Gunmen kill 15 in southern Thailand’s worst attack in years

Gunmen kill 15 in southern Thailand’s worst attack in years
By Surapan Boonthanom

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Suspected separatist insurgents stormed a security checkpoint in Thailand’s Muslim-majority south and killed at least 15 people, including a police officer and many village defense volunteers, security officials said on Wednesday.

It was the worst single attack in years in a restive region where a long-running Muslim insurgency has killed thousands of people in a fight against central government rule in overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand.

The attackers, in the province of Yala, also used explosives and scattered nails on roads to delay pursuers late on Tuesday night.

“This is likely the work of the insurgents,” Colonel Pramote Prom-in, a military regional security spokesman, told Reuters. “This is one of the biggest attack in recent times.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, as is common with such attacks in the region.

A decade-old separatist insurgency in predominantly Buddhist Thailand’s largely ethnic Malay-Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat has killed nearly 7,000 people since 2004, says Deep South Watch, a group that monitors the violence.

Many of the dead at the checkpoint were members of the Village Defence Volunteers, a community-watch type organization, who were believed to be giving information to the local police and military.

“Normally the insurgents don’t hit these village volunteers because they are considered civilians, unless they crosses the line and become part of state apparatus,” Don Pathan, an expert on Thailand’s deep south, told Reuters.

The population of the provinces, which belonged to an independent Malay Muslim sultanate before Thailand annexed them in 1909, is 80 percent Muslim, while the rest of the country is overwhelmingly Buddhist.

Some rebel groups in the south have said they are fighting to establish an independent state.

Authorities arrested several suspects from the region in August over a series of small bombs detonated in Bangkok, the capital, although they have not directly blamed any insurgent group.

The main insurgency group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), denied responsibility for the Bangkok bombings, which wounded four people.

In August, the group told Reuters it had held a secret preliminary meeting with the government, but any step toward a peace process appeared to wither after the deputy prime minister rejected a key demand for the release of prisoners.

(Additional reporting by Panu Wongcha-um, and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Paul Tait, Clarence Fernandez and Alex Richardson)

Killings, torture still going on in Venezuela: U.N. rights chief

FILE PHOTO - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations human rights chief said on Monday that extrajudicial killings appeared to be continuing in Venezuela and the Special Action Forces (FAES) presumed to be responsible had received support from the highest levels of government.

Michelle Bachelet told the U.N. Human Rights Council that alongside possible executions, her office had documented cases of torture of soldiers and others arbitrarily held and urged the government of President Nicolas Maduro to punish perpetrators.

Bachelet who issued a report in early July detailing witness accounts of death squads run by the FAES, said non-governmental organization Monitor de Victimas (Victims’ Monitor) had found 57 new presumed executions by FAES members in Caracas that month.

The government called her earlier report a “selective and openly partial vision” that ignored official information and relied on biased witnesses.

She has also expressed concern about U.S. sanctions aimed at pressuring Maduro to step down; on Monday she said they were among factors fuelling a mass exodus from the country, which is reeling from hyperinflation and a collapsing economy.

Bachelet said even though the sanctions envisaged exceptions for humanitarian assistance, over-caution by the financial sector, lower public revenues and a decrease in oil production were having a serious impact.

“All of this is contributing to the worsening of the humanitarian situation and the exodus of Venezuelans from the country,” noting that 4.3 million refugees and migrants had already fled the turmoil, most since the end of 2015.

Washington has urged the European Union to join the sanctions, arguing that they would help advance negotiations on a handover of power to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who assumed a rival interim presidency in January.

Guaido, who said Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate, has the support of most Western nations as well as Washington. Maduro calls him a U.S. puppet.

Bachelet called for more details from Venezuela’s Public Ministry on what she said it had told her were the convictions of 104 members of the security forces for human rights violations between August 2017 and May 2019.

Despite her recommendations to dissolve the FAES and prevent extrajudicial executions, this was not being done, she said: “On the contrary, the FAES have received support from the highest level of Government.”.

Some Latin American countries and activists are urging the Geneva forum, whose 47 members include Venezuela, to establish a U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Venezuela at the three-week session.

Bachelet, who visited Venezuela in June, said 83 opposition members were freed around that time, but the cases of 27 other detainees were still pending and Judge Lourdes Afiuni and journalist Braulio Jatar, conditionally released in early July, had not yet received unconditional freedom.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Slain North Carolina college student confronted gunman, saved lives

University of North Carolina at Charlotte - courtesy of San Antonio express news

By Gabriella Borter and Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – A 21-year-old student killed in a shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte saved some of his classmates’ lives by tackling the gunman and attempting to disarm him, the city’s top law enforcement official said on Wednesday.

Environmental studies student Riley Howell of Waynesville, North Carolina, one of two campus students shot to death on Tuesday evening, played a key role in ending the attack by a former student, said Kerr Putney, chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

“But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed,” Putney told a news conference.

“He’s an athletically built young man, and he took the fight to the assailant. Unfortunately, he had to give his life to do so,” said Putney, himself a UNC Charlotte alumnus. “He took the assailant off his feet.”

The other student killed in the shooting was Ellis Parlier, 19, officials said. Four students left wounded in the attack were identified as Drew Pescaro, 19; Sean DeHart, 20; Emily Houpt, 23; and Rami Alramadhan, 20.

Police in Charlotte arrested former UNC Charlotte student Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, who has been charged with two counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder. Authorities offered no explanation for a possible motive.

‘I SHOT THE GUY’

Local news footage on Tuesday showed police escorting the suspect, a tall, lanky figure with shaggy hair from a patrol car. As he was taken into a station house he looked over his shoulder with a smile and yelled a comment to reporters. Television station WBTV quoted the remark as: “I just went into his classroom and shot the guy.”

Police said the suspect had used a legally purchased handgun and was carrying a large amount of ammunition. He was familiar with the classroom building where the attack occurred, but it was unclear if he knew the students who were shot, Putney said.

“We can’t really discern the why just yet,” Putney said. “The randomness is what is most concerning.”

He added that police believe Terrell acted alone.

Terrell was due to make an initial court appearance on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the local prosecutor said. First-degree murder in North Carolina carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison without parole, and a conviction would make Terrell eligible for the death penalty, the spokeswoman, Meghan McDonald said.

All four of the wounded students are expected to recover, and Houpt is due to graduate this month, university Chancellor Phil Dubois said.

MEMORIAL ASSEMBLY

The shooting started in a classroom at about 5:40 p.m. on Tuesday, the last day of classes, police said. Tristan Field, a student who witnessed the violence, told CBS News as many as 50 classmates tried to flee through two doors.

“A chair fell in front of the door, so people were tripping over that, like, trying to climb over it,” he said. “Some people fell down. It was like water through a funnel but wasn’t fast enough.”

Several thousand students, faculty and others – many wearing green T-shirts emblazoned with the school’s “49ers” nickname – filled the campus sports arena to capacity on Wednesday evening for a student-organized memorial honoring the shooting victims.

Addressing the grieving assembly, including Governor Roy Cooper and other state and local civil leaders, Dubois drew thunderous applause as he hailed the heroism of police and Howell in confronting the gunman.

“We are heartsick that anyone would act with such disregard for human life,” he said, lamenting that nothing could bring back the lives lost. “But with your help we will find a way to remember their presence.”

The campus, located in the heart of North Carolina’s largest city, has about 30,000 students enrolled and employs some 5,000 faculty and staff.

The deadliest mass shooting on a U.S. college campus took place at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, in April 2007, when a student killed 32 people, then himself.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Alex Dobuzinskis and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Writing by Scott Malone, Editing by Bill Tarrant, Bill Trott and Chris Reese)

Special Report: Egypt kills hundreds of suspected militants in disputed gun battles

The gravestone of Mohamed Abu Amer is seen near his family home in Al-Khanka, Egypt, August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Staff

By Reuters staff

CAIRO (Reuters) – Mohamed Abu Amer, a landscape gardener from Egypt was working in downtown Cairo when national security agents took him away on Feb. 6, 2018, his family said.

For almost six months Amer’s family waited for news of the 37-year-old father of two. Their messages to the Public Prosecutor and the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police and the national security agency, went unanswered.

Then on July 31, the ministry announced on its Facebook page that Amer was among five terrorists killed in a shootout earlier that day when police approached their hideout 40 km north of Cairo. Amer was wanted for the murder of a national security agent, the statement said.

It’s a version of events his family doesn’t buy. Amer was no terrorist and he died in the custody of the state, not in a gun battle, his relatives insist. “I know that what they are saying is untrue,” said a relative. “He was with them for six months.”

Amer was one of 465 men killed in what the Interior Ministry said were shootouts with its forces over a period of three and a half years, a Reuters analysis of Interior Ministry statements has found. The announcements reviewed by Reuters appeared on the ministry’s social media or were published by the state news agency.

The killings began in the summer of 2015. In June that year, Islamist militants had assassinated Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, an ally of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Sisi responded with a sweeping anti-terrorism law that shielded the police and military from prosecution for the proportionate use of force. Human rights groups say it was the start of a brutal crackdown. A researcher at an Egyptian organization that documents human rights abuses said police embarked on a spate of “extra judicial killings knowing that no one will hold them accountable.”

In 108 incidents involving 471 men, only six suspects survived, according to Interior Ministry statements from July 1, 2015 to the end of 2018. That represents a kill ratio of 98.7 percent. Five members of the security forces were killed, the statements said. Thirty seven were injured.

The Interior Ministry issued crime scene photographs with some of the statements. They showed bloodied bodies with assault rifles or shotguns on the ground beside them. Almost all of the statements said arms and ammunition were recovered at the scene. Some said Islamic State flyers were found.

But in interviews with Reuters, the relatives of 11 of the dead men contradicted the official accounts. Their sons, brothers or husbands had been plucked by police or national security agents from the streets or their homes and disappeared, they said, in some cases for several months. Then came news of their deaths in an Interior Ministry Facebook post or statement.

The families said none of the young men carried arms. But some were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that was outlawed in 2013 after Sisi led the military in toppling Egypt’s first Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Mursi.

Reuters showed three forensic experts mortuary images of two of the 11 dead men. These specialists cast doubt on the Interior Ministry’s account of the two men’s deaths.

Three witnesses to one deadly encounter – the shooting of two members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Kamal and Yasser Shehata, in a Cairo apartment block in 2016 – disputed the Interior Ministry’s report of a gun battle with its forces. There was no exchange of fire or gun fight, these witnesses said.

The U.S. State Department’s latest annual report on human rights in Egypt, released in March, said abuses included arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government or its agents, forced disappearances and torture. The United States, nevertheless, has unfrozen $195 million in military aid to Egypt which it had previously withheld in part because of concerns over Egypt’s human rights record. U.S. officials reason that security cooperation with Egypt is important to U.S. national security.

Kate Vigneswaran, senior legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists’ Middle East and North Africa program, said the killings described by Reuters could “constitute extrajudicial executions, a serious crime under international law.” Evidence that victims were shot at close range would “indicate that the use of lethal force was not a response to a legitimate threat, but rather premeditated and deliberate conduct by the security forces to execute individuals outside the protection of the law.”

Kevin Jon Heller, associate professor of public international law at Amsterdam University, said if the victims were civilians, “this would be the classic crime against humanity of murder: killing civilians as part of a widespread or systematic attack.”

The Egyptian government didn’t respond to questions for this article. Reuters provided officials with a detailed account of its analysis of the Interior Ministry statements and other findings of this article. They had no comment.

A ROAD TRIP

Cousins Souhail Ahmed and Zakaria Mahmoud had no connection with the Muslim Brotherhood or any political organization, their family said. In July 2017 the men, both in their twenties, set off from their homes in the Nile city of Damietta for a holiday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh.

The 600 km road trip would take them southwards from Damietta, close to the Mediterranean, along the Suez Canal and then the Gulf of Suez. For Ahmed, a student, it was a rare adventure. Hurt in a car crash a few years earlier, he still walked with a limp and stayed at home much of the time, a relative said.

Ahmed called home a few hours into the trip and told his mother that they had stopped to get sugarcane juice as they headed for a checkpoint in Ismailia province, on the Suez Canal. It was the last time the family heard from them.

Five days later, the Interior Ministry announced in a Facebook post that the cousins were among four Islamist militants killed in a shootout when security forces approached their hideout in an Ismailia village on July 15. Relatives found the bodies of the men at a mortuary in the town of Ismailia the next day.

The families of the two young men say the government’s version of events makes no sense.

“They are not Brotherhood supporters at all,” said the relative. They “were not supporters of anyone.” Ahmed “was like all young men, he dreamed to marry at a young age and have a family.” Mahmoud was a carpenter.

Reuters showed photographs and video of the bodies to three forensic experts; Professor Derrick Pounder, a pathologist who has consulted for Amnesty International and the United Nations, and two other international experts who declined to be identified. All three cast doubt on the Interior Ministry’s account that the deaths were the result of a shootout.

Mahmoud had three gunshot wounds to the head. One bullet entered beside his right nostril and exited just below his lower lip. “That would place the shooter overlooking, above and to the right of the victim if the victim was standing, which would seem unlikely in an exchange of gunfire,” Pounder said. “A more likely scenario is that the victim was kneeling with the shooter standing close on the right side.”

The two other gunshot wounds were to Mahmoud’s forehead, almost symmetrically placed just below the hairline to the left and right, which suggested final “coup de grace shots,” according to Pounder.

Authorities said in the statement the cousins were part of a “group of fugitive terrorists” and died in a single incident. “As soon as security forces approached them, they were surprised by gunshots in their direction which they dealt with, resulting in the killing of four terrorist elements,” the Interior Ministry said.

Yet the cousins’ bodies exhibited different stages of decomposition. Mahmoud’s death appeared to have been very recent, the experts said, but Ahmed had died 36 to 48 hours before the images were taken. There were no obvious ante mortem injuries or gunshot wounds to Ahmed’s body and no obvious cause of death, Pounder said.

“THERE WAS NO SHOOTOUT”

From July 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2018, the Interior Ministry issued statements reporting the deaths of 465 men, almost all of them suspected militants, in gun battles with its forces. That compared with just five such deaths in the first half of 2015, before the murder of Barakat, the chief prosecutor.

The Interior Ministry statements were strikingly similar. In every instance, the ministry said its forces approached or raided the hideout of the terrorists or criminals having secured an arrest warrant or taken “all legal measures.” The terrorists or criminals opened fire, and security forces responded.

Most of the dead men were in their 20s; the youngest was 16, the oldest was 61. The Interior Ministry classified 320 of the slain men as terrorists and 28 as criminals or drug dealers.

It said 117 were members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood spread its political activism and charity work across the Middle East in the decades that followed. But in recent years countries including Egypt and Saudi Arabia have cracked down on its activities, declaring it a terrorist group. The Brotherhood, which insists it is a peaceful movement, has largely gone underground.

Around a quarter of the deaths reported by the Interior Ministry, 104, were in the North Sinai region that borders Israel and Gaza, and where Egypt is battling an insurgency by Islamist militants.

The Interior Ministry statements didn’t name 302 of the dead men, nor did they give precise locations for many of the shootings. Many were in remote desert or mountain areas. Reuters managed to speak to three witnesses to one incident in a Cairo apartment in 2016.

The Interior Ministry announced on Oct. 3, 2016, that its forces had killed a Muslim Brotherhood leader and his aide in a raid on the apartment. The ministry said Mohamed Kamal, 61, a member of the group’s leadership council, and Yasser Shehata, 47, shot at police and died when officers returned fire.

Reuters asked three neighbors about the events of that evening. None of them had seen or heard a gun fight. A woman living nearby said the only shots came several hours after police had entered the apartment. A person who was in the apartment block was adamant: “There was no shootout.”

A lawyer speaking on behalf of the two men’s families told Reuters an official autopsy showed the two men were shot in the head. Reuters was not able to independently verify the autopsy conclusion.

Some Interior Ministry statements were accompanied by crime scene photographs. These included the aftermath of a shooting in November 2018. The Interior Ministry said security forces killed 19 men in a shootout in the desert, west of Minya, Upper Egypt. The ministry said the dead were members of a cell responsible for a deadly attack on Christians two days earlier.

Forensic expert Pounder reviewed 20 of the photographs. He said 11 of the bodies appeared to have been moved after death. He pointed to blood and drag marks in the sand. Depressions in the sand suggested two of the men were shot while in a kneeling position, he added. Photos of other bodies were inconclusive.

An Egyptian judicial source said some police felt the courts were too slow, which led some officers to take justice into their own hands. “They call it ‘prompt justice,'” he said. Police often moved weapons and other objects at the crime scene to cover up executions, the source said. “The police are the ones who gather the information, and there is no way they will cooperate in collecting evidence that would incriminate their colleagues.”

Reuters analysis of the Interior Ministry statements showed that deadly shootouts often followed an attack by Islamist militants. For example, in December 2018, a day after the deadly bombing of a Vietnamese tourist bus in Giza, the ministry announced that its forces had killed 40 people in three separate incidents.

Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer and founder of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said Egypt was trapped in a lethal cycle of extrajudicial killings and revenge attacks. “The more extrajudicial killings take place, the more there will be desire for revenge,” he said.

A member of the state-funded National Council of Human Rights, George Ishak, said: “There is a state of panic because of terrorism, but it shouldn’t be like this. This fear has to stop.”

A VERDICT OVERTURNED

In 2013, Khaled Emam, a 37-year-old weightlifting trainer, was sentenced in absentia to one year in jail for taking part in anti-government protests, his family said. To avoid arrest, he moved with his wife and two sons into an apartment in Cairo’s southeastern Mokattam district, away from the family home.

Emam was snatched from the street in June, 2017, his family said, when he was fetching medicine for one of his sons. Witnesses told his family that masked men leaped from a minibus and grabbed him.

The family filed a complaint with the local police and wrote to the authorities asking for information. They got no response.

Then, on Oct. 2, 2017, the Interior Ministry issued a statement that its forces had killed three men in a shootout in a graveyard. It named two of them – both friends of Emam. Two security sources confirmed to Reuters that Emam was also killed.

At Cairo’s Zeinhom mortuary, a relative found his body. It was bruised and showed signs of torture, the relative said. “There were injuries around his joints, his arms were detached from his shoulders. Half of his lower jaw was missing along with several of his upper teeth.”

One week after Emam’s death, an appeals court overturned the guilty verdict and his one-year jail term, the relative said. The family hasn’t filed a complaint about Emam’s death for fear of reprisal. “I know that I will not get justice,” the relative said.

(Reporting by Reuters staff; additional reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague, Edmund Blair in London and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; editing by Janet McBride and Richard Woods)

‘Our darkest of days’: PM Ardern voices New Zealand’s grief

A poster hangs at a memorial site for victims of Friday's shooting, in front of Christchurch Botanic Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

By Tom Westbrook and Charlotte Greenfield

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday praised the bravery of mosque worshippers as a lone gunman massacred their friends and family, saying the nation stood with its grieving Muslim community in this “darkest of days”.

As preparations for the first burials were underway for the 50 people killed last Friday in the Christchurch mosques mass shooting, Ardern singled out three worshippers, including one of the first killed in the attack.

A woman touches a photo at a memorial site for the victims of Friday's shooting, outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

A woman touches a photo at a memorial site for the victims of Friday’s shooting, outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Hati Mohemmed Daoud Nabi, 71, opened the door to the Al Noor mosque. Ardern said he “uttered the words ‘Hello brother, welcome’. His final words”.

“Of course, he had no idea of the hate that sat behind the door, but his welcome tells us so much; that he was a member of a faith that welcomed all its members, that showed openness, and care,” she told parliament.

Ardern, who has been widely praised for her compassionate and decisive handling of the tragedy, said she never anticipated having to voice the grief of a nation.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, was charged with murder on Saturday.

He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

“The families of the fallen will have justice,” said Ardern, adding she would never mention the alleged gunman’s name.

“He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name.”

She ended her speech with the Arabic greeting “Al salam Alaikum”, meaning “Peace be upon you”.

The victims, killed at two mosques during Friday prayers, were largely Muslim migrants, refugees and residents from countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Turkey, Kuwait, Somalia and others.

No official list of victims has been released and police said they were “acutely aware of frustrations” at the length of time taken to formally identify bodies.

“While identification may seem straightforward the reality is much more complex, particularly in a situation like this,” police said in a statement. Twelve victims had been identified to the satisfaction of the coroner and six of those had been returned to their families, they said.

Bodies of the victims were being washed and prepared for burial in a Muslim ritual process on Tuesday, with teams of volunteers flown in from overseas to assist with the heavy workload.

A wheelchair-using worshipper who survived the slaughter at the Al Noor mosque, but whose wife was killed, has offered an olive branch to the gunman, saying he would like to meet him and tell him “I still love you”.

“I don’t agree with what you did; you took a wrong decision, a wrong direction, but I want to believe in you. That you have great potential in your heart,” said Farhid Ahmed, 59.

Fifty people were wounded and 30 of them are in the Christchurch hospital, authorities said. Nine of them are in critical condition. One four-year-old child was transferred to a hospital in Auckland in a critical condition.

GUN LAW DEBATE RAGES

The gunman used a semi-automatic AR-15 during the mosque shootings, police said. A New Zealand gun shop owner said the store had sold Tarrant four weapons and ammunition online between December 2017 and March 2018, but not the high-powered weapon used in the massacre.

Ardern has said she supports a ban on semi-automatic weapons and that cabinet has made in-principle decisions to change gun laws which she will announce next Monday.

“Part of ensuring the safety of New Zealanders must include a frank examination of our gun laws,” she said.

While some New Zealanders have voluntarily surrendered guns, others have been buying more to beat the ban.

A gun club in the northern town of Kaitaia burned down early on Tuesday and police were treating the blaze as suspicious.

Simon Bridges, leader of the opposition National Party, said he wanted to get details of the changes to see if there could be bipartisan support in parliament. The Nationals draw support from rural areas, where gun ownership is high.

“We know that change is required. I’m willing to look at anything that is going to enhance our safety – that’s our position,” Bridges told TVNZ.

Ardern has said that Tarrant emailed a “manifesto” to more than 30 recipients including her office, nine minutes before the attack but it gave no location or specific details. In the document, which was also posted online, Tarrant described himself as “Just an ordinary White man, 28 years old”.

Ardern was critical of social media platforms for allowing the distribution of hatred and division, including live broadcasts of the attack.

“We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published. They are the publisher. Not just the postman,” she said.

“There cannot be a case of all profit no responsibility. This, of course, doesn’t take away the responsibility we too must show as a nation, to confront racism, violence and extremism.”

A consortium of global technology firms has shared on its collective database the digital fingerprints of more than 800 versions of the video of the mass shooting.

Anyone caught sharing the massacre video in New Zealand faces a fine of up to NZ$10,000 ($6,855) or up to 14 years in jail.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, has said it removed 1.5 million videos within 24 hours of the attack.

Ardern said there would be an inquiry into what government agencies “knew, or could or should have known” about the alleged gunman and whether the attack could have been prevented.

More than 250 New Zealand police are working on the inquiry, with staff from the U.S. FBI and Australia’s Federal Police joining them.

People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday's shooting, in front of Christchurch Botanic Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday’s shooting, in front of Christchurch Botanic Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Police will be stationed at mosques around the country when they are open for prayers, and nearby when closed, said Ardern.

“Unfortunately, we have seen in countries that know the horrors of terrorism more than us, there is a pattern of increased tension and actions over the weeks that follow. That means we do need to ensure that vigilance is maintained.”

(Additional reporting by Praveen Menon in WELLINGTON; Editing by Michael Perry and Lincoln Feast)

At least four people killed in Maryland newspaper office shooting: reports

E.B Furgurson talk on the phone as police officers respond to an active shooter inside a city building in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Greg Savoy

(Reuters) – A gunman fired through a glass door at a newspaper in the Maryland capital of Annapolis and sprayed the newsroom with bullets on Thursday, killing at least four people and injuring several others, news reports said.

The suspect has been apprehended and no motive is known for the attack at the Capital Gazette newspaper, local news reports said.

For now, the Annapolis shooting is being treated as a local incident and not one that involves terrorism, a law enforcement official said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is on the scene assisting local authorities, the official said.

Phil Davis, who identified himself as a courts and crime reporter at the Capital Gazette, tweeted that multiple people had been shot.

Davis said a single shooter “shot multiple people at my office, some of whom are dead.”

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” he tweeted.

President Donald Trump has been briefed on the shooting, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all that are affected,” she said. Trump was aboard Air Force One, returning to Washington from an event in Wisconsin.

Agents from the Baltimore office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were responding to the incident, the bureau tweeted.

Live video images showed people leaving the building, walking through a parking lot with their hands in the air. Scores of police vehicles were on the scene.

Police also went to the offices of the Baltimore Sun as a precaution, that paper reported.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Additional repeorting by Mark Hosenball and Jeff Mason in Washington, DC, Colleen Jenkins in North Carolina; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Phil Berlowitz and Richard Chang)

Accused Texas high school gunman described as bullied loner in a trench coat

A picture shows Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the suspect in the Santa Fe High School shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., in this undated picture obtained from social media, released on May 18, 2018. Courtesy GALVESTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE/via REUTERS

SANTA FE, Texas (Reuters) – The teen accused of killing 10 people in a mass shooting at his Texas high school on Friday was described by fellow students as a quiet loner who played football but kept to himself and was reportedly the victim of some bullying.

The suspect, identified as 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, was a junior at Santa Fe High School near Houston. Classmates remembered he often wore a trench coat, similar to the garment authorities said the assailant used to conceal the two firearms he carried into the school.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott told reporters the gunman was armed with a shotgun and a .38 revolver, both of which he had taken from his father. It was not known if the father was aware his son had possession of the guns.

While Abbott said there were few advance warning signs that the suspect had violent tendencies, one ominous social media post was an image of a black T-shirt with the words “Born to Kill” found on the Pagourtzis’ Facebook page.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the Facebook page also bore the image of a trench coat with Nazi insignia. The newspaper said classmates characterized Pagourtzis as unpopular and often the target of bullying.

“He was really quiet and wore like a trench coat every day,” Santa Fe High student Mateo Twilley, 15, told CNN on Friday afternoon. Twilley said he had played football with the suspect.

Another student, who was not identified, told reporters in a local television news interview Pagourtzis “stuck to himself. He never really talked to other people.”

The Houston Chronicle reported that a caption on the suspect’s Instagram page said, “we all die sometime.”

Pagourtzis was being held without bond Friday afternoon at the Galveston County Jail after being charged with capital murder, authorities said.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Santa Fe, Texas; Additional reporting by Jon Herkovitz in Austin. Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Tom Brown)

Waffle House suspect still at large a day after Nashville shooting; known to authorities

The truck of Travis Reinking, the suspected shooter, is loaded on a trailer ready to be towed from the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) – There have been no credible sightings of the 29-year-old suspect in the fatal shooting of four people at a Waffle House restaurant over the weekend, police said on Monday, as a manhunt pushed into its second day.

Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, is shown in this undated photo obtained April 22, 2018. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/Handout via REUTERS

Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, is shown in this undated photo obtained April 22, 2018. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/Handout via REUTERS

With the suspect still on the loose, Metro Nashville Police searched schools in the area near the restaurant in the Tennessee city’s Antioch neighborhood. Schools planned to open with extra security, police said, with a “lockout” barring all visitors in effect.

The suspected gunman, Travis Reinking, 29, originally from Tazewell County, Illinois, was last seen on Sunday morning wearing only black pants, police said. The suspect recently lived in an apartment not far from the 24-hour restaurant.

During the shootings, the suspect was wearing only a green jacket that he shed before leaving on foot, police said. That jacket contained two clips of ammunition for the assault-style rifle used in the shootings, police and school officials said.

The killings are the latest in a string of high-profile mass shootings in which a gunman used an AR-15 rifle. A nationwide debate on gun control has intensified since February, when a former student killed 17 people with an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In Nashville, two people were shot dead outside the restaurant at about 3:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) on Sunday, and two were killed inside. The suspect fled after a 29-year-old diner, James Shaw Jr., wrestled the rifle from him. Police say Shaw probably saved several lives.

Shaw said he had retreated into a narrow hallway next to bathrooms at the Waffle House when the gunman entered the restaurant.

“I was just waiting for a chance, so when I saw the barrel down, I just saw my opportunity and I attacked,” Shaw told NBC-TV on Monday morning. He said he took the assault rifle from the suspect and threw it over a counter.

Shaw, who was grazed by a bullet during the attack, was praised by authorities for his courage, but on Sunday he denied he was a hero: “I just wanted to live,” he said.

Reinking was already known to authorities. He was arrested on the White House grounds by Secret Service officers in July 2017 and charged with unlawful entry after crossing a security barrier, the agency said in a statement.

Afterwards, authorities revoked Reinking’s Illinois authorization to have firearms and seized four guns, including the AR-15 used in the Waffle House shootings, Nashville police said. The guns were later returned to Reinking’s father, who has acknowledged giving them back to his son, police said.

By Monday, two of the four guns were unaccounted for. One was recovered during a search of Reinking’s apartment, police said.

Police said those killed were Waffle House cook Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, and three patrons: Joe R. Perez, 20; DeEbony Groves, 21; and Akilah Dasilva, 23.

Two wounded patrons were being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, both listed in stable condition early on Monday. Others were cut by shattered glass.

(Writing by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York, and Keith Coffman in Denver; editing by Michael Perry, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

Police search schools in hunt for Nashville Waffle House shooter

Police hunting for a gunman who fled naked after killing four people at a Nashville Waffle House searched public schools through the night to make sure they would be safe when they reopen on Monday.

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) – Police hunting for a gunman who fled naked after killing four people at a Nashville Waffle House searched public schools through the night to make sure they would be safe when they reopen on Monday.

All Metropolitan Nashville public schools were searched and will be checked again before school opens, officials said on the department’s Facebook page. Extra security will be in place at school bus stops. Schools will be on “lock-out,” barring all visitors.

“Metro Nashville Public Schools Parents always have the final decision on whether to send their child to school,” the statement said.

Police identified the victims. Slain outside the restaurant in Nashville’s Antioch neighborhood shortly before 3:30 a.m. Sunday were Waffle House cook Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, and patron Joe R. Perez, 20, police said. Inside, the shooter killed patrons DeEbony Groves, 21, and Akilah Dasilva, 23.

“Please say a prayer for my family for today is the hardest day of my life. Me, my husband and sons are broken right now with this loss. Our lives are shattered,” Perez’s mother Trisha Perez posted on Facebook.

Dasilva’s mother Shaundelle Brooks told CBS News affiliate WTVF her son was a student at Middle Tennessee State University pursuing music engineering: “He meant the world to us. He was humble, kind, compassionate, outgoing and very creative.”

Groves was a Belmont University senior who studied social work and was described by her high school basketball coach Kim Kendrick on CBS News affiliate WTVF as a tenacious player.

Two wounded patrons, Shanita Waggoner, 21, and Sharita Henderson, 24, were being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, both listed in stable condition early on Monday. Others were cut by shattered glass.

One diner, James Shaw Jr., 29, was grazed by a bullet as he hid near a restroom before he wrestled the AR-15 rifle from the gunman, police said. Police credited his action with saving lives. At a news conference, Shaw said he was no hero, adding: “I just wanted to live.”

Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, is shown in this undated photo obtained April 22, 2018. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/Handout via REUTERS

Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, is shown in this undated photo obtained April 22, 2018. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/Handout via REUTERS

Metropolitan Nashville Police Field Captain Daniel Newbern said the suspected shooter, Travis Reinking, 29, originally from Tazewell County, Illinois, faces multiple murder charges. Police believe he is still armed with a pistol.

Police disclosed no known motive for the attack by Reinking, who was naked except for a green jacket when he got out of his pickup truck and started shooting.

As the shooter ran off, he discarded the jacket, which contained two additional ammunition magazines for the AR-15, according to police.

(Writing by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York, and Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Michael Perry and Bernadette Baum)

Texas serial bomber made video confession before blowing himself up: police

Law enforcement personnel investigate the scene where the Texas bombing suspect blew himself up on the side of a highway north of Austin in Round Rock, Texas, U.S., March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Loren E

By Jon Herskovitz

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (Reuters) – The serial bomber whose deadly attacks terrorized Austin, Texas, for weeks left a 25-minute video “confession” on a cell phone found after he blew himself up on Wednesday as officers closed in to make an arrest, police said.

Texas blast suspect Mark Anthony Conditt. Austin Community College/via REUTERS

Texas blast suspect Mark Anthony Conditt. Austin Community College/via REUTERS

Mark Conditt, 23, an unemployed man from the suburb of Pflugerville, detailed how he made all seven bombs that have been accounted for – five that exploded, one that was recovered before it went off and a seventh that he detonated as officers rushed his vehicle early on Wednesday.

But the video failed to reveal a coherent motive for the attacks spread over the past three weeks, police said.

“He does not at all mention anything about terrorism, nor does he mention anything about hate, but instead it is the outcry of a very challenged young man, talking about challenges in his personal life,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters.

“I would classify this as a confession,” Manley said.

Conditt, who had never before been in trouble with the law, killed two people and wounded five with a campaign of violence that began on March 2, authorities said.

Based on their search of the suspect’s home and his video statement, authorities said they felt confident that there were no other bombs and that the public was safe from further harm.

FBI special agent Christopher Combs said investigators believe the suspect would have continued his attacks had he not been apprehended.

Police recovered a “target list” of addresses for future bombings, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing U.S. Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Even so, the video gave no explanation for the individuals and addresses singled out as recipients of the bombs that were planted or shipped, Manley said.

Police previously said they had considered the possibility that the attacks were racially motivated, noting that the first several victims, including the two who died, were either African-American or Hispanic.

Conditt likely recorded the video between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Tuesday. According to Manley, Conditt said he believed police “were getting very close to him,” and he was right. Authorities filed a criminal complaint and issued an arrest warrant around that time.

A surveillance image shows the serial bombing suspect inside a FedEx office store in Austin, Texas, U.S., which was given to law enforcement and obtained by TV station, WOAI/KABB, March 21, 2018. Courtesy of WOAI/KABB/Handout via Reuters

A surveillance image shows the serial bombing suspect inside a FedEx office store in Austin, Texas, U.S., which was given to law enforcement and obtained by TV station, WOAI/KABB, March 21, 2018. Courtesy of WOAI/KABB/Handout via Reuters

By Wednesday morning, police had tracked Conditt to a hotel and were waiting for the arrival of tactical units and equipment before they planned to make an arrest, Manley said. But then Conditt drove away.

Police followed and decided to stop him before he got on the highway. Just as officers approached the vehicle, the explosion went off, Manley said. There was also some police shooting.

“This can never be called a happy ending, but it’s a damn good one for the people of this community, the people of the state of Texas,” Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore told reporters.

Residents in Austin, a city of 1 million people and a liberal enclave of university students and tech companies, voiced relief that the hunt for the serial bomber was over.

“I am going to be leery and extra careful tomorrow at work, but I feel relieved now,” said Jesus Borjon, 44, an employee of parcel delivery firm UPS, who lives in Pflugerville.

Austin was hosting thousands of out-of-town visitors for its annual South by Southwest festival of music, film and technology when the first bombings occurred.

Law enforcement personnel investigate the surroundings of a house linked to the bomber in Pflugerville, Texas, U.S., March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

TRAIL OF CLUES

The trail of clues leading hundreds of investigators to the serial bomber ranged from store receipts and fragments of booby-trapped packages to surveillance video of the suspect in a hat and wig.

Experts scoured the suspect’s home for further evidence on Wednesday, removing explosive materials and bomb components.

“I wouldn’t call it a bomb-making factory, but there’s definitely components consistent with what we’ve seen in all these other devices,” Fred Milanowski, special agent in charge of Houston office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told reporters.

Investigators evacuated a four-block radius around Conditt’s house while they searched the home, which Conditt shared with two roommates who had been detained for questioning. Conditt moved in a year ago after leaving his parents’ home about a mile (1.6 km) away, public records showed.

One law enforcement official involved in the investigation but speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that some of the materials found in remnants of the bombs were traced back to where they had been sold.

The source also said investigators, once they had identified Conditt as a potential suspect, obtained a warrant to monitor his Google search history.

Surveillance video showed the suspect in a hat and a blond wig, as he prepared to ship one of two booby-trapped packages he was known to have sent through FedEx Corp’s delivery service, according to the source.

He used the alias “Kelly Killmore” to ship those packages, ABC News reported, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.

Conditt, who was home-schooled, described himself as a conservative but said he was not politically inclined, according to blog posts he wrote as part of a U.S. politics class at Austin Community College. He attended from 2010 to 2012 and had no record of any disciplinary actions, the school said.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Mark Hosenball in Washington, Jonathan Allen and Gina Cherelus in New York and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Peter Cooney & Simon Cameron-Moore)