JERSEY CITY: People working at the site of the attack on Wednesday.—AP
JERSEY CITY: People working at the site of the attack on Wednesday.—AP

JERSEY CITY: Six people were killed in a furious clash between gunmen and police in Jersey City, New Jersey, on Tuesday, with the mayor saying the outlaws clearly targeted a Jewish market, fuelling growing suspicions the bloodshed was an anti-Semitic attack.

But mayor Steven Fulop refused to call it an anti-Semitic attack, saying surveillance video showed the gunmen driving slowly through the city’s streets and then stopping outside a kosher grocery store, where they calmly got out of their van and immediately opened fire.

Neither the state attorney general, who is investigating the assault, nor any other law enforcement authority has confirmed the shooters targeted Jews.

City Public Safety Director James Shea said on Tuesday there was no indication it was terrorism. And police released no immediate information on the killers.

A police officer, three bystanders and the killers all died in the violence on Tuesday afternoon in the city of 270,000 people across the Hudson River from New York City.

The shooting began near a cemetery, where Detective Joseph Seals, a 40-year-old member of a unit devoted to taking illegal guns off the street, was killed while trying to stop “bad guys”, Police Chief Michael Kelly said without elaborating.

The killers then drove a stolen rental van over a mile to the kosher market, where they used high-powered rifle fire in a drawn-out battle with police that filled the streets with the sound of heavy gunfire and turned the city into what looked like a war zone, with SWAT officers in full tactical gear swarming the neighbourhood.

At the grocery store, police found five bodies, the killers and three people who apparently happened to be there at the time. Police said they were confident the bystanders were shot by the gunmen and not by police. Fulop said a review of security camera footage has led to the conclusion that the gunmen targeted the market.

“Last night after extensive review of our CCTV system it has now become clear from the cameras that these two individuals targeted the kosher grocery location,” he tweeted.

At a later news conference, Fulop said the surveillance video showed the van moving slowly and then stopping in front of the store.

“There were multiple other people on the street so there were many other targets available to them that they bypassed to attack that place; so it was clear that was their target and they intended to harm people inside,” he said.

But the mayor cautioned: “I didn’t use the word ‘anti-Semitic’. Anything else is open for investigation.” Jewish leaders and the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitic attacks, expressed concern over the deaths.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2019

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