US school shooting calls released, as a gun-control bill sits on governor’s desk

Students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. (AP)
Updated 09 March 2018
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US school shooting calls released, as a gun-control bill sits on governor’s desk

TALLAHASSEE: In a newly released recording from the day of a deadly Florida school shooting, the parents of a 17-year-old girl tell a 911 dispatcher their daughter is texting from a classroom where the door’s glass was shot out. Later, the student texts that police have arrived. After getting the rest of the message, the mother raises her voice, “Three shot in her room. Oh my God. Oh my God.”
As a gun-control bill sits on the governor’s desk, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office released 12 minutes of radio transmissions from its deputies and a neighboring police agency highlighting the chaos during the Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. That material also included 10 of the 81 recordings of frantic calls by students and parents to a 911 center.
The excerpts showed a deputy on school grounds first thought the loud bangs were firecrackers, then realized they were gunshots — yet he never ran toward them. Other responding deputies and officers desperately tried to sort through a chaotic scene, treat the injured, lock down the school and locate the shooter.
Three weeks after the Parkland high school shooting, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has a gun-control bill on his desk that challenges the National Rifle Association but falls short of what the Republican and survivors of the massacre demanded.
Now he must decide whether to sign it. Scott has not said what he will do, and he plans to take up the issue Friday with relatives of 17 people slain in the attack.
“I’m going to take the time and I’m going to read the bill and I’m going to talk to families,” he said.
In the shooting’s aftermath, Scott broke with the NRA. He had received top marks from the lobbying group in the past for supporting gun-rights measures, and his new stance reinvigorated the gun-control movement.
The governor, who is expected to seek a US Senate seat later this year, has called for raising the minimum age to purchase any type of gun, but he does not support arming teachers. Instead, he wanted lawmakers to adopt his own $500 million proposal to put at least one law enforcement officer in every school.
The NRA opposes raising age limits to buy weapons or imposing new waiting periods. In a statement Thursday, NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer called the bill “a display of bullying and coercion” that would violate Second Amendment rights and punish law-abiding citizens.
State lawmakers formally delivered the reform package Thursday. The governor has 15 days to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.
The measure would raise the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 and extend a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns. It also would create a so-called guardian program enabling school employees and many teachers to carry handguns if they go through law enforcement training and their school districts agree to participate.
Other provisions would create new mental health programs for schools and establish an anonymous tip line where students and others could report threats to schools. The bill would also ban bump stocks that allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire and seek to improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies.
President Donald Trump congratulated Florida on the legislation, saying state lawmakers “passed a lot of very good legislation last night.”
During a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Trump said the White House was working on a plan to ban bump stocks and that efforts to enhance background checks were “moving along well” in Congress.
The Florida bill’s narrow passage reflected a mix of Republicans and Democrats in support and opposition. Survivors were split as well.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was among those killed, said more needed to be done, but there was enough good in the bill that it should pass.
“My precious daughter Meadow’s life was taken, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. But make no mistake: I’m a father, and I’m on a mission. I’m on a mission to make sure I’m the last dad to ever read a statement of this kind.”
The suspect in the attack, Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student, faces 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the massacre.
Cruz’s public defender has said he will plead guilty if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table and sentence him to life in prison instead. Prosecutors have not announced a decision.


Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

Updated 20 April 2019
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Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

  • At least 7 people were killed in the attack on the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul
  • The area around the building was sealed off by police as at least 3 attackers battled security forces for several hours

KABUL: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the communications ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said, in a deadly, hours-long assault that destroyed weeks of relative calm in the capital.
The Taliban said it had “nothing to do” with the attack, which left some 2,000 people stranded in the tall office building for hours at the start of the Afghan work week.
No other group claimed immediate responsibility, but the Afghan branch of Daesh has previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in the capital.
“As a result of today’s explosion/attack in Kabul city, two people have been martyred (killed) and 6 others are wounded,” the health ministry spokesman wrote in a tweet, adding 3 of the injured were women.
In a statement, the interior ministry said four civilians and three soldiers had been killed, though unverified social media posts suggested the final toll could be higher.
AFP journalists heard one big blast around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for hours afterwards.
“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gunbattles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.
By about 5:00 p.m. (1230 GMT), the interior ministry declared the assault over.
“Operations finished. All suicide bombers killed & more than 2000 civilians staff rescued,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Panicked workers inside the 18-story building, believed to be Kabul’s tallest, moved up to the top floor as gunmen and Afghan security officials battled lower down.
One woman said she had been in a group of about 30 people on the 10th floor when the assault started, then was told to move up to the 18th floor as gunfire increased. They were all eventually rescued by commandos.
“Women were screaming and children of the kindergarten were the first to be evacuated,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Afghan authorities gave conflicting reports during the incident. The information ministry initially said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the ministry.
General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry.
Footage on local television showed a small plume at the building, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.
The presidential palace said in a statement “the enemies of Afghanistan have conducted a terrorist attack.”
“Once again they have created fear and have killed or wounded a number of innocent countrymen,” the statement read.
The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified compound for foreign embassies.
The area is the city’s main commercial zone and is home to a large hotel.
Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week and persistent crime, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Last year however saw a string of attacks including one where a massive bomb concealed in an ambulance killed more than 100 people.
The attack comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.
It illustrates the sprawling nature of Afghanistan’s conflict, and the obstacles to peace even if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.
The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.
Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.