NEW YORK (AFP) - A firefight that left six people dead in the United States is believed to have been motivated by anti-Semitism, an official said on Wednesday (Dec 11), confirming that the assailants targeted a kosher grocery store.
Two shooters stormed the deli in New York suburb Jersey City with rifles, killing two customers, a cashier and a police officer before they died in a hail of police gunfire.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said that while it was still difficult to ascribe a precise motive, analysis of surveillance footage from showed a targeted murder.
"Last night after extensive review of our CCTV system it has now become clear from the cameras that these two individuals targeted the kosher grocery," Fulop posted on Twitter.
"I'm Jewish and proud to live in a community like #JerseyCity that has always welcomed everyone... Hate and anti-semitism have never had a place here in JC and will never have a place in our city," he added.
Hundreds of police from New Jersey and New York, including tactical officers armed with rifles and wearing olive-green fatigues and helmets, were deployed during the hours-long drama.
'CLEARLY THEIR TARGET'
James Shea, Jersey City's director of public safety, told reporters that even though the shooters crossed paths with many people on their way from the cemetery "they bypassed them" to attack the kosher market.
"That was clearly their target," he said.
An anonymous source told The New York Times that one of the still unidentified shooters had published an anti-Semitic and anti-police online manifesto ahead of the shooting.
Investigators reportedly also discovered a home-made bomb and a brief note in their van, which did not give a clear explanation for the rampage, although NBC News said the note had a "religious" content.
Fulop paid tribute to the city police who battled the two shooters.
"Had the 2 JCPD officers on the foot post one block south not responded immediately and had they not run TOWARDS the gun fire I'm 100% certain that this situation would have been far more tragic than what it already is," he tweeted.
One of those officers was the one killed in the firefight, while two others were wounded and hospitalised briefly.
'HIGH ALERT' IN NYC
Jersey City police chief Michael Kelly said late on Tuesday that the shooting began in a cemetery, and the shooters then moved to the grocery store.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the shooting "tragically confirms that a growing pattern of violent anti-Semitism has now turned into a crisis for our nation."
This threat "has reached the doorstep of New York City," he wrote.
"Although there is no credible or specific threat directed against New York City, I have directed the NYPD to assume a state of high alert," de Blasio tweeted.
He said that city police were "being redeployed to protect key locations in the Jewish community."
New York is home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel.
Attacks against Jewish targets have been on the rise in the past years across the United States, especially in the densely populated New York metropolitan area.
A report in April from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) stated that the number of anti-Semitic attacks in 2018 was close to the record of 2017, with 1,879 incidents.
Last year a white supremacist walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue, and killed 11 people, the deadliest attack ever committed against the Jewish community in the United States.