Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Worst anti-Semitic attack rocks US




Worst anti-Semitic attack rocks US

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People gather outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh after a shooting there left 11 people dead on Saturday. AFp

Worst anti-Semitic attack rocks US

A man suspected of bursting into a Pittsburgh synagogue during a baby-naming ceremony and gunning down 11 people has been charged with murder, in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in recent US history.

The suspect – identified as a 46-year-old Robert Bowers – reportedly yelled “All Jews must die” as he sprayed bullets into the Tree of Life synagogue during Sabbath services on Saturday before exchanging fire with police, in an attack that also wounded six people.

He was taken into custody and transferred to hospital before being charged by US prosecutors over the bloodshed, including 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder and 11 counts of obstructing the exercise of religion resulting in death.

President Donald Trump denounced “a wicked act of mass murder”, while his daughter Ivanka, a convert to Judaism, declared: “America is stronger than the acts of a depraved bigot and anti-Semite.”

“This evil anti-Semitic attack is an assault on all of us,” Trump told supporters at an election rally in Illinois, where he drew loud cheers as he vowed to fully enforce the death penalty for such crimes.

“We must stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters to defeat anti-Semitism and vanquish the forces of hate.”

Trump said he would soon travel to Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, where hundreds held a candlelit vigil late on Saturday.

The president ordered all flags at the White House and at public grounds, military posts and naval stations to be flown at half-staff through October 31 as a mark of “solemn respect” for the victims.

Stephen Weiss, a 60-year-old member of the congregation, described hearing dozens of shots coming from the synagogue’s front lobby.

“We had services going on in the chapel when we heard a loud noise,” he told the Tribune-Review newspaper. “I recognised it as gunshots.”

Authorities said Bowers was armed with an assault rifle and at least three handguns when he opened fire shortly before 10:00am (9pm in Cambodia) on Saturday.

Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh’s public safety director described the scene after the attack as “horrific”.

“One of the worst that I’ve seen. I’ve been on plane crashes,” said Hissrich, who confirmed that 11 people were killed, and six injured.

No children were among the casualties.

“Hate Has No Home Here,” read a placard in a simple memorial, next to a heart-shaped US flag – the same slogan was repeated in Hebrew and Arabic, with candles and bouquets of pink roses and carnations.

“It’s sickening. Outside of just the evil factor of it, who wakes up on a Saturday morning to do that?” said Pittsburgh chef Nathan, 42, who came to pay his respects but refused to give his second name.

The US is witnessing a sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents, surging 57 per cent from 2016 to last year, to 1,986 from 1,267, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group which has tracked anti-Semitism in the US since the 1970s.

The ADL said it believes the Pittsburgh shooting to be the deadliest such attack in US history.

“We are devastated,” said the group’s head Jonathan Greenblatt. “Our hearts break for the victims, their families, and the entire Jewish community.”

Bowers, who the FBI said was not previously known to law enforcement, appeared to be the author of a rash of anti-Semitic online posts, notably on the Gab.com website, where conspiracy theories are common.

A quote atop the Bowers page said “jews are the children of satan,” according to screenshots of the now-suspended account released by the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist movements.

Bowers faces a total of 29 charges, which authorities said could carry the death penalty.

“The crimes of violence are based upon the federal civil rights laws prohibiting hate crimes,” a US prosecutor statement said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • PM dispels lockdown rumours, gifts masks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on November 12 denied rumours that he will lock down the country in response to increased Covid-19 fears, referring to them as propaganda aimed at destabilising the country. In a Facebook post, he said some people had spread rumours that the government

  • SilkAir adds flight to Phnom Penh schedule

    Silkair (Singapore) Pte Ltd is increasing its flight frequency between Phnom Penh and Singapore with a third weekly flight on Saturdays, according to Cambodia Airports’ Facebook page. The other flights offered are on Tuesdays and Sundays, with an estimated Phnom Penh arrival time at 5:35pm