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Sunday, November 29, 2015

'No more baby parts': Reclusive suspect's words draw focus

'No more baby parts': Reclusive suspect's words draw focus
AP Photo
A crime scene investigator looks over a police vehicle damaged during Friday's shooting spree near a Planned Parenthood clinic Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, in northwest Colorado Springs, Colo.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- Robert Lewis Dear told authorities "no more baby parts" after being arrested for the shooting of a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, according to a law enforcement official, part of a rambling statement that investigators are parsing to understand the reasoning behind an assault that left three dead.

Colorado Springs police on Sunday said they would not disclose any information on the motive for the attack, a move that guarantees further speculation over the intention of Dear, whom acquaintances described as an odd, reclusive loner, as he prepares for his initial appearance in state court on Monday.

Planned Parenthood cited witnesses as saying the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion. He killed a police officer and two civilians who were accompanying separate friends to the clinic: Jennifer Markovsky, 36, a mother of two and Ke'Arre Stewart, 29, an Iraq War veteran and father of two.

The law enforcement official who recounted Dear's statement spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the ongoing investigation. The official said the "no more baby parts" comment was among a number of statements he made to authorities after his arrest, making it difficult to know his specific motivation.

Still, U.S. Attorney John Walsh said investigators have been in touch with lawyers from the Justice Department's Civil Rights and National Security divisions, suggesting officials could pursue federal charges in addition to state homicide ones. One possible avenue is the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a crime to injure or intimidate clinic patients and employees.

The attack thrust the clinic to the center of the debate over Planned Parenthood, which was reignited in July when anti-abortion activists released undercover video they said showed the group's personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

Planned Parenthood has denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement costs for donating the organs to researchers. Still, the National Abortion Federation says it has since seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide.

Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that the 
organization has faced hateful speech.

"I can't believe that this isn't contributing to some folks, mentally unwell or not, thinking that it's OK to - to target Planned Parenthood or to target abortion providers," she said.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on CNN's State of the Union called the attack "a form of terrorism" and said people need to be mindful of "inflammatory rhetoric."

Anti-abortion activists, part of a group called the Center for Medical Progress, denounced the "barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman" and offered prayers for the dead and wounded and for their families.

Cowart said the gunman "broke in" to the clinic Friday but didn't get past a locked door leading to the main part of the facility. She said there was no armed security when the shooting began.

He later surrendered to police after an hours long standoff.

Nine other people were hospitalized, including five officers. Cowart said all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.

Neighbors who lived beside Dear's former South Carolina home say he hid food in the woods as if he was a survivalist and said he lived off selling prints of his uncle's paintings of Southern plantations and the Masters golf tournament.

John Hood said Saturday that when he moved to Walterboro, South Carolina, Dear was living in a doublewide mobile home next door.

He pointed to a wooden fence separating their land and said he put it up because Dear liked to skinny dip.

Hood said Dear rarely talked to him, and when he did, he tended to offer unsolicited advice such as recommending that Hood put a metal roof on his house so the U.S. government couldn't spy on him.

"He was really strange and out there, but I never thought he would do any harm," he said.

James Russell, another former neighbor in a rural area of North Carolina where Dear lived part time, said: "If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive."

Friday, November 27, 2015

Gunmen mercilessly mowed down guests in Mali hotel siege

Gunmen mercilessly mowed down guests in Mali hotel siege

AP Photo
People run to flee from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. The company that runs the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali's capital says assailants have takenhostages in a brazen assault involving grenades.
AMAKO, Mali (AP) -- The early breakfast crowd sipped coffee and picked at croissants in the Radisson Blu's dining room, swiping through emails and the morning headlines on their smartphones.

Outside the luxury hotel, the dusty, red-earth streets were coming alive with traffic, the whine of motorbikes mixed with the rumble of minibus taxis amid the bustle of one of Africa's fastest-growing cities.

Five hotel security guards were just finishing the overnight shift and about to make the handoff to their 
dayside colleagues. Another night, another "Rien a signaler" (French for "Nothing to report"). As one of the guards would later say, "We weren't concentrating."

That was the precise moment the attackers were waiting for on the morning of Nov. 20.

Two men with Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives ran toward the guards at 6:50 a.m., surprising them with a burst of automatic fire that felled four of them, one fatally. The only guard to escape unhurt, Cheick Dabo, took cover by diving under a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

It was the beginning of the bloodiest jihadi attack ever in Mali's capital, and the latest high-profile one in Africa, which has been hit by extremist violence in countries like Somalia, Nigeria, Niger, Algeria and Kenya.
Within the next few hours, the two attackers and 20 victims would be dead. Coming just a week after the Paris massacre, it was a shocking reminder that extremist violence haunts not only the Middle East but also Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and other lands.

The gunfire outside the hotel struck instant terror among the nearly 150 guests and staff members at the Radisson, considered one of Bamako's best-guarded hotels. The guests included not only Malians but Chinese, Belgians, Indians, Turks and Russians who were there for another day of meetings - some about Mali's fragile peace process, others on multibillion-dollar railway projects.

The attackers stormed the main entrance with weapons blazing. Just past the glass doors, staff and guests in the marble-floored lobby were overrun. With the attackers firing wildly, the body count mounted quickly.

Tambacouye "Tamba" Diarra, a maître d' in the restaurant, saw a gunman coming toward him and ran. As he fled, he grabbed a guest returning from his morning jog and dragged him to safety outside.

One attacker rushed the rapidly emptying breakfast dining area, while his partner stormed into the kitchen. A waitress there screamed, sparking a panic.

"They are attacking us! They are attacking us!" she wailed, remembered hotel cook Mohammed Coulibaly.

The cook began to shepherd as many people as he could out of the kitchen and down a hallway. As they ran, they could hear gunshots behind them.

The gunfire echoed upstairs, the sound bouncing off the circular staircase and interior balconies facing the building's central atrium. Terrified guests cowered in many of the seven-story hotel's 190 rooms.

Back outside, the first news alerts were flashing across TVs worldwide: a possible new slaughter, one week 
after the Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

Terrified guests packed into an elevator in a bid to flee, but their weight was too much, and the doors 
wouldn't close. The gunmen fired mercilessly on those huddled inside.

"I knelt down covering my face, then I crawled like a snake to a corner" of the elevators, Leon Aharrh Gnama, a Togo native and guest, told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. "One by one the others were falling on top of me. They were soaking me with their blood. I heard them struggle to breathe, in agony, say some words, shout. They were dying and saving my life" at the same time.

At 7:45 a.m., Wu Zhiqi was hurrying downstairs for breakfast to join the three Chinese executives he worked for as a translator on a railway project, but when the doors to the elevator he was in opened, he spotted a man carrying an assault rifle and bodies on the ground.

Alone in the elevator, he managed to close the doors, then scrambled back to his room and locked himself in the bathroom, where he tried via text message to reach his bosses, probably already dead in the dining room. He was rescued hours later.

Local police arrived first, between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m. Lightly armed and not trained for counterterrorism operations, they rushed into the hotel but were no match for the killers. Police tossed several flash-bang grenades to try to stun the attackers but were forced to retreat. More police arrived, advancing slowly on the hotel behind the cover of a blue armored vehicle.

A group of six U.S. military personnel arrived shortly afterward, and by 8 a.m. they were seen entering the hotel. Meanwhile, Malian special forces wearing full battle gear and armed with Kalashnikovs sealed off the hotel and readied an assault.

Guests dashed for the exits, one by one or in small groups. Little by little, the number trapped inside dwindled. A group of about 20 made a mass escape just before 9 a.m. Others trapped higher in the building began a torturous hours-long wait in their rooms as the attackers methodically hunted victims floor by floor.

France, Mali's former colonial overlord, dispatched about 40 of its special forces based in neighboring Burkina Faso. They arrived at 2 p.m., descending in a helicopter close to the hotel.

The international involvement in the operation underscored how many countries have troops in Mali to help contain the jihadi threat, including the Netherlands and Germany. Despite those efforts, Mali remains a weak state with porous borders, uncontrolled spaces and a variety of extremist groups that seem to be competing to carry out spectacular attacks.

The 20 dead came from seven countries and included a 41-year-old American development worker and three officials from a Chinese railway company, suggesting the wide range of roles foreigners are playing in Mali as the country attempts to recover from a 2012 coup and the temporary seizure of northern Mali by jihadis over two years ago.

The other victims were six Russian employees of a cargo company; six Malians, including several hotel employees; two Belgians; one Israeli; and one Senegalese, said Mali's interior ministry.

Around 3:30 p.m., Malian commandos launched an assault to capture or kill the gunmen and rescue those inside. As the commandos advanced quickly to the third floor, some with attack dogs straining at their leashes, frightened guests relied on a password - the maître d's nickname - confided to them by the front desk, Diarra said.

"We told guests who called the reception that if the person at the door said the word 'Tamba,' they can open it," he said.

The attackers' last stand came at 4 p.m. on the third floor. French commandos and Malian troops combined forces and managed to kill both gunmen. Then the troops ascended to the upper floors in a painstaking, room-to-room clearing operation.

Wearing a bulletproof vest supplied by police, Diarra helped police distinguish guests from possible attackers trying to escape.

Gnama, the guest from Togo who survived under a pile of bodies in the elevator, said he emerged from his gory hiding spot only after the soldiers arrived. When he saw so many corpses in front of the check-in area, he said, "I believe I fainted."

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Obama and Hollande pledge solidarity against Islamic State

Obama and Hollande pledge solidarity against Islamic State

AP Photo
President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande embrace during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. Hollande's visit to Washington is part of a diplomatic offensive to get the international community to bolster the campaign against the Islamic State militants.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a show of Western solidarity, President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande vowed Tuesday to escalate airstrikes against the Islamic State and bolster intelligence sharing following the deadly attacks in Paris. They called on Russia to join the international efforts, but only if Moscow ends its support for Syria's embattled president.

"Russia is the outlier," Obama said during a joint White House news conference with Hollande.

Tuesday's meeting came hours after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border. The incident underscored the complex military landscape in Syria, where a sprawling cast of countries and rebel groups are engaged on the battlefield and in the skies overhead, sometimes with minimal coordination.

Obama said Russian cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State would be "enormously helpful." But he insisted a partnership is impossible as long as Russia stands by Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is blamed by the U.S. for plunging his country into chaos and creating the vacuum that allowed the Islamic State group to strengthen.

"We hope that they refocus their attention on what is the most substantial threat, and that they serve as a constructive partner," Obama said of Russia.

Hollande concurred, saying France wants to work alongside Russia, but only if President Vladimir Putin "fully commits" to supporting a political transition in Syria.

Hollande's alignment with Obama was notable, given that he was expected to urge the U.S. president to put aside some of his differences with Russia to build a new coalition to fight the extremists. But Hollande's mission quickly became entangled with the fallout from the downed Russian military plane.

Obama cautioned that information about the incident was still emerging. However, he did say that Turkey had a "right to defend its territory and its airspace."

The White House said late Tuesday Obama spoke with Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to discuss the downing of the Russian plane. In the call, Obama expressed U.S. and NATO support for Turkey's right to defend its sovereignty, and the leaders also agreed on the importance of de-escalating the situation and pursuing arrangements to ensure it doesn't happen again, the White House said.

Obama also convened his National Security Council on Tuesday to discuss the response to recent terrorist attacks by the Islamic State group. The White House said the president was told there is currently no specific, credible threat to the U.S. homeland from the group.

Even before the incident between Turkey and Russia, Hollande faced a tough challenge in getting Obama to agree to a partnership with Moscow. The White House is deeply skeptical of Putin's motivations, given his longstanding support for Assad, and has accused Putin of bombing rebels fighting the Syrian leader instead of targeting the Islamic State.

Hollande will meet with Putin Thursday in Russia, part of his diplomatic effort to build support for an intensified campaign against IS. The terror group is blamed for the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more at restaurants, a concert venue and outside a soccer stadium.

The attacks in the heart of Europe sparked fears of terrorism in the U.S., as well as an outpouring of solidarity with the French. Obama spoke warmly of America's affection for France, noting that he keeps a photograph by his bed of his wife, Michelle, and him kissing in the city's Luxembourg Gardens.

Hollande welcomed the U.S. show of unity, but suggested he was more interested in concrete actions than kind words.

"The Paris attacks generated a lot of emotions," he said through an interpreter. "But that's not enough. We must act."

Obama and Hollande pledged to increase airstrikes against extremist targets, take back Islamic State-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria, and focus more on disrupting the terrorists' financial networks. However, Hollande joined Obama in refusing to intervene militarily on the ground in Iraq and Syria, saying that is a role for local forces.

Shortly after their meeting, a French official in Washington said French warplanes had struck an Islamic State command center located west of the Iraqi city of Mosul.

The U.S. has deployed more than 3,000 troops to Iraq to train and assist security forces there. Efforts to train and equip moderate rebel groups in Syria have struggled, and Obama has authorized the deployment of 50 special operations forces to jumpstart the program.

While Obama has repeatedly heralded a coalition of more than 60 countries fighting the Islamic State, the U.S. is undertaking the bulk of the direct military action. Obama suggested the Paris attacks had prompted "new openness" among coalition members to step up their involvement, though he did not outline any specific commitments.

The military planning comes amid a parallel diplomatic effort to ease Assad from office. Russia has agreed in principle to a new process that would lead to U.N.-supervised elections within 18 months but continues to oppose efforts to explicitly remove Assad.

Hollande said he wouldn't set a deadline for Assad leaving office because "it must be as soon as possible." Obama suggested the solution hinged on Assad "choosing not to run" in the next Syrian elections.

Monday, November 23, 2015

US issues travel warning in wake of terror attacks

US issues travel warning in wake of terror attacks

AP Photo
Belgian police officers patrol the Grand Place in downtown Brussels, Belgium, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Belgian capital Brussels has entered its third day of lockdown, with schools and underground transport shut and more than 1,000 security personnel deployed across the country.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans should be alert to the possible travel risks, especially during the holidays, following increased terrorist threats around the world, the State Department warned on Monday.

A travel alert, which is to be in effect until Feb. 24, said current information suggests that militants with the Islamic State, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups continue to plan attacks in multiple regions. 

U.S. authorities said the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of IS return from Syria and Iraq, and other individuals not affiliated with terror groups engage in violence on their own.

Extremists have targeted sporting events, theaters, open markets and aviation targets. In the past year, there have been multiple attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Lebanon, Turkey and Mali. IS has claimed responsibility for the Oct. 31 bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, killing 224 people.

"U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation," the alert said. "Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events."

The State Department said the U.S. is exchanging information with allies about threats of international terrorism.

The travel alert was issued the same day that Belgium's prime minister announced that Brussels would remain at the highest alert level for at least another week. The increased security measures following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people have virtually shut down the Belgian capital.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Belgium police arrest 16, Paris fugitive still at large

Belgium police arrest 16, Paris fugitive still at large

AP Photo
A Belgian Army soldier patrols on a main boulevard in Brussels, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day.
BRUSSELS (AP) -- Belgian prosecutors announced early Monday that police had detained 16 people in 22 raids but that Paris fugitive Salah Abdeslam was not among them. Despite the raids, authorities maintained their highest terror alert in the capital for a third straight day.

Federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt said 19 raids were carried out in Molenbeek and other boroughs of Brussels and three raids were carried out in other cities.

"We have to stress that no firearms or explosives were discovered ... during the raids," Van Der Sypt said." Certain elements in the investigation made Sunday's intervention necessary. The investigation will in any case be relentlessly continued."

One of those detained was injured when a car he was in tried to ram police during an attempted getaway, Van Der Sypt said.
The raids capped a tense day with hundreds of troops patrolling and authorities hunting for one or more suspected militants, the Belgian government chose Sunday to keep the capital on the highest state of alert into the start of the workweek to prevent a Paris-style attack.

Citing a "serious and imminent" threat, Prime Minister Charles Michel announced that schools and universities in Brussels will be closed Monday, with the subway remaining shut down, preventing a return to normal in the city that is also home to the European Union's main institutions.

"We fear an attack like in Paris, with several individuals, perhaps in several places," Michel said after chairing a meeting of Belgium's National Security Council.

While Brussels was kept on the highest of four alert levels, the rest of the country remains on a Level 3 alert, meaning an attack is "possible and likely."

"Nobody is pleased with such a situation. Neither are we. But we have to take our responsibility," Michel said.

Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more; the suicide bombings in Beirut that killed 43 people and injured more than 200; and the downing of the Russian jetliner carrying 224 people in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. All happened within the past month.

"We will not accept the idea that terrorist assaults on restaurants and theaters and hotels are the new normal, or that we are powerless to stop them," President Barack Obama said in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said IS must be destroyed at all costs. "We must annihilate Islamic State worldwide ... and we must destroy Islamic State on its own territory," Le Drian said. "That's the only possible direction."

The decision to put Brussels on the highest alert came early Saturday as authorities frantically searched for Abdeslam, who is believed to have played a key role in the Nov. 13 attacks in France. He is known to have crossed into Belgium the day after the attacks.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon warned that the threat wouldn't necessarily disappear if Abdeslam was found, because they are looking for several people in connection with a possible planned attack in Brussels.

"The terror threat is wider than just that person," Jambon said. "We are looking at several things. That is why we are making the big show of power and following everything up by the minute. It's of no use to hide this."

Several of the Paris attackers had lived in Brussels, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the plot's orchestrator who was killed Wednesday in a standoff with French police.

Abdeslam is known to have crossed into Belgium on Nov. 14. His brother, Mohamed Abdeslam, went on Belgian TV and urged him to surrender, saying he would rather see him "in prison than in a cemetery."

Authorities in Turkey said Saturday that a 26-year-old Belgian citizen suspected of being linked to Islamic extremists and possibly to the Paris attacks had been detained in the coastal city of Antalya.

France has intensified its aerial bombing in Syria and Le Drian said the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which has been sent to the Mediterranean to help combat IS militants in Syria, will be "operational" from Monday and "ready to act."

Also Monday, French President Francois Hollande is scheduled to meet in Paris with British Prime Minister David Cameron and will travel to Washington and Moscow later in the week to push for a stronger international coalition against IS. Cameron is expected to outline his plan for combating the militants as he seeks parliamentary approval to join France, the U.S. and Russia in striking the group's strongholds in Syria.
Russia also is trumpeting action it's taking to fight IS. It has intensified its airstrikes in Syria in response to the 

Oct. 31 downing of its passenger plane in Egypt.

On Sunday, Russian law enforcement officers raided a militant hideout in the North Caucasus, killing 11 in an exchange of fire. The militants were part of a group whose members had pledged allegiance to IS, the 

National Anti-Terrorist Committee said in a statement.

Attacks like those in Paris are aimed partly at provoking the West, as the Islamic State group hopes that stepped-up military action in the region will reinforce its narrative of a clash of civilizations and attract more Muslims to its ranks. IS and other militant groups seize on harsh Western rhetoric and civilian deaths to portray themselves as defending Muslims from modern "Crusaders."

In an effort to minimize possible targets, Belgian officials recommended that sports competitions and all activities in public buildings be canceled this weekend, and malls and commercial centers closed.

The security measures left Brussels eerily quiet, with streets deserted and many of the city's famous beer bars and restaurants largely empty.

Residents were bracing for the impact that the continued clampdown would have on this city of more than 1 million as the workweek began.

"I can't believe they are closing down the city. It is crazy but they must have a good reason," said Josephine Lemmens, a physiotherapist.

Lemmens said she didn't know what she would do with her 11-year-old son now that schools have been 
ordered closed, but she conceded the measures were justified if they prevented an attack like the one in Paris.

Restaurant worker Raphael Lungo said the decision to keep the subway idle would affect him most.

"This is really going to complicate my life. I take the metro very day and I don't know what I will do tomorrow," he said, voicing confidence that the emergency wouldn't last too long. "Europe succeeded in beating the Nazis," he said.

The European Union's executive Commission decided to stay open for business but its vice president, Kristalina Georgieva, warned people to be vigilant and expect increased security checks. NATO also said it would be open Monday, with security measures increased.

In France, police issued a new appeal to identify the third attacker who was killed in the assault at th
national stadium. They posted a photo of the man on Twitter, asking the public for information that would help identify him.

France has extended a state of emergency, which allows police raids, searches and house arrest without permission from a judge, for three months. On Saturday, it also extended a ban on demonstrations and other gatherings through Nov. 30, when a U.N. climate conference with more than 100 heads of state is scheduled to start.

In a sign of the nervousness in Paris since the attacks, some travelers at the Gare Du Nord station ran out of their trains Sunday after hearing noises they thought were gunshots but actually were caused by a pigeon being electrocuted on the tracks.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

News Guide: Unrest after Minneapolis cop shot black man

News Guide: Unrest after Minneapolis cop shot black man

AP Photo
Protesters hang around the warming fire, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, at the Black Lives Matter encampment outside the Minneapolis Police Department's Fourth Precinct in Minneapolis. The fatal shooting of Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man by a Minneapolis police officer, has pushed racial tensions in the city's small but concentrated minority community to the fore, with the police precinct besieged by the makeshift encampment and many protesters.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a Minneapolis police officer has prompted unrest in the city as the community demands answers, while authorities say they can't provide additional details because of the ongoing investigation.

Jamar Clark, 24, was shot in the head Sunday during a struggle with two police officers. Police said Clark was a suspect in an assault and was interfering with paramedics trying to treat the victim. But some who say 
they saw the shooting claim Clark was not struggling, and was handcuffed at the time.

Here's a look at the questions that remain and events surrounding Clark's shooting:

Authorities aren't saying exactly what happened shortly after midnight Sunday, but they say their initial investigation shows Clark was a suspect in an assault and was disrupting paramedics who were trying to help the victim. Police say they struggled with Clark, and he was shot.

People who claim they saw the shooting say Clark was handcuffed and wasn't struggling. The state agency that's investigating the shooting, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said it's investigating whether Clark was restrained. They say handcuffs were at the scene but it isn't clear whether they were on Clark or had just fallen at the scene.

Protesters who have camped out at the area police station are demanding that police release video of the shooting.

The BCA says investigators have video from several sources, including an ambulance, a mobile police camera stationed in the area, public housing cameras and citizens' cellphones. But BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said none of the videos captured the entire incident and none will be released while the investigation is ongoing to avoid possibly tainting it.

The police officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, were not wearing body cameras, and Evans said there is no video from police squad cars. Authorities are still asking anyone with video to provide it to investigators.

Community members have been protesting since Sunday's shooting, with hundreds taking to the interstate on Monday night - prompting 42 arrests - and a small group camped out at the local police precinct. Tensions escalated Wednesday night as a crowd outside the precinct grew. At one point police used a chemical irritant to control the crowd. Police said a chemical spray was also directed at officers. On Thursday, a Minnesota congressman, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, tweeted a photo of his son at the protest scene with his hands up and an officer with a gun in the background, calling it "agonizing for me to see."

Police later reported that several officers sustained minor injuries from rocks and water bottles that were thrown and said several squad cars were damaged.

Leaders of the NAACP appealed to Minneapolis police on Thursday to exercise restraint in dealing with protesters. Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the local NAACP, also asked the community to exercise restraint.

Meanwhile, the NACCP was organizing a candlelight vigil and march for Friday evening. Stephen Green, national director of the NAACP's youth and college division, plans to attend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

French hunt 2nd fugitive, launch new airstrikes on IS

French hunt 2nd fugitive, launch new airstrikes on IS

AP Photo
Police officers patrol at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. The Eiffel Tower has closed again, one day after it reopened following the Paris attacks. The landmark reopened to visitors Monday after being shut for two days after the Paris gun and bomb attacks that killed more than 120 people.

PARIS (AP) -- French police are hunting for a second fugitive directly involved in the deadly Paris attacks, officials said Tuesday, as France made an unprecedented demand that its European Union allies support its military action against the Islamic State group.

The disclosure of a second possible fugitive, whom authorities said they hadn't identified, came as French and Russian warplanes pounded the jihadi group's self-declared capital in Syria. President Vladimir Putin ordered a Russian military cruiser to work with France on fighting the militants in Syria and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hinted at a possible Syrian cease-fire so the world could focus on crushing IS.

French and Belgian police were already looking for a key suspect, 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, whose suicide-bomber brother, Brahim, died in the attacks Friday night that killed at least 129 people and left over 350 wounded in Paris. Islamic state militants have claimed responsibility for the carnage.

Seven attackers died that night - three near the national stadium, three inside the Bataclan concert hall and one at a restaurant nearby. A team of gunmen also opened fire at nightspots in one of Paris' trendiest neighborhoods.

However, French officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday that an analysis of the attacks showed that one person directly involved in them was unaccounted for. The three officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details about the ongoing investigation, said the second fugitive has not been identified.

The Paris attacks have galvanized international determination to confront the militants.

The French government invoked a never-before-used article of the EU's Lisbon Treaty obliging members of the 28-nation bloc to give "aid and assistance by all the means in their power" to a member country that is "the victim of armed aggression on its territory."

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said all 27 of France's EU partners responded positively.

"Every country said: I am going to assist, I am going to help," Drian said.

Arriving for talks in Brussels, Greek Defense Minister Panagiotis Kammenos told reporters that the Paris attacks were a game-changer for the bloc. "This is Sept. 11 for Europe," he said.

Paris police said 16 people had been arrested in connection to the deadly attacks, and police have carried out 104 raids since a state of emergency was declared Saturday.

French military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said the latest airstrikes in the Islamic State group's de-facto capital, the Syrian city of Raqqa, destroyed a command post and training camp. NATO allies were sharing intelligence and working closely with France, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

In Moscow, Putin ordered the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, currently in the Mediterranean, to start cooperating with the French military on operations in Syria. His order came as Russia's defense minister said its warplanes fired cruise missiles on militant positions in Syria's Idlib and Aleppo provinces. IS has positions in Aleppo province, while the Nusra militant group is in Idlib.

Moscow has vowed to hunt down those responsible for blowing up a Russian passenger plane over Egypt last month, killing 224 people, mostly Russian tourists. IS has also claimed responsibility for that Oct. 31 attack.

Seven of the Paris attackers died Friday, six after detonating suicide belts and one from police gunfire. However, Iraqi intelligence officials have told The Associated Press their sources indicated 19 people participated in the Paris attacks and five others provided hands-on logistical support.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve conceded that "the majority of those who were involved in this attack were unknown to our services."

Mohamed Abdeslam, another brother of fugitive Salah Abdeslam, on Tuesday urged his brother to turn himself in. Mohamed, who was arrested and questioned following the attack but released Monday, told French TV BFM that his brother was devout but showed no signs of being a radical Islamist. He said Salah prayed and attended a mosque occasionally, but also dressed in jeans and pullovers.

Two men arrested in Belgium, meanwhile, admitted driving to France to pick up Salah Abdeslam early Saturday, their lawyers said.

Mohammed Amri, 27, denies any involvement in the Paris attacks and says he went to Paris to collect his friend Salah, according to his defense lawyer Xavier Carrette. Hamza Attou, 21, says he went along to keep Amri company, his lawyer Carine Couquelet said. Both are being held on charges of terrorist murder and conspiracy.

Belgian media reported that Amri and Attou were being investigated as potential suppliers of the suicide bombs used in the attacks, since ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used to make explosives, was discovered in a search of their residence.

Their defense lawyers said they could not confirm those reports.

Salah and Brahim Abdeslam booked a hotel in the southeastern Paris suburb of Alfortville and rented a house in the northeastern suburb of Bobigny several days before the attacks, a French judicial official told The Associated Press. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.

Austria's Interior Ministry said Salah Abdeslam, the suspected driver of one group of gunmen carrying out attacks on Paris, entered the country about two months ago with two unidentified companions. After the attacks, Salah Abdeslam slipped through France's fingers, with French police accidentally permitting him to cross into Belgium on Saturday.

Kerry flew to France as a gesture of solidarity and met Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday.

Standing next to Hollande at the Elysee Palace, Kerry said the carnage in the French capital, along with recent attacks in Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey, made it clear that more pressure must be brought to bear on Islamic State extremists.

A cease-fire between Syria's government and the opposition could be just weeks away, Kerry said, describing it as potentially a "gigantic step" toward deeper international cooperation against IS.

A French security official, meanwhile, said anti-terror intelligence officials had identified Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, as the chief architect of the Paris attacks.

The official cited chatter from IS figures that Abaaoud had recommended a concert as an ideal target for inflicting maximum casualties, as well as electronic communications between Abaaoud and one of the Paris attackers who blew himself up. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive investigation.

It was not exactly clear where Abaaoud is.

In other developments Tuesday:
- In a show of solidarity, British Prime Minister David Cameron was joining Prince William at a soccer match Tuesday night between England and France in London's Wembley Stadium. Armed police were patrolling the site.

- Another Belgian car with a shattered front passenger window was found in northern Paris - the third vehicle police identified as having links to the attacks.

- The Eiffel Tower shut down again after opening for just a day Monday, and heavily armed troops patrolled the courtyard of the Louvre Museum.

- Germany's top security official said a Syrian passport found with one of the Paris attackers may have been planted to make Europeans fearful of refugees. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin it was "unusual that such a person was faithfully registered in Greece, Serbia and Croatia" amid the chaos of Europe's immigration crisis. He said the multiple passport registrations could be "a trail that was intentionally laid."

- German police arrested seven people near the western city of Aachen, but later released them, saying no links to the Paris attacks were found.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

France bombs Islamic State HQ, hunts attacker who got away

France bombs Islamic State HQ, hunts attacker who got away

AP Photo
Flowers are set in a window shattered by a bullet at the Carillon cafe in Paris, France, Sunday Nov. 15, 2015, two days after over 120 people were killed in a series of shooting and explosions. French troops deployed around Paris on Sunday and tourist sites stood shuttered in one of the most visited cities on Earth while investigators questioned the relatives of a suspected suicide bomber involved in the country's deadliest violence since World War II.
PARIS (AP) -- France launched "massive" air strikes on the Islamic State group's de-facto capital in Syria Sunday night, destroying a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump in the city of Raqqa, where Iraqi intelligence officials say the attacks on Paris were planned.

Twelve aircraft including 10 fighter jets dropped a total of 20 bombs in the biggest air strikes since France extended its bombing campaign against the extremist group to Syria in September, a Defense Ministry statement said. The jets launched from sites in Jordan and the Persian Gulf, in coordination with U.S. forces.

Meanwhile, as police announced seven arrests and hunted for more members of the sleeper cell that carried out the Paris attacks that killed 129 people, French officials revealed to The Associated Press that several key suspects had been stopped and released by police after the attack.

The arrest warrant for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old born in Brussels, calls him very dangerous and warns people not to intervene if they see him.

Yet police already had him in their grasp early Saturday, when they stopped a car carrying three men near the Belgian border. By then, hours had passed since authorities identified Abdeslam as the renter of a Volkswagen Polo that carried hostage takers to the Paris theater where so many died.

Three French police officials and a top French security official confirmed that officers let Abdeslam go after checking his ID. They spoke on condition of anonymity, lacking authorization to publicly disclose such details.

Tantalizing clues about the extent of the plot have emerged from Baghdad, where senior Iraqi officials told the AP that France and other countries had been warned on Thursday of an imminent attack.

An Iraqi intelligence dispatch warned that Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had ordered his followers to immediately launch gun and bomb attacks and take hostages inside the countries of the coalition fighting them in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi dispatch, which was obtained by the AP, provided no details on when or where the attack would take place, and a senior French security official told the AP that French intelligence gets these kinds of warnings "all the time" and "every day."

However, Iraqi intelligence officials told the AP that they also warned France about specific details: Among them, that the attackers were trained for this operation and sent back to France from Raqqa, the Islamic State's de-facto capital.

The officials also said that a sleeper cell in France then met with the attackers after their training and helped them to execute the plan. There were 24 people involved in the operation, they said: 19 attackers and five others in charge of logistics and planning.

None of these details have been corroborated by officials of France or other Western intelligence agencies.
All these French and Iraqi security and intelligence officials spoke with the AP on condition of anonymity, citing the ongoing investigation.

Abdeslam is one of three brothers believed to be involved; One who crossed with him into Belgium was later arrested, and another blew himself up inside the Bataclan theater after taking the audience hostage and firing on them repeatedly. It was the worst of Friday's synchronized attacks, leaving 89 fatalities and hundreds of people wounded inside.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility. Its statement mocked France's air attacks on suspected IS targets in Syria and Iraq, and called Paris "the capital of prostitution and obscenity."

In all, three teams of attackers including seven suicide bombers attacked the national stadium, the concert hall and nearby nightspots. The attacks wounded 350 people, 99 of them seriously.

Abdeslam rented the black Volkswagen Polo used by the hostage-takers, another French security official said. A Brussels parking ticket found inside led police to at least one of the arrests in Belgium, a French police official said.

Three Kalashnikovs were found inside another car known to have been used in the attacks that was found in Montreuil, an eastern Parisian suburb, another a French police official said.

As many as three of the seven suicide bombers were French citizens, as was at least one of the men arrested in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussells, which authorities consider to be a focal point for extremists and fighters going to Syria from Belgium.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon, speaking to The Associated Press by phone, said suspects arrested in Molenbeek had been stopped previously in Cambrai, France, "in a regular roadside check" but that police had had no suspicion about them at the time and they were let go quickly.

One, identified by the print on a recovered finger, was 29-year-old Frenchman Ismael Mostefai, who had a record of petty crime and had been flagged in 2010 for ties to Islamic radicalism, the Paris prosecutor said. A judicial official and lawmaker Jean-Pierre Gorges confirmed his identity.

Police detained Mostefai's father, a brother and other relatives Saturday night, and they were still being questioned Sunday, the judicial official said.

These details stoked fears of homegrown terrorism in France, which has exported more jihadis than any other in Europe, and seen many return from the fight. All three gunmen in the January attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a kosher supermarket in Paris were French.

The attackers inside the Bataclan seemed quite young, according to one survivor, Julien Pearce, a journalist at Europe 1 radio who escaped by crawling onto the stage, and then out an exit door when the shooters paused to reload. Before making his final dash, he got a good look at one of the assailants, he said.

"He seemed very young. That's what struck me, his childish face, very determined, cold, calm, frightening," Pearce said.

Struggling to keep his country calm and united after an exceptionally violent year, President Francois Hollande met Sunday with opposition leaders - conservative rival and former President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as increasingly popular far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has used the attacks on Paris to advance her anti-immigrant agenda.

Refugees fleeing war by the tens of thousands fear the Paris attacks could prompt Europe to close its doors, especially after police said a Syrian passport found next to one attacker's body suggested its owner passed through Greece into the European Union and on through Macedonia and Serbia last month.

Paris remains on edge amid three days of official mourning. French troops have deployed by the thousands and tourist sites remain shuttered in one of the most visited cities on Earth. Panic ensued Sunday night as police abruptly cleared hundreds of mourners from the famed Place de la Republique square, where police said firecrackers sparked a false alarm.

"Whoever starts running starts everyone else running," said Alice Carton, city council member who was at the square. "It's a very weird atmosphere. The sirens and screaming are a source of fear."

Officers also moved in, guns drawn, after mourners panicked near the Carillon bar, where crowds have laid flowers and lit candles in memory of the 15 people killed there.

"Lots of people started running and screaming from the Carillon...tables were overturned, plates shattered. It was a terrible panic," said Jonathan Dogan, who took shelter in a nearby hotel. "I think people are terrified," Dogan said.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Eiffel Tower goes dark as France mourns 129 dead

Eiffel Tower goes dark as France mourns 129 dead

AP Photo
Young women have formed the word Paris with candles to mourn for the victims killed in Friday's attacks in Paris, France, in front of the French Embassy in Berlin, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Multiple attacks across Paris on Friday night have left scores dead and hundreds injured.

PARIS (AP) -- The Eiffel Tower stood dark in a symbol of mourning Saturday night as France struggled to absorb the deadliest violence on its soil since World War II: coordinated gun-and-suicide bombing attacks across Paris that left at least 129 people dead and 352 injured.

President Francois Hollande vowed that France would wage "merciless" war on the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the mayhem, as investigators raced to track down their accomplices and uncovered possible links to networks in Belgium and Syria.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said three groups of attackers, including seven suicide bombers, carried out the "act of barbarism" that shattered a Parisian Friday night.

He said the attackers in the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 people died, mentioned Syria and Iraq during their rampage. Of the hundreds wounded in the six attacks, 99 were in critical condition.

Seven attackers launched gun attacks at Paris cafes, detonated suicide bombs near France's national stadium and killed hostages inside the concert venue during a show by an American rock band - an attack on the heart of the pulsing City of Light.

Ahsan Naeem, a 39-year-old filmmaker, said he's been to many of the places that were attacked Friday.

"I've seen dozens of gigs at the Bataclan. Eaten at the Petit Cambodge. Sat outside Le Carillon on so many nights," said Naeem, who has lived in Paris for seven years. "All those places will have been full of my people. My friends. My acquaintances."

Late Saturday, a crowd of up to 250 people gathered for an impromptu candlelight vigil at the Place de la Republique, the site of a massive demonstration in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings earlier this year.

Adrien Chambel, a 27-year-old law student, said the crowd was much sparser than in January. "You feel that people are petrified," Chambel said.

Hollande, who declared three days of national mourning and raised the nation's security to its highest level, called the carnage "an act of war that was prepared, organized, planned from abroad with internal help."

The president said France would increase its military efforts to crush IS. He said France - which is part of a U.S.-led coalition bombing suspected IS targets in Syria and Iraq and also has troops fighting Islamic militants in Africa - "will be merciless toward the barbarians of Islamic State group."

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility in an online statement in Arabic and French circulated by supporters. It was not immediately possible to confirm the authenticity of the claim, which bore the group's logo and resembled previous verified statements from the group.

The statement called Paris "the capital of prostitution and obscenity" and mocked France's air attacks on suspected IS targets in Syria and Iraq, saying France's air power was "of no use to them in the streets and rotten alleys of Paris."

Many of Paris's top tourist attractions closed down Saturday, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and the Disneyland theme park east of the capital. Some 3,000 troops were deployed to help restore order and reassure a frightened populace.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that all public demonstrations would be banned until Thursday and local governments throughout the country would have the option to impose nightly curfews.

The attacks, on an unusually balmy November Friday evening, struck at the heart of Parisian nightlife, including at a soccer match, which draws together spectators of all social classes and backgrounds.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the attacks had targeted the Paris of diversity, "probably because this example of living together, which is so strong in our city, is unbearable for fanatical people."

Parisians expressed shock, disgust and defiance in equal measure. Some areas were quiet, but hundreds queued outside a hospital near the Bataclan concert hall to donate blood. As a shrine of flowers expanded along the sidewalk, a lone guitarist sang John Lennon's peace ballad, "Imagine."

Authorities said seven attackers died, six in suicide bombings, a new terror tactic in France. Authorities said police shot the other assailant, exploding his suicide vest. Police have detained two relatives of the one attacker who has been identified so far, the prosecutor's spokeswoman said.

Molins, the prosecutor, said all seven attackers wore identical suicide vests containing the explosive TATP.
Molins said one was identified from fingerprints as a French-born man with a criminal record.

In addition, a Syrian passport found near the body of another attacker was linked to a man who entered the European Union through a Greek island last month.

Officials in Greece said the passport's owner entered in October through Leros, one of the islands that tens of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in Syria and elsewhere have been using as a gateway into the European Union. Molins said the Syria-linked attacker was not known to French intelligence services.

If the attack does involve militants who traveled to Europe amid millions of refugees from the Middle East, the implications could be profound.

Poland's prospective minister for European affairs, Konrad Szymanski, said that in light of the attacks, Poland would not comply with an EU plan to accept refugees unless it received "guarantees of security."

The attack brought an immediate tightening of borders as Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced renewed border checks. Germany also stepped up border checks.

Belgian authorities conducted raids in a Brussels neighborhood and arrested three people near the border with France after a car with Belgian license plates was seen close to the Bataclan theater. Molins said a French national was among the three arrested.

The militants launched six gun and bomb attacks over the course of 20 minutes Friday in areas of the capital packed with people.

Three suicide bombs targeted spots around the national Stade de France stadium, in the north of the capital, where Hollande was watching a France-Germany soccer match. Fans inside the stadium recoiled at the sound of explosions, but the match continued.

Around the same time, fusillades of bullets shook a trendy Paris neighborhood as gunmen targeted a string of crowded cafes.

The attackers next stormed the Bataclan concert hall, which was hosting the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal. They opened fire on the panicked audience and took many hostage. As police closed in, three detonated explosive belts, killing themselves, according to Paris police chief Michel Cadot.

Another assailant detonated a suicide bomb on Boulevard Voltaire, near the music hall, the prosecutor's office said.

Video shot by Le Monde reporter Daniel Psenney from his balcony captured scenes of panic as people fled the Bataclan, some bloodied and limping, others dragging two bodies. Three people could be seen clinging to upper-floor balcony railings in a desperate bid to stay out of the line of fire.

A tall 38-year-old concert-goer named Sylvain collapsed in tears as he described escaping from the chaos during a lull in gunfire.

"There were shots everywhere, in waves," Sylvain told The Associated Press. "I lay down on the floor. I saw at least two shooters, but I heard others talk. They cried, 'It's Hollande's fault.' I heard one of the shooters shout, 'Allahu Akbar.'"

He spoke on condition that his full name not be used out of concern for his safety.

The Paris carnage was the worst in a series of attacks claimed by the Islamic State group in the past three days. On Thursday, twin suicide bombings in Beirut killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200, and 26 people died Friday in Baghdad in a suicide blast and a roadside bombing that targeted Shiites.

The militant group also said it bombed a Russian plane that crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31, killing 224 people.

IS also suffered significant reversals this week, with Kurdish forces launching an offensive to retake the strategic Iraqi city of Sinjar and the U.S. military saying it had likely killed Mohammed Emwazi, the British-accented militant known as "Jihadi John" who is seen in grisly IS beheading videos. The Pentagon also said an American airstrike targeted and likely killed Abu Nabil, a top Islamic State leader in Libya.

France has been on edge since January, when Islamic extremists attacked the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had run cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and a kosher grocery. Twenty people died in those attacks, including three shooters.

Paris resident Olivier Bas was among several hundred people who gathered at the site of the Bataclan massacre Saturday, laying flowers and lighting candles only a few hundred yards (meters) from where a police officer was murdered during the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Although Paris was quiet and jittery, Bas said that he intended to go out for a drink - "to show that they won't win."

Meanwhile, French authorities continued their investigation. They are particularly concerned about the threat from hundreds of French Islamic radicals who are known to have traveled to Syria and have returned home, potentially with skills to mount attacks.

"The big question on everyone's mind is: Were these attackers - if they turn out to be connected to one of the groups in Syria - were they homegrown terrorists or were they returning fighters?" said Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism expert.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Black administrator named Missouri system's interim head

Black administrator named Missouri system's interim head

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- One of the University of Missouri's first black law school graduates was appointed Thursday to lead the four-campus system through a tumultuous period of racial unrest, drawing praise from students who said he's well-equipped to confront the problems they felt his predecessor largely ignored.

Michael Middleton, 68, has spent 30 years at the university - as an undergraduate, law student, faculty member and finally, administrator. At a news conference announcing his appointment as the university system's interim president, he vowed to take on the racial problems that inspired the protests that helped force Monday's abrupt resignation of President Tim Wolfe and another top administrator.

"I have seen the system grow and excel over the years and I look with great optimism in the future," said Middleton.

He said the university "has faced its share of troubling incidents and we recognize that we must move forward as a community. We must embrace these issues as they come, and they will come to define us in the future."
MU Policy Now, a student group made up of graduate and professional students, had been pushing for the president's role to go to Middleton, who retired as deputy chancellor of the Columbia campus in August and had been made a deputy chancellor emeritus. He had been working part-time to assist Loftin design a plan to increase inclusion and diversity on campus.

"Given the recent turmoil, Deputy Chancellor Emeritus Middleton is a strong transitional figure," the group wrote in a letter of endorsement posted on its Facebook page and sent to curators. Several student organizations signed the recommendation letter, including the Legion of Black Collegians.

Second-year law student Christopher Hamm, president of the school's Black Law Students Association, applauded the appointment.

"There is nobody better suited to lead this university than Mike Middleton," said Hamm, 22, of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Ben Trachtenberg, an associate law professor who chairs the Columbia campus' Faculty Council on University Policy, also praised it, calling Middleton "a very smart guy who knows a ton about the university."

"I have nothing but good things to say about Mike," Trachtenberg told The Associated Press.

Middleton takes over at a turbulent time for the university. Black student groups had been calling for change over the administration's handling of racial issues and were given a boost last weekend when 30 black football players vowed not to take part in team activities until Wolfe was gone.

Wolfe and the chancellor of the Columbia campus, R. Bowen Loftin, abruptly resigned on Monday. On Thursday, the board said Loftin's resignation timeline had been accelerated and that his interim replacement, Hank Foley, had already assumed that role. Loftin will take a different position at the university.

Meanwhile Thursday, authorities announced that a third Missouri man had been charged for allegedly posting anonymous online threats to attack college campuses.

Hunter M. Park, a 19-year-old student at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla who was the first of the three to be charged, appeared in court Thursday via a video feed from a Columbia jail, where he was ordered held without bond. He is charged with making a terroristic threat, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Park is accused of making threatening posts that showed up Tuesday on the anonymous location-based messaging app Yik Yak and were concerning enough that some classes were canceled and some Columbia businesses closed for the day.

One of the threats said: "Some of you are alright. Don't go to campus tomorrow" - a warning campus police Officer Dustin Heckmaster said in a probable cause statement that he recognized as one that appeared ahead of last month's Oregon college shooting involving a gunman who killed nine people and himself.

Heckmaster wrote that after tracking the postings to Park's cellphone number, he confronted the sophomore computer science major in his Rolla dorm room and that Park admitted that the posts were "inappropriate." 

He said he asked if the threats amounted to "saber rattling," and Park responded, "pretty much."

When questioned specifically what he meant by the phrase, "Some of you are alright. Don't go to campus tomorrow," Park "smiled and stated, 'I was quoting something,'" Heckmaster wrote. When pressed whether it was mimicking a posting that preceded the Oregon attack, Park replied, "Mmhmm."

When asked why, Park said, "I don't know. I just ... deep interest," Heckmaster wrote.

A message left on Park's mother's cellphone was not returned, and there was no response Wednesday to knocks on the door of the family's home in the affluent St. Louis suburb of Lake St. Louis.

A second student was arrested at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville for allegedly posting a threat on Yik Yak that read, "I'm gonna shoot any black people tomorrow, so be ready." Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice on Thursday filed one misdemeanor and one felony count of making a terrorist threat against Connor Stottlemyre, a freshman at the school in Maryville. Online court records did not list an attorney for him.

Prosecutors also charged another 19-year-old, Tyler Bradenberg of St. Louis, with a felony count of making a terrorist threat. An arrest warrant has been issued for him. Authorities say Brandenberg posted "I'm gonna shoot up this school" on Yik Yak on Wednesday. It was apparently aimed at the Missouri University of Science & Technology in Rolla, where he studied chemical engineering for a semester last fall.

Phelps County prosecuting attorney Brendon Fox said he didn't know if Bradenberg had an attorney, and he doesn't have a listed phone number.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Lawyer: Body cam showed no threats as police killed boy

Lawyer: Body cam showed no threats as police killed boy

MARKSVILLE, La. (AP) -- A police body camera recorded the father of a 6-year-old autistic boy with his hands up and posing no threat as police fired into his car, severely wounding the motorist and killing his son, the man's lawyer said Monday.

"This was not a threatening situation for the police," said Mark Jeansonne, an attorney for Chris Few, who remained hospitalized and could not attend Monday's funeral of his son, Jeremy Mardis.

Derrick Stafford, 32, of Mansura, and Norris Greenhouse Jr., 23, of Marksville, were ordered held on $1 million bonds Monday on second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder charges, Jeansonne said.

The lawyer said he hasn't seen the video himself, but its contents were described during the hearing. Louisiana's state police chief, Col. Mike Edmonson, said Friday that "it's the most disturbing thing I've seen - and I will leave it at that."

Few's condition was improving Monday, but he had not been told as of midday that his son is dead, Jeansonne said. His stepfather, Morris German, said last week that Few had bullet fragments in his brain and lung.

Greenhouse is the son of a top assistant prosecutor for District Attorney Charles A. Riddle, who recused himself from the case on Monday, calling it "not good for any of us."

Judge William Bennett set the officers' bond during a hearing he held inside the jail after refusing media requests to open the proceedings. No transcripts were made available, and the judge later issued a sweeping gag order prohibiting anyone involved in the case, including potential witnesses and victims, from providing any information to the media.

Investigators have been reviewing forensics evidence, 911 calls and body camera recordings, but said little about them even before the gag order.

The official silence leaves many questions unanswered, including what prompted the fatal confrontation, and whether anyone else is being investigated for any crimes. At least two other officers were involved, authorities said, but their roles remain unclear.

Investigators have not suggested that race is a factor in the shooting, which may not fit neatly into a national debate about race and policing. Booking records describe the officers as African-American; no available records describe the race of the father and son.

Few, a boat pilot on the Red River, was on probation at the time of the shooting after pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated in February, according to court records.

Stafford is a Marksville Police lieutenant; Greenhouse is a city marshal. Both were on marshal duty Tuesday night. Initial reports suggested they were trying to serve Few with a warrant when he fled onto a dead-end road and then reversed his car in their direction at about 9:30 p.m.

But Edmonson said there was no evidence of a warrant, nor any gun at the scene.

The officers were moved from the jail in Marksville to a lockup in the central Louisiana city of Alexandria after Monday's bond hearing, for reasons no one would explain, citing the gag order.

The possibility that they could post bond and remain free during the investigation didn't sit well with some townspeople who gathered outside the jail.

"The same day the boy is being buried," said Barbara Scott. "Shame, shame, shame."

"This child couldn't hurt a fly and his life is gone. I feel justice was not served," added Latasha Murray.

Jeremy Mardis was by all accounts a happy first-grader at Lafargue Elementary in Effie, Louisiana, where he attended school after his parents split and he moved to Marksville, where his father's family lives.

Jeremy was mourned Monday at his funeral in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where his mother, Katie Mardis, lives with the boy's sister.

"He was just a very sweet loving little boy who enjoyed being at school and enjoyed his friends," said Anita Bonnette, his assistant principal at Lafargue, where a crisis team was brought in to counsel Jeremy's classmates and teachers.

Obama, Netanyahu minimize differences, renew call for peace

Obama, Netanyahu minimize differences, renew call for peace

AP Photo
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. The president and prime minister sought to mend their fractured relationship during their meeting, the first time they have talked face to face in more than a year.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Minimizing sharp differences, President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed their commitment to seeking elusive Middle East peace on Monday, though prospects for an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians appear ever further out of reach.

The U.S. and Israeli leaders' meeting at the White House marked the first time they had talked face-to-face in more than a year. They have long had a frosty relationship, and tensions peaked earlier this year amid Obama's pursuit of an Iran nuclear deal that Netanyahu vigorously opposed.

Monday's meeting was an attempt to reset ties for the final year of Obama's presidency.

In comments to reporters before their private talks, they sidestepped their disagreement on Iran, with Obama calling it a "narrow issue."

"We don't have a disagreement on the need to making sure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and we don't have a disagreement about us blunting destabilizing activities in Iran that may be taking place," Obama said. "So we're going to be looking to make sure we find common ground there."

Netanyahu didn't mention the Iran matter at all in his public comments. But in their two-hour-long private session, Obama and Netanyahu discussed ways to cooperate to ensure Iran lives up to its commitments under the deal, said a senior Obama administration official, who wasn't authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.

In public, the leaders emphasized areas of shared interest, including negotiations on a new security arrangement and the goal of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, even as the two sides grapple with fresh outbreaks of violence.

Obama said he was focused on "how we can get back on a path toward peace, and how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are met through a political process, even as we make sure that Israel is able to secure itself."

Netanyahu declared, "We have not given up our hope for peace." He reaffirmed his support for a two-state solution, though he gave no ground on the Israelis' longstanding conditions for achieving that outcome.

The prime minister's statement followed his apparent backtracking during Israeli elections earlier this year. At the time, U.S. officials said there would be policy ramifications for a Netanyahu shift on statehood, including potentially easing opposition to Palestinians turning to the U.N. Security Council to create a state.

On Monday, however, White House officials said Obama focused more on getting Netanyahu to outline ways to keep confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians to a minimum in the absence of a long-term solution.

"This is certainly an opportunity for Prime Minister Netanyahu to put forward some ideas to move this process toward a two-state solution," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said of the meeting.

Netanyahu was said to be offering a series of confidence-building measures toward the Palestinians, including easing restrictions on communications, water usage and work permits in Israel and on Palestinian development in the West Bank.

However, Israel has given gave preliminary approval for a new settlement project in the West Bank, territory Palestinians are demanding as part of a future state, documents revealed Monday. Most nations, including the U.S., view Israeli settlements there as illegal or illegitimate and hindering efforts for Palestinian statehood.

A new round of violence broke out in the region about two months ago. Israel has accused Palestinian political and religious leaders of inciting the violence, while Palestinians say it's due to a lack of hope for gaining independence after years of failed peace efforts.

Obama and Netanyahu also discussed the renewal of a 10-year security agreement that could result in increased U.S. military assistance to Israel. The two leaders agreed Monday that a U.S. team will travel to Israel in early December to start discussions on the agreement, officials said. In the immediate aftermath of the nuclear deal, Netanyahu had refused to discuss the security agreement with the U.S.

"The security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities," Obama said. Netanyahu said he appreciated what Obama has done.

"Israel has shouldered a tremendous defense burden over the years, and we've done it with the generous assistance of the United States of America," the Israeli leader said.

Monday's meeting was clouded by the controversy following Netanyahu's appointment of a new spokesman who has spoken derisively about Obama. Ran Baratz, a conservative commentator, has suggested in Facebook posts that Obama is anti-Semitic and Secretary of State John Kerry cannot be taken seriously.

While White House officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, have expressed displeasure over the appointment, Obama was not expected to have brought the matter up in the meeting. Baratz is not on the trip, and Netanyahu has said he will decide his fate after returning to Israel.

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