Austin bombing suspect blows himself up as SWAT moves in

Police officers investigate the scene where a suspected bomber blew himself up on March 21, 2018, in Round Rock, Texas, north of Austin. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Austin bombing suspect blows himself up as SWAT moves in

ROUND ROCK, Texas: The suspect in the deadly bombings that terrorized Austin blew himself up early Wednesday as authorities closed in on him, bringing a grisly end to a three-week manhunt. But police warned that more bombs could be out there.
The suspect’s motive remained a mystery, along with whether he acted alone in the five bombings in the Texas capital and suburban San Antonio that killed two people and wounded four others.
Police zeroed in on the 24-year-old man in the last 24 to 36 hours and located his vehicle at a hotel on Interstate 35 in the suburb of Round Rock. Officers were waiting for armored vehicles to arrive before moving in for an arrest when his vehicle began to drive away, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said at a news conference.
Authorities followed the vehicle, which ran into a ditch on the side of the road, he said.
When members of the SWAT team approached, the suspect detonated an explosive device inside the vehicle, the police chief said. The blast knocked one officer back, and a second officer fired his weapon, Manley said.
A law enforcement official identified the dead man as Mark Anthony Conditt. The official, who has been briefed on the investigation, spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
Authorities released few details about the suspect, except his age and that he was white. But online postings indicate he was home schooled. He later attended Austin Community College from 2010 to 2012, according to a college spokeswoman, but he did not graduate.
A blogger who identified himself as Mark Conditt of Pflugerville described his interests as cycling, tennis and listening to music. In blogs dated from 2012, he wrote that gay marriage should be illegal and called for the elimination of sex offender registrations.
The mayor of Pflugerville, an Austin suburb not far from the site of the first of four bombings, said the suspect lived in his city, just two blocks from his house.
Pflugerville resident Jay Schulze said he was jogging Tuesday night when he was stopped by police and asked about the bombings. He said police flew drones over a home for about six hours between Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning.
He described the home over which the drones were flying as “a weird house with a lot of people coming and going” and a bit rundown.
Austin was hit with four package bombings starting on March 2. A fifth parcel bomb went off early Tuesday at a FedEx distribution center near San Antonio.
Citing a high-ranking law enforcement official, the Austin American-Statesman reported that authorities had identified the suspect based largely on information, including security video, gleaned after he sent an explosive device from an Austin-area FedEx store.
Police warned Wednesday of the possibility that more bombs had yet to be found.
“We don’t know where this suspect has spent his last 24 hours, and therefore we still need to remain vigilant to ensure that no other packages or devices have been left to the community,” Manley said.
Authorities initially believed the bombings may have been hate crimes because the victims of the earliest blasts were black, but they backed off that theory after Hispanic and white victims from different parts of the city were also affected.
Fred Milanowski, an agent with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said it was “hard to say” if the bombing suspect had acted alone.
“What we do know is we believe the same person built each one of these devices,” said Milanowski, the agent in charge of the Houston division of the ATF.
Asked if the suspect built bombs before the Austin attacks, Milanowski said: “We know when he bought some of the components. It’s hard to say whether he was building along the way.”
Austin Mayor Steve Adler thanked law enforcement for their work in bringing down the suspect and urged residents to continue to report anything that appeared suspicious or out of place.
Isaac Figueroa, 26, said he and his brother heard sirens and helicopters early Wednesday in the area and drove toward them, then cut through nearby woods on foot after they hit a police roadblock.
Figueroa said they saw a silver or gray Jeep Cherokee that was pinned between black and white vehicles and “looked like it had been rammed off the road.” He said he saw police deploy a robot to go examine the Jeep.
President Donald Trump, who had earlier said whoever was responsible for the Austin bombings was “obviously a very sick individual or individuals,” tweeted, “AUSTIN BOMBING SUSPECT IS DEAD. Great job by law enforcement and all concerned!“
The suspect’s death followed a day of rapid-fire developments in the case.
Early Tuesday, a bomb inside a package exploded as it passed along a conveyer belt at a FedEx shipping center in Schertz, northeast of San Antonio and about 60 miles (95 kilometers) southwest of Austin. One worker reported ringing in her ears and was treated at the scene.
Later in the morning, police sent a bomb squad to a FedEx facility outside the Austin airport to check on a suspicious package. Federal agencies and police later said that package had indeed contained an explosive that was successfully intercepted and that it, too, was tied to the other bombings.
The Schertz blast came two days after a bombing wounded two men Sunday night in a quiet Austin neighborhood about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the FedEx store. It was triggered by a nearly invisible tripwire.


India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 

Updated 8 min 52 sec ago
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India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 

  •  “Modicare” plans to provide around $7,000 of medical coverage to half a billion people
  • The program has been launched in 400 districts out of 640 in India

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a mega health care scheme, touted as the world’s biggest public health scheme, on Sunday in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. 

The National Health Protection Scheme, popularly known as “Modicare,” plans to provide around $7,000 of medical coverage to 100 million families or 500 million people, accounting for around 41 percent of people who fall below the poverty line.

 “The aim is to provide medical care to the people standing at the very margin of society. It has been a dream to provide health care to the needy and that dream is coming true today,” Modi said in a speech after inaugurating the scheme.

 “This is the first time in the world that a health care program is being launched where an individual will have an insurance cover of 5 lakh rupees ($7,000).”

The program has been launched in 400 districts out of 640 in India.

The intervention is meant to take the burden off the government hospitals and bring the expensive private hospitals within the reach of poor people.

For Ganesh Yadav, a daily wage earner, the “Ayushman Bharat Yojna,” as the program is officially called, is “a good move by the government if it really works.

 “Last year I spent more than 50,000 rupees ($720) in getting a kidney stone removed in a private hospital and I am still struggling to pay back the debt that I incurred. If the Modicare really works then poor people like me will not have to worry about the expenses in health care,” said Yadav, who lives in Noida, a satellite town of Delhi.

But one doctor raises doubts about the success of the program.

“An earlier health scheme also had the provision for insurance cover but the out-of-cost expenses of the poor people could not come down. There is a lack of clarity on this issue in the new scheme as well,” says Dr. Shakil, a cardiologist based in Patna, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
 
Talking to Arab News, he asks: “How will you identify the real beneficiaries? Besides, the scheme will not build public health infrastructure but give benefit to the private players, which I think is the real drawback of this policy.
 
“The government is in a hurry to launch the scheme and not many preparations have gone into it before inaugurating it.”

Economist Venkat Narayana questions the budgetary provisions for the scheme. “Under the scheme 60 percent of expenses would be borne by the central government and 40 percent by the state government. But the poorer states cannot afford the huge sums involved in the expenditure,” says Narayana, who also runs NGOs for poor people in Warangal district in the South Indian state of Telangana.

“My experience suggests that such a program does not address the real health care needs of the people living in villages and smaller cities. The money that the government plans to spend on insurance can be spent in expanding and enriching the medical infrastructure across the country.”

But Nirala, a political activist associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, feels that “this is a visionary intervention in the health care system of the country.

“Modi has tried to address the gap that exists in medical system of the country by bringing private hospitals within the reach of the poor masses,” he told Arab News.

Political analyst Pawan Pratyay, however, feels that Prime Minister Modi "has played a big political gamble in the election year by launching this attractive looking and sounding health care policy.

“The government has been cutting the health budget year after year. By bringing this pro-poor scheme Modi wants to change the pro-rich image that he has acquired over the years and attract the voters from the economically marginalized demography.”