Student gunman kills 19 at Crimea college

Special forces servicemen patrol outside the college in the city of Kerch. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2018

Student gunman kills 19 at Crimea college

  • The attacker Vladislav Roslyakov was caught on security cameras entering the college with a rifle and firing at students
  • Russian officials at first reported a gas explosion, then said an explosive device ripped through the college canteen

MOSCOW: An 18-year student strode into his vocational school in Crimea, a hoody covering his blond hair, then pulled out a shotgun and opened fire on Wednesday, killing 19 students and wounding more than 50 others before killing himself.
It wasn’t clear what prompted Vladislav Roslyakov, described as a shy loner, to go on the rampage. A security camera image carried by Russian media showed him calmly walking down the stairs of the school in the Black Sea city of Kerch, the shotgun in his gloved hand.
“He was walking around and shooting students and teachers in cold blood,” said Sergei Aksyonov, the regional leader in Crimea.
Officials said the fourth-year student killed himself in the library of the Kerch Polytechnic College after the attack. His mother, a nurse, was helping to treat victims at a local hospital after the shootings, unaware yet that her son was accused of the rampage and was already dead.
Such school shootings are rare, and Wednesday’s attack was by far the worst by a disgruntled student in Russia, which annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. The bloodbath raised questions about school security in the country; the Kerch Polytechnic College had only a front desk with no security guards.
By the end of the day, the death toll stood at 19, though it was not clear if that figure included the shooter. Fifty-three people were wounded, including 12 in serious condition, Crimean authorities said.
It was the greatest loss of life in school violence in Russia since the Beslan terrorist attack by Chechen separatists in 2004, in which 333 people were killed during a three-day siege, many of them children, and hundreds were wounded.
The announcement that the shooter in Wednesday’s attack was a student who acted alone came after hours of rapidly shifting explanations as to what exactly happened at the school.
Officials at first reported a gas explosion, then said an explosive device had ripped through the cafeteria during lunchtime in a suspected terrorist attack.
Witnesses, however, reported that victims were being killed by gunfire. The Investigative Committee, Russia’s top crime investigation agency, eventually said all the victims died of gunshot wounds.
Reflecting the daylong confusion, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the victims were killed by an explosion just as the Investigative Committee was announcing they were fatally shot.
A somber-faced Putin deplored the attack as a “tragic event” and offered his condolences to the victims’ families at a news conference in the southern city of Sochi, where he was meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
The Investigative Committee said the explosive device rigged with shrapnel went off in the school lunchroom and Sergei Melikov, a deputy chief of the Russian National Guard, said it was homemade. Officials later found a second explosive device and destroyed it.
It was not clear what the explosive was, if the attacker detonated it, or how many people it wounded.
Guns are tightly restricted in Russia. Civilians can own only hunting rifles and smooth-bore shotguns and must undergo significant background checks. Roslyakov had only recently received a permit to own a shotgun and bought 150 cartridges just a few days ago, according to local officials.
Aksyonov, the regional leader in Crimea, said the gunman had been described as a shy boy who had no conflicts.
“He wasn’t aggressive, he was rather timid,” Aksyonov said, speculating that Roslyakov might have “watched some movies” that inspired him to go on the shooting spree.
Some Russian news reports said the shooter had left his backpack containing the explosive device in the cafeteria and remotely detonated it before he started shooting.
“I heard an explosion and saw glass shards and window frames falling down,” student Roman Voitenko said in remarks broadcast on Russian state television.
Another student, Semyon Gavrilov, said he had fallen asleep during a lecture and was awakened by the sound of shooting. He looked around and saw a young man shooting at people, he said.
“I locked the door, hoping he wouldn’t hear me,” Gavrilov told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.
He said police arrived about 10 minutes later to evacuate people and he saw dead bodies on the floor and charred walls.
Another student, Yuri Kerpek, told the state RIA Novosti news agency that the shooting went on for about 15 minutes.
Russia has seen several violent attacks by students in recent years, but none of them were even remotely as brutal as the Kerch rampage.
Early this year, a teenager armed with an ax attacked fellow students at a school in Buryatia in southern Siberia, wounding five students and a teacher. The attacker also ignited a firebomb in the class and tried to kill himself before being apprehended.
In another attack in January, two teenagers stabbed children and their teacher with knives, wounding 15 people, and then attempted to kill each other before being detained.
After Wednesday’s attack, local officials declared a state of emergency on the Black Sea peninsula and cordons of Russia’s National Guard circled the school. Security was also increased at a new 19-kilometer bridge linking the peninsula with Russia, which opened earlier this year. Military units were deployed near the college to help emergency agencies.
Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea triggered Western sanctions. Russia has also supported separatists fighting the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has left at least 10,000 people dead since 2014.
Over the past few years, Russian security agencies have arrested several Ukrainians accused of plotting terror attacks in Crimea, but no attacks have occurred.


Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.