Hamas commander killed in Hospital holding 1,000 Gazans ‘Hostage’


Important Takeaways:

  • Israel kills Hamas commander who held 1,000 Gazans ‘hostage’ in hospital
  • Israeli forces on Saturday night claimed to have killed a Hamas commander who held 1,000 Gazans “hostage” in a hospital as human shields.
  • The Israel Defense Forces said that Ahmed Siam, a leader in Hamas’s al-Furqan Brigade, had blocked civilians from evacuating the Al-Rantisi Hospital in Gaza City earlier this week.
  • The IDF said that Siam and several other terrorists were killed while hiding out at a school building in Gaza, following a joint operation with Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency.

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Attacker kills three in Liege, Belgium, dies after gun battle with police

A police officer is seen on the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

By Francois Lenoir and Christopher Stern

LIEGE, Belgium (Reuters) – A man killed two policewomen and a bystander in the Belgian city of Liege on Tuesday before being shot dead in a gunbattle at a school in what prosecutors are treating as a terrorist attack.

The man was named by public broadcaster RTBF as a 36-year-old petty criminal who had been let out on day-release from a local prison on Monday. It said investigators were looking into whether he had converted to Islam and been radicalized in jail.

A public prosecutor told a news conference that the man attacked the policewomen from behind with a knife, described as a box-cutter by RTBF, around 10:30 a.m. (4.30 a.m. ET) on a boulevard in the center of Belgium’s third city, near the German border.

After stabbing the officers, prosecutor Philippe Dulieu said, the man seized one of their handguns and shot both women dead before walking down the street and shooting dead a 22-year-old man who was sitting in the passenger seat of a parked car.

The man then made his way into a high school where he took a woman employee hostage, triggering a major intervention by armed police. Pupils were moved to safety as a gunbattle broke out that sent people in the street racing for cover. Several police were wounded before the attacker was finally killed.

“The event is classed as a terrorist incident,” Dulieu said.

The national crisis center, on high alert since past attacks by Islamic State in Paris and Brussels in the past three years, said it was monitoring events but had not raised its alert level – an indication they do not expect related follow-up attacks.

La Libre Belgique newspaper quoted a police source as saying the gunman shouted “Allahu Akbar” — God is greatest in Arabic.

A man is being consoled by a police officer on the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

A man is being consoled by a police officer on the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir


Images posted on social media showed elements of the drama:

Apparently the two police officers, arms bare on what was a hot sunny morning, wearing protective vests and lying in pools of blood a couple of meters apart outside a cafe; the gunman, dressed in black, waving a pistol in each hand, standing in the middle of the road; and finally the assailant emerging from a building onto the street, firing on police, who gun him down.

Prime Minister Charles Michel, expressing his condolences to the families of the victims, said it was too early to say what had caused the incident. King Philippe visited Liege, the biggest city in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region.

An industrial powerhouse on the Meuse river, it was the scene of a mass shooting in 2011, when a man killed four people and wounded over 100 others before turning his gun on himself.

A Brussels-based Islamic State cell was involved in attacks on Paris in 2015 that killed 130 people and on Brussels in 2016 in which 32 died. The Brussels IS cell had links to militants in Verviers, another industrial town close to Liege, where in early 2015 police raided a safe house and killed two men who had returned from fighting with radical Islamists in Syria.

European authorities are deeply concerned about the risks of petty criminals, including those not from Muslim backgrounds, being inspired to Islamist violence while incarcerated.

(Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, Alissa de Carbonnel and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Richard Balmforthk Larry King)

Britain preparing to transfer 400 million pounds to Iran – Telegraph newspaper

Britain preparing to transfer 400 million pounds to Iran - Telegraph newspaper

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is preparing to transfer over 400 million pounds ($527 million) to Iran as it seeks the release of a jailed Iranian-British aid worker, The Telegraph newspaper reported, citing unidentified British sources.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced to five years after being convicted by an Iranian court of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. She denies the charges.

Britain has sought legal advice over whether it could transfer the funds which it owes as a result of a disputed arms deal in the 1970s. Diplomats told the newspaper that any payment should not be linked to the fate of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters. It operates independently of Reuters News.

A spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office could not be reached for comment out of normal business hours.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kate Holton)

Gunman shot at Charleston, S.C., restaurant; hostage rescued

Gunman shot at Charleston, S.C., restaurant; hostage rescued

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – A disgruntled employee who fatally shot one person and held another hostage on Thursday at a restaurant in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, was shot by police, the city’s mayor said.

Witnesses said the gunman brandished a pistol and said “There’s a new boss in town” as he entered Virginia’s On King in the heart of the city’s commercial district, while about 15 to 20 people were having lunch. Many of them fled.

The gunman was transported to a local hospital in critical condition and the hostage was rescued, said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.

“A disgruntled employee came back to his place of employment… with a gun and killed an individual in the restaurant, held another hostage for some time,” Tecklenburg told reporters at the scene.

“This was not a terrorist act. This was not a hate crime. This was a tragic case of a disgruntled individual, I think with a history of some mental health challenges, who took his anger into his own hands,” he said.

Executive Chef Anthony Shane Whiddon, 37, of Goose Creek, South Carolina, was shot and killed during the incident.

Local television station WCSC-TV quoted a representative of the group that owns the restaurant as saying that the gunman was a former dishwasher.

Police helicopters had buzzed overhead and police SWAT team members had closed several blocks of King Street, which is home to many restaurants, bars and boutiques and is popular with residents and tourists.

Virginia’s On King is an upscale restaurant serving traditional Southern comfort food.

The local Post and Courier newspaper quoted a couple, Tom and Patsy Plant, who said they were eating lunch with their daughter Laura when the gunman walked in from the kitchen, the newspaper reported.

The Plants, who said they fled with other customers through a back door, described him as a black man in his late 50s. Patsy Plant told the paper he looked like “an ordinary grandpa, but he had a crazy look.”

The restaurant is just a block and a half from the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where on June 17, 2015, a white supremacist fatally shot nine members of a Bible study group in what officials called a racially motivated hate crime.

The church shooter, Dylann Roof, has been sentenced to death in federal court for the massacre. He pleaded guilty in April to separate state murder charges.

(Additional reporting and writing by Gina Cherelus in New York and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler and Christian Schmollinger)

Al Qaeda releases Swedish hostage after almost six years

A picture of freed hostage Johan Gustafsson and his family at Arlanda airport after his arrival in Sweden on Monday, is shown during a press conference with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom at government headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden June 26, 2017

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – A Swedish citizen held hostage by al Qaeda militants for nearly six years has been released, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

Johan Gustafsson, 42, was kidnapped in November 2011 in Timbuktu, during a motor cycle trip in Mali, along with two people from South Africa and the Netherlands.

The kidnappers has earlier demanded 5 million dollars for his release, a demand rejected by the Swedish government, according to Swedish Radio, without citing a source.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the question of a ransom.

“It is with great joy I can say that Johan Gustafsson has been released and will be able to return to Sweden,” Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement.

Wallstrom said “considerable efforts” were made by the Foreign Ministry, together with the police and other Swedish and foreign authorities, in order to secure Gustafsson’s release.

(Reporting by Johan Sennero; Editing by Alison Williams)

At least 19 killed in hotel attack in Somali capital

Damaged vehicles are seen at the scene of an attack outside a hotel and an adjacent restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

By Feisal Omar

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – At least 19 people were killed when Islamist militants launched a car bomb and gun attack on a busy hotel and adjacent restaurant in the Somali capital, a police officer said on Thursday.

A car driven by a suicide bomber rammed into the Posh Hotel in south Mogadishu on Wednesday evening before gunmen rushed into Pizza House, an adjacent restaurant, and took 20 people hostage. Posh Hotel is the only venue with a discotheque in the capital.

District police chief Abdi Bashir told Reuters Somali security forces took back control of the restaurant at midnight after the gunmen had held hostages inside for several hours. Five of the gunmen were killed, Bashir said.

“We are in control of the hotel but it was mostly destroyed by the suicide bomber,” he told Reuters by phone.

Witnesses said there were bodies lying at the scene on Thursday morning as ambulances came to take them away.

Ahmed Mohamud Adow, the spokesman for the country’s interior ministry, said the dead included a Syrian national who worked at the restaurant. He did not identify the dead Syrian who local residents said worked as a chef at the Pizza House.

Another 27 civilians were taken to hospital with various injuries, ambulance services said. Witnesses said the attack was launched after the Iftar dinner for customers who are fasting for Ramadan. Most of them were still inside relaxing.

The wreckages of three-wheeled scooters caught up in the blast at the hotel, which also housed a massage parlor, lay overturned around the scene.

Al Shabaab, the Islamist militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group claimed on Thursday morning it killed more than 20 people including soldiers and government workers.

Al Shabaab usually provides a higher death toll from its attacks than the government’s figures.

The group has carried out a campaign of suicide bombings in its bid to topple the Somali government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam.

Since losing large swathes of territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the government, the group has frequently launched raids and deadly attacks in Mogadishu and other regions controlled by the federal government.

The Horn of Africa country has been racked by armed conflict since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who was elected into office earlier this year, promised to defeat al Shabaab.

(Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

Bangladeshi police may have killed hostage by mistake

People place flowers at a makeshift memorial near the site, to pay tribute to the victims of the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery and the O'Kitchen Restaurant, in Dhaka

By Ruma Paul and Rupam Jain

DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladeshi police said on Tuesday one of the men they shot dead during the siege of a Dhaka cafe on the weekend may have been a hostage killed by mistake, while the hunt for accomplices of the gunmen who killed 20 people focused on six suspects.

Police on Tuesday named five Bangladeshi gunmen who stormed the restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone late on Friday. Most of the victims in the violence claimed by Islamic State were foreigners, from Italy, Japan, India and the United States.

It was one of the deadliest militant attacks in Bangladesh, where Islamic State and al Qaeda have claimed a series of killings of liberals and members of religious minorities in the past year.

The government has dismissed those claims, as it did the Islamic State claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack.

Pictures of five young men clutching guns and grinning in front of a black flag were posted on an Islamic State website hours after the attack, along with the claim of responsibility, but despite that, authorities have ruled out a foreign link.

Police believe that Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), an outlawed domestic group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, played a significant role in organizing the band of privileged, educated young attackers.

Confusion over exactly how many gunmen were involved was at least partly cleared up on Tuesday when police said among the six people security forces killed when they stormed the building to end a 12-hour stand-off was Saiful Islam Chowkidar, a pizza maker at the Holey Artisan restaurant.

“We killed six people in the restaurant. A case has been registered against five. The sixth man was a restaurant employee,” Saiful Islam, a top police official investigating the attack, told Reuters.

“He may not be involved,” he said, adding that the investigation was going on.

An employee of the cafe, shown a photo of a man killed at the eatery and wearing a chef’s outfit, identified him as Chowkidar, and said he had worked there for 18 months.

Police named five men as attackers in a case filed on Tuesday to allow them to launch official investigations, including questioning families of the militants for clues as to what turned them into killers.

Two other suspects are in hospital.


Police said they were hunting for six members of the JMB who were suspected of organizing the attack.

“Six members of JMB have been shown as accused in the case. We are trying to arrest them because they could be the mastermind,” Islam said.

The JMB has been accused of involvement in many of the killings over the past year and Islam said police were interrogating more than 130 of its members already in custody in the hope of gleaning clues.

“We don’t know who is the mastermind behind the attack. We just know that these boys were guided to launch an attack on the restaurant,” he said.

The five named in the case filing were Nibras Islam, Rohan Imtiaz, Meer Saameh Mubasheer, Khairul Islam and Shafiqul Islam.

The attack marked a major escalation in the scale and brutality of violence aimed at forcing strict Islamic rule in Bangladesh, whose 160 million people are mostly Muslim.

It has shocked the country, as have details emerging about the well-to-do lives of some of the gunmen.

At least three of the gunmen were from wealthy, liberal families who had attended elite Dhaka schools, in contrast to the traditional Bangladeshi militant’s path from poverty and a madrassa education to violence.

Three of the attackers had been missing since the beginning of the year, police have said.

Two had attended a private university in Malaysia, one of whom, Nibras Islam, was not particularly religious, according to a student who played football with him at a private college in Dhaka between 2009 and 2011.

“We are in touch with investigators in Malaysia and they are sharing all the information but as of now we have not found any links with international militant groups,” Islam said.

One of the dead gunmen was from a poor family and had studied at a madrassa and another hailed from a lower-middle class background, said another senior police official who declined to be identified.

(Additional reporting by Aditya Kalra, Serajul Quadir in DHAKA and Rupam Jain and Krishna N. Das in NEW DELHI; Writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel)

Charlie Hebdo Attackers and 4 Hostages Dead

After an intense crossfire French police have confirmed that the men responsible for Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo attack and Friday’s hostage situations are dead.

Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, were killed by police in a shootout hours after taking at least one hostage in a local printing business located in a town 30 minutes northeast of Paris, France. The hostage has been freed, but there have been no official reports to the hostage’s condition at this time.

Police also stormed a kosher grocery store located in Paris where Amedi Coulibaly, 32, was killed in a brutal shootout with police. Coulibaly was an associate of the Kouachi brothers. Although Coulibaly was a known associate of the terrorist brothers, there have been no official reports that the attacks were coordinated.

Hostages at the supermarket were freed, but reports have confirmed that four of the hostages were dead. There are no details at this time regarding how they were killed.


Double Hostage Situation Erupts in France

Paris, France is under siege again as police confront two dangerous hostage situations. One involving the two suspects from Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo attack and another at a kosher grocery store.

Police converged on the Charlie Hebdo suspects in a town northeast of Paris Friday morning. The New York Times reports that they barricaded themselves inside a printing business with at least one hostage.

Hours later, another hostage situation broke out at a kosher market located in Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris. The police have identified this suspect as Amedy Coulibaly who is suspected of murdering a female police officer on Thursday.

Police report that Coulibaly is an associate of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist suspects.

CNN: Charlie Hebdo attack: 2 intense standoffs in France

Two intense standoffs with gunmen were underway in and around Paris early Friday afternoon — one involving the two brothers wanted in the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the other a hostage situation at a kosher grocery store.

It was not immediately known if or how the two situations were related, but both underscored France’s days-long nightmare and anti-terrorism fight.

The latest unfolded near Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris, where the city prosecutor’s office reported a shooting and hostage situation early Friday afternoon. Police anti-terror units raced to the scene, while ambulances blared as they moved away from it.

Source: CNN – CNN: Charlie Hebdo attack: 2 intense standoffs in France