Freeport evacuating Indonesian mine worker families after shootings

Freeport evacuating Indonesian mine worker families after shootings

TIMIKA, Indonesia (Reuters) – U.S. miner Freeport-McMoRan Inc is evacuating spouses and children of workers from its giant Indonesian copper mine after a string of shootings in the area raised security concerns.

The move follows efforts by Indonesian authorities on Friday to evacuate villages near Freeport’s Grasberg mine in the eastern province of Papua that authorities said had been occupied by armed separatists.

Since August at least 12 people have been injured and two police officers have been killed by gunmen with suspected links to separatist rebels.

Freeport has asked family and household members of its employees to prepare over the weekend for a temporary relocation from the mining town of Tembagapura, about 10 km (6.2 miles) from Grasberg, company sources said. Workers have been asked to stay behind and maintain their work schedule, they said.

Details of the evacuation or the number of people impacted were not immediately clear. Shots were fired at a light vehicle and two large mining trucks were set on fire at Grasberg on Saturday, one of the sources said. The sources declined to be named as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Freeport in a statement on Saturday confirmed the evacuation plan and said it will be carried out immediately.

“We are working closely with government and law enforcement to ensure the safety of our people and those in the communities we support, and to bring about the return of peace and stability as soon as possible,” it said.

Grasberg is the world’s second-largest copper mine by volume.

The separatist West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM) says it is at war with Indonesian authorities and wants to “destroy” Freeport in an effort to gain sovereignty for the region.

TPN-OPM has claimed responsibility for the shootings but denies police allegations it took civilian hostages.

(Reporting by Sam Wanda in TIMIKA; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy and Fergus Jensen in JAKARTA; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

In grieving Texas town, faith sustains those left behind

A member of the media walks inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

By Tim Reid

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (Reuters) – Joe Holcombe and his wife, Claryce, lost eight members of their family in the Texas church shooting last Sunday, including their son, grandchildren, a pregnant granddaughter-in-law and a great- granddaughter who was still a toddler. But they are serene.

Chairs and roses mark where worshipers were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

Chairs and roses mark where worshipers were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

“It’s just not a problem to us,” said Holcombe, 86, adding that he and 84-year-old Claryce believe their dead family members are now alive again in heaven.

“We know exactly where the family is, and it’s not going to be long until we’ll both be there,” he said. “And we’re really sort of looking forward to it.”

Chairs and roses show where Joann and Brooke Ward and others were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

Chairs and roses show where Joann and Brooke Ward and others were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The Holcombes were upbeat and full of good humor during a telephone interview, and they are not an exception in this deeply evangelical part of Texas.

What is so striking about relatives and friends of the 26 victims of the church shooting in tiny Sutherland Springs is that they all believe good will come from this act of evil and that their loved ones are now safe for eternity, and breathing again, with God.

Psychologists say such deep faith can help families deal with such a ghastly event. Even so, they warn that leaning too heavily on one’s religious beliefs can stunt the natural grieving period and result in post-traumatic stress later.

A cross with a crown of thorns and a Bible open to the book of Proverbs are seen at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

A cross with a crown of thorns and a Bible open to the book of Proverbs are seen at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

“I can see potentially it could be some form of denial, a delayed traumatic reaction, and if you don’t have some kind of negative feelings, it can catch up with you,” said clinical psychologist and trauma expert Bethany Brand.

Gina Hassan, a psychologist in northern California, said Sutherland Spring’s faith was invaluable in the wake of the shooting, “but if it’s relied upon in a rigid way, then it’s going to be a problem down the line and come back to bite you later on.”

Local veterinarian George Hill, a relative of the Holcombes, said an evangelical belief in Christ was the only way to deal with such a tragedy.

“We haven’t lost hope,” he said. “They are not gone. They are just gone ahead. And we know we’ll see them again.”

He expressed faith that evil would not prevail. “It looks like evil won, but it didn’t,” he said. “Good is going to win.”

Pastor Mike Clements of the First Baptist Church in Floresville, a small city 14 miles from Sutherland Springs, is officiating over the funeral services for the extended Holcombe family on Wednesday.

The dead include Bryan Holcombe, Joe and Claryce Holcombe’s son, and his wife Karla. Their son Danny Holcombe was killed as well, along with his 18-month-old daughter, Noah. Crystal Holcombe, who was 18 weeks pregnant, was Bryan and Karla Holcombe’s daughter-in-law.

Also shot and killed were Emily, Megan and Greg Hill, three children from Crystal’s first marriage, which had ended with her husband’s death.

Under Texas law, Crystal’s unborn child is also being counted as a victim, making a death toll of nine for the family.

People in Sutherland Springs are truly grieving, Clements said. But evangelicals accept Christ into their lives in a very real way, and because of that, their faith is incredibly liberating, especially at a time of such great tragedy.

Most fundamentally, he said, they believe people who have accepted Christ will go to heaven.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Clements said over lunch near his church. “There is nothing better than heaven when you are a believer.”

 

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Von Ahn)

 

U.S. mainland Puerto Ricans anguished, unable to reach loved ones

Evelyn Carrillo, 24, (L) and Deserie Rivera, 34, pose for a photo at Café Borinquen, the Puerto Rican restaurant where they work in Plantation, Florida, U.S., September 21, 2017. Photo taken September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Bernie Woodall

By Bernie Woodall and Stephanie Kelly

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla./NEW YORK (Reuters) – Deserie Rivera is having difficulty sleeping at night, unable to get through to Puerto Rico to find out if her mother is safe after Hurricane Maria struck.

Rivera, a 34-year-old waitress at a Puerto Rican restaurant in the southern Florida city of Sunrise, says that she knows that she is not alone. She has many friends who also cannot reach their loved ones on the devastated island.

“I just want to hear their voices. I want to know they are OK,” Rivera said on Friday morning, desperate after three days to get word about her mother, Noemi Vazquez, 57, and the rest of her family in Vega Alta, on the hard-hit northern part of the island, where six people were confirmed dead by Friday morning.

The day after the Category 4 hurricane struck on Wednesday, more than 95 percent of wireless cell sites were not working on island, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said. [nL2N1M2214] And nearly no one had electricity.

The communications breakdown has been painful for many of 5.17 million people living in the United States who identify as Puerto Ricans, a community that outnumbers the 3.4 million who live on the island.

Puerto Ricans live throughout the mainland United States. The New York area including New Jersey has one of the oldest communities, but in recent years, more than a third of islanders moving to the mainland have settled in Florida, a Pew Research study found.

Jorge Ortiz, the 55-year-old owner of Café Borinquen in Plantation, Florida, where Rivera works, said he feared that number of confirmed deaths will grow once communications return and roadways are cleared of downed trees and power lines.

Ortiz is one of several owners of Puerto Rican restaurants in southern Florida who have said they will collect goods to ship to Puerto Rico, part of a grassroots effort to aid those remaining on the island.

“We will keep collecting for as long as it takes, and that may be a long time,” said Ortiz.

What little Rivera has learned from Vega Alta is not all that reassuring.

“My mom’s neighbors were able to send someone I know a text message when they had just enough signal for that but not enough for a phone call,” said Rivera. “They said that they are OK, so I guess my mom is, too. But I don’t know.”

By Friday morning, some communications had been restored.

Lizette Colon, who lives in New York, was finally able to get in contact with her brother Friday morning. She said that others around her still have not heard from family members.

“It’s so emotional,” Colon said, crying. “I just want people here not to forget us.”

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Stephanie Kelly in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Charlie Gard’s parents say hospital denied their ‘final wish’ for dying son

Charlie Gard's parents Connie Yates and Chris Gard read a statement at the High Court after a hearing on their baby's future, in London. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) – The parents of Charlie Gard, a terminally ill baby who a judge ordered should be sent to a hospice to die, said Britain’s top pediatric hospital had denied them their final wish to decide the arrangements for their son’s death.

After a harrowing legal battle that prompted a global debate over who has the moral right to decide the fate of a sick child, a judge on Thursday ordered that Charlie be moved to a hospice where the ventilator that keeps him alive will be turned off.

His parents had sought first to take him home but Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) said that was not possible due the ventilation Charlie needs, they then asked for several days in a hospice to bid farewell to their son.

But they were unable to find doctors to oversee such an extended period of time and so a judge ruled that Charlie be moved to a hospice to die.

“GOSH have denied us our final wish,” his mother, Connie Yates, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“Despite us and our legal team working tirelessly to arrange this near impossible task, the judge has ordered against what we arranged and has agreed to what GOSH asked,” she said. “This subsequently gives us very little time with our son.”

Great Ormond Street Hospital, a pioneering pediatric center, said that it deeply regretted the breakdown in relations with Charlie’s parents, in a case that has involved months of legal wrangling and has even drawn comment from U.S. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis.

“Most people won’t ever have to go through what we have been through, we’ve had no control over our son’s life and no control over our son’s death,” Charlie’s mother said.

“We just want some peace with our son, no hospital, no lawyers, no courts, no media, just quality time with Charlie away from everything, to say goodbye to him in the most loving way.”

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Search for Arizona man after flash flood kills 9 of his family

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) – Authorities searched on Monday for a missing man after a flash flood crashed down an Arizona canyon, law enforcement officials said, reportedly killing his wife and eight other family members at a popular swimming spot north of Phoenix.

Searchers scoured an area of the Tonto National Forest for an unidentified 27-year-old man who officials said was among 14 members of an extended family hit by a wall of flood water on Saturday afternoon.

Nine of the family, ranging in age from 2 to 57, died in the floodwaters on Saturday afternoon, according to a statement on Monday from the Gila County Sheriff’s Department.Four others from the Phoenix family, aged between 1 and 29, were rescued and survived the incident.

The Arizona Republic newspaper identified the missing man as Hector Miguel Garnica and said that the dead included Garnica’s wife, Maria Raya, 25, and her three children, Emily, 3, Mia, 5, and Hector Daniel, 7. Also killed was Selia Garcia, who authorities said was 57 and whom the Republic identified as Raya’s mother.

The group of 14 was swept down the creek after a thunderstorm hit about eight miles away in an area that had been burned by a nearly 7,200-acre wildfire last month, according to authorities.

Officials with the National Weather Service said one to 1.5 inches fell in 20 to 30 minutes in the area near Payson, about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Phoenix.

A video posted on social media showed a muddy, debris-filled torrent that hit Ellison Creek, rushing down a narrow canyon where the swimmers were taking in the cool waters at the popular spot.

Three bodies were recovered on Saturday, with the other six recovered on Sunday, officials said.

Forecasters said they were concerned about additional possible flash flooding projected for central and southern Arizona.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix said that most of Arizona was under flash flood watch until Monday evening, warning that the monsoon air mass over the region was very wet and conducive to heavy thunderstorm rain that could lead to flood or flash flooding.

(Reporting by David Schwartz, additional reporting by Taylor Harris; Editing by Andrew Hay and Patrick Enright)

Family firm in Ukraine says it was not responsible for cyber attack

Sergei Linnik, general director of Ukrainian software development firm Intellect Service, and his daughter Olesya pose for a picture at the company’s offices in Kiev, Ukraine July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Pavel Polityuk

By Jack Stubbs and Pavel Polityuk

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian company Intellect Service was not responsible for last week’s international cyber attack that brought down the computer systems of several major companies, the father and daughter team told Reuters on Monday.

Cyber security investigators are still trying to establish who was behind the attack.

But Ukrainian officials and security firms including Microsoft <MSFT.O>, Cisco’s <CSCO.O> Talos and Symantec <SYMC.O> say they have confirmed that some of the initial infections occurred when malware was transmitted to users of a Ukrainian tax software program called M.E.Doc.

They say the virus, dubbed NotPetya by some experts, was primarily spread via an update issued by M.E.Doc, the accounting software developed by Olesya Linnik and her father Sergei at his company, Intellect Service.

In their first interview with foreign media since the attack, the Linniks said there was no evidence M.E.Doc, which is Ukraine’s most-popular accounting software, was used to spread the virus and they did not understand the charges against them.

“What has been established in these days, when no one slept and only worked? We studied and analysed our product for signs of hacking – it is not infected with a virus and everything is fine, it is safe,” said Olesya, managing partner at Intellect Service.

“The update package, which was sent out long before the virus was spread, we checked it 100 times and everything is fine.”

Little known outside Ukrainian accounting circles, M.E.Doc is an everyday part of life at around 80 percent of companies in Ukraine. The software allows its 400,000 clients to send and discuss financial documents between internal departments, as well as file them with the Ukrainian state tax service.

POLICE INVESTIGATING

Investigators have said M.E.Doc’s expansive reach is what made it a prime target for the unknown hackers, who were looking for a way to infect as many victims as possible.

“These malware families were spread using Ukrainian accounting software called M.E.Doc,” researchers at Slovakian security software firm ESET said in a blog post on Friday.

“M.E.Doc has an internal messaging and document exchange system so attackers could send spearphishing messages to victims.”

Ukrainian police said on Monday the Linniks could now face criminal charges if it is confirmed they knew about the infection but took no action.

“We have issues with the company’s leadership, because they knew there was a virus in their software but didn’t do anything … if this is confirmed, we will bring charges,” Serhiy Demedyuk, the head of Ukraine’s cyber police, told Reuters in a text message.

Speaking before Demedyuk’s comments at the company’s modest offices on an industrial estate in Kiev, Sergei, Intellect Service’s general director, raised his voice in frustration.

“We built this business over 20 years. What is the point of us killing our own business?”

Olesya said the company was cooperating with investigators and the police were yet to reach any conclusions.

“The cyber police are currently bogged down in the investigation, we gave them the logs of all our servers and there are no traces that our servers spread this virus,” she said.

“M.E.Doc is a transportation product, it delivers documents. But is an email program guilty in the distribution of a virus? Hardly.”

(Writing by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Anna Willard)

Mourners in Ohio remember U.S. student held prisoner by North Korea

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 Ginny McCabe

WYOMING, Ohio (Reuters) – Friends and family members will gather in Ohio on Thursday to say goodbye to an American student who died days after being returned to the United States in a coma following 17 months in captivity in North Korea.

Otto Warmbier, 22, was arrested in the reclusive communist country while visiting as a tourist. He was brought back to the United States last week with brain damage, in what doctors described as state of “unresponsive wakefulness,” and died on Monday.

A public memorial will be held on Thursday morning at Wyoming High School, in the Cincinnati suburb of Wyoming. Warmbier will be buried later in the day at a local cemetery.

The exact cause of his death is unclear. Officials at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was treated, declined to provide details, and Warmbier’s family on Tuesday asked that the Hamilton County Coroner not perform an autopsy.

Warmbier’s father, Fred Warmbier, told a news conference last week that his son had flourished while at the high school.

“This is the place where Otto experienced some of the best moments of his young life, and he would be pleased to know that his return to the United States would be acknowledged on these grounds,” he said.

After graduating as class salutatorian in 2013, Warmbier enrolled at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he was studying at the school of commerce and was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity. Warmbier was scheduled to graduate this year.

At a memorial service on Tuesday night, students at the university remembered Warmbier as outgoing and energetic.

“Being with Otto made life all the more beautiful,” Alex Vagonis, Warmbier’s girlfriend, said.

Warmbier was traveling in North Korea with a tour group, and was arrested at Pyongyang airport as he was about to leave.

He was sentenced two months later to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his hotel, North Korea state media said.

Ria Westergaard Pedersen, 33, who was with Warmbier in North Korea, told the Danish broadcaster TV2 that he had been nervous when taking pictures of soldiers, and said she doubted North Korea’s explanation for his arrest.

“We went to buy propaganda posters together, so why in the world would he risk so much to steal a trivial poster? It makes no sense.”

(Wrting and additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Family declines autopsy for U.S. student released by North Korea

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 Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) – An Ohio coroner, abiding by family wishes, has performed an external examination instead of a full autopsy on the body of the U.S. student who was held prisoner in North Korea for 17 months and sent home in a coma, the agency said on Tuesday.

The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office was still conferring on Tuesday with doctors at a Cincinnati hospital who were treating Otto Warmbier, 22, before reaching any conclusions about his death a day earlier, investigator Daryl Zornes said.

Investigators also were continuing to review radiological images and awaiting additional medical records requested by the coroner, Zornes told Reuters.

He declined to estimate how long it would take for the coroner’s office to complete its inquiry. Preliminary autopsy findings had been expected later on Tuesday or on Wednesday.

There was no immediate word from the family about why relatives declined an autopsy, which may have shed more light on the cause of the neurological injuries that left him in a coma.

Warmbier’s death came just days after he was released by the North Korean government and returned to the United States suffering from what U.S. doctors described as extensive brain damage.

Warmbier, an Ohio native and student at the University of Virginia, was arrested in North Korea in January 2016 while visiting as a tourist. He was sentenced two months later to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his hotel in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, the nation’s state media said.

The circumstances of his detention and what medical treatment he received in North Korea remain unknown. The United States has demanded North Korea release three other U.S. citizens it holds in detention: missionary Kim Dong Chul and academics Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song. (Graphic of Americans held by North Korea: http://tmsnrt.rs/2pmE3ks)

Warmbier’s death has only heightened U.S.-North Korean tensions aggravated by dozens of North Korean missile launches and two nuclear bomb tests since last year in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The North Korean government has vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

Warmbier’s family has not specified how he slipped from a comatose state to death, but said in a statement on Monday that the “awful torturous mistreatment” he endured while in captivity meant “no other outcome was possible.”

Relatives have said they were told by U.S. envoys that North Korean officials claimed Warmbier contracted botulism after his trial and lapsed into a coma after taking a sleeping pill. Fred Warmbier, the student’s father, has said he disbelieves this account.

North Korea’s government said it released Warmbier last week on “humanitarian grounds.”

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he had spoken with Warmbier’s family and praised them as “incredible.”

“It’s a total disgrace what happened to Otto,” Trump told reporters in the White House, where he was meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. “And frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the results would have been a lot different.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the administration would “continue to apply economic and political pressure” on North Korea, in conjunction with U.S. allies and China, “to change this behavior and this regime.”

Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday he appreciated efforts by Chinese President Xi Jinping “to help with North Korea,” adding “It has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

The government of China, North Korea’s main ally, said Warmbier’s death was a tragedy.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Lisa Shumaker)

‘He said he was Christian, they shot him,’ says son who saw father die

Hanaa Youssef and Mina Habib, the widow and son of a man who was killed in a militant attack against Coptic Christians last month, hold the victim's portrait in Minya, Egypt June 8, 2017. Picture taken June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

By Ali Abdelaty

DAYR JARNOUS, Egypt (Reuters) – Egyptian schoolboy Mina Habib rarely leaves his house these days. The 10-year-old is still recovering from seeing Islamist gunmen kill his father for being Christian.

In an attack claimed by Islamic State, gunmen ambushed a group of Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in Minya in southern Egypt last month, killing 29 and wounding 24, with Mina’s father Adel among the dead.

A month later, residents of Dayr Jarnous, a Christian village that was home to seven of those killed, say the government is not providing proper security and has done nothing to help the victims’ families.

Mina is receiving therapy at a local church, in the absence of any treatment from the government. His brother Marco, 14, who also escaped the attack, visits a monastery to read the bible as a form of therapy.

Still shaken, village residents fear they are exposed if there is another attack and want President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to keep his promise to protect Christians. There was no extra security in the village, with only a police point out in the desert where the attack took place.

In one of the first detailed eyewitness accounts of the Minya attack, which has led to retaliatory Egyptian air strikes in Libya, Mina told Reuters it was pure chance that he and Marco were spared.

They were on a pickup truck headed to the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor when the militants stopped them.

Ahead, blood-soaked bodies littered the desert road to the monastery and two vehicles had clearly been attacked.

“We saw dead people, just dumped on the ground,” Mina recounted.

“They asked my father for identification then told him to recite the Muslim profession of faith. He refused, said he was Christian. They shot him and everyone else with us in the car.”

Mina said there were around 15 gunmen. He does not know why he and Marco were spared when other children were shot.

“They saw us in the back of the truck. They made us get down and a man wearing camouflage like the army pointed his gun at us, but another one in all black told him to let us go. Every time they shot someone they would yell God is great.”

Marco added: “They had Egyptian accents like us and they were all masked except for two of them … They looked like us and did not have beards.”

LION HEARTED

Three vehicles were attacked. A bus and a car taking children and families to the monastery were the first targets.

The gunmen shot out the windows then killed all the men and fired at the feet of the women and children. They took the women’s gold jewelry, eyewitnesses said. Some children were killed.

When one of the gunmen’s vehicles had a flat tire, they stopped Adel Habib’s truck, which was carrying Christian workers, shot them and took the truck.

Marco stopped a car when the militants left and put Mina in it to get him to safety. When at last he got mobile phone reception on the desert road, Marco called their mother.

“I first thought it was someone trying to take the truck, I never thought it would be terrorism,” said Hanaa Youssef. “My husband has been going to the monastery for 25 years and nothing like this had ever happened.”

Now she keeps her children at home – neighbors have written “Marco and Mina the lion-hearted” on its walls – only letting the boys out for therapy in church. Marco was unavailable for interview; he was at a monastery reading the bible.

“Ever since the accident I am always at home,” said Mina.

“Security, the government, and the army are negligent. No one protects us other than God. It is known that Christians are not protected in this country,” said Kirolos Ishak, a university student whose father was also killed that day.

Coptic Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 92 million, say they have been persecuted for years. In recent months attacks have increased, leaving about 100 dead.

Egypt’s Copts support Sisi, who has vowed to crush Islamist militants and protect Christians. He declared a three-month state of emergency after church bombings in April.

But many Christians feel the state is failing to protect them.

“Our Muslim neighbors say ‘you chose Sisi’ but ever since he came to power we are the ones who have suffered, not them,” said Youssef, the boys’ mother. “Churches and people have been attacked, people have been kidnapped, we are suffering.”

(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Giles Elgood)

As Taliban gain and U.S. weighs troop hike, a widow’s plea to ‘finish the job’

FILE PHOTO: Widow Alexandra McClintock holds her son Declan during a burial service for her husband, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew McClintock, who was killed in action in January at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On a cold morning in January, Alexandra McClintock shoved her bare hands into the pockets of her black jacket and gazed at the endless rows of graves in Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.

Taking her hands out of her pockets and falling to her knees, she hugged a white marble tombstone as her sobs drowned out the bugle calls from a nearby funeral. Only the sound of her giggling one-and-a-half-year-old son, Declan, forced her to wipe away her tears and loosen her grip on the tombstone.

One year and a day earlier, a Green Beret soldier and chaplain had stood in her living room in Seattle to tell her that her husband, Sergeant First Class Matthew McClintock, 30, was killed in a firefight with Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

McClintock was one of more than 900 American and coalition troops killed in Helmand since 2001 — about a quarter of the more than 3,000 deaths in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

Now U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is contemplating sending more troops to Afghanistan to boost 8,400 others there more than 15 years after the Islamist Taliban government was toppled. A decision is expected within weeks.

Current and former U.S. officials say that plans being discussed call for sending 3,000-5,000 more troops into what has become America’s longest war.

Some relatives of the U.S. dead ask whether their loved ones have died in vain, particularly as U.S. administrations are reluctant to commit a large amount of resources to a conflict that is often forgotten.

“I feel like my husband’s death is being dismissed and like my husband died for nothing,” Alexandra told Reuters.

“We need to finish the job instead of just continuing to just barely get up to the line… we need to make my husband’s death mean something,” she said.

Some U.S. officials warn that the situation in Afghanistan is worse than they had expected and question the benefit of sending more troops there. Any politically palatable number of additional U.S. and allied forces — like the size of the deployment being considered by the Trump administration — would not be enough to turn the tide, much less create stability and security, the officials say.

Trump is likely to be sucked deeper into the war, which began when former President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Former President Barack Obama sought to pull out the remaining U.S. troops by the end of his tenure, but left thousands there to train and assist Afghan forces.

FILE PHOTO: Widow Alexandra McClintock (L) holds her son Declan while placing a rose on the casket of her husband U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew McClintock, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in January, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Widow Alexandra McClintock (L) holds her son Declan while placing a rose on the casket of her husband U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew McClintock, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in January, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

‘BLEEDING ULCER’

Large stretches of Helmand province, source of much of the world’s illegal opium supply, are again in the hands of the Taliban who have steadily pushed back Afghan forces which controlled less than 60 percent of territory earlier this year.

Last month, about 300 U.S. Marines were sent to Helmand, where McClintock was fatally shot in the head during an hours-long gun battle near the town of Marjah.

As far back as 2010, then Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top allied military commander in Afghanistan, referred to Marjah as a “bleeding ulcer”.

McClintock’s last trip home was in October 2015 for Declan’s birth. He stayed a few extra days to help Alexandra deal with her postpartum depression.

“All he wanted to do was hold his son all the time or take pictures of me holding him and he was there for every single second,” McClintock said.

The couple last spoke on Jan 1, 2016 on Skype. He promised he would be home in a month. His last words were: “I love you most.”

Four days later, and just weeks before he was supposed to complete his deployment, McClintock was killed.

Alexandra had just returned from a therapy session when her doorbell rang.

“I remember the sound that came out of me when I collapsed, I remember crawling into my fireplace,” she said.

Two weeks later, she received a package.

It wasn’t addressed to anyone but sat outside her door. In the box was a late Christmas present from McClintock; two shirts that said “momma bear” and “baby bear.”

Resting in a case on a mantle in her living room, Alexandra displays the American flag that was draped over her husband’s casket during his funeral at Arlington Cemetery in March 2016.

What she does not put on display is a letter of condolence she received from Obama which now sits in a drawer. The generic letter, of a type traditionally sent to the relatives of deceased service members, made Alexandra feel “dismissed,” she said.

“My husband died for their war, for this war,” she said, adding that she nevertheless supported the war.

“It doesn’t get easier,” Alexandra said. “I still have dreams where I wake up thinking that Matt is in bed next to me, and I have to remember that he is gone.”

For a graphic on U.S. troop fatalities in Afghanistan, click: http://tmsnrt.rs/2rCletQ

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Alistair Bell)

Alexandra McClintock holds her son Declan with her husband U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew McCintock in this October 2015 handout photo provided May 24, 2017. Courtesy Alesandra McClintock/Handout via REUTERS

Alexandra McClintock holds her son Declan with her husband U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew McCintock in this October 2015 handout photo provided May 24, 2017. Courtesy Alesandra McClintock/Handout via REUTERS