‘Painful days ahead’ as Haitians struggle to count lives lost in quake

By Laura Gottesdiener

CAVAILLON, Haiti (Reuters) -Haitian officials slowly tallied the dead and disappeared in remote villages on Thursday, after the toll from last weekend’s devastating earthquake passed 2,000 and Prime Minister Ariel Henry warned the Caribbean nation faced painful times ahead.

In the small town of Cavaillon, local officials huddled over pieces of paper where they recorded the number of damaged houses, schools and churches in each of the surrounding villages, along with the number of dead and missing.

“We think there are still bodies in the ruins because we can smell them from underneath the rubble,” said Jean Mary Naissant, one of the officials of Cavaillon, which is near the southern city of Les Cayes, one of the areas worst hit by the earthquake.

Haiti’s civil protection agency said late on Wednesday the death toll from Saturday’s powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake had risen to 2,189, with most of the fatalities in the country’s south, and that the number of wounded stood at 12,200.

Les Cayes residents were jolted from their beds by a fresh aftershock overnight, but there were no immediate reports of damage, a police officer said. Families slept on mattresses on the streets across the city, nervous about the state of buildings.

The poorest country in the Americas, Haiti is still recovering from a 2010 quake that killed over 200,000. The latest disaster struck just weeks after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated on July 7, plunging the nation of 11 million people into political turmoil.

According to the tallies for Cavaillon and the small villages that belong to it, there were 53 fatalities and more than 2,700 wounded in the area. But there were still 21 people unaccounted for six days after the quake, local officials said.

Residents had staged a protest on Monday to demand more assistance to dig out the collapsed buildings, Naissant said, but government help had yet to arrive from the capital, some 180 km (110 miles) to the east.

A village market and hotel nearby were bustling with people when the quake struck on Saturday morning, reducing the area to a great heap of shattered cement and twisted iron rods.

Residents had managed to recover two bodies from the site, said Jimmy Amazan, another local official, but the stench that emanated from underneath the pile during the rescue efforts suggested there were more that were beyond reach.

Prime Minister Henry said late on Wednesday the whole country was physically and mentally devastated.

“Our hearts are tearing apart; some of our compatriots are still under the rubble,” he said, appealing for the troubled nation to come together at a time of crisis. “The days ahead will be difficult and often painful.”

In Boileau, a farming village about a 20 minutes’ drive from Cavaillon, residents said that officials had not arrived yet to document the victims or destroyed buildings, leaving them to wonder whether the damage there was part of the official record.

Renette Petithomme, a police officer, stood in the grass outside her partially collapsed home with her toddler daughter.

She was worried: her father had departed earlier in the day for the capital Port-au-Prince to seek medical care for the head wound he sustained when the home’s walls fell in, but the public bus had broken down en route.

“Since the earthquake, he’s been losing his senses, having trouble speaking and walking,” she said, adding that the family finally decided to send him to the capital for treatment after learning that all the nearby hospitals were full.

Several days since the earthquake, scant aid has arrived in remote areas across the country’s south, according to residents and Reuters witnesses.

In Camp-Perrin, another rural town inland from Les Cayes, more than 100 displaced people, including children and disabled residents, were camped out in a field under the cover of trees after their homes were destroyed by the quake.

A mudslide from two nights of heavy rain earlier this week had partly blocked the main road leading to the area. Any more precipitation could lead to it being impassable, locals said.

(Reporting by Laura Gottesdiener in Cavaillon and Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince Additional reporting by Henry Romero in Camp-Perrin; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Nick Zieminski)

Blast in Afghan capital as Taliban claim attack on minister’s compound

KABUL (Reuters) -An explosion near the office of Afghanistan’s main security agency wounded three people on Wednesday, hours after a bomb and gun attack on a minister’s compound brought surging Taliban violence to the capital.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the late Tuesday attack on the home of acting Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi. There was no immediate claim for the Wednesday blast.

Mohammadi survived the attack on his compound in a heavily fortified part of Kabul, but the violence was a stark illustration of the deterioration in security as U.S.-led foreign forces complete their withdrawal and the Islamist insurgents seize swathes of territory.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said his group targeted the minister’s residence as an important meeting was underway there.

Government forces battled the attackers for more than four hours and the Ministry of Interior said at least eight civilians were killed and 20 wounded.

The blast on Wednesday near a facility of the National Directorate of Security wounded two civilians and a security official, police said.

The Taliban have stepped up their campaign to defeat the U.S.-backed government since April as foreign forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.

Fighting has been particularly heavy around the city of Herat, near the western border with Iran, and Lashkar Gah and Kandahar in the south.

An Afghan military spokesman said an emergency had been declared in Lashkar Gah and government forces were getting reinforcements and U.S. air support. “Special forces have been sent to the area. They are in good morale,” armed forces spokesman General Ajmal Omar Shinwari told Reuters.

The loss of Lashkar Gah would be a huge blow for the government, which has pledged to defend strategic centers after losing many rural districts to the Taliban in recent months.

Scores of families have fled from their homes in the small city, capital of Helmand province, as government forces launched a counterattack against the Taliban.

The United Nations reported on Tuesday that at least 40 civilians had been killed in Lashkar Gah in the previous 24 hours.

On Wednesday, doctors were receiving hundreds of wounded people from Laskar Gah and neighboring Greshk as air strikes and ground clashes continued near medical facilities and residential districts.

“Hospitals are receiving dead bodies, injured and some pregnant women…civilians are the worst affected,” said Shir Ali Shaker, head of the Helmand Public Health Department.

Taliban fighters had taken control of some radio and TV stations in the city and were moving into homes to stop people from helping government forces, residents said.

(Reporting by Kabul bureau; Editing by Tom Hogue, Robert Birsel and Mark Heinrich)

Car bomb hits near Kabul ‘Green Zone’; six dead including attackers

KABUL (Reuters) -A car bomb blast followed by sporadic gunfire hit Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Tuesday near the heavily fortified “Green Zone,” leaving three civilians and three attackers dead, security officials said amid an upturn in violence by Taliban militants.

At least seven other people were wounded, said health ministry spokesperson Ghulam Dastagir Nazari. An interior ministry spokesperson said security forces’ operations ended with the death of all attackers.

A senior security official said the blast appeared to have been caused by a car bomb and the target was the acting defense minister’s home and the adjoining residence of a member of parliament.

The attack – in the heart of one of Kabul’s most secure areas – came during an escalation in violence by the Taliban. Attacks have risen sharply since President Joe Biden announced U.S. troops would leave by September even as the Taliban intensified its attacks on major cities.

Three unidentified gunmen were killed at Tuesday’s attack site which is home to Afghan officials, lawmakers and prominent residents.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Minutes after the blast, hundreds of civilians in Kabul came out on to the streets and chanted Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest) to express their support for Afghan government forces and opposition to the Taliban.

The night-time march spilled across the city with mostly men and some women joining in the demonstrations, carrying candles and Afghan flags to signal united opposition to the hardline Islamist group.

“The whole world can choose to be silent about what is going on in Afghanistan but we can’t and won’t stay quiet anymore…we will stand side by side with our security forces until our last breath,” said a demonstrator in Kabul on condition of anonymity.

The country’s first Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the demonstrations were “historic moments” of “emotions and patriotism.”

“Allah o Akbar, death to Talib terrorists & their backer,” he said in a tweet at a time when Afghan forces flushed out militants in the overnight operations.

Last week, residents in the western province of Herat braved the streets despite nearby fighting to protest against the Taliban. Other cities quickly organized to join from their homes in the evenings, as a message of support for embattled security forces.

After Tuesday’s bomb attack, acting Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said no harm was caused to him and his family members but some of his security guards were injured.

A Kabul police spokesperson said at least 30 civilians had been rescued from the blast site. The city’s Emergency Hospital said in a tweet it had so far received 11 people wounded in the attack.

Afghan forces appealed to residents of the southern city of Lashkar Gah to leave their homes and stay away from areas where the Taliban were taking control, as they intend to launch operations against the group where its fighters were travelling freely.

The loss of Lashkar Gah would be a huge strategic defeat for the government, which has pledged to defend strategic centers after losing much of the rural parts to the Taliban in recent months.

The Taliban said their fighters killed a district governor of central Maidan Wardak province on Tuesday, the latest in a series of killings by the insurgent group aimed at eliminating senior government officials and social activists.

(Reporting by Kabul bureau, Editing by Nick Tattersall, William Maclean and Alistair Bell)

Dozens dead as Israel and Hamas escalate aerial bombardments

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Hostilities between Israel and Hamas escalated on Tuesday, raising the death toll in two days to 30 Palestinians and three Israelis, with Israel carrying out multiple air strikes in Gaza and the Islamist militant group firing rockets at Tel Aviv.

A 13-story residential Gaza block collapsed after one of several dozen air strikes. Late into the night, Gazans reported their homes shaking and the sky lighting up with near-constant Israeli strikes.

Israelis ran for shelters in communities more than 70 km (45 miles) up the coast amid sounds of explosions as Israeli interceptor missiles streaked into the sky. Israel said hundreds of rockets had been fired by Palestinian militant groups.

For Israel, the militants’ targeting of Tel Aviv, its commercial capital, posed a new challenge in the confrontation with the Islamist Hamas group, regarded as a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States.

The violence followed weeks of tension in Jerusalem during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the compound revered by Jews as Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

These escalated in recent days ahead of a – now postponed – court hearing in a case that could end with Palestinian families evicted from East Jerusalem homes claimed by Jewish settlers.

There appeared no imminent end to the violence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that militants would pay a “very heavy” price for the rockets, which reached the outskirts of Jerusalem on Monday during a holiday in Israel commemorating its capture of East Jerusalem in a 1967 war.

“We are at the height of a weighty campaign,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks alongside his defense minister and military chief.

“Hamas and Islamic Jihad paid … and will pay a very heavy price for their belligerence … their blood is forfeit.”

Hamas – seeking the opportunity to marginalize Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and to present itself as the guardians of Palestinians in Jerusalem – said it was up to Israel to make the first move.

The militant group’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said in a televised speech that Israel had “ignited fire in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa and the flames extended to Gaza, therefore, it is responsible for the consequences.”

Haniyeh said that Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations had been in contact urging calm but that Hamas’s message to Israel was: “If they want to escalate, the resistance is ready, if they want to stop, the resistance is ready.”

The White House said on Tuesday that Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself from rocket attacks but applied pressure on Israel over the treatment of Palestinians, saying Jerusalem “must be a place of co-existence.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki opened her daily news briefing with a statement about the situation, saying that President Joe Biden’s primary focus was on de-escalation.

The United States was delaying U.N. Security Council efforts to issue a public statement on escalating tensions because it could be harmful to behind-the-scenes efforts to end the violence, according to diplomats and a source familiar with the U.S. strategy.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said Washington is “actively engaged in diplomacy behind the scenes with all parties to achieve a ceasefire” and was concerned that a council statement might be counterproductive at the moment.

Israel said it had sent 80 jets to bomb Gaza, and dispatched infantry and armor to reinforce the tanks already gathered on the border, evoking memories of the last Israeli ground incursion into Gaza to stop rocket attacks, in 2014.

More than 2,100 Gazans were killed in the seven-week war that followed, according to the Gaza health ministry, along with 73 Israelis, and thousands of homes in Gaza were razed.

PLUMES OF BLACK SMOKE

Video footage on Tuesday showed three plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the Gaza block as it toppled over. Electricity in the surrounding area went out.

Residents of the block and the surrounding area had been warned to evacuate the area around an hour before the air strike, according to witnesses, and there were no reports of casualties two hours after it collapsed.

People in other blocks reported that they received warnings from Israel to evacuate ahead of a possible attack.

In Tel Aviv, air raid sirens and explosions were heard around the city. Pedestrians ran for shelter, and diners streamed out of restaurants while others flattened themselves on pavements as the sirens sounded.

The Israel Airports Authority said it had halted take-offs at Tel Aviv airport “to allow defense of the nation’s skies,” but later resumed them.

Video broadcast on Israeli Channel 12 television showed interceptor missiles rising above the runways.

The International Committee of the Red Cross urged all sides to step back, and reminded them of the requirement in international law to try to avoid civilian casualties.

“The recent rockets in Israel and air strikes in Gaza represent a dangerous escalation of the tensions and violence witnessed over the past days in Jerusalem, including its Old City,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC regional director for the Middle East, said in a statement.

Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service said a 50-year-old woman was killed when a rocket hit a building in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion, and that two women had been killed in rocket strikes on the southern city of Ashkelon.

But the Israeli military said many of the rockets fired from Gaza had fallen short and wounded Palestinians, and that Israel’s Iron Dome air defenses had intercepted the bulk of those that made it across the border.

Violence has also ticked up in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian and injured another on Tuesday after they shot towards Israeli troops near the Palestinian city of Nablus, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Dan Williams and Ari Rabinovitch; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Nandita Bose and Steve Holland in Washington and Michelle Nichols in New York, and Stephen Farrell and Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Giles Elgood and Howard Goller)

Nine killed, many wounded in Russian school shooting

By Andrew Osborn, Tom Balmforth and Alexander Marrow

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Nine people, including seven children, were killed on Tuesday and many more badly wounded after a lone teenage gunman opened fire in a school in the Russian city of Kazan, local authorities said, prompting a Kremlin call for tighter gun controls.

Two children could be seen leaping from the third floor of the four-story School Number 175 to escape as gunshots rang out, in a video filmed by an onlooker that was circulated by Russia’s RIA news agency.

“We heard the sounds of explosions at the beginning of the second lesson. All the teachers locked the children in the classrooms. The shooting was on the third floor,” said one teacher, quoted by Tatar Inform, a local media outlet.

Calling the attack a tragedy for the country, Rustam Minnikhanov, the head of the wider Tatarstan region, said there was no evidence that anyone else had been involved.

“We have lost seven children – four boys and three girls. We also lost a teacher. And we lost one more female staff worker,” he said in a video address.

“The terrorist has been arrested. He’s a 19-year-old who was officially registered as a gun owner,” he said. He said the victims were in the eighth year of school, which in Russia would make them around 14 or 15 years old.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which investigates major crimes, said in a statement it had opened a criminal case into the shooting and that the identity of the detained attacker had been established.

Reuters could not immediately contact a lawyer for the suspect, who was named in Russian media but whose identity was not officially disclosed, standard practice in Russia until a suspect has been formally charged.

Footage posted on social media showed a young man being pinned to the ground outside the school by police officers.

State TV later broadcast a separate video showing what it said was the suspect, a young man stripped to the waist and under restraint, being questioned by investigators. He could be heard saying that “a monster” had awoken in him, that he had realised that he was a god, and had begun to hate everyone.

The incident was Russia’s deadliest school shooting since 2018 when a student at a college in Russian-annexed Crimea killed 20 people before turning his gun on himself.

PUTIN ORDERS REVIEW OF GUN LAWS

A social media account called “God”, which Russian media said belonged to the suspect, was blocked by the Telegram messaging service citing its rules prohibiting what it described as “calls to violence”.

The account, created before the shooting, contained posts in which a young masked and bespectacled man described himself as a god and said he planned to kill a “huge number” of people and himself. Reuters could not independently confirm whether the account belonged to the detained suspect.

Minnikhanov, the regional leader, said 18 children were in hospital with a range of injuries, including gunshot wounds and broken and fractured bones. Three adults with gunshot wounds were also in hospital, he said, saying doctors were doing all they could to save the lives of those wounded.

Footage showed a corridor inside the school strewn with debris, including smashed glass and broken doors. Another still image showed a body on the floor of a blood-stained classroom.

Russia has strict restrictions on civilian firearm ownership, but some categories of guns are available for purchase for hunting, self-defense or sport, once would-be owners have passed tests and met other requirements.

President Vladimir Putin ordered the head of the national guard to draw up tighter gun regulations, the Kremlin said. The guards would urgently look into the status of weapons that can be registered for hunting in Russia but are considered assault weapons elsewhere.

The suspect had been issued a permit for a Hatsan Escort PS shotgun on April 28, Alexander Khinshtein, a lawmaker in the lower house of parliament, wrote on social media. He gave no further details and Reuters was not able to confirm this independently.

Kazan is the capital of the Muslim-majority region of Tatarstan and located around 450 miles (725 km) east of Moscow.

(Additional reporting by Maxim Rodionov, Dmitry Antonov, Polina Devitt and Maria VasilyevaWriting by Andrew Osborn and Tom BalmforthEditing by John Stonestreet and Peter Graff)

Hong Kong set to enact emergency laws as it struggles to contain violence

By Clare Jim and Felix Tam

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s government is expected to discuss sweeping emergency laws on Friday that would include banning face masks at protests, two sources told Reuters, as the Chinese-ruled territory grapples with an escalating cycle of violence.

Authorities have already loosened guidelines on the use of force by police, according to documents seen by Reuters on Thursday, as they struggle to stamp out anti-government protests that have rocked Hong Kong for nearly four months.

The loosening of restrictions on the use of force by police came into effect just before some of the most violent turmoil yet at protests on Tuesday, when a teenaged secondary school student was shot by an officer in the chest and wounded – the first time a demonstrator had been hit by live fire.

More than 100 people were wounded, after police fired about 1,400 rounds of tear gas, 900 rubber bullets and six live rounds as protesters threw petrol bombs and wielded sticks.

The Beijing-backed local government was set to hold a meeting on Friday morning where it was likely to enact a colonial-era emergency law that has not been used in half a century, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Media reports earlier on Thursday of an expected ban on face masks – which hundreds of thousands of protesters wear to conceal their identities and shield themselves from tear gas – sent Hong Kong’s stock market up to a one-week high.

Growing opposition to the former British colony’s government has plunged the financial hub into its biggest political crisis in decades and poses the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power.

Protesters are angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city’s affairs despite a promise of autonomy in the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.

China dismisses accusations it is meddling and has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of stirring up anti-China sentiment.

As speculation of an emergency law swirled, riot police moved into districts across Hong Kong that have seen violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces in recent weeks, according to Telegram groups, a popular encrypted messaging app popular with protesters.

LIVE ROUNDS

Local media Now TV and Cable TV reported the changes to the police procedures manual took effect on Sept. 30, the day before Tuesday’s violence at widespread protests on China’s National Day, during which the student was shot.

Reuters could not confirm when the changes were made, but has seen police documents that showed changes to some guidelines on how officers could act when considering force.

The updated guidelines also removed a line that said “officers will be accountable for their own actions”, stating only that “officers on the ground should exercise their own discretion to determine what level of force is justified in a given situation”.

Police declined to comment when asked if amendments had been made to the manual.

“The guidelines on the use of force involve details of operation. It may affect the normal and effective operation of the police force and work of police on crime prevention if details are made public,” police said in a statement to Reuters.

Hong Kong’s police have long been admired for their professionalism compared with some forces elsewhere in Asia.

But the public has become increasingly hostile towards the force over past weeks amid accusations of heavy-handed tactics. Police say they have shown restraint.

The unrest, which began over opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, shows no sign of letting up.

Protesters, fired up over the shooting of the young man this week, are planning more demonstrations at shopping malls across 11 districts on Thursday night and throughout the weekend.

“HEINOUS CRIMES”

Elizabeth Quat, a lawmaker for a pro-Beijing political party, told a news conference the looming ban on face masks under a law giving police broad emergency powers was aimed at stopping “illegal assemblies”.

“This law is not targeting peaceful protesters. It is focused on targeting those rioters who have committed heinous crimes,” she said.

But pro-democracy lawmakers fear the emergency powers could be used to further curtail freedoms.

“To impose an anti-mask law in the current social condition is to further infuriate the people and will definitely be met with escalating violence,” lawmaker Fernando Cheung told Reuters. “This is no different than adding fuel to fire. The result will be riots.”

Goldman Sachs estimated this week that the city might have lost as much as $4 billion in deposits to rival banking center Singapore between June and August.

On Thursday, Lam Chi-wai, chairman of the Junior Police Officers Association, urged the city’s leader to impose a curfew to maintain public order.

“We cannot work alone – clapping only with one hand – without appropriate measures and support from top level,” Lam said.

TEENAGER CHARGED

Tony Tsang, the 18-year-old who was shot at close range as he fought an officer with what appeared to be a white pole on Tuesday, has since been charged with rioting, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence, and assaulting a police officer.

Tsang is in hospital in a stable condition and was not able to attend a court session on Thursday, but his lawyer appeared on his behalf. About 200 supporters turned up to watch the proceedings.

Separately, the lawyer for an Indonesian journalist injured when police fired a projectile during protests on Sunday said she had been blinded in one eye.

The European Union said in a statement it was deeply troubled by the escalation of violence and the only way forward was through “restraint, de-escalation and dialogue”.

(Additional reporting by Donny Kwok, James Pomfret and Anne Marie Roantree; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Poppy McPherson; Editing by Stephen Coates, Robert Birsel and Alex Richardson)

Dozens killed, including children on a bus, in Yemen air strikes

A Yemeni man holds a boy who was injured by an airstrike in Saada, Yemen August 9, 2018./REUTERS/Naif Rahma

ADEN (Reuters) – Saudi-led coalition air strikes on Thursday killed dozens of people, including children traveling on a bus, in Yemen’s Saada province, Yemeni medical sources and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

The Western-backed alliance fighting the Iranian-aligned Houthi group in Yemen said in a statement that the air strikes targeted missile launchers used to attack the southern Saudi city of Jizan on Wednesday, killing a Yemeni civilian there.

It accused the Houthis of using children as human shields.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said the coalition showed “clear disregard for civilian life” as the attack had targeted a crowded public place in the city.

A Yemeni boy lies in the hospital after he was injured by an airstrike in Saada, Yemen August 9, 2018./REUTERS/Naif Rahma

A Yemeni boy lies in the hospital after he was injured by an airstrike in Saada, Yemen August 9, 2018./REUTERS/Naif Rahma

The ICRC said one attack hit the bus driving children in Dahyan market, in northern Saada, adding hospitals there had received dozens of dead and wounded.

A Reuters photographer saw bloodied and bandaged children being treated by doctors.

Footage from the Houthi media office showed a boy wearing a blue backpack with a UNICEF logo being carried into a hospital emergency room with blood pouring down his face and over his traditional Yemeni thawb, an ankle-length garment.

Abdul-Ghani Sareeh, head of a health department in Saada, told Reuters that the death toll was to 43, with 61 wounded.

“Scores killed, even more injured, most under the age of 10,” Johannes Bruwer, head of the delegation for the ICRC in Yemen, said in a Twitter post.

It was unclear how many children were killed and how many air strikes were carried out in the area, in northern Yemen, near the border with Saudi Arabia.

Smoke rises after an airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Smoke rises after an airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

“RED LINE”

Saudi Arabia and Sunni Muslim allies intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 against the Houthis, who control the most populous areas of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, and drove the internationally recognized government into exile in 2014.

The United States and other Western powers provide arms and intelligence to the alliance, and human rights groups have criticized them over coalition air strikes that have killed hundreds of civilians at hospitals, schools, and markets.

The alliance says it does not intentionally target civilians and has set up a committee to probe alleged mass casualty air strikes, which has mostly cleared the coalition of any blame.

“Today’s attack in Saada was a legitimate military operation … and was carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law,” the coalition said in the Arabic-language statement carried by SPA.

“Targeting Saudis and residents in Saudi is a red line,” coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki later told Al Arabiya TV.

Fragments from the Houthi missile launched at Jizan Industrial City had killed one Yemeni civilian and wounded 11, Saudi state media said earlier on Thursday.

The Houthis have launched a series of missile strikes on the kingdom, including Riyadh, over the past year.

Saada, the main stronghold of the Houthis, has mainly come under air strikes from the coalition as the mountainous province makes battles hard for pro-government ground troops.

The Yemen war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country to the verge of famine, according to the United Nations.

(Corrects official’s name in paragraph 8 to Abdul-Ghani Sareeh from Abdul-Ghani Nayeb)

(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Writing and additional reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Alison Williams)

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)

South Korea warns North not to repeat armistice violation

South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo looks around a spot where a North Korean collapsed wounded by gun shot by North Korean soldiers while crossing the border on November 13, at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone, South Korea, November 27, 2017.

PANMUNJOM, South Korea (Reuters) – North Korea violated an armistice agreement with South Korea this month when North Korean soldiers shot and wounded a North Korean soldier as he defected across their border and it must not do so again, South Korea’s defense minister said on Monday.

The defector, a North Korean soldier identified only by his surname, Oh, was critically wounded but has been recovering in hospital in South Korea.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tension between North Korea and the international community over its nuclear weapons program, but the North has not publicly responded to the defection at the sensitive border.

South Korean Minister of Defence Song Young-moo issued his warning to the North while on a visit to the border where he commended South Korean soldiers at a Joint Security Area (JSA), in the so-called Truce Village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone, for rescuing the defector.

A North Korean border guard briefly crossed the border with the South in the chase for the defector on Nov. 13 – a video released by the U.N. Command (UNC) in Seoul showed – a violation of the ceasefire accord between North and South at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

“Shooting towards the South at a defecting person, that’s a violation of the armistice agreement,” Song said.

“Crossing the military demarcation line, a violation. Carrying automatic rifles (in the JSA), another violation,” he added as he stood near where South Korean soldiers had found Oh, collapsed and bleeding from his wounds.

“North Korea should be informed this sort of thing should never occur again.”

Since the defection, North Korea has reportedly replaced guards stationed there. Soldiers have fortified a section of the area seen aimed at blocking any more defections by digging a trench and planting trees.

As Song was speaking 10 meters away from the trees North Korean soldiers planted, four North Korean soldiers were spotted listening closely.

South Korean military officials pointed out two bullet holes in a metal wall on a South Korean building, from North Korean shots fired at Oh as he ran.

Oh has undergone several operations in hospital to remove bullets. His lead surgeon, Lee Cook-jong, told Reuters his patient has suffers from nightmares about being returned to the North.

In South Korea, six soldiers, three South Korean and three American, were given awards by the U.S. Forces Korea last week in recognition for their efforts in rescuing the defector.

After inspecting the site on Monday, Song met troops stationed there for lunch and praised them for acting ‘promptly and appropriately’.

South Korea has been broadcasting news of the soldier’s defection towards North Korea via loudspeakers, according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.

South Korean military officials have declined to confirm that.

 

(Reporting by Do-gyun Kim; Writing by Christine Kim; Editing by Soyoung Kim, Robert Birsel)

 

Gunman kills 26 in rural Texas church during Sunday service

By Lisa Maria Garza

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (Reuters) – A man with an assault rifle killed at least 26 people and wounded 20 in a rural Texas church during Sunday services, adding the name of Sutherland Springs to the litany of American communities shattered by mass shootings.

The massacre, which media reports say was carried out by a man thrown out of the Air Force for assaulting his wife and child, is likely to renew questions about why someone with a history of violence could amass an arsenal of lethal weaponry.

The lone gunman, dressed in black tactical gear and a ballistic vest, drove up to the white-steepled First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and started firing inside. He kept shooting once he entered, killing or wounding victims ranging in age from five to 72 years, police told a news conference.

The area around a site of a mass shooting is taped out in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017, in this picture obtained via social media.

The area around a site of a mass shooting is taped out in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017, in this picture obtained via social media. MAX MASSEY/ KSAT 12/via REUTERS

President Donald Trump told reporters the shooting was due to a “mental health problem” and wasn’t “a guns situation.” He was speaking during an official visit to Japan.

Among the dead was the 14-year-old daughter of church Pastor Frank Pomeroy, the family told several television stations. One couple, Joe and Claryce Holcombe, told the Washington Post they lost eight extended family members, including their pregnant granddaughter-in-law and three of her children.

The gunman was later found dead, apparently of a gunshot wound, after he fled the scene.

“We are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our state’s history,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott told a news conference. “The tragedy of course is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church, a place of worship.”

About 40 miles (65 km) east of San Antonio in Wilson County, Sutherland Springs has fewer than 400 residents.

“This would never be expected in a little county like (this),” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNN.

A local resident with a rifle fired at the suspect as he left the church. The gunman dropped his Ruger assault weapon and fled in his vehicle, said Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

A man told San Antonio television station KSAT he was driving near the church when the resident who had opened fire on the gunman approached his truck and urged him to give chase.

“He said that we had to get him (the gunman), and so that’s what I did,” Johnnie Langendorff, the driver of the truck, told KSAT. He added they reached speeds of 95 miles (153 km/h) per hour during the chase, while he was on the phone with emergency dispatchers.

Soon afterward, the suspect crashed the vehicle near the border of a neighboring county and was found dead inside with a cache of weapons. It was not immediately clear if he killed himself or was hit when the resident fired at him outside the church, authorities said.

The suspect’s identity was not disclosed by authorities, but law enforcement officials who asked not to be named said he was Devin Patrick Kelley, described as a white, 26-year-old man, the New York Times and other media reported.

“We don’t think he had any connection to this church,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CNN. “We have no motive.”

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackett gives an update during a news conference at the Stockdale Community Center following a shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs that left many dead and injured in Stockdale, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017.

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackett gives an update during a news conference at the Stockdale Community Center following a shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs that left many dead and injured in Stockdale, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Sergio Flores

‘I HIT THE DECK’

The massacre came weeks after a sniper killed 58 people in Las Vegas. It was the deadliest attack in modern U.S. history and rekindled a years-long national debate over whether easy access to firearms was contributing to the trend of mass shootings.

In rural areas like Sutherland Springs, gun ownership is a part of life and the state’s Republican leaders for years have balked at campaigns for gun control, arguing that more firearms among responsible owners make the state safer.

Jeff Forrest, a 36-year-old military veteran who lives a block away from the church, said what sounded like high-caliber, semi-automatic gunfire triggered memories of his four combat deployments with the Marine Corps.

“I was on the porch, I heard 10 rounds go off and then my ears just started ringing,” Forrest said. “I hit the deck and I just lay there.”

To honor the victims, Trump ordered flags on all federal buildings to be flown at half staff.

In Japan during the first leg of a 12-day Asian trip, the president said preliminary reports indicated the shooter was “deranged.”

“This isn’t a guns situation, I mean we could go into it, but it’s a little bit soon to go into it,” Trump said. “But fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise … it would have been much worse. But this is a mental health problem at the highest level.”

The First Baptist Church is one of two houses of worship in Sutherland Springs, which also has two gas stations and a Dollar General store.

The white-painted, one-story church features a small steeple and a single front door. On Sunday, the Lone Star flag of Texas was flying alongside the U.S. flag and a third, unidentified banner.

Inside, there is a small raised platform on which members sang worship songs to guitar music and the pastor delivered a weekly sermon, according to videos posted on YouTube. In one of the clips, a few dozen people, including young children, can be seen sitting in the wooden pews.

It was not clear how many worshipers were inside when Sunday’s shooting occurred.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE

Online records show a man named Devin Patrick Kelley lived in New Braunfels, Texas, about 35 miles (56 km) north of Sutherland Springs.

The U.S. Air Force said Kelley served in its Logistics Readiness unit at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge in 2014.

Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of assaulting his wife and child, and given a bad-conduct discharge, confinement for 12 months and a reduction in rank, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

Kelley’s Facebook page has been deleted, but cached photos show a profile picture where he appeared with two small children. He also posted a photo of what appeared to be an assault rifle, writing a post that read: “She’s a bad bitch.”

Sunday’s shooting occurred on the eighth anniversary of the Nov. 5, 2009, massacre of 13 people at the Fort Hood Army base in central Texas. A U.S. Army Medical Corps psychiatrist convicted of the killings is awaiting execution.

In 2015, a white gunman killed nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The gunman was sentenced to death for the racially motivated attack.

In September, a gunman killed a woman in the parking lot of a Tennessee church and wounded six worshipers inside.

 

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Phil Stewart in Washington, and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; writing by Frank McGurty; editing by Mark Heinrich)