Suspect in custody after deadly Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

A suspect has been taken into custody in Pittsburgh, in the US state of Pennsylvania, after a shooting that caused “multiple casualties” at a synagogue, according to police.

At least three police officers were shot in Saturday’s incident inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighbourhood, said Chris Togneri, police spokesperson.

It was not clear what the condition of the officers was.

The local CBS affiliate reported that eight people were confirmed dead, while Fox put the death toll at four.

Local television station KDKA said the suspect in custody was a “white male”. A law enforcement official, who spoke to The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity, identified the detainee as Robert Bowers, a man in his 40s.

Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh’s Public Safety Director, said there was no more active threat to the community.

Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, reporting from Washington, DC, said the shots began at about 10am local time as worshipers were gathering for Sabbath (Saturday) services.

“There were perhaps 60 to 100 people inside there,” he said.

Local TV news footage showed police at the location with rifles [Gene J Puskar/AP]

The Tree of Life synagogue describes itself on its website as a traditional, progressive and egalitarian congregation. Few other details were immediately available.

Local TV news footage showed police at that location with rifles and wearing helmets and other tactical gear.

Paramedics also were stationed near the synagogue and police vehicles were blocking some streets in the area.

US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to say he was watching events in Pittsburgh: “Looks like multiple fatalities. Beware of active shooter. God bless all!”

Later, he told reporters: “It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country frankly, and all over the world. Something has to be done. When people do this, they should get the death penalty.”

The tree-lined residential neighbourhood of Squirrel Hill close to the city centre is the hub of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf called the shooting an “absolute tragedy”.

“We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life,” Wolf said. “But we have been saying ‘this one is too many’ for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way.”

Saturday’s shooting incident is the latest in the United States, where firearms are linked to more than 30,000 deaths annually.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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