California rail yard shooter stockpiled guns, ammo at his home: Sheriff

Samuel Cassidy the shooter who killed 9 at California rail yard had 12 guns, 22,000 rounds of ammunition at house he set on fire. (Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office via AP)
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Samuel Cassidy the shooter who killed 9 at California rail yard had 12 guns, 22,000 rounds of ammunition at house he set on fire. (Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Samuel Cassidy the shooter who killed 9 at California rail yard had 12 guns, 22,000 rounds of ammunition at house he set on fire. (Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office via AP)
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Samuel Cassidy the shooter who killed 9 at California rail yard had 12 guns, 22,000 rounds of ammunition at house he set on fire. (Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office via AP)
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Updated 29 May 2021

California rail yard shooter stockpiled guns, ammo at his home: Sheriff

California rail yard shooter stockpiled guns, ammo at his home: Sheriff
  • Police say it is clear that Samuel James Cassidy planned "to take as many lives as he possibly could”

SAN FRANCISCO, US: The gunman who killed nine of his co-workers at a California rail yard had stockpiled weapons and 25,000 rounds of ammunition at his house before setting it on fire to coincide with the bloodshed at the workplace he seethed about for years, authorities said Friday.
Investigators found 12 guns, multiple cans of gasoline and suspected Molotov cocktails at Samuel James Cassidy’s house in San Jose, the Santa Clara County sheriff’s office said in a news release.
He also rigged an unusual time-delay method to ensure the house caught fire while he was out, putting “ammunition in a cooking pot on a stove” in his home, Deputy Russell Davis told The Associated Press. The liquid in the pot — investigators don’t yet know what was inside — reached a boiling point, igniting an accelerant and potentially the gunpowder in the bullets nearby.
The cache at the home the 57-year-old torched was on top of the three 9 mm handguns he brought Wednesday to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, authorities said. He also had 32 high-capacity magazines and fired 39 shots.
The handguns found at the site were legally registered to Cassidy, Davis said, without elaborating on how he obtained them. Davis did not specify what type of guns officers found at his home, nor if they were legally owned.




Samuel Casssidy’s elderly father has reportedly descrived his son as bipolar. (Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Authorities described a home filled with clutter, with items piled up to the point where it appeared Cassidy might be a hoarder, and weapons stored near the home’s doorways and in other spots.
Sgt. Joe Piazza told reporters the variety of spots where Cassidy stashed the guns might be so he could “access them in a time of emergency,” such as if law enforcement came to his house.
Cassidy killed himself as sheriff’s deputies rushed into the rail yard complex in the heart of Silicon Valley, where he fatally shot nine men ranging in age from 29 to 63. He had worked there for more than 20 years.
What prompted the bloodshed remains under investigation, officials said.
While witnesses and Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith have said Cassidy appeared to target certain people, the sheriff’s office said Friday that “it is clear that this was a planned event and the suspect was prepared to use his firearms to take as many lives as he possibly could.”
Casssidy’s elderly father, James, told the Mercury News in San Jose that his son was bipolar. He said that was no excuse for the shooting and apologized to the victims’ families.
“I don’t think anything I could say could ease their grief. I’m really, really very sorry about that.”
Neighbors and former lovers described him as moody, unfriendly and prone to angry outbursts at times. But they expressed shock he would kill.
Cassidy’s ex-wife, Cecilia Nelms, said he had talked about killing people at work more than a decade ago, describing him as resentful and angry over what he perceived as unfair assignments.
US customs officers even caught him in 2016 with books about terrorism and fear as well as a memo book filled with notes about how much he hated the Valley Transportation Authority. But he was let go, and a resulting Department of Homeland Security memo on the encounter was not shared with local authorities.
It’s not clear why customs officers detained Cassidy on his return from the Philippines. The contents of the memo, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, were described to The Associated Press by a Biden administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The memo notes that Cassidy was asked whether he had issues with people at work, and he said no. It refers to a “minor criminal history,” citing a 1983 arrest in San Jose and charges of “misdemeanor obstruction/resisting a peace officer.”
San Jose police said they sought an FBI history on Cassidy and found no record of federal arrests or convictions.
Mayor Sam Liccardo, a former prosecutor, said that while he has not seen the Homeland Security memo, it’s not a crime to hate your job.
“The question is, how specific was that information?” he said. “Particularly, were there statements made suggesting a desire to commit violence against individuals?”
The president of the union that represents transit workers at the rail yard sought Friday to refute a report that Cassidy was scheduled to attend a workplace disciplinary hearing with a union representative Wednesday over racist comments.
John Courtney, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265, said in a statement that he was at the facility “simply to check on working conditions and the continual safety of the dedicated men and women who work there.”
The attack comes amid an uptick in mass shootings following coronavirus shutdowns in much of the country last year. Since 2006, there have been at least 14 workplace massacres in the United States that killed at least four people and stemmed from employment grievances, according to a database on mass killings maintained by the AP, USA Today and Northeastern University.
Patrick Gorman, special agent in charge of the San Francisco field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said he was not aware of any information about Cassidy, such as tips from the public, being shared with his division before the shooting. He said the entire San Jose field office responded to the crime scenes, along with other regional special agents.
Kirk Bertolet, 64, was just starting his shift when shots rang out, and he saw some of his co-workers take their last breaths.
Bertolet, a signal maintenance worker who worked in a separate unit from Cassidy, said he is convinced Cassidy targeted his victims because he didn’t hurt some people he encountered.
“He was pissed off at certain people. He was angry, and he took his vengeance out on very specific people. He shot people. He let others live,” he said.
Video footage showed Cassidy calmly walking from one building to another with a duffel bag filled with guns and ammunition to complete the slaughter, authorities said.
Bertolet said Cassidy worked regularly with the victims, but he always seemed to be an outsider.
“He was never in the group. He was never accepted by anybody there. He was always that guy that was never partaking in anything that the people were doing,” Bertolet said.
 


German woman indicted over her time with Daesh in Syria

German woman indicted over her time with Daesh in Syria
Updated 21 min 16 sec ago

German woman indicted over her time with Daesh in Syria

German woman indicted over her time with Daesh in Syria

BERLIN: A German woman who traveled to Syria to join the Daesh group and whose husband bought a Yazidi woman as a slave has been charged with membership in a terror group and being an accessory to a crime against humanity, German prosecutors said Wednesday.
The indictment of Leonora M., whose full name wasn’t released because of local privacy rules, is the latest in a string of cases in Germany involving women who went to the area held by Daesh and were involved in holding women captured by the extremist group as slaves.
Federal prosecutors said the suspect went to Syria and joined Daesh in 2015 and became the “third wife” of a member of the group. She is accused of enabling her husband’s activities for Daesh by running their household in Raqqa and writing his application for a job in the group’s intelligence service.
The suspect herself allegedly worked at an Daesh-controlled hospital and snooped on wives of Daesh fighters for the group’s intelligence service.
Prosecutors said her husband bought a 33-year-old Yazidi woman as a slave in 2015 with the aim of selling her with her two small children. Leonora M., they said, cared for the woman so that she could be sold on at a profit — which she subsequently was.
The suspect surrendered to Kurdish fighters in January 2019 as IS lost the areas it held in Syria. She was brought back to Germany in December last year and arrested after her arrival.
The indictment was filed on July 7 at a court in the eastern town of Naumburg.


Taliban tell China Afghanistan will not be base for separatists

Taliban tell China Afghanistan will not be base for separatists
Updated 46 min 18 sec ago

Taliban tell China Afghanistan will not be base for separatists

Taliban tell China Afghanistan will not be base for separatists
  • Taliban officials have cranked up their international diplomacy in recent months

KABUL: A top-level Taliban delegation visiting China assured Beijing the group will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for plotting against another country, an insurgent spokesman said Wednesday.
The delegation is in China for talks with Beijing officials, spokesman Mohammad Naeem told AFP, as the insurgents continue a sweeping offensive across Afghanistan — including areas along their shared border.
Their frontier is just 76 kilometers (47 miles) long — and at a rugged high altitude without a road crossing — but Beijing fears Afghanistan could be used as a staging ground for Uyghur separatists in Xinjiang.
“The Islamic Emirate assured China that Afghanistan’s soil would not be used against any country’s security,” Naeem said.
“They (China) promised not to interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs, but instead help to solve problems and bring peace.”
Taliban officials have cranked up their international diplomacy in recent months, seeking global recognition for when they hope to return to power.
They have made sweeping advances across Afghanistan since May, when US-led foreign forces began the last stage of a withdrawal due to be completed next month.
Beijing hosted a Taliban delegation in 2019, but back-door links with the insurgents stretch back longer, through Pakistan.
Communist Party leaders in Beijing and the fundamentalist Taliban have little ideological common ground, but experts feel shared pragmatism could see mutual self-interest trump sensitive differences.
For Beijing, a stable and cooperative administration in Kabul would pave the way for an expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative into Afghanistan and through the Central Asian republics.
The Taliban, meanwhile, would consider China a crucial source of investment and economic support.
“China can deal with the Taliban... but they still find the Taliban’s religious agenda and motivations inherently discomforting,” Andrew Small, author of “The China-Pakistan Axis,” told AFP earlier this month.
“They have never been sure how willing or able the Taliban really are to enforce agreements on issues such as harboring Uyghur militants.”
The Taliban’s campaign has so far seen them capture scores of districts, border crossings and encircle several provincial capitals.
Government forces have abandoned some rural districts without a fight, but are digging in to defend provincial capitals even as the insurgents tighten a noose around the cities.
Rights groups have accused the insurgents of committing atrocities in territories under their control, including in the border town of Spin Boldak, where Afghan officials accuse Taliban fighters of killing around 100 civilians.
The nine-member Taliban team in China is led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder of the hard-line movement.


Risking China’s anger, Blinken meets representative of Dalai Lama in India

Risking China’s anger, Blinken meets representative of Dalai Lama in India
Updated 28 July 2021

Risking China’s anger, Blinken meets representative of Dalai Lama in India

Risking China’s anger, Blinken meets representative of Dalai Lama in India
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also met his Indian counterpart, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with a representative of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in New Delhi on Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson said, a move that is likely to provoke anger in China.
Blinken met briefly with Ngodup Dongchung, who serves as a representative of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), also known as the Tibetan government in exile, the spokesperson said.
Chinese troops seized Tibet in 1950 in what Beijing calls a “peaceful liberation.” In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
The CTA and Tibetan advocacy groups have received a boost in international support in recent months amid rising criticism of China’s human rights record, particularly from the United States.
In November, Lobsang Sangay, the former head of the Tibetan government in exile, visited the White House, the first such visit in six decades.
A month later, the US Congress passed the Tibet Policy and Support Act, which calls for the right of Tibetans to choose the successor to the Dalai Lama, and the establishment of a US consulate in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.
Blinken’s meeting with Dongchung is the most significant contact with the Tibetan leadership since the Dalai Lama met then-president Barack Obama in Washington in 2016.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Beijing says Tibet is a part of China and has labelled the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist.
In his first visit to India since joining US President Joe Biden’s administration, Blinken also met his Indian counterpart, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and other officials on Wednesday before heading to see Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The two sides are expected to discuss supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, the security situation in Afghanistan, and India’s human rights record.
Speaking to a group of civil society leaders at a New Delhi hotel, Blinken said that the relationship between the United States and India was “one of the most important in the world.”
“The Indian people and the American people believe in human dignity and equality of opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms including freedom of religion and belief . . . these are the fundamental tenets of democracies like ours,” he said.
“And of course, both of our democracies are works in progress. As friends we talk about that.”
Indian foreign ministry sources said ahead of Blinken’s visit that the country was proud of its pluralistic traditions and happy to discuss the issue with him.
Modi’s government has faced allegations of suppressing dissent, pursuing divisive policies to appeal to its Hindu nationalist base and alienating Muslims, the country’s biggest minority.
Blinken arrived in India on Tuesday night and leaves for Kuwait later on Wednesday.


Myanmar junta seeks international cooperation over COVID-19 crisis

Myanmar junta seeks international cooperation over COVID-19 crisis
Updated 28 July 2021

Myanmar junta seeks international cooperation over COVID-19 crisis

Myanmar junta seeks international cooperation over COVID-19 crisis
  • Junta leader says COVID-19 vaccinations needed to be increased
  • Efforts to tackle the outbreak have been further hampered by some of the worst flooding in years in eastern Myanmar

Myanmar’s military ruler is looking for greater cooperation with the international community to contain the coronavirus, state media reported on Wednesday, as the Southeast Asian country struggles with a surging wave of infections.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing called in a speech for more cooperation on prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19, including with fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and “friendly countries,” the Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
The junta leader said vaccinations needed to be increased, through both donated doses and by developing domestic production, aided by Russia, the newspaper said, adding Myanmar would seek the release of funds from an ASEAN COVID-19 fund.
Myanmar recently received two million more Chinese vaccines, but it was believed to have only vaccinated about 3.2 percent of its population, according to a Reuters tracker.
There have been desperate efforts by people to find oxygen in many parts of the country. The Myanmar Now news portal, citing witnesses, reported that at least eight people died in a Yangon hospital at the weekend after a piped oxygen system failed.
Reuters could not independently confirm the report and the North Okkalapa General Hospital and a health ministry spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Infections in Myanmar have surged since June, with 4,964 cases and 338 deaths reported on Tuesday, according to health ministry data cited in media. Medics and funeral services put the toll much higher.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the military ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, with regular protests and fighting between the army and newly formed militias.
Last week, prisoners in Yangon staged a protest over what activists said was a major COVID-19 outbreak in the colonial-era Insein jail, where many pro-democracy protesters are being held.
Efforts to tackle the outbreak have been further hampered by some of the worst flooding in years in eastern Myanmar.
The military has appeared wary of outside help in past disasters, particularly if it believes strings are attached, forcing Myanmar’s people to help each other, though a previous junta did allow in aid via ASEAN after the devastating cyclone Nargis in 2008.
Despite Min Aung Hlaing agreeing to an ASEAN peace plan reached in April, the military has shown little sign of following through on it and has instead reiterated its own, entirely different plan to restore order and democracy.
The military justified its coup by accusing Suu Kyi’s party of manipulating votes in a November general election to secure a landslide victory. The electoral commission at the time and outside observers rejected the complaints.
But in a further sign of the junta’s tightening grip on power, the military-appointed election commission this week officially annulled the November results, saying the vote was not in line with the constitution and electoral laws, and was not “free and fair,” army-run MRTV network reported.


Three Armenian soldiers killed in clashes with Azerbaijan

Three Armenian soldiers killed in clashes with Azerbaijan
Updated 28 July 2021

Three Armenian soldiers killed in clashes with Azerbaijan

Three Armenian soldiers killed in clashes with Azerbaijan
  • In six weeks of fighting last September to November, Azeri troops drove ethnic Armenian forces out of swathes of territory they had controlled since the 1990s

MOSCOW: Three Armenian soldiers were killed in an exchange of gunfire with Azerbaijan forces, Armenia’s defense ministry said on Wednesday.
In six weeks of fighting last September to November, Azeri troops drove ethnic Armenian forces out of swathes of territory they had controlled since the 1990s in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region, before Russia brokered a cease-fire.