US Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday called the shooting that killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue an “attack on all people of faith”, saying targeting people because of their religion will not be tolerated.
His remarks, quoted by The Associated Press, came during a discussion in Boston on the importance of protecting religious freedom.
“This was not just an attack on the Jewish faith. It was an attack on all people of faith. It was an attack on America’s values of protecting those of faith,” Sessions said at the event hosted by the Boston chapter of the Federalist Society at the Omni Parker House.
The shooter, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, alluded to his impending attack in a social media post in which he declared he was “going in”.
"HIAS [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,” Bowers wrote.
During the 20-minute shooting attack on the synagogue, which took place during a circumcision ceremony, Bowers fired on congregants and guests with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and three handguns. Thirteen people were shot inside the Tree of Life synagogue, 11 of them fatally.
Bowers reportedly made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting, and shouted that “All Jews must die”.
Federal prosecutors said Sunday they would be asking Sessions to give them the green light to pursue a death penalty case against Bowers.
Sessions, who has not said whether he will approve the request, told the crowd Monday Bowers will “be subjected to the death penalty, perhaps.”