Woman Killed, Five Wounded in Shooting at Seattle Jewish Federation

Police have stepped up security at Seattle synagogues and mosques, after a Muslim man burst into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on Friday afternoon and shot dead one woman and wounded five others.

Naveed Afzal Haq, 31, surrendered without a struggle, and police arrested him on charges of murder and five counts of attempted murder.

Pam Waechter, 58, an assistant director at the federation, died at the scene.

A hospital spokeswoman said three of the victims were in critical condition. The surviving women range in age from 23 to 43, and one is pregnant.

Amy Wasser-Simpson, the federation's vice president, told the Seattle Times that Haq got past security at the building and shouted, "I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel," before he began shooting.

Police officers circled Seattle's Seward Park area, the city's traditional Jewish neighborhood and home to three major synagogues. Uniformed guards stood outside the neighborhood's Bikur Cholim-Machzikay Hadath synagogue and the Sephardic Bikur Holim synagogue.

The president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, Robin Boehler, told Haaretz last night that the community is shaken by the attack. "We didn't believe something like this could happen. It's a nightmare come true," she said. Boehler said three of the victims were not Jewish, and added that she does not sense anger from Seattle Jews toward the city's Muslims, but only toward the murderer.

Community leaders will convene today for a special briefing on protecting Jewish facilities. Boehler said she believes that in the short run, the attack will cause many of Seattle's 40,000 Jews to fear congregating at synagogues and other community facilities.

Authorities said they were "taking every precaution," searching for explosives and additional suspects, and were monitoring the city's synagogues and Jewish organizations.

Police said Haq is a U.S. citizen and that their initial conversation with him by phone while he was inside the building indicated that he was a Muslim. Police would not disclose the content of the conversation.

The Jewish federation, a group covering the Jewish community around the Puget Sound region, had organized a large rally last weekend to demonstrate support for Israel in its fight against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

At a news conference on Friday, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said, "This was a purposeful, hateful act as far as we know, by an individual acting alone."

The FBI is working with local authorities on the case.

Haaretz has learned that the FBI in recent days alerted all the major Jewish organizations in the U.S. that Hezbollah sleeper cells had been reactivated and would try to attack Jewish targets. Similar warnings were issued to Jewish community representatives in Britain, France and Canada by local secret services.

Jewish Agency head Zeev Bielski expressed profound shock at the murder and said Israel is standing by the Jews of the U.S. at this time, just as they have stood by Israel's side throughout the years.