Pittsburgh attack: Suspect Robert Bowers held anti-Semitic views, social media account full of conspiracy theories

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Two hours prior to the shooting, Robert Bowers posted about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a non-profit organisation that helps Jewish refugees relocate to the United States. (AP) Two hours prior to the shooting, Robert Bowers posted about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a non-profit organisation that helps Jewish refugees relocate to the United States. (AP)

In a deadly “anti-Semitic attack”, at least 11 people were killed and several were injured after a gunman opened fire at Pittsburgh synagogue during a religious service on Saturday. The suspect, who has been identified as Robert Bowers was immediately taken into custody after he traded gunfire with the policemen and was shot several times.

Who is Robert Bowers?

– The 46-year-old, a resident of Pittsburgh who had apparently no criminal record, held and expressed virulently anti-Semitic views on a social media site called Gab. The cover photo of this social media account featured a neo-Nazi symbol while his posts were filled with slurs and conspiracy theories. The accused’s recent post included a photo of a fiery oven, similar to the ones used in Nazi concentration camps to cremate Jews during World War II.

– Two hours prior to the shooting, Bowers posted about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a non-profit organisation that helps Jewish refugees relocate to the United States. “HIAS 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,” he had posted on the social media site.

– The accused also had an active firearms license and had made at least six known gun purchases since 1996, a law enforcement official familiar with the ongoing probe into the case told CNN. He had no criminal record and was unknown to the police.

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– A registered voter with “no affiliation” in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Bowers, in one of his social media posts, had targeted President Donald Trump and accused him of being a “globalist” who made no efforts to stop the “infestation” of the United States by Jews.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump condemned the attack at the synagogue and urged the residents of Squirrel Hill to remain indoors in the wake of the attack. Taking to Twitter, he said, “Watching the events unfolding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Law enforcement on the scene. People in Squirrel Hill area should remain sheltered. Looks like multiple fatalities. Beware of active shooter. God Bless All!”

Trump also ordered that American flags at the White House be flown at half-staff on October 31. All flags at the White House, public grounds, military posts, naval stations and ships will be flown at half-staff through October 31 as a mark of “solemn respect” for the victims, the President ordered.

Local media reports said that 11 people were killed while six others, including three policemen, were injured in the incident. The FBI is investigating the attack as a “hate crime”.

(With agency inputs)

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