More than 20 injured in Rome escalator collapse

First responders enter the underground access with stretchers to evacuate wounded persons in central Rome on Tuesday, October 23. (AFP)
Updated 24 October 2018
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More than 20 injured in Rome escalator collapse

  • Media reports said witnesses spoke of football fans, seemingly drunk, jumping and dancing on the escalator just before its collapse
  • Rome’s public transport is often criticized as running on obsolete equipment

ROME: More than 20 people, mainly Russian football fans, were injured Tuesday when an escalator in a metro station in central Rome collapsed, firefighters said.
Most of those hurt, one seriously, suffered leg injuries after getting entangled in the escalator’s mangled mechanics, Italian media added.
A video of the drama shows the descending escalator at Repubblica station suddenly and dramatically pick up speed with dozens of people on it, many screaming as they piled on top of one another at the foot of the moving stairway.
Media reports said witnesses spoke of football fans, seemingly drunk, jumping and dancing on the escalator just before its collapse, but supporters denied this ever happened.
“In any event, we are here to understand what happened and to offer our support to the wounded and their families,” Rome mayor Virginia Raggi told journalists at the scene.
Some of the victims were seen wrapped in blankets and some wore neck braces as they were taken away from the scene on stretchers by emergency crews.
Several investigations have been opened, and the metro station near Rome’s Termini train station was closed.
The horrific events took place around 1730 GMT, just over an hour before the kickoff of a Champions League match between Italy’s Roma and Russian club CSKA Moscow.
The Russian fans were headed for the metro that would have linked them to the train to the stadium.
There was heightened security in Rome for some 1,500 Russian supporters, notoriously rowdy, expected to watch the game.
One Russian supporter, the subject of a stadium ban, had already been stopped at the airport as he tried to enter.
But according to Italian media, this did not prevent an assortment of incidents around the stadium hosting the match. One Russian fan was stabbed with a knife, and two others were hurt in clashes with other supporters.
Roma won the group stage match 3-0, tweeting after the match that: “The thoughts of everyone at #ASRoma are with the supporters injured prior to tonight’s game. The club will do everything it can to provide the right support and assistance to those in need.”
Red-Blue World, a CSKA fan group, set up a collection fund for those injured, as well as fans hurt in violence near the stadium.
Rome’s public transport is often criticized as running on obsolete equipment.
In recent years, more than a dozen municipal buses have caught fire while in service, with several reports of metro passengers injured by malfunctioning hardware.
And a massive bridge collapse in Genoa in August — which killed 43 people — also raised safety questions about transport infrastructure in Italy.
Incidents on escalators have caused injuries, and even deaths, around the world.
In 2015, a woman was killed after she plunged through flooring over an escalator in a Chinese department store.
Security camera footage showed a panel in the floor giving way as the woman stepped off the escalator. As she fell half-way through she pushed her son forward, and a nearby shop assistant dragged him to safety.
And in March 2017, around 20 people were injured at a Hong Kong shopping center when an escalator suddenly changed direction, sending people hurtling toward its base.


Tony Blair: UK Muslim activist groups promote ‘extremist world view’ 

Updated 18 January 2019
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Tony Blair: UK Muslim activist groups promote ‘extremist world view’ 

  • Organizations stir up resentment by portraying Muslims in Britain as victims and alienated, report finds
  • Divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are "threatening social cohesion"

LONDON: Former British prime minister Tony Blair has accused some Muslim organizations in Britain of spreading views that often mirror those of extremists. 

While they are non-violent, such groups stir up resentment by portraying Muslims in Britain as victims, alienated from British society and in constant conflict with the non-Muslim world. 

Most disturbingly, they “promote a worldview that significantly overlaps with that of a proscribed Islamist extremist organisation, Al-Muhajiroun” - a banned group which does espouse violence.

The allegations appear in a report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change - the think tank Blair founded after leaving office - and names four groups: CAGE, Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK and Islamic Human Rights Commission.

The report identifies six “key themes” shared by all four groups: Victimization, opposition between “good” and “bad” Muslims, opposition between Islam and the West, a delegitimization of the government, making Islam central to national politics and justification of violence.

“There is a range of views on these six themes, with differing degrees of severity from mainstream to extreme,” the report says. Of the four, Hizb ut-Tahrir comes close to sharing Al-Muhajiroun’s stance on violence. 

Banned since 2000, Al-Muhajiroun notoriously dubbed those  behind the Sept. 11 attacks “the Magnificent 19” and several of the group’s adherents have perpetrated other atrocities. 

The report warns that such a “corrosive narrative” promoting divisiveness between Muslims and non-Muslims can only embolden the far right and calls on the UK government to establish “a working definition of extremism” by identifying the key ideas that would “flag up” potential danger.

“Divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are threatening social cohesion in Britain today,” said the former prime minister, who went on to serve as a special Middle East envoy. 

Tony Blair said divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are threatening social cohesion. (AFP)

“Countering and recognizing this is an essential part of fighting extremism because - let us be clear - there is nothing incompatible between being British and being Muslim. But too many people, Muslims and non-Muslims, actively push messages that suggest otherwise.”

 The result, he said, was a “skewed discourse” in which fringe views dominate because moderate voices are afraid to speak out. Blair also accused  UK politicians of giving up on the discussion.

“Many Muslims in the UK hear more from divisive groups about how there is a security state set up to oppress them than they hear from our national leaders about how communities and policymakers can work together to build a thriving, inclusive Britain,” he said.

“Often when people think of this challenge, they focus entirely on violent, jihadi groups. Yet, as this report shows, many of the central ideas that British Muslims are hearing today from some activist groups are worryingly similar to the ideology of violent extremist groups.”

The Home Office (interior ministry) of the UK government describes Hizb ut-Tahrir as a “radical, but to date non-violent Islamist group” that “holds anti-semitic, anti-western and homophobic views.” Almost all the articles on the Hizb ut-Tahrir website portray Muslims as oppressed and bullied. Some articles are clearly anti-Saudi in tone and content.

CAGE was founded as an advocacy service to raise awareness of the plight of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay during and after the War on Terror. Its outreach director, Moazzam Beg was himself held in Guantanamo Bay for two years before being released without charge. However critics have labelled CAGE “apologists for terrorism,” a “terrorism advocacy group,” propagators of a “myth of Muslim persecution” and “a front for Taliban enthusiasts and Al-Qaeda devotees that fraudulently presents itself as a human rights group.”

The British-born Daesh extremist Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John, who was filmed beheading hostages had been in contact with CAGE while in the UK, complaining that he was being harassed by British intelligence agencies.

Responding to the Blair Institute report, CAGE called it “an academically flawed attempt to remould Islamic belief and silence Muslim voices that challenge repressive state policies,” and dismissed the former prime minister as “commonly known for being funded by despots.”

CAGE research director Asim Qureshi said: “It’s unsurprising, considering Tony Blair’s penchant for misinformation that his organization would use seriously flawed methodology in order to draw false conclusions.”

Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has held consultative status with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs since 2007. However it has also been described as “a radical Islamist organisation that uses the language of human rights to promote an extremist agenda including the adoption of sharia law” and “neo-Khomeinist.” 

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK encourages tactical voting in elections to dislodge members of parliament who support policies which it considers not be in Muslims’ interest. In 2005, the MPACUK targeted Lorna Fitzsimmons, a Labour MP for Rochdale, a town in north-west England with a large Muslim population, printing leaflets that claimed she had done nothing to help the Palestinian cause because she was Jewish. She is not and the group later apologized.

Former home secretary Jack Straw, whose parliamentary seat in Blackburn also has a large Muslim population, called the group “egregious” after it campaigned for Muslims to oust him. 

Azmina Siddique, policy adviser at the Tony Blair Institute, said: “The groups studied in this report don’t represent what most British Muslims think…This isn’t about violent extremism but about sowing division. This ‘us versus them’ rhetoric is becomingly increasingly visible across our society, including from the far right. Policymakers and civil society must start to challenge rhetoric that falls into this grey space between activism and extremism so that we can tackle the increasingly toxic climate that is feeding into extremism.”

Arab News asked the three other UK groups to comment on the report but none of them responded.