Student killed in Alabama in another US school shooting

Huffman High School is seen behind Birmingham Police cars after at a shooting Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Student killed in Alabama in another US school shooting

BIRMINGHAM: Authorities said they are investigating a fatal shooting at an Alabama high school as apparently accidental, lamenting the death of a 17-year-old female student in the incident that also left a 17-year-old boy injured.
Birmingham Interim Police Chief Orlando Wilson said investigators are seeking to piece together the exact circumstances surrounding Wednesday afternoon’s shooting at dismissal time at Huffman High School, one of the city’s largest. He added that the probe will involve scouring school surveillance video for clues and completing interviews among students and staff at the large magnet school.
“At this particular time, we are considering this accidental,” the police chief said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon just hours after the shooting. “Right now we have a lot of unanswered questions.”
The shooting prompted a brief lockdown though students were subsequently released late Wednesday and authorities said they had subsequently determined that the shooting was not perpetrated by “someone from the outside” the school.
Wilson declined to say who fired the gun or to identify what firearm, adding it had been recovered by authorities.
No arrests were immediately reported and the two students weren’t identified.
“We are asking questions from the staff, the students, anyone who was in that area,” Wilson said. “This should not happen in schools.”
He said police have already questioned students but declined to say how many. Wilson did confirm metal detectors were in place and functioning in the school.
Huffman High in northeast Birmingham is one of the largest high schools in the city. The Birmingham City School system said in a statement that the shooting prompted a brief lockdown and added two students were involved as school was letting out. It later said the schools would be open Thursday even as civic leaders and others were mourning the loss of life.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said the deceased student would have turned 18 in about 30 days and was a senior “who had aspirations and dreams to be a nurse.”
“We are not just talking about some person, (we’re) talking about losing a part of our future. Our hearts are heavy,” Woodfin said.
Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring said her goal was to support the family of the teen who died and to reassure parents about the safety of their children.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey released a statement Wednesday evening that she was saddened by the student’s death.
“I am praying for the family of this young lady who has tragically lost her life way too early ... it reaffirms that there is no place for students to have firearms or other weapons on campus.”
The shooting took place just a day after Ivey created a school safety council in Alabama to make recommendations on security. The security plan would ensure schools have an updated security response plan for sharing information about potential threats. It also would require schools to train students and school employees on how to respond to an emergency situation.
Multiple bills also have been proposed in the Alabama legislature after 17 people were killed last month in a shooting rampage at a Parkland, Florida, high school. Varying proposals by Republicans would arm either teachers or volunteer security forces in schools. Meanwhile, measures sought by Democrats would seek to limit or ban the sale of assault weapons. The proposals face a tight deadline before the end of Alabama’s legislative session this election year.


Joy as US-seized bells return to Philippine church

Updated 48 min 26 sec ago
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Joy as US-seized bells return to Philippine church

  • US troops carted away the bronze objects as trophies in reprisal for a surprise 1901 attack
  • For the people of Balangiga the bells are a symbol of the Philippines’ long struggle for independence

BALANGIGA, Philippines: A sleepy central Philippine town erupted in joy on Saturday as bells looted from its church more than a century ago by vengeful US troops were to be turned over to the community.
Children waving bell-shaped signs and tearful residents in Balangiga gathered to welcome home the three bells that are a deep local source of pride, and which the US flew to Manila this week after decades of urging by the Philippines.
US troops carted away the bronze objects as trophies, after razing the town and killing potentially thousands of Filipinos, in reprisal for a surprise 1901 attack that left 48 of their comrades dead.
For the people of Balangiga the bells are a symbol of the Philippines’ long struggle for independence, and a dark chapter which is the subject of an annual re-enactment and remembrance event locally.
“It’s not just me but the whole town is walking in the clouds because the bells are finally with us,” 81-year-old Nemesio Duran told AFP.
“We are the happiest people on Earth now,” he added, noting he is descended from the boy who rang one of the bells, long said to have signalled the attack on the Americans.
The bells arrived in Balangiga late Friday ahead of an official handover ceremony set for later Saturday, but the town’s streets were already crowded with people and vendors selling T-shirts saying “Balangiga bells finally home.”
The ceremony will be not far from the town plaza that holds a monument with statues of the American soldiers having breakfast as the Filipino revolutionaries raise their machetes at the start of the onslaught.
Manila has been pushing for the bells’ return since at least the 1990s, with backing from Philippine presidents, its influential Catholic Church and supporters in the United States.
But the repatriation was long held back by some American lawmakers and veterans who viewed the bells, two of which were in the US state of Wyoming and the third at a US base in South Korea, as tributes to fallen soldiers.
A confluence of factors earlier this year, that included a key veterans’ group dropping its opposition, culminated in the bells landing in Manila aboard a US military cargo plane on Tuesday for a solemn handover.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, 73, bluntly called on Washington in a 2017 speech: “Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are not yours.”
His arrival in power in mid-2016 was marked by moves to split from Manila’s historical ally and former colonial master the United States. At the same time Duterte signalled an end to the standoff with Beijing over the disputed South China Sea.
Yet for some in Balangiga the bells’ return is also a somber occasion tinged with the pain of the past, which has been passed from generation to generation.
“It’s mixed emotions because the bells also remind me of what happened,” Constancia Elaba, 62, told AFP, adding how she grew up hearing stories of the episode from her father.
“It was painful and you cannot take it away from us. We can never forget that,” she said.