Five hurt in acid attack robberies in London, two teenagers arrested

Emergency response following acid attack on the junction of Hackney Road junction with Queensbridge Road, London, Britain July 13, 2017 in seen in this picture obtained from social media. SARAH COBBOLD via REUTERS

By Costas Pitas and Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) – British police arrested two teenagers on Friday after five acid attacks on moped riders in less than 90 minutes across east London left several people with facial burns, including one with horrific injuries.

Two assailants on a moped pulled up alongside a 32-year-old man in the Hackney area of east London at 2125 GMT on Thursday and threw acid in his face before one of the pair made off with the victim’s moped.

In the next hour and a half, three other men across Hackney and one in the neighboring borough of Islington had corrosive substances hurled at them, police said.

After one of the robberies in Hackney, a man was left with facial injuries described by police as life-changing.

Police said they had arrested a 15-year-old boy in Stoke Newington, northeast London, and a 16-year-old male at a separate address in north London on suspicion of grievous bodily harm.

Food delivery companies Deliveroo and UberEATS [UBER.UL] said two of their couriers had been attacked.

“We can confirm that one of the victims of these attacks had been taking food to a Deliveroo customer,” a spokesman said.

“We are in touch with the rider and will be providing him with support.”

UberEATS said it was shocked by the attack. “We have been in touch with the courier and offered to help him and his family in any way we can,” said Toussaint Wattinne, General Manager of UberEATS in London.

The company thanked all the couriers who rushed to help in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Food delivery riders, on both cycles and mopeds, have become a common sight in London and other cities in recent years.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said the number of acid attacks appeared to have risen in the capital, though they remained relatively rare.

“I don’t want people to think that this is happening all over London all of the time – it’s really not, but we are concerned because the numbers appear to be going up,” Dick told the LBC radio station in an interview.

“Acid attacks are completely barbaric,” Dick said. “The acid can cause horrendous injuries. The ones last night involved a series of robberies we believe are linked.”

The government said it was working with the police to see what more could be done to stop the use of acid for attacks.

“It’s already an offense to carry acid or a corrosive substance to cause harm,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said. “We are working with the police to see what more we could do.”

(Reporting by Costas Pitas, Elizabeth Piper and Paul Sandle; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Gareth Jones)

Champs Elysees attacker stashed weapons, was on French watchlist

Police secure the area near a burned car at the scene of an incident in which it rammed a gendarmerie van on the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris, France, June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

By Emmanuel Jarry and Richard Lough

PARIS (Reuters) – A man who rammed a car into a police van in Paris stored a cache of weapons at his home and held a gun permit despite being on a secret service list of people linked to radical Islam, police sources and French officials said on Tuesday.

A judicial source said investigators were compiling an inventory of the arms and equipment found in the 31-year-old’s home. The man, who died in the attack, was also carrying in his car an assault rifle, two pistols, ammunition and two large gas canisters when he rammed a police convoy on Monday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the individual first received a permit to possess a gun before he was flagged to intelligence agencies as a potential militant threat. At the time there was no reason to deny him the permit, Philippe said.

Philippe said it was “quite possible” the license was active at the time the attacker was on a security watchlist. Three sources close to the investigation confirmed it was.

“Nobody can be happy, and certainly not me, that someone who has been flagged to security agencies can continue to benefit from such an authorization,” Philippe told BFM TV.

The man was placed on France’s so called ‘Fiche S’ watchlist after he was found to belong to a radical Islamist movement, two police sources said.

Individuals on the list are placed under surveillance though the intensity of that surveillance varies depending on the perceived threat the individual poses.

Philippe said draft legislation drawn up in May envisaged changes to allow officials who handle gun permits to check if individuals seeking licenses are on a watchlist.

ARRESTS

But refusing permits in such cases had it drawbacks, he said. “If you revoke the authorization of someone who is under surveillance, they’re going to know why.”

On Monday, witnesses saw the man being pulled from the car as thick yellow smoke poured out.

Police arrested four of his close relatives in a raid south of Paris late on Monday, a police source said. They included his father and brother.

France has been on high alert after a wave of militant Islamist attacks over the past two years, including most recently an attack on police outside the Notre Dame Cathedral and an Islamic State-claimed attack on police on the Champs Elysees in April.

In July last year, 86 people were killed when a truck plowed through a crowd in Nice, and similar incidents have occurred in other European cities.

Philippe said the government would be presenting a draft law soon to toughen counter-terrorism legislation.

“We need to find legal instruments that at once guarantee that we continue to live in a Fifth Republic which safeguards freedoms and ensure the security of French people,” Philippe said.

(Additional reporting by Marine Pennetier and Brian Love; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

U.S. student held prisoner by North Korea dies days after release

FILE PHOTO - Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January, attends a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo February 29, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo/File Photo

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – An American university student held prisoner in North Korea for 17 months died at a Cincinnati hospital on Monday, just days after he was released from captivity in a coma, his family said.

Otto Warmbier, 22, who was arrested in North Korea while visiting as a tourist, had been described by doctors caring for him last week as having extensive brain damage that left him in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness.”

“Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” the family said in a statement after Warmbier’s death at 2:20 p.m. EDT (1820 GMT).

His family has said that Warmbier lapsed into a coma in March 2016, shortly after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea.

Physicians at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he died, said last Thursday that Warmbier showed no sign of understanding language or awareness of his surroundings, and had made no “purposeful movements or behaviors,” though he was breathing on his own.

There was no immediate word from Warmbier’s family on the cause of his death.

The circumstances of his detention in North Korea and what medical treatment he may have received there remained a mystery, but relatives have said his condition suggested that he had been physically abused by his captors.

The University of Virginia student and Ohio native was arrested, according to North Korean media, for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan.

North Korea released Warmbier last week and said he was being freed “on humanitarian grounds.” [nL3N1JC1ZB]

The North Korean mission to the United Nations was not available for comment on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump issued a statement offering condolences to the Warmbier family and denouncing “the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”

The president drew criticism in May when he said he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump said in an interview. “If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that.”

The student’s father, Fred Warmbier, said last week that his son had been “brutalized and terrorized” by the Pyongyang government and that the family disbelieved North Korea’s story that his son had fallen into a coma after contracting botulism and being given a sleeping pill.

Doctors who examined Otto Warmbier after his release said there was no sign of botulism in his system.

Warmbier was freed after the U.S. State Department’s special envoy on North Korea, Joseph Yun, traveled to Pyongyang and demanded the student’s release on humanitarian grounds, capping a flurry of secret diplomatic contacts, a U.S. official said last week.

Tensions between the United States and North Korea have been heightened by dozens of North Korean missile launches and two nuclear bomb tests since the beginning of last year in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Pyongyang has also vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

China, North Korea’s main ally, lamented Warmbier’s death.

“It really is a tragedy. I hope that North Korea and the United States can properly handle the issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.

Asked if the death would have an impact on high-level U.S.-China talks on Wednesday likely to focus on North Korea, Geng said China “remains committed to resolving the Korean Peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation”.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States holds North Korea accountable for Warmbier’s “unjust imprisonment” and demanded the release of three other U.S. citizens still held by Pyongyang – Korean-Americans Tony Kim, Kim Dong Chul and Kim Hak Song.

Offering condolence to the Warmbiers, South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged Pyongyang to swiftly return the foreign detainees including six South Koreans. [nL3N1JH1F0]

A spokesman for the family of one South Korean detainee sentenced to hard labor for life for spying in 2013 said the Warmbier’s death was “shocking and upsetting”.

“I thought American citizens might be treated better than South Koreans but looking at Otto’s case it is shocking. It also concerns us even more regarding the missionary Kim’s situation,” Joo Dong-sik, spokesman for the family of South Korean missionary Kim Jung-wook who remains in custody, told Reuters.

Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who spent two years in North Korean captivity before his release in 2014, expressed sadness at Warmbier’s death, calling it an “outrage”.

“I cannot understand what the Warmbier family is feeling right now. But I mourn with them, and I pray for them,” Bae said in a statement.

Young Pioneer Tours, the group with which Warmbier traveled to North Korea, will no longer be organizing tours for U.S. citizens to the isolated country, Troy Collings, a company director, said in a statement.

Two of the other largest agencies to take Western tourists to North Korea also said they were reconsidering taking U.S. tourists.

Uri Tours, which is based in New Jersey, said on its website it was “reviewing its position on DPRK travel for American citizens”. DPRK is short for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official title.

Beijing-based Koryo Tours said it was also reviewing whether or not to take U.S. citizens on tours to North Korea.

“This young man did not deserve the disproportionate sentence given to him,” the company said in a statement.

“What followed was a disgrace, which we categorically condemn – from the paucity of information provided during his detention, and the worrying lack of consular visits, to the distressing and horrifying condition in which he was returned to his family.”

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by David Alexander and David Brunnstrom in Washington, and Christian Shepherd in Beijing, Ju-min Park and James Pearson in Seoul, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; and Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Toni Reinhold)

UK armed police arrest suspected knifeman near parliament

Armed police officers stand outside the Palace of Westminster, in central London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Will James

By William James and Costas Pitas

LONDON (Reuters) – British armed police detained a man on suspicion of having a knife after he ran, shouting, toward one of the gates of the Westminster parliament in central London on Friday.

“The man – aged in his 30s – was arrested,” police said.

A witness at the scene told Reuters the man ran toward one of the gates to parliament where a militant killed a policeman less than three months ago.

“You could tell he was suspicious, he was stood there fists clenched. He looked quite an angry geezer,” Bradley Allen, 19, told Reuters.

“We got seconds down the road and they had him on the floor, pinned. Police around him, telling everyone to move back.”

The incident occurred less than three months since a man drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, and then stabbed a policeman to death in the grounds of parliament, the first of three deadly attacks in Britain which has put the security services on high alert.

Another witness near parliament on Friday told Reuters he saw police threatening to use a stun gun on the man. Pictures from the scene showed the man on the ground with an officer pointing a gun at him.

“There were about three or four policeman, one of them shouting at the crowd to get back,” the witness, who declined to give their name, told Reuters.

“The guy was on the ground on his front on the pavement alongside Parliament Square. They had him on the ground and were warning they would taze (stun) him again.”

Officers later put the man in the back of a police van, a Reuters reporter said. Parliament said it was aware of the incident.

The gates to parliament were closed and armed police were patrolling as usual inside the perimeter, a Reuters reporter inside the building said.

On March 22, Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people, before he ran into the grounds of parliament and stabbed a police officer to death. He was shot dead at the scene and his attack prompted a review of security around Westminster.

That attack was followed by a suicide bombing in Manchester and a similar deadly attack on London Bridge, thrusting security and policing to the fore of campaigning before last Thursday’s election.

The spate of recent attacks were the deadliest in Britain since four British Islamist suicide bombers killed 52 people on the London transport system in July 2005.

(Reporting by William James and Costas Pitas, writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden)

Six Michigan officials criminally charged in Flint water crisis

FILE PHOTO - The Flint Water Plant tower is seen in Flint, Michigan, U.S. on February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

By Timothy Mclaughlin

(Reuters) – Six current and former Michigan and Flint officials were criminally charged on Wednesday for their roles in the city’s water crisis that was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that caused at least 12 deaths, the state’s attorney general said.

Five of the officials, including Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, were charged with involuntary manslaughter stemming from their roles in handling the crisis, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement.

Involuntary manslaughter is a felony that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Lyon, 49, was also charged with one count of misconduct in office. The felony charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Four current and former state and Flint officials were also charged with involuntary manslaughter. The four had all been previously charged with lesser crimes in connection with the water crisis.

The state’s chief medical executive, Eden Wells, was charged Wednesday with obstruction of justice and lying to police.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in a statement that Lyon and Wells have his “full faith and confidence” and would remain on duty and help in Flint’s recovery.

An attorney for Lyon could not be reached for comment. It was not immediately known if Wells had an attorney.

Schuette said his team had not spoken with Snyder as part of the investigation.

“We attempted to interview the governor. We were not successful,” Schuette said. He declined to elaborate.

Previously, Schuette, when asked if Snyder was a target in the investigation, said there were no targets but “nobody is off the table.”

Some critics have called for high-ranking state officials, including Snyder, to be charged. Snyder previously said he believed he had not done anything criminally wrong.

“The governor isn’t going to speculate on where the investigation is or is not headed, but he continues to cooperate fully,” Snyder’s spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.

Snyder’s attorney, Brian Lennon, said in a statement that Snyder was made available to testify under oath this spring after being told a subpoena would be produced, but that never occurred. He added that Snyder previously testified under oath to Congress.

Wednesday’s charges stem from more than 80 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including the fatalities, that were believed to be linked to the water in Flint after the city switched its source to the Flint River from Lake Huron in April 2014.

Lyon was aware of the Legionnaires’ outbreak in Genesee County at least one year before he informed the public, according to court documents. His deliberate failure to inform the public resulted in the death of Genesee Township resident Robert Skidmore, 85, from Legionnaires’ in December 2015, the documents said.

Wells lied to police about when she became aware of the outbreak, according to the documents. She also threatened a team of independent researchers who were studying the source of the disease, court documents said.

“It’s good to see that state Attorney General Schuette and his team are taking this matter seriously,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement. “We all are waiting to see what else the investigation uncovers.”

The crisis in Flint erupted in 2015 when tests found high amounts of lead in blood samples taken from children in the predominantly black city of about 100,000.

The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes and into the drinking water. Lead levels in Flint’s drinking water have now fallen below levels considered dangerous by federal regulators, state officials said last January.

Others charged with involuntary manslaughter on Wednesday included former state-appointed emergency manager Darnell Earley, former Flint city employee Howard Croft, and former state Department of Environmental Quality officials Stephen Busch and Liane Shekter-Smith.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Diane Craft and Matthew Lewis)

Two charged in U.S. with providing material support to Hezbollah

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) – Two men have been arrested and charged by U.S. prosecutors with scouting potential targets and providing material support to the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

Ali Kourani, 32, of New York City and Samer El Debek, 27, of Dearborn, Michigan, were arrested on June 1, federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced Thursday. Both have appeared in Manhattan federal court, according to prosecutors.

Lawyers for Al Kourani and El Debek could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday, prosecutors said Kourani attended Hezbollah-sponsored weapons training in Lebanon as a teenager in 2000 before lawfully coming to the United States in 2003. He became a U.S. citizen in 2009, going on to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, the complaint said.

Prosecutors said Kourani worked for Hezbollah while in the United States, identifying potential weapon suppliers; identifying people affiliated with the military of Israel, Hezbollah’s adversary; and gathering information about U.S. airport security and about military and law enforcement facilities in New York City.

They said Kourani received additional weapons training, including on a 2011 trip to Lebanon.

In a separate criminal complaint, prosecutors said El Debek, a U.S. citizen, was recruited by Hezbollah in 2007 or 2008 and began taking a salary from the organization.

Over the years, prosecutors said, El Debek received weapons training, including in bomb-making. They said he carried out missions for Hezbollah in Thailand to clean up materials used to make explosives that had been left behind in a house, and in Panama, where he gathered information about security and the Panama Canal and Israeli Embassy.

Both men, who remain in custody, are charged with providing material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy, and illegal weapons possession.

Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group aligned with Iran and the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department since 1997.

The cases are United States v. Kourani, No. 17-mj-4151, and United States v. El Debek, No. 17-mj-4154, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)

UK arrests three as footage of London Bridge attack appears online

Forensic officers walk along the road at the scene of the attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, London, Britain. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

LONDON (Reuters) – British police investigating the deadly attacks on London Bridge on Saturday said they had arrested three more suspects, as footage of the moment officers shot the assailants dead appeared online.

Counter terrorism officers, backed up by armed colleagues, arrested two men on the street in Ilford, east London, late on Wednesday, while a third was arrested at a house nearby, police said in a statement.

Two of the men, aged 27 and 29, were held on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism while the third was detained over suspected drugs offences.

Eight people were killed and 50 injured after three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge late on Saturday, then attacked revelers in nearby bars and restaurants with knives.

Closed circuit TV footage, which appeared online and in British media, showed the attackers – Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba – cornering a victim and starting to stab him before police are seen arriving and opening fire.

Police have previously said eight officers who rushed to scene fired about 50 rounds, killing the three attackers.

The Times newspaper also said it had obtained footage of the men laughing and joking five days before the attack as they met outside the Ummah Fitness Center, a gym in east London where Butt trained.

Earlier this week the gym put a note on its door which read: “While Mr Butt did occasionally train here at UFC gym we do not know him well nor did we see anything of concern.”

Police and the security agencies are facing questions about whether they missed chances to thwart the attack.

Butt had appeared in a television documentary called “The Jihadis Next Door”, as one of a group of men who unfurled an Islamic State flag in a park and who had connections with known radical preachers.

Zaghba, an Italian-Moroccan national, was identified as a possible militant threat after he was stopped at Bologna airport in 2016 as tried to reach Syria. He was not charged, but local police monitored him carefully and said they had tipped off Britain when he subsequently moved to London.

The authorities have said Butt was known to police and the domestic security service MI5 but there was no intelligence that an attack was being planned. They said they were unaware of the other two men.

Police have made more than a dozen arrests in the wake of the London Bridge attacks, but most have now been released without charge.

In a separate investigation not linked to the London Bridge attacks, officers backed up by armed police arrested three men in east London on Thursday on suspicion of preparing for acts of terrorism.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Man charged with threats to Jewish groups to plead guilty: U.S. prosecutor

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) – A former U.S. journalist is expected to plead guilty to a cyberstalking charge related to making bomb threats against Jewish organizations in the United States in a plot to get revenge against his ex-girlfriend, prosecutors said in letter filed on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.

Juan Thompson, 32, is set to appear in court next Monday morning to enter a guilty plea, according to the letter, submitted by Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan.

Thompson’s attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment. Before his extradition to New York, he denied the charges, said he had no anti-Semitic beliefs and said he was being framed and targeted as a black man.

“Make no mistake: this is a modern-day lynching,” he said in a telephone interview from the Warren County jail in Missouri.

The prosecution’s letter did not give details about the planned plea, which will not become final until Thompson enters it in court. Thompson was arrested in St. Louis, Missouri on March 3, and has been in custody since then, charged with one count of cyberstalking.

Federal prosecutors have said Thompson engaged in a vicious, months-long harassment campaign against his ex-girlfriend, using various email accounts to accuse her of possessing child pornography, driving drunk and, finally, making bomb threats targeting Jewish groups.

Thompson made some threats in his own name and then accused his ex-girlfriend of framing him, and made other threats posing as her, prosecutors said.

U.S. authorities have been investigating a surge of threats against Jewish organizations, including more than 100 bomb threats against community centers in dozens of states in separate waves since January.

The organizations Thompson threatened included a Jewish museum in New York and the Anti-Defamation League, according to a criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court. All occurred after the first flood of phone threats in early January.

Thompson was a reporter for the Intercept news website, which fired him last year saying he invented sources and quotes.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)

Contractor charged with leaking document about U.S. election hacking: sources

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a federal contractor charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for sending classified material to a news organization, poses in a picture posted to her Instagram account. Reality Winner/Social Media via REUTERS

By Dustin Volz and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday charged a federal contractor with sending classified material to a news organization that sources identified to Reuters as The Intercept, marking one of the first concrete efforts by the Trump administration to crack down on leaks to the media.

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was charged with removing classified material from a government facility located in Georgia. She was arrested on June 3, the Justice Department said.

The charges were announced less than an hour after The Intercept published a top-secret document from the U.S. National Security Agency that described Russian efforts to launch cyber attacks on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and send “spear-phishing” emails, or targeted emails that try to trick a recipient into clicking on a malicious link to steal data, to more than 100 local election officials days before the presidential election last November.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the case beyond its filing. Federal Bureau of Investigation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the charges do not name the publication, a U.S. official with knowledge of the case said Winner was charged with leaking the NSA report to The Intercept. A second official confirmed The Intercept document was authentic and did not dispute that the charges against Winner were directly tied to it.

The Intercept’s reporting reveals new details behind the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian intelligence services were seeking to infiltrate state voter registration systems as part of a broader effort to interfere in the election, discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help then Republican candidate Donald Trump win the election.

The new material does not, however, suggest that actual votes were manipulated.

The Intercept co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Winter’s mother also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While partially redacted, the NSA document is marked to show it would be up for declassification on May 5, 2042. The indictment against Winner alleges she “printed and improperly removed” classified intelligence reporting that was dated “on or about May 5, 2017.”

Classified documents are typically due to be declassified after 25 years under an executive order signed under former President Bill Clinton.

The NSA opened a facility in Augusta in 2012 at Fort Gordon, a U.S. Army outpost.

The FBI and several congressional committees are investigating how Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and whether associated of President Donald Trump may have colluded with Russian intelligence operatives during the campaign.

Trump has dismissed the allegations as “fake news,” while attempting to refocus attention on leaks of information to the media.

Winner graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in 2011. Investigators determined she was one of only six individuals to print the document in question and that she had exchanged emails with the news outlet, according to the indictment.

U.S. intelligence agencies including the NSA and CIA have fallen victim to several thefts of classified material in recent years, often at the hands of a federal contractor. For example, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 disclosed secret documents to journalists, including The Intercept’s Greenwald, that revealed broad U.S. surveillance programs.

(Additional reporting by John Walcott)

Fourteen Venezuelan army officers jailed in first week of protests – documents

A demonstrator waves a Venezuela's flag while clashing with riot security forces during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

By Girish Gupta and Andrew Cawthorne

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s security forces arrested at least 14 army officers on suspicion of “rebellion” and “treason” in the first week of protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government in early April, according to military documents obtained by Reuters.

The soldiers, who include colonels and captains, are being held in Ramo Verde prison in the hills outside Caracas, according to lists being circulated within the military.

The documents said their cases were being “processed”, and it was not clear if they had been formally charged.

The lists emerged after allegations by Venezuelan opposition leaders that a purge is underway within the military to quash dissent over the handling of massive demonstrations against the socialist government since early April.

The documents seen by Reuters only went up to April 8, after which opposition leaders and rights activists say many more soldiers have been rounded up.

The military’s National Guard unit has been at the forefront of policing the protests, using tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets against masked youths who hurl stones, Molotov cocktails and excrement against security lines.

At least 65 people have died, with victims including government and opposition supporters, bystanders and members of the security forces. Hundreds more have been injured.

Opposition leaders say there is increasing disquiet within the military over the use of force against protesters who are demanding general elections, foreign humanitarian aid and freedom for jailed activists.

In public, top military officers have backed Maduro’s accusation that an “armed insurrection” is being mounted by violent conspirators seeking a coup with U.S. backing.

But privately some National Guard members have complained of exhaustion and disillusionment.

ASYLUM REQUESTS

A few soldiers have gone public with their discontent.

Three lieutenants fled to Colombia and requested asylum last month, prompting the Venezuelan government to demand their extradition to face charges of coup plotting.

Opposition media last week published a video purporting to be a Venezuelan naval sergeant expressing his dissent and urging colleagues to disobey “abusive” and “corrupt” superiors.

“I reject Mr. Nicolas Maduro Moros as an illegitimate president and refuse to recognize his regime and dictatorial government,” Giomar Flores said in a seven-minute video, wearing a white naval uniform and black beret next to a Venezuelan flag.

Reuters could not confirm his case or whereabouts.

Neither the Information Ministry nor the Armed Forces responded to requests for information.

Late leader Hugo Chavez turned the military into a bastion of “Chavismo” after a short-lived coup against him in 2002.

Though Maduro, 54, does not hail from the army as Chavez did, he has kept ties strong, placing current or former soldiers in a third of ministerial posts, and giving them control over key sectors like food distribution.

Opposition leaders have been openly calling for the armed forces to disobey Maduro and side with their demands, but the top brass have repeatedly pledged loyalty.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and Jonathan Oatis)