Cyprus ‘serial killer’ appears in court, accused of rape

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A boat equipped with a sonar system sails on the acidic Red Lake near the village of Mitsero, southwest of the capital Nicosia, during the search for possible bodies of victims of a suspected serial killer, on May 4, 2019. (AFP)
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A boat equipped with a sonar system is seen in Kokkinopezoula lake, also known as “red lake,” is seen during the search for possible bodies of victims of a suspected serial killer near the village of Mitsero, Cyprus, May 4, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 05 May 2019
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Cyprus ‘serial killer’ appears in court, accused of rape

NICOSIA: A Cypriot army officer who has allegedly confessed to killing seven foreign women and girls over nearly three years appeared in court Sunday, where police accused him of raping a teenager.
Captain Nicos Metaxas, 35, has not yet been formally charged over the murders — dubbed the Mediterranean island’s ‘first serial killings’, which have unleashed anger against what the president described as police “negligence.”
At the hearing on Sunday the suspect — first arrested on April 18 — was remanded in custody for a further eight days.
Neophytos Shailos, head of Nicosia’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), told the Nicosia district court a Filipino woman, 19, came forward to file a complaint that Metaxas raped her.
The police chief told the court that the suspect denied the allegation when questioned about it.
Shailos testified that the young woman said she made contact with the army officer online in 2016 when she replied to a modelling job for a photoshoot.
Metaxas appeared in court without a lawyer and told the judge he had “no objections” to being remanded.
Police said they were receiving a “deluge of information” about the suspect’s activities with 350 witness statements taken and another 150 to be processed.
The killings came to light in mid-April when unusually heavy rains brought the body of 38-year-old Filipino Mary Rose Tiburcio to the surface of the disused mine shaft where it had been hidden.
That triggered a murder investigation which led to Metaxas being detained.
Days later, authorities found the body of a second woman in the shaft, believed to be Arian Palanas Lozano, 28, also from the Philippines.
These are the only two women to be officially identified.
The suspect then guided investigators to a well near an army firing range outside the capital, where police found the body of a third victim — a woman thought to be from Nepal.
Police subsequently recovered the remains of a fourth victim, stuffed in a suitcase at the bottom of a toxic man-made lake next to a disused mine southwest of the capital Nicosia.
Cypriot authorities have been accused of failing to properly investigate the women’s disappearances due to neglect and racism.
President Nicos Anastasiades on Friday fired top police officer Zacharias Chrysostomou a day after Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou announced his resignation over the case.
Authorities have acknowledged that all the women and girls that the army officer has admitted to killing were reported missing to police, except the one from Nepal who was reported to immigration for being absent from her place of employment.


‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

Updated 21 May 2019
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‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

  • Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise
  • It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago

COLOMBO: One month after the Sri Lanka suicide attacks that killed more than 250 people, investigators have told AFP the bombers used “Mother of Satan” explosives favored by the Daesh group that are a new sign of foreign involvement.
Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise.
They named the explosive as triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, an unstable but easily made mixture favored by Daesh militants who call it “Mother of Satan.”
It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago.
Daesh has claimed the Sri Lankan bombers operated as part of its franchise. But Sri Lankan and international investigators are anxious to know just how much outside help went into the attacks that left 258 dead and 500 injured.
“The group had easy access to chemicals and fertilizer to get the raw materials to make TATP,” an official involved in the investigation told AFP.
Sri Lankan detectives say the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), local militants blamed for the attacks, must have had foreign help to assemble the bombs.

“They would have had a face-to-face meeting to transfer this technology. This is not something you can do by watching a YouTube video,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Investigators had initially believed that C4 explosives — a favored weapon of Tamil Tiger rebels — were used, but forensic tests found TATP which causes more burning than C4.
Police have also confirmed that 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives found in January in the island’s northwest was TATP.
They are checking the travel records of the suicide bombers as well as foreign suspects to see when and where bomb-making lessons could have been staged.
“It looks like they used a cocktail of TATP and gelignite and some chemicals in the Easter attacks. They were short of the 100 kilos of raw TATP that were seized in January,” said the investigator.
Sri Lankan security forces have staged a series of raids since the bombings. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said Sunday that 89 suspects are in custody.
Army chief Mahesh Senanayake said last week that at least two suspects have been arrested in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, underscoring the international link.
On April 26, six militants, three widows of the suicide bombers and six of their children were killed at an NTJ safe house near the eastern coastal town of Kalmunai.
Police found large quantities of chemicals and fertilizer there that was probably meant to make bombs, authorities said.
The government has admitted that Indian warnings of the looming attacks in early April were ignored.
But President Maithripala Sirisena has said eight countries are helping the investigation. A US Federal Bureau of Investigation team is in Sri Lanka and Britain, Australia and India have provided forensic and technical support.
China offered a fleet of vehicles to bolster the mobility of the security forces tracking down militants.

The Sri Lankan who led the attacks, Zahran Hashim, was known to have traveled to India in the months before he became one of the suicide bombers.
Moderate Muslims had warned authorities about the radical cleric who first set off alarm bells in 2017 when he threatened non-Muslims.
He was one of two bombers who killed dozens of victims at Colombo’s Shangri-La hotel on April 21.
Army chief Senanayake said Hashim had traveled to Tamil Nadu state in southern India and been in contact with extremists there.
Hashim, one of seven bombers who staged the attacks, also appeared in an Daesh group video that claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Another bomber who was meant to have hit a fourth hotel, has been named as Abdul Latheef Jameel who studied aviation engineering in Britain and Australia.
Authorities in the two countries are investigating whether he was radicalized whilst abroad.
Jameel blew himself up when confronted at a hideout after the attacks.