Washington: A US gunman with a long-standing grudge against a Maryland newspaper on Friday blasted his way through its newsroom with a shotgun and smoke grenades, killing at least five people and injuring two others in one of the deadliest attacks on the media in America.
The shooter identified as Jarrod Ramos, 38, has been arrested and the police are questioning him.
The shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in the US city of Annapolis is said to be one of the worst attacks on the media in decades in the US and has been described as a "targeted attack" by the police.
"This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette. This person was prepared today to come in. He was prepared to shoot people. His intent was to cause harm," Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief William Krampf told reporters at a news conference.
The five persons killed in the shootout are assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, editor and reporter John McNamara, special publications editor Wendi Winters and sales assistant Rebecca Smith, police said.
According to 'The Washington Post', Ramos lost a defamation case he had brought against 'The Capital Gazette' over a 2011 column he contended defamed him.
"The column provided an account of Ramos's guilty plea to criminal harassment of a woman over social media," the report said. White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said President Donald Trump has been briefed on the situation and the White House has been in touch with the FBI.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the horrible shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. We are grateful to the first responders who are on the scene," she said.
Asked about Trump's criticism of the press corps, she said the president and his staff did not believe violence was acceptable in any situation, adding that "we stand by that".
Earlier, Phil Davis, the Gazette's crime reporter, had tweeted about the shooting. "Gunman shot through the glass door to the (newsroom) and opened fire on multiple employees. Can't say much more and don't want to declare anyone dead, but it's bad," Davis said.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in mass shootings and daily tragedies, the epidemic of gun violence has stolen too many lives for far too long.
"Congress has a responsibility to take action now to ensure that no other community or family must endure the unthinkable horror of gun violence. Every day it fails to do so is a stain on our country," she said.
Asserting that reporters should not have to hide from gunfire while doing their jobs, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, founder of the gun violence prevention organisation, said time and time again, those in the Congress had failed to show the courage needed to keep people safe.
"Americans are demanding that their lawmakers pass effective laws that can protect our communities and stop dangerous people from accessing guns, but this Congress refuses to listen. We should be outraged. And we should be making plans to hold them accountable," she said. Media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it was deeply disturbed to learn that a shooting at the Capital Gazette, had resulted in the death of five people.
"Is what happened in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, the equivalent of the Charlie Hebdo killing or of the last bombing against journalists in Kabul?" said RSF Secretary general Christophe Deloire.
In any case, this is a new tragedy for journalism, which is the victim of increasing violence globally, even in democracies, he said. "It is deeply saddening to learn of this shooting happening in a local newsroom in the US.
RSF strongly condemns this act of violence, and any such acts against journalists," Deloire added. "We expect a quick and thorough investigation into this tragedy," said Margaux Ewen, Director of RSF's North America bureau.
Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna demanded that the Congress act now on gun violence.
"Yet another tragedy in Annapolis and it won't be the last unless we do something. Far too many people are hiding in closets, under their desks, in their places of work, worship, and in schools. This must stop," he said.
"My heart is with The Capital Gazette and all the victims and families affected," Khanna said. Meanwhile, as a precautionary measure, security was tightened outside media offices across the US.
Boston Police said that it had increased patrols near local media outlets. "While there are no credible concerns or information detailing similar threats directed towards media outlets in Boston, Commissioner Evans has called for increased and directed patrols in and around various media agencies throughout the city," a police spokesman told the local Boston Globe. Similar measures have been taken by the New York Police Department including posting police officers outside 'The New York Times' office.
"The NYPD has deployed counterterrorism teams to media organisations in and around New York City. These deployments are not based on specific threat information, but rather out of an abundance of caution until we learn more about the suspect and motives behind the Maryland shooting," said John Miller, Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the NYPD.
"It has become a standard practice to shift resources strategically during active shooter or terrorist events," he said....