Associated Press

The Latest on the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka (all times local):

7:10 a.m.

Australia’s prime minister says the Sri Lankan militants blamed for the Easter attacks in that country had support from the Islamic State group.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters Friday that ties between the local group and Islamic State included identifying the targets of the attacks. Sunday’s attacks killing at least 253 people primarily struck three churches that were packed with Easter worshippers and three luxury hotels popular with foreigners.

Morrison said the attacks demonstrated a new front in fighting terrorism, that militants who fought in Syria and Iraq had returned home with skills to carry out attacks while being part of a broader network that could provide money, training and target identification.

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7 a.m.

Heavy security is out on the streets of Sri Lanka’s capital after warnings of further attacks by the militant group blamed for the Easter bombing that killed at least 250 people.

At St. Anthony’s Church, one of those struck in the attacks Sunday, there were more soldiers than normal Friday. Shops nearby remained closed.

Gration Fernando crossed himself when he looked at the church after walking out of his shop there. Fernando says he, like other Sri Lankans, was worried about further attacks.

He says there’s “no security, no safety to go to church.” He also says “now children are scared to go to church” as well.

Authorities told Muslims to pray at home rather than attend communal Friday prayers that’s the most important of the week.

Source: Fox News World

Corey Jones’s family sang the gospel song “Victory is Mine” as they walked out of a Florida courthouse, celebrating after a judge handed a 25-year sentence to a former police officer for killing the stranded black motorist in 2015.

Fired Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja on Thursday became the first Florida law enforcement agent in nearly 30 years to be convicted and sentenced for an on-duty killing — and one of only a few officers nationwide.

Raja, 41, had told investigators he fired after Jones pulled a gun on him, but an audiotape of their encounter led prosecutors and jurors to believe Raja instigated their altercation. And last month a jury convicted Raja of manslaughter and attempted murder in the death of the 31-year-old musician who was gunned down after his SUV stalled on the road home from a nightclub performance.

“We knew what the truth was and we stood by that,” his father, Clinton Jones Sr., told reporters after Thursday’s sentencing. He said he never doubted Raja was the aggressor. “Because of the son we had raised and the type of character he had, we knew … it wasn’t our Corey.”

The families of both Raja and Jones had packed Circuit Judge Joseph Marx’s courtroom, but there was hushed silence as Marx pronounced sentence. He could have given Raja a life term, a sentence prosecutors sought.

“This has been a heartbreaking case,” Marx said. “I think it has had a profound effect on every single person who sat through this trial.”

Raja’s wife, Karine, had sought leniency so her husband could be a father to their two young children. She said the media and others had unfairly portrayed him as “a monster, the angel of death.” Raja, in blue jail jumpsuit, looked down often as she spoke.

“The wrong person was chosen to be a sacrificial lamb,” she said. “Raja is the man you wanted serving and protecting you.” His attorneys vow to appeal.

Prosecutors contended Raja escalated a seemingly routine interaction into a deadly confrontation with Jones, a housing inspector and part-time drummer. Raja’s attorneys argued his actions were in self-defense both for a police officer and under Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law.

Raja, of Asian descent, was in plain clothes for an auto burglary investigation team when he spotted Jones’ SUV at 3:15 a.m. on Oct. 18, 2015. Jones was headed home from a nightclub performance by his reggae band when his vehicle stalled on a dark highway off-ramp. He had a concealed-weapons permit and carried a handgun, purchased days earlier to protect his $10,000 drum set, which was in the SUV.

Raja, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a baseball cap, drove an unmarked van the wrong way up an off ramp within feet of the SUV.

Prosecutors said Raja never identified himself as an officer and acted so aggressively Jones must have thought he was about to be carjacked or killed. Raja’s supervisor testified the officer had been told to don a police vest if he approached a civilian. He didn’t, nor did he pull his badge.

What police didn’t know at first was that Jones had been talking to a tow-truck dispatcher on a recorded line. That recording shows Jones saying “Huh?” as his door opens. Raja yells, “You good?” Jones says he is. Raja replies twice, “Really?” with Jones replying “Yeah.”

Suddenly, Raja shouts at Jones to raise his hands, using an expletive. Jones replies, “Hold on!” and Raja repeats his demand.

Prosecutors believe Jones pulled his gun and tried to run. Raja fired three shots; Jones ran down an embankment. Prosecutors said he threw his gun, but Raja fired three more times, 10 seconds after the first volley. One of the bullets pierced the man’s heart. Jones was also hit in both arms.

Prosecutors said Raja, not knowing of the audio recording, sought to deceive investigators. He claimed he said “Police, can I help you?” as Jones jumped from the SUV. He also told them Jones leapt backward and pointed his gun, forcing him to fire. Raja said Jones ran but turned and again pointed his gun, forcing him to fire the second volley.

Prosecutors charged Raja with manslaughter, saying his actions created the confrontation and showed “culpable negligence.” They also charged him with attempted murder, saying no matter which of Raja’s six shots killed Jones, the second volley was a conscious effort to kill the fleeing man.

The last Florida officer sentenced for an on-duty killing was Miami’s William Lozano in 1989. The Hispanic officer fatally shot a black motorcyclist who he said tried to hit him. A passenger died when the motorcycle crashed. Three days of rioting followed.

Convicted of two manslaughter counts in a Miami trial and sentenced to seven years, Lozano never served time. State appellate court justices dismissed the verdict, saying the case should have been moved from Miami because of racial tensions. Lozano was acquitted at a 1993 retrial in Orlando.

Source: Fox News National

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has attended a wreath-laying ceremony at a war memorial near the headquarters of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet as he wrapped up his visit to the Russian Far East following a summit with President Vladimir Putin.

Kim arrived at the memorial in Vladivostok on Friday. He took off his fedora and bowed after laying flowers at the memorial as a Russian military band played North Korea’s national anthem.

Kim and Putin met on Thursday where the North says they held deep discussions to boost “strategic communication and tactical collaboration” over issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang’s state media did not report on any specific agreement on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and sanctions against the North.

Source: Fox News World

Heavy security is out on the streets of Sri Lanka’s capital after warnings of further attacks by the militant group blamed for the Easter bombing that killed at least 250 people.

At St. Anthony’s Church, one of those struck in the attacks Sunday, there were more soldiers than normal Friday. Shops nearby remained closed.

Gration Fernando crossed himself when he looked at the church after walking out of his shop there. Fernando says he, like other Sri Lankans, was worried about further attacks.

He says there’s “no security, no safety to go to church.” He also says “now children are scared to go to church” as well.

Authorities told Muslims to pray at home rather than attend communal Friday prayers that’s the most important of the week.

Source: Fox News World

A white former Chicago police officer convicted of killing a black teenager was emotionally distraught in the days that followed the 2014 shooting, according to a newly released psychologist’s report.

The report was among nearly 90 unsealed court filings related to Jason Van Dyke’s prosecution released Wednesday in response to a lawsuit by media organizations.

Dr. Laurence Miller, a psychologist hired by the defense, worked with Van Dyke as he prepared for trial. In April 2016, the Florida-based psychologist interviewed Van Dyke via Skype.

Van Dyke told Miller that “time froze” when he shot Laquan McDonald 16 times, the report said. The 41-year-old officer added that he was “not that good a shot with the handgun” and thought the shots may have missed the 17-year-old as he walked down the road while holding a small knife.

“He (recalled) thinking, ‘Why isn’t (McDonald) falling, why isn’t he stopping?'” the report said.

Dashcam video of the shooting shows Van Dyke continued firing when McDonald was on the ground.

Miller noted Van Dyke said he didn’t feel like himself upon returning to work. He told Miller that when co-workers came to shake his hand, “I just felt shell-shocked.” The officer declined to join his partner days later in pursuing a gun-wielding suspect after the call for help came from the same 7-Eleven where they had parked before pursuing McDonald, Miller said.

“His partner ran after the suspect while Van Dyke stood by the car ‘pretending to be looking,'” wrote Miller.

A key moment from the trial excluded from the psychologist’s report was when prosecutors cross-examined Miller. Just before arriving to the scene, Van Dyke told his partner, “Oh my God, we are going to have to shoot the guy,” according to Miller.

Van Dyke was sentenced in January to nearly seven years in prison. With credit for time served while awaiting his sentencing and projected day-for-day credit for good conduct, records show Van Dyke is scheduled to be released in February 2022.

Source: Fox News National

During the bad years, when rebels mostly from the ethnic minority Tamils and majority Sinhalese government forces were slaughtering each other in a horrific civil war, Gnanamani found solace in something many of her fellow Tamils didn’t have: Christianity, and especially its long inclusion in Sri Lanka’s main ethnic groups.

A religious minority here, Christians are part of both the Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic groups, unlike the mainly homogenous Tamil Hindus and Sinhalese Buddhists on the teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean.

After Islamic militants detonated suicide bombs on Sunday that killed Easter worshippers in three churches, including St. Anthony’s, a few blocks from Gnanamani’s home in the warren of streets of Colombo’s 13th zone, she and other Tamil and Sinhalese Christians are once again turning to a religion that, unusually for Sri Lanka, binds people of different ethnicities by a single faith.

Experts and Christians interviewed by The Associated Press after the attacks say this imbedded ethnic cooperation, along with Christian leaders who have consistently preached restraint, helps explain the measured calm that has — so far — been the response to the coordinated bombing of churches and hotels that killed 253 people.

“Being a Christian sets an example to others, because we did not retaliate after this violence was done to us. We were restrained — Sinhalese and Tamil Christians both,” Gnanamani, a 60-year-old housewife who goes by one name, said as she squatted on her stoop in a narrow, sunless alley, hundreds of black and white condolence streamers fluttering in a breeze above. “If this happened to Buddhist shrines or temples, there would have been an explosion of violence.”

There is indeed widespread fear here that more attacks, especially if they target other faiths, could return Sri Lanka, which is majority Buddhist but has significant Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations, to something like the cycle of sectarian violence and retaliation that marked the nearly three-decade civil war that ended in 2009.

“Within the Christian community there has to be moderation because by its nature it consists of two different ethnic communities. There’s a natural instinct for them to look at such religious and ethnic issues with deep compassion,” said Rohan Gunaratna, a religion and security expert and co-author of “The Three Pillars of Radicalization.”

But peace is not guaranteed.

“Sri Lanka must not take this Christian interreligious harmony for granted,” Gunaratna said in a phone interview. “The danger is that the Christian patience could break if there are more attacks, and that is what the terrorists want.”

About 7% of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people are Christian, and most are Roman Catholic, according to Mathew Schmalz, a professor at the College of the Holy Cross and an expert on Christianity in South Asia.

There has not always been universal Christian unity and restraint in Sri Lanka.

During the civil war that began in 1983, Christianity was divided, with members of the faith fighting for both the largely ethnic Tamil separatists and the mostly Sinhalese Buddhist government forces, experts say, and some tension still lingers.

With the recent attacks against Christians and foreigners, there’s worry that militant anti-Muslim Buddhists might be strengthened. “There might be less incentive now to step in to defend Muslims, and militant Buddhists might claim that they had been right all along to see Muslims as a threat,” Schmalz said by email.

The largely peaceful mixing of religions and ethnicities found in many parts of Colombo can be seen in the extended family of Anoma Damayanthi Liyanage, a 52-year-old Buddhist factory worker who lives in a small, neat, tin-roofed house in an alley off Jampettah Street in the Kochchikade neighborhood near St. Anthony’s.

Liyanage’s 25-year-old daughter, who married into a Christian family, was seriously injured in the blast. Liyanage herself was at St. Anthony’s and escaped the bomb only because she left a few minutes earlier with her Christian son-in-law when her 1 ½-year-old granddaughter began crying too loudly.

“It’s common for Tamil and Sinhalese Christians to marry each other,” Pradeepa Jayasinghe, a Sinhalese Christian relative, said. “We’ve always understood each other very well. We were raised from childhood together.”

Her daughter, 21-year-old Hishara, said, “We get together because of our Christian traditions. We’re not Tamil or Sinhalese. We look first if there is Christianity.”

The bombings, however, have stirred complex feelings among Christians.

Not far from the bombed church of St. Sebastian’s in a village in the city of Negombo, beyond the metal security barriers and the dozens of camouflaged soldiers carrying automatic weapons, Catholic priests Niroshan Perera and Anthony Nishan stand in their long white cassocks and watch fresh graves being dug for Christians killed by the attack on their church. There are 41 dirt mounds piled with flowers and candles, with wooden crosses marked mostly with numbers that correspond to names in a book that the priests keep.

There’s fear of more violence and deep grief in this majority Christian enclave outside Colombo. “The whole village is a funeral. The houses here are filled with coffins,” Nishan said of a place where about 120 Christians died in the bombing.

There’s also rage. Father Perera, 45, had a single description for the politicians who were told that terror attacks against Christians might be coming but didn’t notify the communities: “terrorists.”

A Catholic villager — Senake Perera, 55, a Sinhalese Catholic — said he would follow the restraint preached by Catholic leaders. But he also had a very human response to the fresh graves and wooden crosses, to the coffins and the dozens of color photos of the victims displayed on banners that fill this neighborhood.

“I have a feeling in my heart that we should go after the Muslims, that we should retaliate,” he said.

For the time being, however, like the Christians of Colombo interviewed by AP, there’s a belief that Catholics won’t hit back.

“After the tragedy, we are united because of the practice of dealing with other ethnicities which is within our Christianity,” said Father Nishan, 29, who’s the son of a Tamil father and Sinhalese mother, and who often gives Masses in Tamil, Sinhala and English. “Even if there are more attacks, Catholics won’t respond with violence,” he said. “That’s the beauty of Christianity here. We don’t have the division. We have to live together.”

Source: Fox News World

A spokeswoman for a U.S. financial adviser charged with killing a hotel worker while on vacation in Anguilla said he acted in self-defense and accused the victim of attacking him.

Kelcey Kintner released a statement Thursday alleging the worker showed up at Scott Hapgood’s room unannounced, saying he was there to fix a broken sink. The statement alleges the worker was armed and demanded money before attacking the family.

A spokesman for Anguilla police did not return a message for comment. Relatives of the victim could not be reached for comment.

Hapgood returned to Connecticut after he was released on $74,000 bond. He faces an Aug. 22 hearing in Anguilla.

The case has sparked racial tensions on an island that caters to wealthy tourists.

Source: Fox News World

A pipeline company was fined nearly $3.35 million on Thursday for causing the worst California coastal spill in 25 years.

A judge issued a fine and penalties against Plains All American Pipeline for a 2015 spill that sent 140,000 gallons of crude oil gushing onto Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles. The spill from a corroded pipeline blackened popular beaches for miles, killed wildlife and hurt tourism and fishing.

Federal inspectors found that Plains had made several preventable errors, failed to quickly detect the pipeline rupture and responded too slowly as oil flowed toward the ocean.

Plains operators working from a Texas control room more than 1,000 miles away had turned off an alarm that would have signaled a leak and, unaware a spill had occurred, restarted the hemorrhaging line after it had shut down, which only made matters worse, inspectors found.

Last year, a Santa Barbara County jury found the Houston-based company guilty of a felony count of failing to properly maintain its pipeline and eight misdemeanor charges, including killing marine mammals and protected sea birds.

Plains apologized for the spill and paid for the cleanup. The company’s 2017 annual report estimated costs from the spill at $335 million, not including lost revenues.

The fine was well short of the more than $1 billion in penalties prosecutors had sought. However, additional damages could be levied at a July restitution hearing.

“We take our responsibility to safely deliver energy resources very seriously, and we are committed to doing the right thing,” the Houston-based firm said in a statement Thursday. “We are sorry that this release happened, and we have and will continue to work hard to re-earn the trust of area residents.”

The spill crippled the local oil business because the pipeline was used to transport crude to refineries from seven offshore rigs, including three owned by Exxon Mobil, that have been idle since the spill.

Plains has applied for permission to build a pipeline.

Conservation groups that oppose offshore drilling in the area are opposed.

“It’s great to see Plains All American Pipeline held accountable for the ecological catastrophe they brought to the Gaviota Coast in 2015. That stretch of coastline has some of the last untouched bluffs and beaches in all of Southern California,” Mark Morey, chairman of the Santa Barbara chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, said in a statement. “But the idea that this company would be permitted to continue operating in such a naturally rich and unique area is absurd.”

Source: Fox News National

Britain’s Prince William has told survivors of the mosque attacks in New Zealand that people must unite to fight extremism in all its forms.

The Duke of Cambridge on Friday visited one of the two Christchurch mosques where 50 people were killed and 50 others wounded in a March 15 attack by a white supremacist.

Prince William spoke to about 100 people including Muslim leaders and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the Al Noor mosque. He said the message after the attacks was clear: That hate would fail to divide people.

William is on a two-day trip to New Zealand. Earlier on Friday, he met with some of those recovering from gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital.

On Thursday, he met with police officers and medics who responded to the attacks.

Source: Fox News World

Kansas child welfare authorities investigated two reports of possible abuse or neglect involving a Wichita couple in the 17 months before their 3-year-old son was found dead in his crib.

The Kansas Department of Children and Families on Thursday completed its investigation into the April 12 death of Zaiden Javonovich, who authorities believe was dead days before his body was discovered.

In a report summary obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request, the agency said it found physical abuse and neglect in the case but provided no other details.

Zaiden’s mother, Brandi Marchant, 22, and his father, Patrick Javonovich, 28, are charged with felony murder and child abuse in Zaiden’s death. His body was found April 11 when police went to the home after receiving a call about a domestic disturbance. Zaiden’s 4-month-old brother, who is Marchant’s son, was found injured and hospitalized in critical condition.

In November 2017, the Department of Children and Families investigated possible emotional abuse after a report that Marchant made homicidal and suicidal statements in front of the children. One child who reported a homicidal statement mentioned Zaiden, according to the report. Several people were interviewed but investigators could not substantiate the claim.

A year later, the department was told the younger boy tested positive for marijuana at birth. The case could not be investigated as an abuse/neglect case because medical officials did not indicate the boy’s health was hurt by marijuana use, the summary states.

Instead, a Family in Need of Assessment case was started. A social worker who met with the couple found both children appearing healthy, with all necessary supplies for the infant, according to the report. The parents, who are not married, completed a federally required plan of safe care and in another visit, Marchant completed a Department of Children and Families safety plan. The case was closed Jan. 14.

The Wichita Eagle reported the agency rejected a request for information about the younger boy. Spokesman Eric Smith confirmed the department received a report of alleged abuse and is investigating.

Source: Fox News National


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