PITTSBURGH • The suspected gunman who killed 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the most deadly attack ever on the Jewish community in the United States likely acted alone, officials said yesterday.
The shooter stormed the building during a Saturday morning service, fatally shooting 11 mostly elderly people and wounding six others including four police officers, before he was arrested.
There was no indication that the suspect, 46-year-old Robert Bowers of Pittsburgh, was working with anyone else, US Attorney Scott Brady said at a news conference.
Bowers, who made statements about genocide and his desire to kill Jewish people during the rampage, will make an appearance before a judge this afternoon, Mr Brady said.
The mass shooting prompted security alerts at houses of worship around the country and condemnation from President Donald Trump, who called it an act of pure evil, as well as from politicians and religious leaders.
"We'll get through this darkest day of Pittsburgh history by working together," Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told reporters.
The Tree of Life synagogue in the city's Squirrel Hill neighbourhood was holding a baby-naming religious service when the gunman burst in, yelling "all Jews must die", reported KDKA television.
It followed a spate of pipe bombs found mailed in recent days to prominent political figures ahead of Nov 6 congressional elections.
Bowers had made many anti-Semitic posts online, including one which slammed Mr Trump for doing nothing to stop an "infestation" of the US by Jews. A social media post by Bowers on Saturday morning said 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".
Bowers surrendered after a shootout with a Swat team and was charged with 29 criminal counts including firearms offences and violating US civil rights laws.
US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions had said federal prosecutors could seek the death penalty.
The Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Council for Public Affairs described it as the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent Robert Jones said Bowers was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns. The crime scene, he added, was the worst he had seen in 22 years with the FBI.
The 11 victims ranged in age from 54 to 97, said county medical examiner Karl Williams, and included two brothers and a married couple.
Bowers was taken to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds.
Mourners held a candlelit vigil for the victims yesterday. The Islamic Centre Of Pittsburgh offered its condolences, and called on its community to donate blood.
Pope Francis condemned the attack, calling for the stamping out of "hotbeds of hate". In Jerusalem, Israel's Cabinet stood for a moment's silence yesterday to honour the victims. German Chancellor Angela Merkel denounced the act of "blind anti-Semitic hatred".
The shooting followed attacks on places of worship in recent years. In 2015, a white supremacist killed nine African Americans at a prayer service in South Carolina.
In 2014, a pair of shootings occurred at a Jewish Community Centre and a Jewish retirement community in Kansas. Three people were killed. In 2012, a neo-Nazi gunman with white supremacist ties walked into a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin and murdered six Sikh Americans.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE