(CNN) ISIS claimed responsibility for bombings that killed 36 at two Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday — brazen strikes against a vulnerable minority on one of the most important days on the Christian calendar.
The terror group’s Amaq media wing said “a security detachment” of the Islamic State carried out the attacks on churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria. The bombings also left scores wounded.
CNN could not independently confirm ISIS was behind the attacks — or had any prior knowledge in planning them. ISIS often uses Amaq news agency to claim attacks after they have happened.
Photos:Church bombing in Tanta, Egypt
People gather in front of St. George’s Church after the bombing.
Photos:Church bombing in Tanta, Egypt
Security personnel investigate the scene of a bomb blast at St. George’s Church in Tanta, Egypt, on Palm Sunday.
The first blast was in the northern city of Tanta, when a powerful explosion ripped through a Palm Sunday service at St George’s Church, killing 25 people and wounding 60 others, state TV reported. The explosive device was planted under a seat in the main prayer hall, it said.
At least 11 people were killed and 35 others wounded in a suicide bomb attack outside Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, according to two state-news outlets. Egyptian state media also reports that the head of Egypt’s Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II was inside the Church when the blast happened. He was not injured.
Rescue workers help a victim of the attack in Alexandria.
The horrific attacks were the latest against Christians in the region, this time on Palm Sunday — the Sunday before Easter, and the day that marks the start of Holy Week for Christians.
Nile and Masriya TV, Egyptian state outlets, aired black banners in the upper left of its newscasts to signify mourning for the victims of both explosions.
In Tanta, news footage shows people gathered at the church, singing hymns. The video then quickly switches to bars as harrowing screams and cries echo in the background.
“Everything is destroyed inside the church” and blood can be seen on marble pillars, said Peter Kamel, who saw the aftermath of the carnage.
It appeared the explosive device was placed near the altar, he said. Priests and the church choir were among the casualties.
In Alexandria, the Interior Ministry said in a statement that police assigned to St. Mark’s stopped a terrorist with an explosive belt from breaking into the church. Along with civilians, a policeman, a policewoman and other police staff were killed.
He expressed his grief following the church attack.
“To my dear brother his Holiness Pope Tawadros II, to the Coptic church and to all of the dear country Egypt, I express my deep condolences, I prayed for the dead and the wounded, I am close to the families and to the entire community. God convert the hearts of the people who spread terror, violence and dead, and also the heart of who produces and traffic weapons,” the Pope said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, serving the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion, called the attacks “evil” and urged people to pray for the victims.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack and offered his condolences to el-Sisi, according to Russia’s state-run Tass.
CNN’s Sarah Sirgany, Tamara Qiblawi, Bijan Hosseini and Ian Lee contributed to this report
As the list of people murdered by ‘gau rakshaks’ continues to rise, it is time to call murder by its name, instead of cloaking it in euphemisms such as manhandling and vigilantism. (Nitin Kanotra / HT Photo)
End the euphemisms. Call it by its name- Murder. Not manhandling. Not vigilantism. And stop saying, ‘gau- rakshaks,’ please.The men who dragged Pehlu Khan out of his vehicle on the Alwar highway in Rajasthan, flung him on the roadside and lynched him so brutally that he died four days later, are not ‘protectors’, self- appointed or otherwise; they are not even ordinary criminals. They are thugs, who driven by blind religious prejudice, and emboldened by an environment that will justify the perpetrator instead of standing with the victim, brazenly killed an innocent man.
It didn’t matter that Pehlu Khan, a trader from Haryana, pleaded with his assaulters that the cattle he was transporting was with legal documentation and had been purchased at a fair in Jaipur. Quite frankly, even if he were a cow-smuggler it was no one’s business but that of the state police to enforce the law. That the Rajasthan home minister- the man who is meant to be a custodian of the law- sees “two sides” to a singular horrific truth is what is frightening.
In the India of 2017, we are asked to see these murderous mobs as men whose intent is pure and ennobling, even if their actions are not. In the noisy debates over ‘cow-protectionism’, we gloss over the fact that it is Indian Muslims and, in some cases Dalits, who are being repeatedly targeted. And that bigotry, and not some misguided sacred zeal, is the subtext that ties all the attacks together. The lynch mobs count on two things – the ifs and buts ambivalence of government response as illustrated in the rationalisations of Rajasthan’s home minister and our short, fickle memory that is either too numbed or too distracted to stay focused on the issue.
We have already moved on from Mohammad Akhlaq who was killed in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that there was beef in his house and whose son, a corporal in the air force continued to believe his country would grant him justice. And I can confidently wager that not too many people would even know, leave alone remember, who Majloom Ansari and Inayatullah Imtiaz Khan are. In March 2016 they were found hanging from a tree in a Jharkhand village, their hands tied together by the nylon chords used to hold cattle. Imtiaz was only 12 years old. A school-going child, he was accompanying Ansari to a cattle fair in the hope of making a few extra bucks for his family. Later it emerged that Ansari had been threatened just a few days earlier by a gang of extortionists who asked him for a 20,000 rupee bribe money to ferry his oxen. The National Commission of Minorities team that investigated the killing reported a “brazen communal bias” in the police handling of the lynching and said that complaints by Muslim traders against the so called cow-protections groups had been ignored. A few months later the Jharkhand Chief Minister declared that “If India is your country; the cow is your mother.” But no mother would allow murder in her name.
If we barely remember Ansari and Khan, we didn’t even pay marginal attention to the death of Zaid Ahmed Bhat, a young man in his twenties who died in a Delhi hospital after being attacked with petrol bombs on the highway in Udhampur, Jammu & Kashmir. His body was unable to recover from the 60% burns the flames had inflicted. And once again the rumours of cow slaughter turned out to be unfounded.
Now Pehlu Khan joins this growing list of (forgotten) victims. His murder will occupy the news cycle till another story bumps it off. He will be a talking point in Parliament till the next deal has to be negotiated between the government and the opposition. There will be outrage and analysis; we will tell you how cow hide is used in other parts of our life, from leather to musical instruments. The opposition will urge the Prime Minister to break his silence and make a statement. He may even do so, as he did in 2016 after four Dalits were flogged in Gujarat. Back then, he eviscerated what he called the ‘gau-rakhshak business” underlining that nearly 80% were “anti-social” elements hiding under the cover of cow protection. Yet, several BJP leaders of Uttar Pradesh had rallied behind those accused in the Dadri lynching, demanding punishment for Akhlaq’s family instead for eating beef. The opposition outbursts will be replete with hypocrisies as well. (After Dadri, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh boasted that the Congress had banned cow slaughter in 24 states and was even open to a debate around a nationwide ban). And the BJP will fulminate in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat- where a law was just passed on life imprisonment for cow slaughter- but reject any idea of a beef ban in the north-east where it is looking to expand its political presence.
Soon enough the debate will go off the front pages and the prime time headlines and we will all get on with our lives. Till the next murder. In the meantime, the ‘cow’ards will thrive. This has become the New Normal.
Barkha Dutt is an award-winning journalist and author
The attack has killed at least 86 people, including 26 children, CNN reports. Countries including the U.S., the U.K. and Turkey have linked the attack to Assad’s forces. Russia has repeatedly supported the Assad regime, and did so again in the aftermath of the latest deaths, suggesting the deaths had been caused by a Syrian strike hitting a rebel stockpile of chemical weapons.
Trump, whose administration had previously signaled that removing Assad was not a priority, said Wednesday that the attack had caused him to change his mind about the Syrian President. He added that the use of chemical weapons was “heinous” and “crossed a lot of lines”.
But Assad had previously been suspected of using chemical weapons, and Trump did not offer any clarity on what a revised U.S. strategy in dealing with the Syria strongman would look like. So Russia posted the question on Thursday:
“Russia’s approach to Assad is clear,” Maria Zakharova, a Russian ministry spokeswoman, told CNN. “He is the legal president of an independent state. What is the U.S. approach?”
Outside the Technological Institute station in St Petersburg yesterday an Orthodox priest leads a service in memory of the victims of Monday’s metro blast. Russian investigators are trying to determine what motivated the man who planted a bomb that killed 14 people. — AFP
ON a day when a grieving city was again mourning its dead, Russian investigators were yesterday trying to find out what motivated the man behind the bomb blast in the St Petersburg metro that killed 14 people.
The attacker has been named as 22-year-old Akbarjon Djalilov, believed to be a Russian national born in central Asian Kyrgyzstan.
He also planted a bomb at another station that was successfully defused, investigators said.
Authorities searched Djalilov’s residence and said CCTV footage showed him leaving his home ahead of the attack “with a bag and rucksack.”
The head of Russia’s Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin ordered officials to look into any potential “links” between the alleged attacker and the Islamic State group.
No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.
But jihadists from Islamic State have repeatedly threatened an attack on Russian soil in revenge for Moscow’s military backing of Syrian leader Bashar Assad.
In the first sign of a crackdown on suspected Islamists since the attack, authorities in St Petersburg said they had detained six alleged “terrorist” recruiters from central Asia, working for groups including Islamic State, but stressed there was no proof yet of any links to Djalilov.
Djalilov’s fragmented remains were found at the scene of the blast, but it remains unclear whether he was included in the official death toll.
His distraught parents have flown to St Petersburg from their home city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Authorities in the mainly Muslim nation say Djalilov and his parents are ethnic Uzbeks with Russian citizenship and that Djalilov has lived in Russia since he was 16. They said Djalilov flew back to Russia on March 3 after a visit home.
There was no confirmation by Russian officials of any of these details.
As the authorities probed the circumstances of the attack, they also released the identities of most of the victims, as dozens of injured remained in hospital.
The ages of those killed ranged from around 17 to 71 with nationals of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan reported among the dead.
Dozens of people gathered in a St Petersburg cathedral for a memorial service for the dead, as Russia marked a second day of national mourning.
“She was a remarkable, creative person,” said the sister of 50-year-old Irina Medyantseva, a dollmaker who died in the blast. “What happened is terrible.”
The attack has stunned Russia’s second city and posed tough security issues as it gears up to host the opening game and final of the Confederation Cup football tournament in June, ahead of the country holding the World Cup in 2018.
Russia suffered a wave of brutal attacks in the 1990s and 2000s blamed mainly on a rebellion in Chechnya that morphed from a separatist uprising into an Islamist insurgency.
The country’s transport network — including the metro in Moscow — was hit repeatedly by suicide bombers leaving scores dead.
But there had been no attacks against a major city since blasts in the southern city of Volgograd in December 2013, weeks ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
Islamic State, however, has struck at Russia abroad, claiming a bomb attack in October 2015 that blew up a passenger jet packed with holidaymakers returning to St Petersburg from Egypt, killing all 224 people onboard.
In the wake of the metro bombing, President Vladimir Putin held talks with world leaders including US President Donald Trump to push for greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
The Kremlin has called the attack a “challenge to every Russian, including the head of state.” Putin raised the issue at a meeting scheduled before the attack with security bosses in Moscow.
“We see that the situation unfortunately is not improving,” Putin said in televised comments.
“We know that each of our countries … is a potential target for terrorist attacks.”
I used and extreme for the purpose of getting your attention, if you are reading this, it must have worked. No, I do not condone any violence except in the necessary need of self-defence. But I am not most people, I’m just a broken down, old used to be Truck Driver. I can only comment on that which I know, or think that I know. For several decades I drove our Nation’s Interstates, Highways and back roads of the U.S. and Canada. You see people from all over Our Country as well as some visitors from other Countries. You see and you hear people in their own comfort zones. If you listen, you might get a pretty good idea on what people are thinking from all over our Country. Age, time, are they not supposed to give those of gray hair, wisdom, knowledge?
I got the idea for this article this evening from reading several news articles from around the World, some of those would be the BBC, CNN and Reuters. These articles were speaking of Free Speech and Freedom of Religion at the same time. Folks, is it possible for any country to have both at the same time? Somewhere there will become a boundary, a line that the human race must decide for itself that they will not allow to be crossed, in the name of Religion, or anything else. If a new Religion moved into your town, your State, your Country and they believed in eating small animals alive while they were being roasted on the fire, would that bother you? Would you join all of the local Animal Rights Groups? People would be outraged but would it continue to be allowed because it is being done in the name of a Religion?
O, wait, there is a compromise offer, the Religious Group agrees to quit eating all critters while they are still alive, if they will be allowed to have an open season on all Politicians, would you accept their offer? Are all things truly only able to be seen through the eyes of a true ‘Believer’? If in a Doctrine of a Religion, it’s very base fundamentals, teach, in fact they order, their followers to commit mass murder and to take the plunder. If you were a conscious observer would you not consider this ‘Group’ with its Charter, to be a ‘Terrorist Organization’? O, but wait, if this Organization says that they are protected, because they call it a Religion, when is it okay to arrest them if they are breaking lots of your other longstanding laws in the name of their religion? There are a lot of ‘Religions’ that are really nothing but Cults, some have only 20-30 members some have 5,000 members, some have a billion. Folks, countries like Germany and the Netherlands are fighting for their Nation’s Cultural Soul. When you load your house down with Rattlesnakes don’t act all shocked when you get yourself bit.
Germany has no plans to introduce an ‘Islam law’ codifying the rights and obligations of Muslims, a government spokesman said on Monday, dismissing an idea floated by allies of Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of federal elections in September.
Merkel, who will seek a fourth term in what is expected to be a close-fought ballot, has come under fire for opening Germany’s doors to refugees, more than one million of whom – mostly Muslims – have entered the country over the past two years.
Seeking to boost support for the chancellor’s conservatives, senior Merkel ally Julia Kloeckner stoked the integration debate at the weekend by calling for stricter rules for Islamic preachers and a ban on foreign funding of mosques.
Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert dismissed the idea, which Kloeckner – who is deputy leader of the chancellor’s Christian Democrats (CDU) – and other senior party members want to enshrine in an Islam law.
“Such a law is now not an issue for government business,” Seibert told a news conference, stressing the high regard Merkel’s ruling coalition has for religious freedom in Germany.
While stopping short of calling for an Islam law, Merkel said in her weekly podcast on Saturday that refugees in Germany must respect tolerance, openness and freedom of religion.
The message backed up a less compromising tone on integrating migrants that Merkel set at a CDU party conference in December, when she called for a ban on full-face Muslim veils “wherever legally possible”.
By talking tougher on integration, Merkel is also seeking to reclaim support her party lost last year over her refugee policy to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which punished the CDU in regional elections in 2016.
The AfD has lost voter support this year, hurt by infighting that has sent its ratings down to around 8 percent from a high of 15.5 percent at the end of 2016.
In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte used a similar tactic to win re-election this year, seizing back the initiative from anti-Islam populist rivals by matching some of their tough rhetoric on immigration.
He told the country’s half-million ethnic Turks that they should integrate and accept Dutch views on freedom of speech or “get lost” after some had been filmed behaving aggressively toward a reporter during a demonstration.
“Our norms and values are all or nothing: you can’t pick and choose,” he said in response to the footage in an interview last September.
(Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam; editing by John Stonestreet)
In the annals of wrongful convictions, there is nothing that comes close in size to the epic drug-lab scandal that is entering its dramatic final act in Massachusetts.
About 23,000 people convicted of low-level drug crimes are expected to have their cases wiped away next month en masse, the result of a five-year court fight over the work of a rogue chemist.
“It’s absolutely stunning. I have never seen anything like it,” said Suzanne Bell, a professor at West Virginia University who serves on the National Commission of Forensic Science. “It’s unbelievable to me that it could have even happened. And then when you look at the scope of the number of cases that may be dismissed or vacated, there are no words for it.”
The dismissals will come in the form of filings from seven district attorneys ordered by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to decide who among 24,000 people with questionable convictions they can realistically try to re-prosecute.
Their answer, due by April 18, is expected to be “in the hundreds,” a spokeswoman for Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan said this week. An exact number was not available because the prosecutors are still working through the list, the spokeswoman, Meghan Kelly, said in an email.
The prosecutors didn’t want the scandal to end like this. They fought for a way to preserve the convictions, and leave it to the defendants to challenge them.
Civil rights groups and defense lawyers argued for all the cases to be dropped, saying that was the only way to ensure justice.
The state’s high court chose its own solution, ruling in January that district attorneys should focus on a small subset of cases it wanted to retry, and drop the rest.
It has taken five years to get to this point, longer than it took to discover, prosecute and punish the chemist, Annie Dookhan. She worked at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston for nearly a decade before her misconduct was exposed in 2012. She admitted to tampering with evidence, forging test results and lying about it. She served three years in prison and was released last year.
By then, most of the people Dookhan helped convict — most of whom pleaded guilty to low-level drug offenses based on her now-discredited work — had finished their sentences.
Is not entirely clear why Dookhan, a Trinidadian immigrant mother, felt compelled to change test results on such a massive scale. She was by far the lab’s most prolific analyst, a record that impressed her supervisors but also worried her co-workers — a red flag that went overlooked for years. She seemed driven to stand out, even if it mean lying, former colleagues have said. She also maintained friendly relationships with prosecutors, even though her role was to remain objective.
Many likely did commit the offenses, but many did not, defense lawyers say. All of them are now burdened with dubious convictions that have made it difficult to find jobs and housing or to obtain student loans, the lawyers say. Some defendants were convicted of more serious crimes, and the drug convictions were used to stiffen their sentences. Non-citizens have been threatened with deportation.
Civil rights advocates say the case has exposed the folly of aggressive enforcement of low-rung drug offenders, many of whom are addicts in need of treatment.
“It’s a soup-to-nuts indictment of the war on drugs,” said Matthew Segal, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, whose lawsuit led to the supreme court’s ruling. “These scandals happen around the country because our war on drugs is based on cutting corners.”
The reliance on forensic science in the criminal justice system has improved policing and prosecutions, but the misuse of science has also fueled wrongful convictions, researchers say. Drug labs play a distinct role in that machinery.
Lab scandals have undermined thousands of convictions in eight states in the past decade, according to data maintained by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Critics say forensic chemists feel a duty to help prosecutors rather than remain neutral. And they point out that many labs — including Hinton when Dookhan worked there — lack professional accreditation or proper protocols to prevent and detect misconduct. Some of her superiors have lost their jobs for failing to notice or report her misdeeds.
“This drug lab scandal is another example of why the criminal justice system needs to reform its approach to forensic science,” said Dan Gelb, a Boston attorney who helped write an amicus brief on the Dookhan case for the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. “Labs shouldn’t be an extension of law enforcement.”
Because of the system’s reliance on plea bargains to keep cases moving, defendants often don’t have a chance to challenge results from drug labs, Bell added.
That’s become a big point of discussion at the National Commission of Forensic Science, she said. But the commission, which was formed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013, is facing an uncertain future, with no clear message from the Trump administration if its work will continued to be funded, Bell said.
The Dookhan case awakened Massachusetts to the crisis, Bell said.
But the end of the Dookhan saga will not bring the end to Massachusetts’ problems.
That’s because it is dealing with a second scandal, at a second lab, this one the result of a chemist who admitted to doing drugs — including an array of substances submitted as evidence — while on the job.
Thousands of convictions in that case are now in doubt.
This afternoon in London England there was another ‘terrorist incident’, this time just outside the entrance to their Parliament Building. The last I heard before I started this commentary there are four dead and about 20 wounded. One of the dead is the attacker, another is a Police Officer. The other two dead people were killed by being driven over by the attacker. What a typical example of ones hate being forced upon others lives. Folks, when a person chooses to murder someone, do you think they are doing this because they are ‘happy’ with the one they decide to kill? I tend to think, no, how about you? Killing other people, outside of contract obligations such as when you are in your Nation’s Military, or in the case of self-defence, murder is usually done through or because of hate. So, today the actions of one man ended the lives of three others and harmed and scarred many others. One man’s actions caused a lot of chain reactions not just in heroic goodness of some, but in the actions of the Press there in London informing we the people of the events, step by step. Yes they did a rather good job of informing me of the steps that (England’s) has in place that security protocol is designed to function within. In this case a person filled with hate could best figure out where to form a multi-tiered attack. Think of the pure hate concept of bringing an ambulance to a bomb or mass shooting location, filled with C-4 just so you can kill as many First Responders as you possibly can. Folks, this is not the way of a rational mind, nor of a God! It is not a mind filled with any form of morality, it is a mind filled with Evil, hate. When we humans decide to degrade other human beings to a ‘less than’ human status it becomes easier and easier to degrade, hurt or even kill them.
Friends this type of hate that we witnessed this afternoon in London is not just a hiccup in human history that we are living in, this is the reality for humans for ever more. Europe is being forced to deal with this hatred toward their own people and toward their own cultures. Here in the U.S. we have suffered several examples of hatred also toward our people and our chosen ways of life. Yet Europe and her people are a tender underbelly to a region full of hatred, for you and your way of life. I believe that the U.S. and all of the ‘America’s’ are just starting to see the damage caused by hatred. The olden days (our version of the good old days), they’re gone, they are not going to return, but why not? The answer is hatred folks. Hatred has a great helpmate which also causes so much heartache and that is ignorance. No one on this planet will ever have a totally unmonitored lifestyle again, nor will we ever be free of people hating you/us. Welcome to the new world everyone, the one filled with unending security measures brought on because of threats that are real or imagined. You see, fear caused by hatred can easily be duplicated in the one who fears as a way to grow into another hate filled, ignorant, Satan serving beast. A person who is hate filled creates and early grave for themselves and those around them, and a footstool in Hell.
truthtroubles.wordpress.com/ Just an average man who tries to do his best at being the kind of person the Bible tells us we are all suppose to be. Not perfect, never have been, don't expect anyone else to be perfect either. Always try to be very easy going type of a person if allowed to be.
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