Las Vegas shooter’s girlfriend denies knowledge of planned carnage

People stop at a makeshift memorial near the site of Sunday night’s mass shooting, along the Last Vegas Strip. (AFP)
Updated 05 October 2017
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Las Vegas shooter’s girlfriend denies knowledge of planned carnage

LAS VEGAS: The girlfriend of the Las Vegas shooter said Wednesday she had no idea he was planning the attack, describing her boyfriend as a “quiet, caring man” as President Donald Trump declared the US a nation in mourning.
In her first public comments over the shooting at a country music concert that left 58 dead and 489 wounded, Marilou Danley said she had hoped for a quiet future with Stephen Paddock.
In Las Vegas, Trump visited with survivors and first responders, eulogizing parents and spouses who “used their own bodies to protect their loved ones” from the onslaught that eliminated any future for many.
He toured the Las Vegas Police Department Command Center and the city’s University Medical Center, where he met, among others, officer Tyler Peterson who was injured while responding to the shooting.
“In the months ahead, we will all have to wrestle with the horror that unfolded this week. But we will struggle through it together,” the president said.
Air Force One touched down at McCarran International Airport as the FBI was questioning Danley for clues to what drove Paddock to mass murder.
The 62-year-old returned to the US from her native Philippines late Tuesday and was met by FBI agents.
In a statement read by her attorney Matthew Lombard, she said she had no hint of what was to come: “I knew Stephen Paddock as a kind, caring, quiet man.”
“I loved him and hoped for a quiet future together with him,” she said.
“He never said anything to me or took any action that I was aware of that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen.”
Danley added that two weeks ago, Paddock had told her he found a cheap plane ticket for her to visit family in the Philippines and had wired her money to purchase a house while she was there.
She said she became concerned at that point, thinking he wanted to break up with her.
“It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone,” said Danley, an Australian citizen who moved to the US 20 years ago to work on the casino strip.
US authorities have been at a loss as to how a 64-year-old gambler and retired accountant hauled a vast arsenal of weapons to his hotel room and launched his assault.
Investigators say the shooting appeared to be extensively planned: Paddock set up one camera in the peephole of his hotel room door and two in the hallway.
The attack unfolded in just 10 minutes from the first shot to the last, but Paddock was not confirmed dead for more than an hour after that, Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told journalists on Wednesday.
Lombardo said the scale of the preparations for the attack — including the weapons, ammunition and electronics he stockpiled — raise questions about Paddock potentially having had an accomplice, but none has been identified.
He also updated the number of people wounded in the attack, putting the latest figure at 489.
As the victims’ harrowing stories emerged in the media, America once again grappled with calls for reforms to its permissive firearm control laws.
Trump largely stuck to a talking point repeated by dozens upon dozens of Republican officials: “Well, we’re not going to talk about that today. We won’t talk about that.”
US officials have reacted cautiously to a claim by the Islamic State jihadist group that the shooter had carried out Sunday night’s massacre on its behalf.
Authorities said Paddock, who had no criminal record, smashed windows in his hotel room shortly after 10pm on Sunday and rained fire on a crowd of some 22,000 attending the country music concert below.
When a SWAT team stormed the room where Paddock had been staying since September 28, they found he had killed himself.
Authorities have seized 47 firearms from three locations.
So far, investigators have found nothing to explain Paddock’s actions, but were continuing to hunt and trace every possible clue about a gunman they described as a “psychopath.”
Trump confirmed that no motive had yet been found. “I can tell you, it’s a very sick man. He was a very demented person,” he said.
Details have gradually emerged about some of the victims — a kindergarten teacher from California who had married her childhood sweetheart, a Tennessee nurse, a high-school secretary from New Mexico.
Stories of heroism also surfaced. Bruce Ure, deputy police chief of the small Texas city of Seguin, was in the concert’s VIP section when the gunfire broke out.
He sheltered from the bullets between two buses, then tended to three strangers who had been shot, loading them into a passing car and riding with them to hospital.
“They were all crying, and I was too,” he told AFP. “They were saying that ‘We’re going to die, we’re going to die,’ and I still remember telling them: ‘Not tonight, not tonight. Tonight’s not your night. You’re going to be ok.’ Because I truly believed it.”
While the White House has rebuffed calls to reopen the fraught US debate on gun control, Congress did shelve a controversial plan to make it easier to purchase gun silencers and make it more difficult to classify certain ammunition as “armor piercing.”
The Las Vegas attack is the deadliest shooting in recent US history, surpassing the toll of 49 dead in an attack on a Florida nightclub in June 2016.


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 21 May 2019
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Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.