U.S. prosecutors charge New York man with being Islamic State sniper

Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a 42-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Kazakhstan, appears in this courtroom sketch alongside Attorney Susan Kellman before United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold at the United States Courthouse after he was was charged with providing material support to the Islamic State, in New York City, U.S. July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

(Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors have charged a New York man with fighting for the Islamic State militant group in Syria and serving as a weapons trainer, according to court documents unsealed on Friday.

Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a 42-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Kazakhstan, was charged with providing material support to the terrorist organization, including providing training to terrorist soldiers and attempting to recruit personnel.

Asainov traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, from his home in New York’s Brooklyn borough in December 2013 and then to Syria, where he joined Islamic State and rose through the ranks as a sniper and then as a weapons instructor, according to charging documents.

Prosecutors said Asainov was detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces and was transferred into FBI custody.

The charges filed against Asainov were based in part on his regular communication between August 2014 and March 2015 with a confidential informant working for the New York Police Department. According to the complaint, Asainov attempted to recruit the informant to work for Islamic State’s media operations and asked that he send about $2,800 for military equipment.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for several attacks against Americans in the United States and abroad.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in Boston; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

Palestinians say one killed, dozens wounded as Israeli troops fire on Gaza protest

Palestinians hurl stones at Israeli troops during a protest calling for lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza and demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

GAZA (Reuters) – One Palestinian was killed and dozens other wounded when Israeli forces opened fire during a weekly demonstration near the Israel-Gaza border on Friday, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.

The Israeli army said soldiers had come under attack by Palestinians who hurled grenades, explosive devices, burning tyres and rocks at them and the border fence.

The soldiers, the military said, responded with “riot dispersal means” and fired “in accordance with standard operating procedures”.

A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during a protest calling for lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza and demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during a protest calling for lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza and demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

It said an Israeli aircraft also carried out strikes in Gaza. A position belonging to the Hamas Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip was hit, according to witnesses.

Gaza’s Health Ministry spokesman said one Palestinian was killed and 54 others were wounded by live fire.

One Israeli soldier was lightly wounded, the army said.

Since Gazans began holding weekly border protests on March 30, the Israeli army has killed 183 Palestinians and wounded thousands. A Gaza sniper has killed an Israeli soldier.

Israel says Hamas deliberately provokes violence at the protests, a charge Hamas denies.

(Reporting by Saleh Salem)

New Jersey teen pleads guilty in plot to assassinate the Pope

Pope Francis celebrates his final mass of his visit to the United States at the Festival of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – A New Jersey teen pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to terrorists in what media called an ISIS-inspired effort to kill Pope Francis in 2015 during a public Mass in Philadelphia, according to a statement by federal prosecutors.

Santos Colon, 17, admitted on Monday in a federal court in Camden, New Jersey, that he attempted to conspire with a sniper to shoot the Pope during his visit in Philadelphia and set off explosive devices in the surrounding areas.

Colon engaged with someone he thought would be the sniper from June 30 to August 14, 2015, but the person was actually an undercover FBI employee, according to prosecutors. The attack did not take place, and FBI agents arrested Colon in 2015.

“Colon engaged in target reconnaissance with an FBI confidential source and instructed the source to purchase materials to make explosive devices,” prosecutors said in a statement on Monday.

A U.S. citizen from Lindenwold, New Jersey, Colon was charged as an adult with one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists on Monday and faces up to 15 years in prison.

What motivated the attempted attack was not immediately known to Reuters. NBC News reported that prosecutors said Colon admitted the terror plot was inspired by the Islamic State.

Prosecutors and the defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Colon also faces a fine of $250,000, or twice the amount of any financial gain or loss from the offense, prosecutors said. No date has been set for sentencing and the investigation is ongoing.

The Pope visited Philadelphia on Sept. 26 and 27, 2015, to hold a public Mass, attracting hundreds of thousands of people during his biggest event in the United States.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Dallas Police officers Shot, 5 dead 7 wounded in coordinated ambush

Map of attack and demonstration in Dallas

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) – At least one sniper in Dallas killed five police officers and wounded seven more in a coordinated attack that ended when police used a bomb to kill a shooter who told them he wanted to kill white officers, authorities said Friday.

The attack came during one of several protests across the United States against the killing of two black men by police this week, the latest in a long string of killings that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Police described Thursday night’s ambush as carefully planned and executed and said they had taken three people into custody before killing the fourth after a long standoff in a downtown garage.

“We had an exchange of gunfire with the suspect. We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown told reporters at City Hall.

“The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter,” said Brown, who is black. “He said he was upset about the recent police shootings. The suspect said he was upset at white people. The suspect stated that he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

The attack came in a week that two black men were fatally shot by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and outside Minneapolis. The killings, both now the subject of official investigations, inflamed tensions about race and justice in the United States.

The shots rang out as a protest in Dallas was winding down, sending marchers screaming and running in panic through the city’s streets.

It was the deadliest day for police in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

A total of 12 police officers and two civilians were shot during the attack, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. Three of the officers who were shot were women, he said.

Rawlings told CBS News the people in custody, including one woman, were “not being cooperative” with police investigators. He said the assailant who was dead was being fingerprinted and his identity checked with federal authorities.

Police were still not certain they knew all of the individuals involved in the attack, Rawlings said.

There was no sign of international links to the attacks, U.S. officials said on Friday.

One of the dead officers was identified as Brent Thompson, 43. He was the first officer killed in the line of duty since Dallas Area Rapid Transit formed a police department in 1989, DART said on its website. Thompson joined DART in 2009.

Earlier, Brown said the shooters, some in elevated positions, used rifles to fire at the officers in what appeared to be a coordinated attack.

“(They were) working together with rifles, triangulating at elevated positions in different points in the downtown area where the march ended up going,” Brown told a news conference, adding a civilian was also wounded.

A video taken by a witness shows a man with a rifle crouching at ground level and shooting a person who appeared to be wearing a uniform at close range. That person then collapsed to the ground.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the video.

‘DESPICABLE ATTACK’

President Barack Obama, who was traveling in Poland, expressed his “deepest condolences” to Rawlings on behalf of the American people.

“I believe I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events and we are united with the people and police department in Dallas,” he said.

Obama said the FBI was in contact with Dallas police and that the federal government would provide assistance.

“We still don’t know all of the facts. What we do know is that there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” he said.

The shooting, which erupted shortly before 9 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT), occurred near a busy area of downtown Dallas filled with restaurants, hotels and government buildings.

Mayor Rawlings advised people to stay away on Friday morning as police combed the area. Transportation was halted and federal authorities stopped commercial air traffic over the area as police helicopters hovered.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is one of the nation’s most populous and is home to more than 7 million people.

The Dallas shooting happened as otherwise largely peaceful protests unfolded around the United States after the police shooting of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man, on Wednesday during a traffic stop near St. Paul, Minnesota.

The day earlier, police in Baton Rouge shot dead another black man, Alton Sterling, 37, while responding to a call alleging he had threatened someone with a gun.

Over the last two years, there have been periodic and sometimes violent protests over the use of police force against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York. Anger has intensified when the officers were acquitted in trials or not charged at all.

‘THE END IS COMING’

The suspect in the Dallas standoff had told police “the end is coming” and that more police were going to be hurt and killed. Police chief Brown said the suspect also told police “there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown”.

Police said they were questioning two occupants of a Mercedes they had pulled over after the vehicle sped off on a downtown street with a man who threw a camouflaged bag inside the back of the car. A woman was also taken into custody near the garage where the standoff was taking place.

“We are leaving every motive on the table on why this happened and how this happened,” Brown said.

Mayor Rawlings visited the wounded at Parkland hospital, the same hospital where President John F. Kennedy was taken after he was shot in Dallas in November 1963.

Outside the hospital, officers stood in formation and saluted as bodies of the officers were about to be transported.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida and Laila Kearney in New York; Writing by Scott Malone and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Alison Williams and Jeffrey Benkoe)

New Details Raise Concerns In California Power Station Attack

The FBI continues to deny the attack on a Pacific Gas and Electric substation in Santa Clara County, California was the work of terrorists despite the slow leaks of more disturbing details about the April 16th attack surface in various news outlets.

The Los Angeles Times reports the attack was “military style” and that whoever conducted the assault knew the layout of the area, locations of security devices and how to avoid being identified on camera.

At least two of the attackers knew exactly which manhole covers to remove to access an underground vault where they used heavy wire cutters to disconnect fiber optic cables.

Also, the snipers used rounds that caused the transformers to only leak oil and be disabled without exploding, avoiding unnecessary attention to the site until they were done disabling 17 transformers.  Video of the shooters, stationed 40 yards away from the site, showed only muzzle flashes and at no point did it show any attacker’s face.

The attack was also the night after the Boston Marathon bombings, leading some to wonder if there was a connection between the two incidents.

One legislator is saying what the FBI is not.  Representative Zoe Lofgren of San Jose told Fox News that the attack on the station was performed by “pros.”

Sniper Attack On Power Station

The attack happened in April, 2013.  Until the Wall Street Journal broke details of the event this week, hardly anyone knew of a sniper attack on a power substation in California.

Now, former federal officials are saying the attack looks like a test run for terrorists.

The attack on a Pacific Gas and Electric substation involved someone breaking into an underground vault and cutting all phone lines while snipers fired over 100 shots into the station destroying 17 transformers.  While PG&E was able to avoid a major blackout as a result of the attack, it took the company 27 days to repair all the damage.

Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when the attack happened, believes the incident was a terror attack despite FBI claims otherwise.

Wellinghoff called the attack “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the U.S. power grid that has ever occurred.”

Wellinghoff says he bases his view on the evidence the scene.  Shell casings from the sniper’s rifles had no fingerprints.  The shooting positions had obviously been pre-arranged.

Wellinghoff said that most electrical grid sites don’t have nearly adequate protection to stop a terrorist team.