death penalty

She lived to be almost 100 before her life and those of 10 others were violently taken in a house of worship on Saturday.

Ruth Mallinger, 97, was among the 11 people murdered by a gunman at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in what has been called the deadliest attack ever on the Jewish community in the United States.

Chuck Diamond, who had been a rabbi at the temple, told NPR that although Mallinger “was in her 90s … she was one of the younger ones among us, I have to tell you, in terms of her spirit. Rose was wonderful.”

A heavily armed gunman, identified as Robert Bowers, 46, of Pittsburgh, stormed the synagogue in the prominently Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill during a service. The gunman also wounded six others, including four police officers, before he was shot multiple times by police before surrendering.

Authorities believed that after the shootings, Bowers encountered a police officer. The pair exchanged gunfire, and Bowers re-entered the building before a SWAT team arrived.

Bowers, who had made numerous anti-Semitic posts online, has been charged with federal hate crimes and could face the death penalty. He will appear before a judge on Monday, US Attorney Scott Brady said.

The other dead were identified as brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal, ages 54 and 59; Sylvan Simon, 86, and his wife Bernice Simon, 84; Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88 and Irving Younger, 69.

“We are truly all family in the Pittsburgh Jewish community, so these deaths have affected all of us as would a death in one’s nuclear family,” said Jeffrey Finkelstein, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. “It’s real once you hear the names.”

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that the killings might have been prevented if an armed guard were present. Synagogue officials said police provide security only on high holidays.

But Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said: “The approach that we need to be looking at is how we take the guns, which is the common denominator of every mass shooting in America, out of the hands of those that are looking to express hatred through murder.”

There were close to 2,000 incidents motivated by anti-Semitism in 2017, 57 percent more than in the previous year, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

In a haunting post by Bowers on social media site Gab.com on Saturday morning, he wrote that the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society “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.”

In another post, he said Trump has done nothing to stop an “infestation” of the US by Jews.

Gab.com said that when it learned of Bowers’ profile, it took “swift and proactive” action to contact law enforcement. The site, which promotes itself as a free-speech alternative to Twitter and has been popular with the alt-right, said it “unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence”.

In Israel on Sunday, cabinet ministers stood for a moment of silence. In Vatican City, Pope Francis said, “All of us, in reality, are wounded by this inhuman act of violence.”

Reuters contributed to this story.


 



 
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