A photo of suspect Robert Bowers.
A photo of suspect Robert Bowers. Supplied

Terrorist behind synagogue mass shooting linked to alt-right

UPDATE: AT LEAST 11 people have been killed after a terrorist opened fire at a suburban Pittsburgh synagogue.

Police have arrested Robert Bowers, 46, over the incident, with the deadly shooting being treated as a hate crime. Police found an assault rifle and three handguns at the crime scene.

Republican politicians said the shooter should be given the death penalty, but have denied the need for greater gun control. Six people were injured, with two in a critical condition.

And just minutes before the first the deadly act occurred, the suspect made a sinister post on an alt-right social network.

First responders surround the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  Picture:  AP
First responders surround the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Picture: AP

Authorities said there were "multiple casualties" at the Tree of Life Synagogue, where hundreds were reportedly gathered for a morning service, which included a baby naming ceremony.

Just five minutes before the shocking crime was committed, Bowers made an ominous post on Gab, a social network site that has found popularity among the alt-right community and advocates for free speech.

"HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in," the Gab user posted.

This is the second terrorist attack in a week after bombs were sent to progressive leaders by a man now known as the MAGAbomber.
This is the second terrorist attack in a week after bombs were sent to progressive leaders by a man now known as the MAGAbomber. Gab

Multiple witnesses reported the gunman walked into the building and yelled, "All Jews must die."

Police engaged in a shootout with the suspect, who reportedly barricaded himself in the third floor of the temple. It's understood he surrendered to police while crawling and injured before being taken into custody.

He often made anti-Semitic social media posts, and had once claimed Jews were helping transport members of the migrant caravans.

Just a month earlier, Bowers shared details of his "glock family" on Gab.

Six others were injured in the shooting, four of who where police officers. Two are in a critical condition.

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said outside the synagogue that the scene inside was "horrific".

"I've (seen) some plane crashes. This is one of the worst (crime scenes) I've seen."

Witnesses who called 911 said the gunman walked into the synagogue and opened fire.

The gunman reportedly killed three people on the ground level, four in the synagogue's basement and at least one other person before fleeing to the third floor where he exchanged gun fire with police before surrendering.

The Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Picture: Supplied
The Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Picture: Supplied

EARLIER: AT least eight people have been killed after a gunman opened fire at a suburban Pittsburgh synagogue.

Authorities said there were "multiple casualties" at the Tree of Life Synagogue, where hundreds were reportedly gathered for a morning service, which included a baby naming ceremony.

The gunman reportedly surrendered to police while crawling and injured and is now in custody.

CBS News said law enforcement sources had confirmed the man's identity as 46-year-old Robert Bowers.

A SWAT team arrives at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  Picture:  AP
A SWAT team arrives at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Picture: AP

Police sources told KDKA the gunman walked into the building and yelled, "all Jews must die."

Three police officers are among those injured.

"We have three officers who have been shot and at this point we have no more information because we are still clearing the building," a police spokesman said at the scene.

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said outside the synagogue that the scene inside was "horrific".

"I've [seen] some plane crashes. This is one of the worst [crime scenes] I've seen."

People gather on a corner near the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  Picture:  AP
People gather on a corner near the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Picture: AP

Witnesses who called 911 said the gunman walked into the synagogue and opened fire.

The gunman reportedly killed three people on the ground level, four in the synagogue's basement and at least one other person before fleeing to the third floor where he exchanged gun fire with police before surrendering.

Police respond to a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on Wildins Avenue in the Squirrel Hill neighbourhood of Pittsburgh.  Picture:  AP
Police respond to a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on Wildins Avenue in the Squirrel Hill neighbourhood of Pittsburgh. Picture: AP

US President Donald Trump quickly called for the death penalty for the shooter.

"When people do this they should get the death penalty," he said. "They should pay the ultimate price."

He rejected suggestions that tougher gun laws may have prevented the massacre, saying if the temple had been armed "the results would have been far better."

Vice President Mike Pence said that the shooting was "evil".

"What happened in Pittsburgh today was not just criminal. It was evil. An attack on innocent Americans and an assault on our freedom of religion," he said.

"There is no place in America for violence or anti-Semitism and this evil must end."

The Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue is in Pittsburgh.  Picture:  Supplied
The Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue is in Pittsburgh. Picture: Supplied

Police Commander Jason Lando ordered residents to avoid the area.

"It is imperative that the neighbors in the community surrounding the Tree of Life synagogue stay in their houses and shelter in place," Commander Lando said.

"Do not come out of your home right now. It is not safe."

The shooting started about 10.20am, about half an hour into a service in the densely populated historic Jewish neighbourhood of Squirrel Hill.

Local man Fred Rabner, who is a regular attendee of the Saturday morning service, described the Tree of Life as a close-knit congregation.

"This is a small community," he said.

"Undoubtedly all of us will know who those congregants" who have been killed, he said.

Mr Rabner said there had been previous anti-Semitic attacks on the synagogue.

He said a rabbi had previously been shot and a swastika painted there.

"This is our turn and its just another in a very long line of shootings and tragedies and it just has to stop, we gotta do something," Mr Rabner said on CNN.

First responders arrive at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  Picture:  AP
First responders arrive at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Picture: AP


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