Security forces stand guard at St. Antony shrine, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
April 25, 2019
By Alasdair Pal and Sunil Kataria
NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka (Reuters) – As mourners buried the remains of Christian worshippers killed by the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, hundreds of Muslim refugees fled Negombo on the country’s west coast where communal tensions have flared in recent days.
At least 359 people perished in the coordinated series of blasts targeting churches and hotels. Church leaders believe the final toll from the attack on St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo could be close to 200, almost certainly making Negombo the deadliest of the six near-simultaneous attacks.
On Wednesday, hundreds of Pakistani Muslims fled the multi-ethnic port an hour north of the capital, Colombo. Crammed into buses organized by community leaders and police, they left fearing for their safety after threats of revenge from locals.
“Because of the bomb blasts and explosions that have taken place here, the local Sri Lankan people have attacked our houses,” Adnan Ali, a Pakistani Muslim, told Reuters as he prepared to board a bus. “Right now we don’t know where we will go.”
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, yet despite Islamic State being a Sunni jihadist group, many of the Muslims fleeing Negombo belong to the Ahmadi community, who had been hounded out of Pakistan years ago after their sect was declared non-Muslim.
The fallout from Sunday’s attacks appears set to render them homeless once more.
Farah Jameel, a Pakistani Ahmadi, said she had been thrown out of her house by her landlord.
“She said ‘get out of here and go wherever you want to go, but don’t live here’,” she told Reuters, gathered with many others at the Ahmadiyya Mosque, waiting for buses to take them to a safe location.
“I HAVE NOTHING NOW”
Sri Lanka’s government is in disarray over the failure to prevent the attacks, despite repeated warnings from intelligence sources.
Police have detained an unspecified number of people were detained in western Sri Lanka, the scene of anti-Muslim riots in 2014, in the wake of the attacks, and raids were carried out in neighborhoods around St Sebastian’s Church.
Police played down the threats to the refugees, but said they have been inundated with calls from locals casting suspicion on Pakistanis in Negombo.
“We have to search houses if people suspect,” said Herath BSS Sisila Kumara, the officer in charge at Katara police station, where 35 of the Pakistanis that gathered at the mosque were taken into police custody for their own protection, before being sent to an undisclosed location.
“All the Pakistanis have been sent to safe houses,” he said. “Only they will decide when they come back.”
Two kilometers away, makeshift wooden crosses marked the new graves at the sandy cemetery of St Sebastian’s Church, as the latest funerals on Wednesday took the number buried there to 40.
Channa Repunjaya, 49, was at home when he heard about the blast at St Sebastian’s. His wife, Chandralata Dassanaike and nine-year-old daughter Meeranhi both died.
“I felt like committing suicide when I heard that they had died,” he told Reuters by the open graves. “I have nothing now.”
Meeranhi’s grandmother, with her head still bandaged after being wounded in the attack, was held by a relative as the first handfuls of earth were scattered upon her child-sized coffin.
Most of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people are Buddhist, but the Indian Ocean island’s population includes Muslim, Hindu and Christian minorities. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.
There were signs of some religious communities pulling together following Sunday’s outrage.
Saffron- and scarlet-robed Buddhist monks from a nearby monastery handed out bottled water to mourners who gathered under a baking afternoon sun.
But the town, which has a long history of sheltering refugees – including those made homeless by a devastating tsunami in 2004 – may struggle to recover from Sunday’s violence, said Father Jude Thomas, one of dozens of Catholic priests who attended Wednesday’s burials.
“Muslims and Catholics lived side by side,” he said. “It was always a peaceful area, but now things have come to the surface we cannot control.”
(Editing by John Chalmers & Simon Cameron-Moore)
Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) candidate Pedro Sanchez is pictured before a televised debate ahead of general election in Sebastian de los Reyes, outside Madrid, Spain, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Medina
April 23, 2019
By Belén Carreño and John Stonestreet
MADRID (Reuters) – The main contenders in Spain’s parliamentary election traded verbal blows over jobs and national identity on Tuesday, as Socialist frontrunner Pedro Sanchez said he had no plans to include center-right Ciudadanos in any governing alliance.
A day after an inconclusive first televised debate, the leaders of the four main parties represented appeared to step up efforts to grab extra votes ahead of Sunday’s ballot – and tempers frayed.
The election is the country’s most divisive in decades and, with no single party close to winning a parliamentary majority, its outcome is uncertain. Polls have showed that up to four in 10 voters have yet to decide whom to cast their ballot for.
Outgoing Prime Minister Sanchez looks best placed to form a government if his Socialist Party wins the around 30 percent of the vote that surveys have suggested.
But he would need to team up with one or more other party to form a parliamentary majority, and on Tuesday he distanced himself from one option.
“Entering an alliance with a party that has put cordon sanitaire around the Socialist Party is not part of my plans,” he said in reference to Ciudadanos at the start of the debate.
Ciudadanos has previously said it will not join any coalition led by Sanchez, and its leader Albert Rivera – together with Conservative Partido Popular’s (PP) Pablo Casado – renewed the two-pronged attack they had directed at the prime minister on Monday.
The economy made a late appearance as an election topic in a wide-ranging and at times chaotic debate that also took in immigration, housing and gender equality.
But as on Monday, one of the most emotive issues remained Catalonia and the region’s botched 2017 independence bid, which came close to triggering a constitutional crisis.
Casado called Sanchez “the favorite candidate of the enemies of Spain” and Rivera told him: “Many Socialists are disappointed with you because you want to liquidate Spain.”
Sanchez, who became prime minister in June, has been more open to dialogue with Catalan separatists than his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy.
But he reiterated on Tuesday that he was ruling out any moves toward independence by the region, and that its pro- and anti-secessionist factions needed to negotiate with each other.
‘NERVOUS’ OR LOOKING ON?
The rightist candidates also attacked Sanchez over unemployment. Casado compared Spain’s economy to thrice bailed-out Greece and Rivera called the country “the European joblessness champion”.
The Ciudadanos leader also repeatedly told Sanchez he looked “nervous.”
Spain’s jobless rate has nearly halved from its 2013 peak, and growth in the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy has consistently outpaced the bloc’s average since shortly after it exited recession in the same year.
The bulk of the recovery took place under Sanchez’s PP predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, though unemployment has continued to fall since Sanchez took office almost a year ago and hit a 10-year low in the last quarter of 2018.
But the jobless rate remains above 14 percent, and a stretched pension system and the labor market are overdue for structural reform.
“This country’s problem is short-term employment,” said Pablo Iglesias of far-left Podemos Unidas.
For Pablo Simon, professor of political science at Carlos III University in Madrid, Casado and Rivera and failed to land telling blows on Sanchez.
The Socialist leader “saw the bulls and stayed behind the barrier, as he did yesterday, letting the others slug it out though he did venture into the ring a little more,” he said.
Publication of official opinion polls ended six days before the election and in Monday’s final survey, by GAD3 in ABC newspaper, the Socialists scored 31.5 percent of the vote, giving Sanchez far more leeway than others to pitch for coalition partners.
However, he may well need to bring separatist lawmakers on board, which would complicate any broader alliance.
A putative coalition of PP, Ciudadanos and the far-right Vox of Santiago Abascal scored a combined 45 percent – putting them short of a parliamentary majority.
Vox was not invited to the debate as it is not currently represented in Spain’s parliament.
(Additional reporting by Andres Gonzalez; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) pose in front of a party bus with a picture of their leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on it, in Istanbul, Turkey, April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
April 22, 2019
ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey has arrested nine people, including a member of the ruling AK Party, after the country’s main opposition leader was punched and his car was stoned at a soldier’s funeral at the weekend, the interior minister said on Monday.
Kilicdaroglu was attacked on Sunday as he attended a funeral in a northern district of Ankara for a soldier killed in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.
The incident took place after his Republican People’s Party (CHP) defeated President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party in March 31 mayoral elections in the capital Ankara and Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, painful losses for the ruling party.
During campaigning, Erdogan often accused the CHP and Kilicdaroglu of links to terrorism because it had election deals in some constituencies with the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP, which Erdogan said has ties to the outlawed PKK.
The HDP denies links to the PKK, which has waged an insurgency for autonomy in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast since 1984, and is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that nine people had been detained, adding that Kilicdaroglu’s recent “contacts” with the Kurdish party (HDP) made him a target.
“CHP’s contacts with the HDP, and HDP’s policy that doesn’t distance itself from the PKK are all happening before the public eye. Kilicdaroglu should have informed the authorities if he wanted to attend the funeral,” Soylu told a new conference.
“It’s wrong to blame the interior ministry for such incidents while partnering with the political arm of the PKK at the same time,” Soylu added, saying Kilicdaroglu’s party was trying to make political gains from the attack.
Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, said heated political rhetoric had fueled the attack. “Likely inspired by hate speeches of ruling politicians. This radical polarization must end,” Piri said.
(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans)
FILE PHOTO: Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), greets his supporters during a rally for the upcoming local elections, in Istanbul, Turkey March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir/File Photo
April 21, 2019
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party was attacked by several shouting men on Sunday before security guards led him safely away from a crowd in Ankara on Sunday, according to the party and video footage of the incident.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) that pulled off upset local election victories on March 31, had been attending a funeral for a Turkish soldier killed in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Video of the incident showed Kilicdaroglu hit on the head at least twice as a clutch of security guards attempted to keep dozens of shouting and fist-pumping men away. He managed to leave the scene and enter a nearby house, according to broadcaster NTV and Demiroren News Agency.
A crowd then gathered outside the house chanting “PKK out”, NTV said.
“In the incident, we were all scattered. Kemal Kilicdaroglu is alright. He is taken to a safe place,” Levent Gok, CHP member of parliament from Ankara, told Haberturk TV. “We must keep calm. Kilicdaroglu will make a statement.”
The CHP’s mayoral candidates in Ankara and Istanbul defeated those from President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party, according to initial results and a series of recounts of the elections three weeks ago.
The AK Party has submitted two petitions to cancel and re-run the vote in Istanbul, citing what is says are irregularities and illegal votes.
(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Alison Williams)
First they cooperated. Then they stonewalled. Their television interviews were scattershot and ridiculed, their client mercurial and unreliable.
But President Donald Trump’s legal team, through a combination of bluster, legal precedent and shifting tactics, managed to protect their client from a potentially perilous in-person interview during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation . His lawyers are taking a victory lap after a redacted version of Mueller’s findings revealed politically damaging conduct by the president but drew no conclusions of criminal behavior.
“Our strategy came to be that when we weren’t talking, we were losing,” Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, told The Associated Press in a recent interview. Given that Mueller could not indict a sitting president, Giuliani said, the team kept its focus on Mueller’s “capacity to report, so we had to play in the media as well as legally.”
The aftershocks from the Mueller report released Thursday will help shape the next two years of Trump’s administration. But while the report may cause some Democrats to take a renewed look at impeachment despite long odds of success in Congress, the legal threat to Trump that seemed so dangerous upon Mueller’s appointment in May 2017 has waned.
At the outset, that appointment led Trump to predict “the end of my presidency.” The White House struggled to recruit top Washington attorneys, many of whom were reluctant to work for a temperamental, scandal-prone president who repeatedly claimed he would be his own best legal mind.
The initial strategy of the Trump legal team, including White House attorney Ty Cobb and personal defense lawyer John Dowd, was to be as cooperative as possible with Mueller’s prosecutors and ensure that investigators got access to the documents they requested and the witnesses they wanted to interview. The Trump lawyers hoped to bring about a quick conclusion to the investigation.
Believing he could exonerate himself, Trump initially expressed a willingness to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team. A date was set for that to take place at Camp David. But then the president’s lawyers moved away from the plan, in part by arguing that the special counsel already had gotten answers to his questions.
“It became the most transparent investigation in history,” Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers, said in an interview.
Still, there was internal tumult along the way, including the March 2018 departure of Dowd, a veteran and experienced criminal defense attorney, and the additions of Giuliani and the husband-wife team of Martin and Jane Raskin.
Even as the legal team professed cooperation with Mueller’s prosecutors, the lawyers expressed impatience, frustration and skepticism in a series of private letters that challenged the credibility of the government’s witnesses and the demands to interview the president.
In a November 2018 correspondence, one of a series of letters obtained by news outlets, the president’s legal team attacked the questions Mueller wanted to ask the president as “burdensome if submitted to a routine witness, let alone presented to the president of the United States, more than two years after the events at issue while he continued to navigate numerous, serious matters of state, national security and domestic emergency.”
Those private complaints were dwarfed by louder public protests. Trump spent months engaging in daily, sometimes hourly, attacks on Mueller’s team, declaring the investigation a “Witch Hunt” and questioning the integrity of the investigators.
Giuliani, in many ways more of a television spokesman than conventional lawyer, amplified those attacks. He went so far as to accuse the investigators of misconduct and to portray Mueller, who as a Marine officer had led a rifle platoon in Vietnam, as unpatriotic.
The former New York City mayor became a human smoke screen, making accusations and offering theories often meant to distract and obfuscate. He was a punch line on cable news channels, and his interviews were mocked as blunder-filled performances.
But there was a method to Giuliani’s shtick, at least at times. More than once he let slip revelations that initially were perceived as gaffes but later were recognized as efforts to get out ahead of potentially damaging news stories. Two examples include payments to Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who claimed an affair with Trump, and a letter of intent to build a Trump Tower Moscow.
There were missteps, too.
The interviews granted by White House staffers filled the pages of the Mueller report with stories of West Wing chaos. At least one interaction caught Mueller’s attention as a possible effort to discourage a witness from cooperating against the president.
Trump’s lawyers communicated regularly with attorneys for other people under scrutiny in the investigation as part of a joint-defense agreement that enabled them to swap information. But the report reveals that after former national security adviser Michael Flynn withdrew from the agreement and began cooperating with the government, an unidentified Trump lawyer left a message with Flynn’s attorneys reminding them that the president still had warm feelings for Flynn and asking for a “heads-up” if Flynn knew damaging information about the president.
While Giuliani, with an eye toward the members of Congress who might eventually decide the president’s fate, focused on the public relations battle, the legal team also worked behind the scenes to argue that Mueller could not use a subpoena to compel Trump to give an in-person interview, which carried potentially grave risks for a president prone to making false statements.
“I think they were right to think that it would hurt him to speak to Mueller’s team, and as it turns out, they were right to think that he could get away with refusing to speak with Mueller’s team,” said Stanford law school professor David Alan Sklansky.
Mueller’s team, which spent about a year negotiating with Trump’s lawyers over a potential interview, ultimately agreed to accept written answers on Russia-related questions but never spoke with the president in person.
Making the move to block an interview was “defense lawyering 101” because defense lawyers as a matter of course don’t like to let clients in legal jeopardy speak to investigators, said Duke law professor Samuel Buell.
Mueller never acted to subpoena Trump. The special counsel did not conclude that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians. With an eye on following a Justice Department legal opinion that prohibits indicting a sitting president, Mueller did not rule on whether Trump obstructed justice. Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein declared that Trump did not.
Buell said it hard to know how much credit belonged to Trump’s lawyers.
“I think that’s where the real lawyering in a situation like this goes on, is the client management piece,” he said. “Trump doesn’t like to be managed, clearly … but the Mueller report won’t tell you what went on with the president’s private lawyers and the president.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
The U.S. intelligence community holds an institutional bias toward the Democratic Party, and this has grown under President Donald Trump, according to former CIA analyst John Gentry.
Gentry, who is now a Professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, wrote in an article for the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence that former senior intelligence leaders, including CIA Director John Brenan, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, had broken traditionally held prohibitions by publicly discussing liberal political views and criticizing Trump.
“The attacks on Trump were unprecedented for intelligence officers in their substance, tone, and volume,” he wrote. “Critics went far beyond trying to correct Trump’s misstatements about U.S. intelligence; they attacked him as a human being.”
“In the past, intelligence officials usually bit their tongues when presidents criticized their work, recognizing that they sometimes make mistakes, that they work for presidents in an unequal relationship, that their job is to help all administrations succeed and even on occasion to be scapegoats for political leaders’ failed policies,” Gentry said. “That said, some intelligence officers have long leaked information to the press.”
Although he does not say intelligence officials have produced biased reports, Gentry does suspect “bias may have crept into CIA analyses.”
He concludes, “a considerable body of evidence, much of it fragmentary, indicates that many CIA people have left-leaning political preferences, but less evidence shows that political bias influences CIA analyses.”
The CIA did not respond to The Washington Free Beacon’s request for comment on the article.
Source: NewsMax America
FILE PHOTO: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo
April 15, 2019
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump attacked Democratic U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar as an “out of control” purveyor of “hate” speech on Monday before leaving for a visit to the state the Muslim-American represents in Congress.
Writing on Twitter, Trump blasted both Omar and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for defending Omar after he tweeted a video on Friday suggesting Omar had been dismissive of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made,” Trump said. “She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!”
Omar’s and Pelosi’s offices had no comment on Monday.
The Minnesota congresswoman said on Sunday evening that she had experienced “an increase in direct threats on my life – many directly referencing or replying to the president’s video.”
“Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief. We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop,” Omar wrote in a tweeted statement.
Marc Lotter, an adviser to Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, denied Trump was inciting violence.
“I don’t think it is the president who’s putting her in danger. I think it’s her ill-thought-out words that she used to describe the greatest terror attack on the history of United States soil,” Lotter told CNN on Monday.
The video tweeted by Trump spliced news footage of 9/11 with a clip from a speech Omar gave last month in which she said “some people did something” in reference to the attacks.
Lawmakers from Trump’s Republican Party have accused Omar of minimizing the Sept. 11 attacks, while critics of the president say he took Omar’s words out of context in order to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.
Later on Monday, Trump plans to visit a trucking company in Burnsville, Minnesota, about 15 miles (24 km) outside Minneapolis. The venue is in the state’s second congressional district, which is south of and partially adjacent to the fifth congressional district represented by Omar.
The Minnesota branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, will hold a rally in support of Omar outside the company.
Omar was speaking at a CAIR banquet in California in March when she made her controversial remarks about 9/11. Omar also said Muslims had “lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it.”
The White House said Sunday that Trump did not wish any harm in his Twitter post about Omar.
The House of Representatives approved a broad resolution condemning bigotry last month after remarks by Omar that some members of both parties viewed as anti-Semitic.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown)