Texas Muslims express support for hostages in synagogue assault

Texas Muslims express support for hostages in synagogue assault
An aerial view of police standing in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 16 January 2022

Texas Muslims express support for hostages in synagogue assault

Texas Muslims express support for hostages in synagogue assault
  • Imams at nearby mosques condemned the violence and prayed for the safety of the synagogue's congregation
  • The FBI on Sunday identified the gunman killed as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram

CHICAGO: Leaders of the Muslim community in Texas and activists around the US expressed support for members of a synagogue in Colleyville which came under attack on Saturday, sparking a 10-hour hostage crisis.

A SWAT team breached the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue at around 9:30 p.m. in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, freeing all the hostages.

No members of the synagogue’s congregation were injured, but the gunman was killed, police said without releasing details. The rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, was reported to be among the four held hostage.

The FBI on Sunday identified the gunman who was killed as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram.

Imams at nearby mosques quickly responded with statements of support and prayers for the safety of the synagogue's congregation and condemnations of the violence.

“We are shocked and horrified at what is transpiring in the Colleyville synagogue,” said Imam Jawaid Alam, from the Islamic Center of Southlake, as word spread of the hostage crisis. “They are going through an appalling ordeal and we stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and we condemn these atrocious actions. We will provide our support and hope that this situation comes to a safe resolution as soon as possible. Ameen.”

The Secretary-General of the US Council of Muslim Organizations Oussama Jammal said that Muslims across the US stand in solidarity with “the Colleyville and broader American Jewish community,” and are “relieved” at their safe release.

“This heinous attack on a synagogue, a sacred and inviolable place of worship – and its congregants in the act of prayer – is utterly unacceptable. Whoever the attacker is and whatever his claimed motivations, there can be no excuse for this horrific crime. We praise God for their return to their loved ones,” Jammal said.

Police issued updates on Twitter as the hostage situation continued throughout Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Colleyville Police Spokesperson Sgt. Dara Nelson said a 911 call came in just before 11 a.m.

“Officers arrived on scene and observed an emergency situation that warranted evacuation of the surrounding areas and an external perimeter was established,” Nelson said. “The Colleyville Police Department is on scene along with the FBI's Dallas Field Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the North Tarrant Regional SWAT Team and other neighboring agencies.”

Nelson said a gunman was holding several hostages inside the synagogue and reported that at 5 p.m. the suspect released one male hostage uninjured. FBI crisis negotiators were in communication with the suspect, Nelson added.

The SWAT team entered the synagogue and freed all of the hostages and the suspect was killed.

US President Joe Biden issued a statement immediately after the hostages were released late Saturday night.

“Thanks to the courageous work of state, local and federal law enforcement, four Americans who were held hostage at a Texas synagogue will soon be home with their families. I am grateful to the tireless work of law enforcement at all levels who acted cooperatively and fearlessly to rescue the hostages. We are sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community,” he said.

“There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate—we will stand against antisemitism and against the rise of extremism in this country. That is who we are, and tonight, the men and women of law enforcement made us all proud.”

On Sunday, Biden said that the hostage taker had got his weapons off the street.

The hostage incident in Colleyville, Texas, “was an act of terror; it was an act of terror,” said Biden, who was in Philadelphia with first lady Jill Biden.

Pro-Palestinian activists also issued statements against the violence, including Jewish Voices for Peace. It said: “We are grateful to G-d that Rabbi Cytron-Walker and the congregants at Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas are free and safe. We send love to our fellow Jews everywhere who are breathing slightly easier, and recommit to the fight against antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

Britain's foreign office confirmed the death of a British man in Texas, when asked to respond to a Sky News report that the gunman was a British national. The foreign office did not explicitly say the dead Briton was the gunman.

British foreign minister Liz Truss on Sunday condemned the actions of the gunman, calling it an act of terrorism and anti-Semitism.

“My thoughts are with the Jewish community and all those affected by the appalling act in Texas. We condemn this act of terrorism and anti-Semitism,” she wrote on Twitter.

“We stand with US in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate.”

The attack came as the US prepared to commemorate racial and religious tolerance on Monday, what would have been the 93rd birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis by James Earl Ray, a white segregationist and escaped felon.


Afghan escape relatives barred from UK family reunions

Afghan escape relatives barred from UK family reunions
Updated 32 min 3 sec ago

Afghan escape relatives barred from UK family reunions

Afghan escape relatives barred from UK family reunions
  • UK government cites housing shortages as former Afghan allies denied chance to reunite with families

LONDON: British ministers have been accused of failing to honor their promises to Afghan refugees by refusing to accommodate their family members.

About 12,000 Afghan refugees are still living in hotels paid for by the British taxpayer as ministers blame a housing shortage for the delay.

When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last year, the UK government told refugees that their family members would be allowed to join them once they were evacuated.

But The Times newspaper said that 10 months after the collapse of Kabul, about 6,500 refugees were still blocked from joining family members in the UK because they had yet to be granted refugee status.

The newspaper quoted government sources saying that ministers were forced to adjust the policy of family reunion because the average family size of those involved is 6.7, and regulations on housing rules meant that bigger homes were needed to shelter them.

By contrast, the average household size in Britain is three, and much of local government housing is developed around this figure.

Hossain Saeedi, 37, told The Times that he was evacuated with his wife and children, but his request to bring in his ex-wife, who is mother to his son, was denied.

He said: “The cases of Afghan family reunion have been overshadowed by the new scheme for Ukrainian refugees.”

The 6,500 Afghans barred from refugee status were brought in on the Home Office’s Pathway 1 scheme. In September, the government indicated that family members would be allowed to join other refugees, but has failed to demonstrate how this would be achieved.

The Home Office said that the 6,500 evacuees from Afghanistan who were unable to travel with their relatives would be given “options” for rejoining them “in due course.”

“Around 6,500 people were brought to safety in the UK during and after the Afghanistan evacuation who are eligible for the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme and received leave to remain under Pathway 1. While they do not hold refugee status, those who were evacuated were able to bring their immediate family members, including spouse or partner and children under 18 years old,” the government said.

The delay in reuniting families comes as a letter by several leading charity figures accused the government of treating Afghans unfairly compared with Ukrainians, who have received two visa schemes for reuniting family members, warning that this could have severe consequences on their mental health.

The letter, signed by the CEOs of Amnesty International, British Red Cross, Oxfam, Refugee Council, Safe Passage, Student Action for Refugees, UNHCR and Voices Network, said: “Ten months later these families remain separated. This is despite the government indicating, as long ago as September 2021, that family members would be eligible to join people who had been evacuated.

“Prolonged separation is distressing for families and can have a severe impact on mental health.

“We saw how the government acted to bring Ukrainian families together through the Ukraine Family Scheme. They must now act with the same urgency to safely reunite Afghan evacuees with their loved ones.”


UK PM Johnson vows to lead Conservatives to next election

UK PM Johnson vows to lead Conservatives to next election
Updated 49 min 39 sec ago

UK PM Johnson vows to lead Conservatives to next election

UK PM Johnson vows to lead Conservatives to next election
  • Earlier this month, Johnson survived a vote of confidence by Conservative lawmakers
  • Fears that Johnson could have become an electoral liability may prompt lawmakers to move against him

KIGALI: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed on Saturday to lead his Conservative party into the next national election, which could be more than two years away, despite two bruising by-election defeats that have led to renewed calls for him to quit.
Earlier this month, Johnson survived a vote of confidence by Conservative lawmakers, though 41 percent of his parliamentary colleagues voted to oust him, and he is under investigation by a committee over whether he intentionally misled parliament.
On Friday, Conservative candidates lost two elections to the House of Commons held to replace former Conservative incumbents who had to step down, one after being convicted of sexual assault and the other for watching pornography in parliament.
The election defeats suggest the broad voter appeal which helped Johnson win the 2019 election may be fracturing after a scandal over illegal parties held at Downing Street during coronavirus lockdowns.
Fears that Johnson could have become an electoral liability may prompt lawmakers to move against him, at a time when millions of Britons are struggling with rising food and fuel prices.
However, Johnson said he did not expect to face another internal challenge from within his party.
When asked on the final day of a trip to Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit if he would fight another confidence vote, Johnson told reporters: “What? We just had one of those things and I’m very happy to have got a bigger mandate from my parliamentary party than I got in 2019.”
Asked if he felt the question of his leadership was settled, the prime minister said: “Yes.”
Under existing party rules, Johnson’s leadership cannot be formally challenged again for another year.
Asked if he would lead the Conservatives into the next election, which is due no later than December 2024, Johnson said: “Will I win? Yes.”
Johnson blamed the by-election defeats partly on months of media reporting of lockdown parties at the heart of government.
“I think that actually people were fed up of hearing about things I had stuffed up, or allegedly stuffed up, or whatever, this endless, completely legitimate, but endless churn of news,” he said.
Earlier on Saturday, Johnson told BBC radio he rejected the notion that he should change his behavior.
“If you’re saying you want me to undergo some sort of psychological transformation, I think that our listeners would know that that ... is not going to happen.”

PARTY TROUBLE
Johnson’s explanation for the defeat may do little to ease frustration in the Conservative Party.
A wave of resignations by senior ministers might force Johnson out before the next national election. The party’s chairman, Oliver Dowden, quit after the by-election defeats.
Former Conservative leaders Michael Howard and William Hague are the latest senior party figures to call for Johnson to go.
Asked what his message was for Conservative lawmakers who fear they could lose their seats at the next election, Johnson said: “We have to focus on the things that matter to voters, get it right on the cost of living, the economy.”
Johnson refused to comment on a report in The Times newspaper that he had planned to get a donor to fund a 150,000-pound ($184,000) treehouse for his son at his state-provided country residence.
The story comes months after his party was fined for failing to accurately report a donation which helped fund the refurbishment of his Downing Street apartment.
“I’m not going to comment on non-existent objects,” Johnson said when asked if he planned to use a donor’s money to build the treehouse. ($1 = 0.8155 pounds)


Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID
Updated 25 June 2022

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID
  • The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented strict COVID-19 measures

SHANGHAI/BEIJING: Beijing on Saturday said it would allow primary and secondary schools to resume in-person classes and Shanghai’s top party boss declared victory over COVID-19 after the city reported zero new local cases for the first time in two months.
The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented curbs to stop the spread of the omicron wave during March to May, with Shanghai imposing a two month-long city-wide lockdown that lifted on June 1.
The efforts, part of China’s adherence to a zero-COVID policy that aims to eradicate all outbreaks, have brought case numbers down but many of the heavy-handed measures have fueled anger and even rare protests and taken a heavy toll on the economy.
Beijing shut its schools in early May and asked students to move to online learning amid a spike in locally transmitted COVID cases. Senior year students at middle and high schools were allowed to return to classrooms from June 2.
On Saturday, with case numbers trending lower in recent days, the capital’s education commission said all primary and secondary school students in the capital can return to in-person classes from Monday. Kindergartens will be allowed to reopen from July 4.
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports said separately that sports activities for the young can resume at non-school locations on June 27 in areas where no community cases have been reported for seven consecutive days, with the exception of basement venues, which will remain shut.
The Universal Beijing Resort, which had been closed for nearly two months, reopened on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Shanghai reported no new local cases — both symptomatic and asymptomatic — for June 24, the first time the Chinese economic hub had done so since Feb. 23.
Shanghai Communist Party chief Li Qiang said at the opening at the city’s party congress on Saturday that authorities had “won the war to defend Shanghai” against COVID by implementing the instructions of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and that Beijing’s epidemic prevention decisions were “completely correct.” The city, however, remains on edge. Most students have not been allowed to resume in-person classes and dining indoors is still banned. It also plans to continue conducting mass PCR testing for its 25 million residents every weekend until the end of July.


Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police
Updated 25 June 2022

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police
  • Attack is being treated as a possible ‘terrorist act’
  • Motive behind attack remains unclear

OSLO: An overnight shooting in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, that killed two people and wounded more than a dozen is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack, Norwegian police said Saturday.
In a news conference Saturday, police officials said the man arrested after the shooting was a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin who was previously known to police but not for major crimes.
They said they had seized two firearms in connection with the attack: a handgun and an automatic weapon.
The events occurred outside a nightclub and in nearby streets in central Oslo.
Police spokesman Tore Barstad said 14 people were receiving medical treatment, eight of whom have been hospitalized.
Olav Roenneberg, a journalist from Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, said he witnessed the shooting.
“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He picked up a weapon and started shooting,” Roenneberg told NRK. “First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a Facebook post that “the shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.”
He said that while the motive was unclear, the shooting had caused fear and grief in the community.
Christian Bredeli, who was at the bar, told Norwegian newspaper VG that he hid on the fourth floor with a group of about 10 people until he was told it was safe to come out.
“Many were fearing for their lives,” he said. “On our way out we saw several injured people, so we understood that something serious had happened.”
Norwegian broadcaster TV2 showed footage of people running down Oslo streets in panic as shots rang out in the background.
Norway is a relatively safe country but has experienced violent attacks by right-wing extremists, including one of the worst mass shootings in Europe in 2011, when a gunman killed 69 people on the island of Utoya after setting off a bomb in Oslo that left eight dead.
In 2019, another right-wing extremist killed his stepsister and then opened fire in a mosque but was overpowered before anyone there was injured.


What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?

What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?
Rescuers evacuate stranded residents in flood water in Tuojiang Township in central China's Hunan Province on June 22, 2022. (Xi
Updated 25 June 2022

What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?

What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?
  • More than half a million people were evacuated this month because of the flood threat
  • The floods in China last year cost $25 billion — the world’s second-worst flood-related loss after Europe

BEIJING: Record floods in southern China this month displaced more than half a million people, while searing heat buckled roads in other parts of the country.
Authorities have issued extreme weather warnings in multiple regions, while experts warned that these phenomena were more evidence of the impact of climate change.

Summer floods are common in China, especially in the low-lying Pearl River delta region in the south.
This year, however, the National Climate Center forecast that flooding will be “relatively worse” and “more extreme” than before.
Water levels at one location in Guangdong province “surpassed historical records” this week, according to the ministry of water resources, while parts of neighboring Fujian province and Guangxi region also reported record rainfall.
More than half a million people were evacuated this month because of the flood threat.
In the cities of Guangzhou and Shaoguan in Guangdong province, heavy rainfall turned roads into rivers and people had to be taken to safety in lifeboats.
Authorities in the province estimated the economic damage from the floods to be more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

Seven provinces in northern and central China Wednesday warned millions of residents not to go outdoors as temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
State broadcaster CCTV this week showed footage of cement roads cracked under extreme heat in central Henan province.
Meanwhile, power demand surged to record levels in several cities in the north this week as residents cranked up the air conditioning to beat the heat.
In China’s second-most populous province Shandong, home to more than 100 million people, electricity use topped 93 million kilowatts on Tuesday, beating the 2020 high of 90 million kilowatts, CCTV said.

China’s central economic planner estimates that extreme weather will shave off one to three percent of the country’s GDP every year.
The floods in China last year cost $25 billion — the world’s second-worst flood-related loss after Europe, a study published in April by reinsurer Swiss Re showed.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warned Wednesday that floods and heatwaves will affect the production of staple grains, vegetables and pork and push up inflation.

“Extreme weather and climate events in the country have become more frequent, severe and widespread,” China Meteorological Administration said Wednesday.
It followed a warning in March from Xiao Chan, deputy director of the National Climate Center: “Global warming and La Nina events are contributing to abnormally high temperatures and extreme rain in China.”
As the Earth’s atmosphere gets warmer, it holds more moisture, making downpours more intense.
La Nina refers to the large-scale cooling of surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, causing devastating floods in South China, India and Bangladesh.

China has built a network of massive dams and “sponge cities” with permeable pavements to try and limit the devastation during the annual flood season.
“But the most damaging recent floods have occurred in areas historically less at risk,” said Scott Moore, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania focusing on China’s environmental policy.
“This is a classic climate change effect: increased extreme weather in different regions and at different times of year than the historical average.”
China is the world’s biggest coal-burning nation and top emitter of greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.
It aims to become carbon neutral by 2060, but local governments have pushed up investments in both renewables and coal in recent months.
Beijing has also not yet outlined precisely how it intends to achieve its emissions targets.
Environmentalists have warned that without specifying the size of the peak or setting an absolute cap, China can essentially keep increasing emissions until 2030.

A new roadmap for climate change adaptation published by the Chinese government last week says the focus should now shift to predicting extreme weather more accurately using sensors and satellites.
“The usefulness of weather forecasts caps out around 10 days, beyond which their accuracy rapidly drops to that of a coin flip,” think tank Trivium China said in a research note.
“Climate monitoring and forecasting is a whole different ballgame,” helping to predict severe floods and droughts at least a month in advance.