EDITORS NOTE: NewsThisSecond is not showing the perpetrators’ face, in adherence to requests by Judge Paul Kellar, who will be trying Brenton Tarrant in court. We are also not linking to the manifesto or to the archived livestream, out of respect of the 50 killed and 50 injured in the terror attack, and due to the fact that people will be charged for possessing either the manifesto or the shooting footage itself, facing a decade or more in prison.
UPDATE: The death toll in Christchurch mosque shootings has risen to 50, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said on Sunday at a press conference broadcast by CNN.
“It is with sadness that I advise that number of people who died in this event has now risen to 50,” Bush said. “As of last night we were able to take all of the victims from both of those scenes. In doing so we were able to locate a further victim,” he added.
Bush confirmed that the number of injured in the attack was also 50.
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) – At least 49 people were shot to death at two mosques during midday prayers Friday – most if not all of them gunned down by an immigrant-hating white supremacist who apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter on Facebook.
One man was arrested and charged with murder, and two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role they played in the cold-blooded attack that stunned New Zealand, a country so peaceful that police officers rarely carry guns.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, noting that many of the victims could be migrants or refugees.
She pronounced it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings left a jumbled, 74-page manifesto that he posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.
He also livestreamed in graphic detail 17 minutes of his rampage at Al Noor Mosque, where, armed with at least two assault rifles and a shotgun, he sprayed worshippers with bullets over and over, killing at least 41 people. Several more people were killed in an attack on a second mosque in the city a short time later.
At least 48 people were wounded, some critically.
Police did not immediately say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings. They gave no details about those taken into custody except to say that none had been on any watch list.
In the aftermath, the country’s threat level was raised from low to high, police warned Muslims against going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand, and the national airline canceled several flights in and out of Christchurch.
World leaders condemned the attacks and offered condolences. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and other Islamic leaders pointed to the bloodbath and other such attacks as evidence of rising hostility toward Muslims.
“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim,” Khan tweeted.
New Zealand, with 5 million people, has relatively loose gun laws but few gun homicides. It is also generally considered to be welcoming to migrants and refugees.
In the wake of the slaughter, the prime minister said that immigrants and refugees “have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.” She said the suspects harbor “extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.”
At the Al Noor mosque, witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black and wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top enter the house of worship and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running out in terror.
Peneha, who lives next door, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway and fled. Peneha then went into the mosque to help the victims.
“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
Facebook, Twitter and Google companies scrambled to take down the gunman’s video, which was widely available on social media for hours after the horrific attack.
In the video, the killer spends more than two minutes inside the mosque spraying terrified worshippers with gunfire. He then walks outside, where he shoots at people on the sidewalk. Children’s screams can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to get another rifle. He walks back into the mosque, where there are at least two dozen people lying on the ground.
After going back outside and shooting a woman there, he gets back in his car, where the song “Fire” by the English rock band The Crazy World of Arthur Brown can be heard blasting. The singer bellows, “I am the god of hellfire!” and the gunman drives off.
The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away. Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald that he heard about five gunshots and that a worshipper returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.
The footage showed the killer was carrying a shotgun and two fully automatic military assault rifles, with an extra magazine taped to one of the weapons so that he could reload quickly. He also had more assault weapons in the trunk of his car, along with what appeared to be explosives.
The gunman’s manifesto was a welter of often politically contradictory views, touching on many of the most combustible issues of the day, among them the Second Amendment right to own guns, Muslim immigration, terrorist attacks and the wealthiest 1 percent.
He portrayed himself as a racist and a fascist and raged against non-Westerners, but said China is the nation that most aligns with his political and social values.
The gunman said he was not a member of any organization, acted alone and chose New Zealand to show that even the most remote parts of the world are not free of “mass immigration.”
Last year, New Zealand’s prime minister announced that the country would boost its annual refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 in 2020. Ardern, whose party campaigned on a promise to take in more refugees, called it “the right thing to do.”
Christchurch is home to nearly 400,000 people and is sometimes called the Garden City. It has been rebuilding since an earthquake in 2011 killed 185 people and destroyed many downtown buildings.
Before Friday’s attack, New Zealand’s deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.
Perry reported from Wellington. Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, and Chris Blake in Bangkok contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh Released From Prison After 17 Years
John Walker Lindh, the first person to be convicted of a crime in the “War on Terror,” left prison a free man Thursday after 17 years behind bars, his lawyer confirmed.
The Northern California native was captured months into the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, a war that has now lasted longer than his incarceration. The revelation that a young American had joined the group that harbored the 9/11 terrorists was a national shock.
Lindh pleaded guilty in 2002 to aiding the Taliban and carrying weapons. Prosecutors were unable to prove, however, that he went beyond fighting the Taliban’s Afghan enemies by aiding terrorists or trying to kill Americans.
“I did not go to fight against America, and I never did,” Lindh told U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria at the time. “I have never supported terrorism in any form, and I never will. . . . I made a mistake by joining the Taliban. Had I realized then what I know now, I would never have joined them.”
Lindh’s plea agreement capped his sentence at 20 years; he was released early for good behavior. Although that credit is built into the law for all federal prisoners, Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) has called for Lindh to be kept in prison and said he had President Trump’s support.
The family of CIA operative Johnny “Mike” Spann, who was killed in a riot at the Afghan prison where Lindh was held, has been vocal in denouncing his release, although prosecutors and Ellis have said there was no evidence Lindh was involved in Spann’s death.
In a letter to the court Monday, Spann’s father asked Ellis to investigate a 2016 intelligence report that, according to the publication Foreign Policy, said Lindh has “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts.”
NBC News on Wednesday reported that Lindh had written to a network affiliate in 2015 and said he believed the Islamic State was “doing a spectacular job.” The report said Lindh sent three letters to the station and in one said the terrorist group was “very sincere and serious about fulfilling the long-neglected religious obligation to establish a caliphate through armed struggle, which is the only correct method.”
Lindh has served his time in a unit of Terre Haute Federal Correctional Institution in Indiana, where interactions are highly restricted and monitored.
Officials would not say what time of day he would be released. The morning release was first reported by CNN.
“For safety, security and privacy reasons, we do not comment on individual release plans,” a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons said. “Mr. Lindh is being released in accordance with applicable statutes and BOP regulations.”
In prison, he has remained religiously doctrinaire. Going by Yayyah Lindh, he successfully challenged a policy of strip-searching detainees in his unit before visits, because in Islam “a male person is prohibited from exposing the area of his body between the navel and the knees.”
He also won the right in court to cuff his pants above the ankles and participate in daily group prayer.
“This is mandatory and not optional,” he wrote in a 2009 letter to the prison authorities of his religious obligations.
Lindh now must serve three years of supervised release, during which he cannot hold a passport, use the Internet without monitoring, view extremist or terroristic material, communicate with known extremists or converse online in any language other than English without prior approval. He must undergo mental health treatment.
He initially opposed the imposition of those conditions but ultimately acquiesced without a challenge. They were requested by his probation officer, according to an order from Ellis, “given the rare nature of the defendant’s crime and his unique personal history and characteristics.”
Lindh’s family and attorneys declined to comment. But in a question-and-answer session after the guilty plea, defense attorney Tony West said Lindh wanted to get a college degree and doctorate.
West also said prosecutors initially wanted to bar Lindh from ever leaving the country again. Lindh refused to sign any agreement that prevented him from making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
“I would hope that he would make a good transition,” Paul McNulty, former U.S. attorney, said in advance of Lindh’s release, adding that it was understood at the time of the plea that the Taliban supporter would qualify for early release on good behavior. He said the Justice Department was “confident” in its initial, stronger charges against Lindh but thought the plea agreement was “a fair and just resolution of the case.”
Lindh’s attorney, William Cummings, said Lindh must reside in the Eastern District of Virginia to comply with probation. He said Lindh aims to lie low and keep out of trouble; his family has been concerned about death threats.
Lindh, 21 at the time of his arrest, was raised outside San Francisco by a Catholic father and Buddhist mother. He converted to Islam as a teenager after reading “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and went to the Middle East to study Arabic and religion.
He became increasingly fundamentalist in his views. Living in Pakistan, he wrote his family, “really makes me look upon American society with pity.” At a madrassa there, he later told CNN, his “heart became attached” to the Taliban. He joined the group in Afghanistan, committing to the fight against the Northern Alliance for a “pure Islamic state.”
He trained at an al-Qaeda camp where he met Osama bin Laden, but he told the FBI he declined to join the group or participate in attacks on the United States and Israel. His jihad, he said, was in Afghanistan.
“Bin Laden’s terrorist attacks are completely against Islam,” he said at his sentencing, “completely contrary to the conventions of jihad and without any justification whatsoever. . . . Terrorism is never justified and has proved extremely damaging to Muslims around the world.”
This is a developing story.
(Reporting by Washington Post)
Gunmen Storm Five-Star Hotel In Pakistan, Killing At Least One
* Military says militants cornered in hotel staircase
* Gwadar is strategic port being developed with Chinese
* Chinese often stay at hotel, but none there during attack (Adds claim of responsibility)
QUETTA, Pakistan, May 11 (Reuters) – Three gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Pakistan’s southwestern port city of Gwadar on Saturday, killing at least one guard and battling security forces inside, officials and the army said.
Balochistan Home Minister Ziaullah Langove said most guests had been evacuated from the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel, which helicopters circled as fighting was underway. He said there were reports of casualties, but did not give details.
The military said three gunmen killed a guard at the entrance to the hotel when they entered. Security forces had cordoned off the area and cornered the attackers in a staircase leading to the top floor, the military said in its statement
Balochistan Liberation Army, a group fighting for greater autonomy in Pakistan’s poorest province, claimed responsibility in an emailed statement.
Gwadar is a strategic port on the Arabian Sea that is being developed as part of the $60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is itself part of China’s mammoth Belt and Road infrastructure project.
The hotel, located on a hillside near the port, is used by foreign guests, including Chinese project staff, but there were none in the building at the time of the attack, Langove said.
Pakistani officials have said the security forces were on alert for attacks during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began in early May.
Security across most of Pakistan has improved over recent years following a major crackdown after the country’s worst attack, when some 150 people, most of them children, were killed in an attack on a school in the western city of Peshawar in 2014.
But Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, remains an exception and there have been several attacks this year, with at least 14 people killed last month in an attack on buses travelling between the southern city of Karachi and Gwadar.
The province is rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies, with several militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban group Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Balochistan Liberation Army and the Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Saturday’s incident follows a bombing this week that targeted police outside a major Sufi shrine in Lahore, in the north of Pakistan, that killed at least 10 people and wounded more than 20, officials said.
San Diego US Attorney Announces Federal Hate Crimes Charges Against Suspect In Deadly California Synagogue Shooting
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Federal officials have announced 109 hate crime charges against the 19-year-old man accused of opening fire on a Southern California synagogue during Passover service.
Federal and local law enforcement officials announced the news conference in San Diego on Thursday.
Federal prosecutors say 109 hate crime charges filed against a 19-year-old man accused of shooting up a California synagogue involve the murder of one person, the attempted murder of 53 others and arson at a mosque.
U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer Jr. said Thursday the charges against John T. Earnest make him eligible for the death penalty.
Prosecutors allege last month’s attack on Chabad of Poway and an earlier arson at an Escondido mosque were motivated by hatred of the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Earnest specifically faces 54 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs using a dangerous weapon, resulting in death, bodily injury and attempts to kill.
He also faces 54 counts involving the shooting in violation of the Mathew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and one count of damage to religious property stemming from the arson.
Earnest was previously charged in San Diego County Superior Court and a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf.
Prosecutors say the gunman, identified as John T. Earnest, killed a woman and wounded an 8-year-old girl, her uncle and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was leading the service at the Chabad of Poway synagogue on the last day of Passover, a major Jewish holiday.
In a court appearance last month, Earnest pleaded not guilty to state charges of murder and attempted murder. In a separate case, he has pleaded not guilty to burning a mosque in nearby Escondido.
Authorities say he fired at least eight shots in the synagogue before fleeing.
Read the newly-filed indictment below:
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