Boston’s trauma to be dissected as marathon bomber appeals death sentence

By Tim McLaughlin

BOSTON (Reuters) – This city’s deepest wound – the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured hundreds more – will be re-examined Thursday when lawyers for bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev seek to have his death sentence lifted because the jury pool was too traumatized to render a fair verdict.

The then-19-year old Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan sparked five days of panic in Boston that began April 15, 2013, when they detonated a pair of homemade pressure cooker bombs at the race’s packed finish line. The pair eluded capture for days, punctuated by a gunbattle with police in Watertown that killed Tamerlan and led to a daylong lockdown of Boston and most of its suburbs while heavily armed officers and troops conducted a house-to-house search for Dzhokhar.

Tsarnaev’s defense team, in briefs filed with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, argued that the unprecedented shelter-in-place order biased the pool of potential jurors, including one actual juror who joined the unanimous vote for the death penalty.

The manhunt for the younger Tsarnaev, now 26, left an indelible mark on the city. Armored vehicles and thousands of National Guard troops cast a dragnet across the Boston suburb of Watertown. Just before a resident found a wounded Tsarnaev hiding in a boat parked in his backyard, a broadcast of a Boston police scanner channel attracted nearly 265,000 listeners.

“Even if a juror honestly believes before trial that he or she can objectively hear the evidence, when a community has been aroused to a fever pitch, the prospective juror may come to fear returning to neighbors with anything other than a guilty verdict and a death sentence,” Tsarnaev’s defense team wrote in a legal brief.

U.S. Justice Department lawyers disagreed, saying Tsarnaev received a fair trial. The department has noted a survey conducted for Tsarnaev’s own lawyers found 96.5% of respondents in Washington, his preferred venue for the trial, had heard of the bombings.

But legal experts say arguing that some jurors were tainted with bias may offer the defense team its best bet in winning relief from the court. The defense and prosecution each will get an hour to argue their side before an appellate panel of judges.

“Of course, (the defense) will throw in the kitchen sink, the bedroom furniture and everything else in hoping something sticks,” said Robert Bloom, a professor at Boston College Law School. “That is what you do in these cases.”

The defense team says the trial should not have been held in Boston, that some jurors made false statements before their selection, and that the jury should have heard that Tamerlan had been a suspect in a 2011 triple homicide.

A friend of Tamerlan admitted to the FBI having committed the murders with him, according to recently unsealed court documents. The jury did not hear about those murders during the trial.

The younger Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015 after a jury found him guilty of killing three people: Martin Richard, 8; Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu, 26, and restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, in the bombing; as well as murdering Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, 26, three days later as the brothers attempted to flee the city.

Before the bombings, the younger Tsarnaev had no record of serious criminal offense. But Tamerlan was aggressive, domineering and likely homicidal before driving his younger brother to join him in carrying out the bombings, according to the defense team’s line of reasoning in court papers.

Tsarnaev’s defense team also says the jury’s foreperson falsely denied, during the selection process, calling Tsarnaev a “piece of garbage” on Twitter. That juror lived in Dorchester, the same neighborhood as the attack’s youngest victim, according to defense team legal briefs.

During the trial, Richard’s family asked U.S. prosecutors to consider taking the death penalty off the table. They said the death penalty could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of their lives, according to a letter published in the Boston Globe newspaper. A poll by the Globe also showed that about two-thirds of Massachusetts residents favored a life sentence for Tsarnaev.

(Reporting By Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

El Chapo’s son led dramatic rescue of his half brother in Mexico battle

El Chapo’s son led dramatic rescue of his half brother in Mexico battle
By Anthony Esposito and Ana Isabel Martinez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Ivan Archivaldo Guzman, the leader of Los Chapitos wing of the Sinaloa Cartel, was behind the assault on security forces that prompted the release of his half-brother from a house in the city of Culiacan last week, a top Mexican official said.

The men’s father is Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most infamous drug kingpin, who himself slipped away from authorities on multiple occasions before being sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States this year.

Younger brother Ovidio Guzman was briefly captured by Mexican security forces on Oct. 17 in an upscale neighborhood of Culiacan, until hundreds of heavily-armed Sinaloa Cartel gunmen forced his release.

The botched raid has called into question Mexico’s security strategy and put pressure on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has insisted that the release was necessary to protect the lives of civilians and security personnel.

Questions have circulated about the role of the older Guzman brother in launching the fierce counterattack led by gunmen in armored vehicles armed with mounted weapons that left parts of the city smoldering.

Late on Thursday, Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said Ivan Archivaldo had played a key part.

“He was one of those leading the mobilization of various criminal elements in Culiacan,” Durazo said, while denying reports that the elder brother had also been briefly captured.

“Ivan Archivaldo was not at the home that was taken over by (security) personnel who participated in this operation,” he said.

A senior security official told Reuters that Ovidio was found in the house with his partner, their two daughters, and two guards. The official asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Sinaloa Cartel, along with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, are Mexico’s largest and most powerful drug trafficking organizations.

Since El Chapo left the scene, his partner Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada has taken on a coordinating “godfather” role overseeing several factions in the organization, an official at the U.S. Justice Department told Reuters.

Four brothers, led by Ivan Archivaldo, form one group collectively known as Los Chapitos, or “little Chapos.” El Chapo’s brother heads another unit, and veteran trafficker Rafael Caro-Quintero leads another, the official said. In a 2018 interview with a Mexican magazine, Caro-Quintero denied he was still a drug trafficker.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Cartel gunmen terrorize Mexican city, free El Chapo’s son

Cartel gunmen terrorize Mexican city, free El Chapo’s son
By Dave Graham and Lizbeth Diaz

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Heavily armed fighters surrounded security forces in a Mexican city on Thursday and made them free one of drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s sons, after his capture triggered gunbattles and a prison break that sent civilians scurrying for cover.

Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said a patrol by National Guard militarized police first came under attack from within a house in the city of Culiacan, 1,235 km (770 miles) northwest of Mexico City.

After entering the house, they found four men, including Ovidio Guzman, who is accused of drug trafficking in the United States.

The patrol was quickly outmatched by cartel gunmen, however, and it was withdrawn to prevent lives being lost, the government said. Simultaneously, fighters swarmed through the city, battling police and soldiers in broad daylight. They torched vehicles and left at least one gas station ablaze.

“The decision was taken to retreat from the house, without Guzman, to try to avoid more violence in the area and preserve the lives of our personnel and recover calm in the city,” Durazo told Reuters.

The reaction to Guzman’s capture was on a scale rarely seen during Mexico’s long drug war, even after his more famous father’s arrests. The chaos was continuing as night fell.

A large group of inmates escaped from the city prison. Residents cowered in shopping centers and supermarkets as gunfire roared. Black plumes of smoke rose across the skyline.

Families with young children left their cars and lay flat in the road. Bullets cracked up ahead. “Dad, can we get up now?” a small boy said to his father in a video posted on Twitter.

“No, stay there on the floor,” the man replied, his voice trembling.

Cristobal Castaneda, head of security in Sinaloa, told the Televisa network that two people had been killed and 21 injured, according to preliminary information. He said police had come under attack when they approached roadblocks manned by gunmen. He advised residents not to leave their homes.

It was not immediately clear if members of the patrol were harmed in the standoff. Reuters TV showed scenes of at least three bodies lying next to cars on the street.

WARNED OF REPRISALS

The chaos in Culiacan, long a stronghold for the Guzmans’ Sinaloa cartel, will increase pressure on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December promising to pacify a country weary after more than a decade of drug-war fighting. Murders this year are set to be at a record high.

Thursday’s events follow the massacre of more than a dozen police in western Mexico earlier this week, and the killing of 14 suspected gangsters by the army a day later.

Falko Ernst, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Mexico, said the release of Ovidio Guzman set “a dangerous precedent” and sent a message that the state itself, including the army, could be blackmailed and was not in control.

Presumed cartel members apparently intercepted a radio frequency used by security forces, one video showed, warning of reprisals against soldiers if Guzman was not freed.

A state police spokesman confirmed to Reuters that several prisoners escaped from a prison during the chaos. Video footage showed a group of at least 20 prisoners running in the streets. It was not immediately clear how many had escaped.

“They are freeing them,” a panicked woman said in the video apparently filmed from an tall building. “No we can’t go outside!” she said as other voices debated making a dash for their car.

In another video, a man driving repeatedly shouted: “There is a big gunfight,” before taking a sharp turn and leaving his car at a gas station to take cover. His voice then became inaudible because of the rattling roar of automatic gunfire.

‘El Chapo’ Guzman led the Sinaloa cartel for decades, escaping from prison twice before being arrested and extradited to the United States. He was found guilty in a U.S. court in February of smuggling tons of drugs and sentenced to life in prison.

He is believed to have about 12 children including Ovidio. The U.S. Department of Justice unveiled an indictment against Ovidio and another of the brothers in February, charging them with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States.

The indictment gave Ovidio’s age as 28, and said he had been involved in trafficking conspiracies since he was a teenager.

Jose Luis Gonzalez Meza, a lawyer for the Guzmans, told news network Milenio that Ovidio had been in touch with the family and said he was free.

(Additional reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Writing and additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Father, two brothers of suspected Sri Lanka bombings mastermind killed in gun battle

A police officer inspects the site of a gun battle between troops and suspected Islamist militants, on the east coast of Sri Lanka, in Kalmunai, April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

By Alasdair Pal and Shri Navaratnam

KALMUNAI/COLOMBO (Reuters) – The father and two brothers of the suspected mastermind of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings were killed when security forces stormed their safe house on the east coast two days ago, police and a relative said on Sunday.

Zainee Hashim, Rilwan Hashim and their father Mohamed Hashim, who appear in a video circulating on social media calling for all-out war against non-believers, were among at least 15 killed in a fierce gun battle with the military on the east coast on Friday.

Kamal Jayanathdhi, the officer in charge at Kalmunai police station on the east coast, confirmed the three men had died along with a child that appears in the video, and that the undated clip in which they discuss martyrdom, had been shot in the same house where the gun battle took place.

Two people who were inside the house, a woman and a seven-year-old girl believed to be relatives of the men, survived, he said, while a woman was killed in crossfire on a nearby street.

Niyaz Sharif, the brother-in-law of Zahran Hashim, the suspected ringleader of the wave of Easter Sunday bombings that killed over 250 people in churches and hotels across the island nation, told Reuters the video showed Zahran’s two brothers and father.

Sri Lanka has been on high alert since the attacks on Easter Sunday, with nearly 10,000 soldiers deployed across the island to carry out searches and hunt down members of two local Islamist groups believed to have carried out the attack.

Authorities have detained more than 100 people, including foreigners from Syria and Egypt since the April 21 bombings.

On Sunday police in the eastern town of Kattankudy raided a mosque founded by Zahran which doubled up as the headquarters of his group, the National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ).

HOLY WAR

In the video, Rilwan Hashim is seen calling for ‘jihad’ or holy war, while children cry in the background.

“We will destroy these non-believers to protect this land and therefore we need to do jihad,” Rilwan says in the video, sitting beside his brother and father.

“We need to teach a proper lesson for these non-believers who have been destroying Muslims.”

Rilwan, who has a damaged eye and badly disfigured hand in the video, had recently been injured while making a bomb, Jayanathdhi said.

On Sunday, when Reuters visited the house, police were sifting through the wreckage, taking fingerprints and video footage.

Watermelon rinds and a box of dates were still on the kitchen counter, while four pairs of children’s flip-flops were by the front door.

But in the main room, where the three men filmed the video, a huge crater had punched a hole in the concrete floor, while bloodstains covered the wall.

LOCAL VIGILANCE

Two men had moved into the three-room rented house in the Sainthamaruthu area of Kalmunai, days before the Easter Sunday attacks, police and locals said. After more people arrived, locals grew suspicious, said Mohammed Majid, the secretary of the Grand Masjid Sainthamaruthu, one of the town’s main mosques.

After evening prayers on Friday, a group of men from the local Hijra Mosque came to the house to question the occupants.

When one man brandished an assault rifle, the men fled, alerting police who arrived shortly afterward. One man was killed after running into the street with a gun to confront police, while a series of explosions came from the house, eyewitnesses said.

DANGER REMAINS

Authorities suspect there may be more suicide bombers on the loose. Defense authorities have so far focused their investigations on international links to two domestic groups they believe carried out the attacks, the National Thawheedh Jamaath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.

At a nearby house where police seized more explosives and a flag of the Islamic State on Friday, locals said they feared more violence.

“People were coming and going but we didn’t know their names,” said Juneedha Hasanar, who runs a shop at the bottom of the street, yards from the house. “Now we are afraid.”

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings, and on Sunday the group said three of its members clashed with Sri Lankan police for several hours in Friday’s gun battle on the east coast before detonating their explosive vests, the militant group’s news agency Amaq said.

The group said 17 policemen were killed or injured in the attack, but the Sri Lankan military has denied this. A police source told Reuters two policemen were slightly injured in the battle.

Police have said six children were among the other 12 people who died in the gun battle, and on Sunday recovered the partial remains of a child no more than a few months old.

(Reporting Shri Navaratnam, Shihar Aneez, Ranga Sirilal in COLOMBO and Alasdair Pal in KALMUNNAI; editing by Richard Pullin and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Congo Ebola center set on fire after armed attack

Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo February 25, 2019. Picture taken February 25, 2019. Laurie Bonnaud/MSF/Handout via REUTERS

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Armed assailants attacked an Ebola treatment center in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, setting off a fire and becoming embroiled in an extended gun battle with security forces, health officials said.

The identity and motive of the assailants were unclear. Aid workers have faced mistrust in some areas as they work to contain an Ebola outbreak.

Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo February 25, 2019. Picture taken February 25, 2019. Laurie Bonnaud/MSF/Handout via REUTERS

Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo February 25, 2019. Picture taken February 25, 2019. Laurie Bonnaud/MSF/Handout via REUTERS

Dozens of armed militia also regularly attack civilians and security forces in eastern Congo’s borderlands with Uganda and Rwanda, which has significantly hampered the response to the disease.

The health ministry said in a statement that 38 suspected Ebola patients and 12 confirmed cases were in the center at the time of the attack. Four of the patients with confirmed cases fled and are being looked for, it said.

None of the patients who have been accounted for were injured, nor were any staff members, the ministry added.

French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which runs the center together with the ministry, condemned the “deplorable attack” and said its efforts were focused on the immediate safety of patients and staff.

The attack in the city of Butembo was the second in Congo’s Ebola-hit east this week. On Sunday unidentified assailants set fire to a treatment center in the nearby town of Katwa, killing a nurse.

The current Ebola outbreak, first declared last August, is the second deadliest of the hemorrhagic fever since it was discovered in Congo in 1976. It is believed to have killed at least 553 people so far and infected over 300 more.

(Reporting by Fiston Mahamba; Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Gareth Jones and Rosalba O’Brien)

Attacker kills three in Liege, Belgium, dies after gun battle with police

A police officer is seen on the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

By Francois Lenoir and Christopher Stern

LIEGE, Belgium (Reuters) – A man killed two policewomen and a bystander in the Belgian city of Liege on Tuesday before being shot dead in a gunbattle at a school in what prosecutors are treating as a terrorist attack.

The man was named by public broadcaster RTBF as a 36-year-old petty criminal who had been let out on day-release from a local prison on Monday. It said investigators were looking into whether he had converted to Islam and been radicalized in jail.

A public prosecutor told a news conference that the man attacked the policewomen from behind with a knife, described as a box-cutter by RTBF, around 10:30 a.m. (4.30 a.m. ET) on a boulevard in the center of Belgium’s third city, near the German border.

After stabbing the officers, prosecutor Philippe Dulieu said, the man seized one of their handguns and shot both women dead before walking down the street and shooting dead a 22-year-old man who was sitting in the passenger seat of a parked car.

The man then made his way into a high school where he took a woman employee hostage, triggering a major intervention by armed police. Pupils were moved to safety as a gunbattle broke out that sent people in the street racing for cover. Several police were wounded before the attacker was finally killed.

“The event is classed as a terrorist incident,” Dulieu said.

The national crisis center, on high alert since past attacks by Islamic State in Paris and Brussels in the past three years, said it was monitoring events but had not raised its alert level – an indication they do not expect related follow-up attacks.

La Libre Belgique newspaper quoted a police source as saying the gunman shouted “Allahu Akbar” — God is greatest in Arabic.

A man is being consoled by a police officer on the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

A man is being consoled by a police officer on the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

GUNNED DOWN

Images posted on social media showed elements of the drama:

Apparently the two police officers, arms bare on what was a hot sunny morning, wearing protective vests and lying in pools of blood a couple of meters apart outside a cafe; the gunman, dressed in black, waving a pistol in each hand, standing in the middle of the road; and finally the assailant emerging from a building onto the street, firing on police, who gun him down.

Prime Minister Charles Michel, expressing his condolences to the families of the victims, said it was too early to say what had caused the incident. King Philippe visited Liege, the biggest city in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region.

An industrial powerhouse on the Meuse river, it was the scene of a mass shooting in 2011, when a man killed four people and wounded over 100 others before turning his gun on himself.

A Brussels-based Islamic State cell was involved in attacks on Paris in 2015 that killed 130 people and on Brussels in 2016 in which 32 died. The Brussels IS cell had links to militants in Verviers, another industrial town close to Liege, where in early 2015 police raided a safe house and killed two men who had returned from fighting with radical Islamists in Syria.

European authorities are deeply concerned about the risks of petty criminals, including those not from Muslim backgrounds, being inspired to Islamist violence while incarcerated.

(Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, Alissa de Carbonnel and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Richard Balmforthk Larry King)