Accused California synagogue shooter charged with federal hate crimes

FILE PHOTO - John Earnest, accused in the fatal shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, stands in court near public defender John O'Connell (L) and a San Diego County Bailiff during an arraignment hearing in San Diego, California, U.S., April 30, 2019. Nelvin C. Cepeda/Pool via REUTERS

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – A California nursing student accused of a deadly shooting spree in a San Diego-area synagogue and arson at a nearby mosque was charged on Thursday with 109 counts of federal hate crimes and civil rights violations, prosecutors said.

John Earnest, 19, was already charged in state court with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder in the April 27 attack at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, which left one worshipper dead and three others wounded, including a rabbi.

In the federal complaint, Earnest faces one count for each of the people in the synagogue at the time of the shooting, including 12 children, U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said.

“The complaint alleges the defendant violently targeted members of the synagogue and mosque for no other reason than his hatred of the Jewish people and those of the Muslim faith,” Brewer said at a news conference.

Earnest pleaded not guilty to the state charges, and to one count of arson on a house of worship stemming from a pre-dawn fire that damaged the Islamic Center of Escondido on March 24. No one was injured in the blaze.

Earnest, who was enrolled at the California State University at San Marcos, was arrested shortly after the synagogue shooting north of San Diego. Authorities linked him to the arson through an online manifesto in which they say he claimed responsibility for setting fire to the mosque.

The author of the violently anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim screed also professed to have drawn inspiration from the gunman who killed 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand earlier in March.

The state charges allege that the synagogue shooting was perpetrated as a hate crime. If convicted of those charges, Earnest would face life in prison without parole, or the death penalty.

In the separate federal criminal complaint filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Diego, Earnest was charged with 54 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and bodily injury, plus 54 counts of violating federal hate-crime statutes, Brewer said.

Earnest also was charged with causing damage to religious property involving use of a dangerous weapon or fire.

Authorities said Earnest stalked into the Poway synagogue during Sabbath prayers on the last day of the week-long Jewish Passover holiday and opened fire, killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60. The rabbi, one of three others wounded in the attack, was shot in the hand and lost an index finger.

The gunman’s weapon apparently jammed and he was chased from the temple by a former Army sergeant in the congregation, then sped away in a car as an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent shot at the getaway vehicle. Earnest pulled over and surrendered to police soon afterward.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Steve Gorman and Leslie Adler)

Two students arrested in Colorado school shooting make first appearance

Crime scene tape is seen outside the school following the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Keith Coffman

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (Reuters) – Two teenage students accused of fatally shooting one classmate and wounding eight in a suburban Denver school made separate court appearances on Wednesday, a day after their arrest on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.

Douglas County District Judge Theresa Slade, who presided over both proceedings, ordered the two suspects to remain held without bond pending their next court hearings, set for Friday, when formal charges are expected to be filed.

The two youths are accused of opening fire with handguns on fellow students on Tuesday in two classrooms at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Denver.

They were arrested by police after several students under fire at the school fought back, including a young U.S. Marine recruit, Brendan Bialy, who survived, and 18-year-old robotics enthusiast Kendrick Ray Castillo, who was killed.

Castillo’s father, John Castillo, told the Denver Fox news affiliate Fox 31, that his son, “gave up his life for others.”

“If he didn’t do it, what would this mess look like?” he said.

Devon Erickson, 18, accused of taking part in a deadly school shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, appears at the Douglas County Courthouse where he faces murder and attempted murder charges, in Castle Rock, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Pool via REUTERS

The first defendant, Devon Erickson, 18, who prosecutors said they were treating as an adult, sat silently at a small table with his head bowed, hands shackled to his waist, flanked by two defense lawyers as a pair of sheriff’s deputies stood just behind them.

Slight of build with longish, unkempt black hair partially dyed bright lavender, Erickson wore an orange-red jail uniform.

His 16-year-old accused accomplice, referred to in court by his lawyer as Alec McKinney, was listed on the court docket by the name Maya Elizabeth McKinney but was addressed by the judge during the hearing as Mr McKinney.

Denver’s ABC television affiliate, citing an unidentified police source, has reported that the younger suspect identified as transgender and had been bullied for it.

Erickson’s hearing was televised live, but the judge closed McKinney’s hearing to cameras. District Attorney George Brauchler said he would decide by Friday whether to charge McKinney as a juvenile or adult.

Dressed in dark blue jail garb with short-cropped brown hair, McKinney said little in court except to answer softly, “No your honor,” when the judge asked the defendant if there were any questions. The judge refused a defense request to unshackle McKinney for the hearing.

No pleas were entered.

ECHOES OF COLUMBINE

The ABC affiliate, Denver 7, said the two pistols used in the attack had been stolen from the home of Erickson. His friends told the Denver Post that he had acted in musical theater and performed as lead singer in several rock bands. According to Denver 7, city law enforcement sources, Erickson’s parents had purchased the guns legally.

Both defendants were being held on suspicion of a single count of first-degree murder and 29 counts of attempted murder, according to court records. Eight students were wounded in the shooting and survived.

The attack occurred less than a month after the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in nearby Littleton, carried out by two students who shot 13 people to death before committing suicide.

Precisely what happened inside the STEM school remained unclear as police searched for a motive in the attack.

Sheriff Tony Spurlock said there was a struggle as officers entered the building, and some students said one victim was shot in the chest as he tried to tackle a shooter.

A man who identified himself as Fernando Montoya said his 17-year-old son, a junior at STEM, was shot three times when one assailant walked into his classroom and opened fire.

“He said a guy pulled a pistol out of a guitar case and started to shoot,” Montoya told the Denver TV station.

The bloodshed shocked the affluent suburb of Highlands Ranch. Parents and students had considered the school a safe place for its 1,850 pupils ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“It still doesn’t seem real to me. It completely came out of nowhere,” Aiden Beatty, a friend of Erickson, told the Denver Post, recounting that he broke down sobbing in his car when he heard Erickson had been arrested in the shooting. “I was really close with him. We were best friends.”

The attack came a week after a gunman opened fire on the Charlotte campus of the University of North Carolina, killing two people and wounding four others.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Castle Rock, Colo.; additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely in New York and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico and Rich McKay in Atlanta; writing by Scott Malone and Steve Gorman; editing by Bill Trott, G Crosse and Lisa Shumaker)

Accused California gunman pleads not guilty in synagogue murder, mosque arson

A crowd watches on screen the funeral for Lori Gilbert-Kaye, the sole fatality of the Saturday synagogue shooting at the Congregation Chabad synagogue in Poway, north of San Diego, California, U.S. April 29, 2019. REUTERS/John Gastaldo

By Jennifer McEntee

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – A 19-year-old man accused of killing one worshipper and wounding three others in a shooting spree in a California synagogue pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to murder and attempted-murder charges in an attack prosecutors are treating as a hate crime.

John Earnest, arrested shortly after Saturday’s bloodshed at the Chabad of Poway synagogue north of San Diego, also pleaded not guilty to a single count of arson on a house of worship stemming from a nearby mosque that was set on fire in March.

Appearing behind a glass partition for his arraignment in San Diego County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon, Earnest stood expressionless and spoke faintly as he gave one-word answers to procedural questions put to him by the judge.

The lanky defendant – a nursing student enrolled at California State University at San Marcos – wore dark-rimmed glasses with his hair combed straight forward.

Ordering him to remain held without bail, Judge Joseph Brannigan said Earnest would pose “an obvious and extraordinary risk” to the public if he were to be released pending trial.

The proceeding was attended by six Hasidic Jewish men who sat in the front row of the courtroom, dressed in the traditional dark garb of the Jewish ultra-Orthodox faithful.

Authorities said Earnest stalked into the Poway synagogue during Sabbath prayers on the last day of the week-long Jewish Passover holiday and opened fire with an assault-style rifle, killing 60-year-old worshipper Lori Gilbert-Kaye

Three others were wounded in the attack, including the rabbi, who was shot in the hand and lost an index finger.

John Earnest, accused in the fatal shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, stands in court during an arraignment hearing in San Diego, California, U.S., April 30, 2019. Nelvin C. Cepeda/Pool via REUTERS

John Earnest, accused in the fatal shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, stands in court during an arraignment hearing in San Diego, California, U.S., April 30, 2019. Nelvin C. Cepeda/Pool via REUTERS

RAMBLING MANIFESTO

The gunman, whose weapon apparently jammed, was chased out of the temple by a former Army sergeant in the congregation, then sped away in a car, escaping an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent who shot at the getaway vehicle but missed the suspect. Earnest pulled over and surrendered to police soon afterward.

Authorities said later they believed Earnest was the author of a rambling, violently anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim “manifesto” found posted on the internet under his name.

In it, the writer claimed responsibility for a pre-dawn arson fire on March 24 that damaged the Islamic Center of Escondido, a town about 15 miles (24 km) north of Poway, and professed to have drawn his inspiration from the gunman who killed 50 people at two mosques earlier that month in New Zealand.

Saturday’s bloodshed near San Diego came six months to the day after 11 worshippers were fatally shot at a Pittsburgh synagogue in a massacre that ranks as the deadliest ever on American Jewry. The accused gunman in that attack was arrested.

Authorities said Earnest had no prior criminal record.

Besides the charge of committing arson at a place of worship, he is charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder. The criminal complaint, filed on Monday, also alleges the synagogue shooting was perpetrated as a hate crime. His public defender entered not guilty pleas to all charges on his behalf during Tuesday’s hearing.

If convicted, he would face life in prison without parole, or the death penalty, the district attorney’s office said.

District Attorney Summer Stephan told reporters afterward Earnest had legally purchased the murder weapon, although current California law generally prohibits rifles and shotguns from being sold to anyone under 21. The state’s legal age limit for such firearms was raised from 18 starting this year.

In addition to the murder weapon, Stephan said, police found five loaded ammunition magazines and another 50 rounds of bullets in Earnest’s vehicle when he was arrested.

(Reporting by Jennifer McEntee in San Diego; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Peter Szekely in New York; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

Ukraine says it captured Russian military intelligence hit squad

Head of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasyl Hrytsak (SBU) speaks during a news conference, dedicated to the alleged detention of members of a sabotage-reconnaissance group, who according to SBU were sent by Russian intelligence agencies, in Kiev, Ukraine April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s security service SBU said on Wednesday it had captured a Russian military intelligence hit squad responsible for the attempted murder of a Ukrainian military spy in the run-up to a presidential election on Sunday.

The issue of how to deal with Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014 and backs pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, is prominent ahead of the vote, with incumbent Petro Poroshenko casting himself as the commander-in-chief Ukraine needs to defend the country.

Vasyl Hrytsak, the head of the SBU, the main intelligence agency, told a news conference in Kiev that seven members of the Russian group had been detained and charged and that an eighth person had been detained on Wednesday morning.

Two of the group’s members were Russian citizens, said Anatoly Matios, Ukraine’s military prosecutor, describing them as staff officers of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency. The other six were Ukrainians.

There was no immediate reaction from Russia’s GRU.

The SBU has reported before that it captured groups belonging to Russian special agencies.

“Those detained were involved in the attempted murder of an employee of the Ukrainian defense ministry’s intelligence service…in Kiev in April,” said Matios, adding the group had planted a bomb beneath the man’s car which had gone off prematurely, badly injuring one of the accused.

The SBU released a video of the same incident which showed a man placing the bomb under a car before a big explosion. The video showed a man lying in a hospital bed with part of his right arm missing saying he was Russian and born in Moscow.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Salisbury poisoning suspect named as a Russian colonel by UK media

Russian military representatives pose in front of the memorial wall with Anatoliy Chepiga as the last name under the Gold Star honor list at the Far-Eastern Military Command Academy in Blagoveshensk, Russia May 24, 2017. Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) – The real identity of one of the men wanted by Britain for the Salisbury nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter is Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga, according to media reports on Wednesday which said he was a decorated Russian colonel.

Earlier this month, British prosecutors charged two Russians – Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – with attempted murder for the Novichok poisoning of the Skripals in the southern English city in March but said they believed the suspects had been using aliases to enter Britain.

The Daily Telegraph and the BBC said Boshirov’s real name was Chepiga, citing investigative reporting by Bellingcat, a website which covers intelligence matters. Two European security sources familiar with the Skripal investigation said the details were accurate.

FILE PHOTO: Ruslan Boshirov, who was formally accused of attempting to murder former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, is seen on CCTV at Gatwick Airport on March 2, 2018 in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, Britain September 5, 2018. Metroplitan Police handout via REUTERS

FILE PHOTO: Ruslan Boshirov, who was formally accused of attempting to murder former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, is seen on CCTV at Gatwick Airport on March 2, 2018 in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, Britain September 5, 2018. Metroplitan Police handout via REUTERS

Russia denies any involvement in the poisoning, and the two men have said they were merely tourists who had flown to London for fun and visited Salisbury to see its cathedral.

The British government knows both their real identities, sources close to the investigation have said.

The Telegraph reported that Chepiga, 39, had served in wars in Chechnya and Ukraine, and was made a Hero of the Russian Federation by decree of President Vladimir Putin in 2014.

The Metropolitan Police, who are investigating the poisoning, and the Foreign Office declined to comment on the report. But British defense minister Gavin Williamson appeared to confirm its veracity on Twitter.

“The true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian Colonel. I want to thank all the people who are working so tirelessly on this case,” Williamson said in a tweet, which was later deleted without explanation.

Prime Minister Theresa May did not address the reports directly in a speech to the United Nations in New York, but spoke of “the reckless use of chemical weapons on the streets of Britain by agents of the Russian GRU (military intelligence)”.

The Russian Embassy in London was not immediately available to comment. The Kremlin has previously said that the suspects have nothing to do with Putin.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Mark Hosenball, additional reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison and Robin Pomeroy)

Man deported six times charged with murder in California bludgeonings

Ramon Escobar, 47, appears in a booking photo provided by the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 27, 2018. Harris County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

By Steve Gorman and Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A man who police said fled to California from Texas after being questioned in the disappearance of two relatives was charged on Wednesday in Los Angeles with bludgeoning eight men, three fatally, in a string of attacks aimed mostly at homeless victims.

Ramon Alberto Escobar, 47, an El Salvador native and convicted burglar who has been repeatedly deported from the United States, was arrested on Monday after he allegedly clubbed a sleeping man in the head with bolt-cutters in the ocean-front city of Santa Monica, authorities said.

Seven other men were similarly attacked in Santa Monica and Los Angeles earlier this month, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Police have said one victim was sleeping under a pier after a night of fishing and that most of the rest of the victims were homeless, including three men battered with a baseball bat in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 16.

Two of those victims and the man attacked beneath the pier died of their injuries. Some survivors were left in a coma.

On Wednesday, the district attorney’s office formally charged Escobar with three counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and four counts of robbery. If convicted of murder, he faces a minimum sentence of life without parole.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said Tuesday that Escobar had been deported back to El Salvador six times between 1977 and 2011 and has six felony convictions for burglary and illegal re-entry. Police have said he spent five years in a Texas prison for burglary from 1995 to 2000.

Escobar in 2016 filed an appeal of his immigration case, which U.S. courts granted in December of that year, and he was released from ICE custody on an “order of supervision” in January 2017, ICE spokesperson Paige Hughes said by email.

Escobar, now jailed without bond, briefly appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, but the arraignment was postponed until Nov. 8. No plea was entered.

Judge Gustavo Sztraicher granted a defense motion barring public dissemination of the defendant’s image, including by photograph or courtroom sketch drawing, so as not to prejudice potential witnesses who might identify him for prosecutors.

Escobar appeared expressionless and said nothing except to answer, “Yes, sir,” when asked if he agreed to the postponement.

Defense lawyers declined to speak to reporters.

Meanwhile, police in Houston said Escobar was a “person of interest” in the investigation into the disappearance of an aunt and uncle with whom Escobar lived before they were reported missing in late August by other relatives.

The aunt’s van was later found burned and abandoned in Galveston, Texas, according to Houston police spokesman Kese Smith.

Escobar was questioned by Houston homicide detectives on Aug. 30, but they lacked probable cause to detain him at the time, Smith told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that Houston detectives would seek to “re-interview” Escobar in California.

Hayes said Escobar “fled” Texas by car soon after he was questioned in Houston, arriving in Los Angeles on Sept. 5. The first attack police linked to him occurred three days later.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker)

UK charges two Russians for attempted murder of Skripals, blames Moscow

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who were formally accused of attempting to murder former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, are seen in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, Britain September 5, 2018. Metroplitan Police handout via REUTERS

By Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain charged two Russians in absentia on Wednesday with the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter, saying the suspects were military intelligence officers almost certainly acting on orders from high up in the Russian state.

British police revealed images of the two men they said had flown to Britain for a weekend in March to kill former spy Sergei Skripal with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent.

Skripal’s daughter Yulia and a police officer who attended the scene also fell ill in the case, which has caused the biggest East-West diplomatic expulsions since the Cold War. A woman later died from Novichok poisoning after her partner found a counterfeit perfume bottle which police believe had been used to smuggle the nerve agent into Britain.

British authorities identified the suspects as Russian nationals traveling on genuine passports under the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Prime Minister Theresa May said the government had concluded they were officers in Russia’s military intelligence service GRU.

“The GRU is a highly disciplined organization with a well-established chain of command, so this was not a rogue operation, May told parliament. “It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state.”

Skripal, himself a former GRU officer who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, was found unconscious with Yulia on a public bench in the southern English city of Salisbury on March 4.

Police released security camera images of the two suspects and outlined a three-day mission that took them from Moscow to London to Salisbury, where they sprayed poison on Skripal’s door before flying back to Moscow hours later.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the names given by Britain did not mean anything to Moscow, which has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.

“We have heard or seen two names, these names mean nothing to me personally,” Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow. “I don’t understand why this was done and what sort of signal the British side is sending.”

Britain and dozens of other countries have kicked out scores of Russian diplomats over the incident, and Moscow has responded tit-for-tat with an identical number of expulsions. The affair has worsened Russian relations with the West, already under strain over Ukraine, Syria and other issues.

May’s spokesman said May had briefed U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening. U.S. Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson said on Twitter the United States stood with Britain in holding Russia accountable for its “act of aggression”.

Packaging for a counterfeit bottle of perfume that was recovered from Charlie Rowley's home after he and his partner Dawn Sturgess were poisoned by the same nerve agent which was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, is seen in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, Britain September 5, 2018. Metroplitan Police handout via REUTER

Packaging for a counterfeit bottle of perfume that was recovered from Charlie Rowley’s home after he and his partner Dawn Sturgess were poisoned by the same nerve agent which was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, is seen in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, Britain September 5, 2018. Metroplitan Police handout via REUTERS

“REMARKABLY SOPHISTICATED ATTACK

The “remarkably sophisticated” attack appeared to be a clear assassination attempt, said Neil Basu, head of UK counter-terrorism policing. He described an investigation which involved 250 detectives and analysis of some 11,000 hours of video.

According to police, the suspects, both around 40 years old, flew to London from Moscow on March 2. They spent two nights in an east London hotel, making two day trips to Salisbury, the first for reconnaissance, the second to kill Skripal. They flew out on March 4, hours after the Skripals were found unconscious.

Security cameras filmed the suspects near Skripal’s house, and traces of Novichok were found in their London hotel room.

The Russians are charged with conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and with the attempted murder of Skripal, his daughter and police officer Nick Bailey. They are also charged with illegal use and possession of a chemical weapon.

A European arrest warrant has been issued for them, but prosecutors said Britain would not ask Moscow to extradite Russian citizens because Russia’s constitution forbids it.

Basu said the Skripals were making a good recovery.

A woman from a town near Salisbury, Dawn Sturgess, died in July and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill after Rowley found a counterfeit bottle of Nina Ricci perfume containing Novichok in a charity collection box and brought it home. Basu said police had no doubt the events were linked and were discussing charges over the Sturgess and Rowley case with prosecutors.

The Skripal case has been likened by British politicians to the murder of Russian dissident ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope in a London hotel in 2006. Britain charged two Russians with his murder but both remain in Russia, and one later won a seat in parliament.

May said the Litvinenko case showed there was no point to demanding the Skripal suspects’ extradition. “But should either of these individuals ever again travel outside Russia, we will take every possible step to detain them, to extradite them and to bring them to face justice here in the United Kingdom.”

(Additional reporting by Kate Holton, Elizabeth Piper, Kylie MacLellan and William Schomberg; Editing by Stephen Addison and Peter Graff)

Iraqi teenager guilty of carrying out London train bombing

The explosive device, left by Ahmed Hassan, can be seen still smoking on the underground train at Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain. Metropolitian Police/Handout via

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – An Iraqi teenager, who had come to Britain as an asylum seeker, was found guilty on Friday of attempted murder after detonating a homemade bomb on a packed rush-hour London commuter train, injuring 30 people, prosecutors and police said.

Ahmed Hassan, 18, was found guilty of trying to murder the passengers on board an underground train heading to central London on Sept. 15 last year, prosecutors said.

The bomb went off at Parsons Green station and flames engulfed the carriage, but it did not fully explode, limiting the scale of injuries in what authorities said was Britain’s fifth major attack of 2017.

“It was only a matter of luck that the device did not work as he intended or it could easily have led to the loss of innocent lives,” said Sue Hemming from Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service.

Hassan, who the court heard had spoken of his duty to hate Britain because of the deaths of his parents in Iraq, had been placed under Britain’s counter-radicalisation program at the time.

“He was very cunning and devious,” Dean Haydon, the head of London Police’s Counter Terrorism Command told BBC TV.

“On the face of it, Hassan was engaged on the program. But coming back to his devious nature, he kept it very secretive in relation to what he was doing, what he was planning, and nobody around him actually knew what his plot was.”

Haydon said a review of the counter-radicalisation program would now be undertaken.

On the day of the attack, the teenager left his foster home in Sunbury-on-Thames in west London and set the timer for the device, made with the highly volatile triacetone triperoxide (TATP) – known as “the mother of Satan”, in toilets at Wimbledon station where he boarded a District Line underground train, police said.

A handout photograph of Ahmed Hassan, who has been convicted of exploding a device on an underground train at Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain. Picture supplied March 16, 2018. Metropolitian Police/Handout via REUTERS

A handout photograph of Ahmed Hassan, who has been convicted of exploding a device on an underground train at Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain. Picture supplied March 16, 2018. Metropolitian Police/Handout via REUTERS

SHRAPNEL

He got off at the stop before Parsons Green leaving behind his bomb which was placed in a bucket. It was packed with more than two kilograms of metal shrapnel including screws, bolts, nails, knives and screw drivers, the court heard.

There were 93 passengers in the carriage when it detonated. They reported hearing a loud bang and seeing a fireball with one woman suffering burns to her hands, legs, and face causing her to lose the hair on her eyebrows and eyelashes. Others were hurt in a stampede to flee the scene.

Hassan was arrested in the southern port of Dover the following day carrying 2,320 pounds in cash and a new phone.

The court heard he arrived in Britain in the back of a lorry in 2015, claimed asylum and was placed with foster parents in Sunbury. He told British officials that he had been taken by force by Islamic State militants, who had threatened to kill his family members, and had given him military training.

Britain said at the time there was no evidence to suggest IS was responsible for the Parsons Green attack despite the group’s claims of responsibility.

Police and prosecutors said his motive was unclear. A teacher and a youth worker told the court Hassan had seemed confused and angry, and that he believed his father had been killed by U.S. bombing.

Hassan admitted to police he had made the bomb but said he had never intended to kill and merely wanted attention. He had pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder.

He told the court that he had been attracted to the idea of being a fugitive, chased across Europe by the police and Interpol.

However, the jury at London’s Old Bailey court convicted him of attempted murder and he will be sentenced at a later date.

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Paul Sandle and Andrew Heavens)

Alabama police hunting for inmate after large prison break

Inmate Brady Andrew Kilpatrick shown in this undated booking photo provided July 31, 2017, is the last remaining inmate at large after 11 of 12 prison escapees have been recaptured after a mass jailbreak at the Walker County Jail, near Birmingham, Alabama, according to authorities. Courtesy Walker County

(Reuters) – Law enforcement officials searched on Monday for an escaped prisoner on the loose in northern Alabama following a jailbreak of 12 prisoners, the local sheriff’s office said.

There were scant details about how the 12 inmates managed to escape from Walker County Jail, northwest of Birmingham, but the county sheriff’s office said on Facebook that authorities had recaptured 11 of them, some at a highway truck stop.

They continued to hunt for Brady Kilpatrick, the 24-year-old inmate who was still at large. Kilpatrick had been in jail facing charges of marijuana possession.

Police in the small city of Jasper, where the jail is located, urged downtown residents to stay inside and turn on their outdoor lights. Police from nearby Parrish, Alabama, were also involved in the search.

The dozen escapees, all men aged 18 to 30, were imprisoned on charges including robbery, attempted murder, domestic violence and drug possession.

 

(Reporting by Chris Michaud and Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Frances Kerry)

 

Man charged with terrorism-related murder in London van attack

A police officer stands outside the home of Darren Osborne, in Cardiff, Wales June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

LONDON (Reuters) – A man suspected of driving a van at Muslim worshippers leaving a London mosque has been charged with terrorism-related murder and attempted murder, British police said on Friday.

Darren Osborne, 47, is accused of plowing the rented vehicle into the group in Finsbury Park in the early hours of Monday morning. One man died at the scene and another 11 were injured.

Osborne, a father of four from Cardiff in Wales, was due to appear before magistrates on Friday.

Police have said the van was driven from Cardiff to London on Sunday, before it crashed into a crowd of people who were attending to a man who had fallen ill outside the mosque.

The man later died, and police said the cause of death was his multiple injuries.

Osborne was arrested at the scene after being apprehended by the crowd. The imam of the mosque intervened to protect him before police arrived.

Osborne’s relatives have said they are “devastated for the families” of the victims and that the attack was “sheer madness”.

The incident was the fourth attack in Britain since March described by police as terrorist, and the third to involve a vehicle driven at pedestrians. Previous attacks were blamed on Islamist extremists.

(Reporting by Michael Holden and Alistair Smout; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Andrew Roche)