Suspect in shooting of 3 men of Palestinian descent near the University of Vermont pleads not guilty

Jason J. Eaton, 48, a suspect who was arrested in the shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Burlington, appears at his court arraignment in Swanton, Vermont, US on Nov. 27, 2023. (Reuters)
Jason J. Eaton, 48, a suspect who was arrested in the shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Burlington, appears at his court arraignment in Swanton, Vermont, US on Nov. 27, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 November 2023
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Suspect in shooting of 3 men of Palestinian descent near the University of Vermont pleads not guilty

Jason J. Eaton appears at his court arraignment in Swanton, Vermont, US on Nov. 27, 2023. (Reuters)
  • The three men, all age 20, were walking during a visit to the home of one of the victims’ relatives when they were confronted by a white man with a handgun, police said

VERMONT: A Vermont man pleaded not guilty to attempted murder Monday in connection with the shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent who were spending their Thanksgiving break in Burlington.
Jason J. Eaton, 48, was arrested Sunday, a day after the shooting outside his apartment building near the University of Vermont campus. He appeared in court Monday by video from jail, speaking only to confirm his identity. His attorney entered pleas of not guilty on his behalf, and a judge ordered him held without bail pending a hearing that likely will be held in the next few days.
According to a police affidavit, federal agents found a shotgun in Eaton’s apartment. He refused to identify himself but told the officers he had been waiting for them.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday the Justice Department is investigating whether the shooting was a hate crime. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting Vermont authorities in the investigation.
There has been a sharp increase in threats directed against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities across the US since the Israel-Hamas war began, he said. “There is understandable fear in communities across the country,” Garland said.
The three men, all age 20, were walking during a visit to the home of one of the victims’ relatives when they were confronted by a white man with a handgun, police said.
“Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled,” Murad said. “All three victims were struck, two in their torsos and one in the lower extremities.”
Two of the men were in stable condition and the other suffered “much more serious injuries,” Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said in a statement Sunday.
Two of the victims are US citizens and the third is in the country with legal permission. Two of the men were wearing the black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarves, Murad said.
The Institute for Middle East Understanding, in a statement from victims’ families on X, formerly known as Twitter, identified the men as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad.
“We are extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of our children,” the statement said. “We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime. We will not be comfortable until the shooter is brought to justice.”
The three men had been staying at Awartani’s grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, Awartani told police. They had gone bowling earlier Saturday and were returning when a man walked up to them, pulled out a gun and started shooting, he said.
A second victim told police he saw a man staring at them from the porch of a white house. Abdalhamid told police that the man stumbled down the stairs and pulled out a pistol.
Rich Price, Awartani’s uncle, said the gunman “shot them without saying any words” and all three are now in the ICU.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is expected to join Murad at a press conference Monday to discuss the investigation. Murad, who expressed sympathies for the victims and their families, said there is no additional information to suggest a motive.
“In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime. And I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it’s proven,” he said.
“The fact is that we don’t yet know as much as we want to right now,” Murad added. “But I urge the public to avoid making conclusions based on statements from uninvolved parties who know even less.”
The White House said President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting and would continue to receive law enforcement updates.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations released a statement offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest or conviction of the person or people responsible for the shootings.
Ramallah Friends School posted a statement on Facebook saying the three young men were graduates of the private school, in the West Bank.
“While we are relieved to know that they are alive, we remain uncertain about their condition and hold them in the light,” the school said. “We stand united in hope and support for their well-being during this challenging time.”
In response to the shooting, US House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries encouraged people to “unequivocally denounce the startling rise of anti-Arab hate and Islamophobia in America.”
“No one should ever be targeted for their ethnicity or religious affiliation in our country,” the New York Democrat said in the statement posted on X. “We will not let hatred win.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, also denounced the shooting.
“It is shocking and deeply upsetting that three young Palestinians were shot here in Burlington, VT. Hate has no place here, or anywhere. I look forward to a full investigation,” Sanders said in a statement.
Gov. Phil Scott called the shooting a tragedy, calling on the state’s residents to unite and “not let this incident incite more hate or divisiveness.”
The Vermont-New Hampshire chapter of Jewish Voice For Peace, which has urged an end to the Israel-Hamas war, released a statement saying it was “appalled by the shooting.”
“We are in solidarity with the students, their families and all those affected by this clear act of hate,” the organization said Sunday. “We are in solidarity with all Palestinian people in occupied Palestine, around the world, and here in Vermont — and we are committed to creating a Vermont that is safe and welcoming for all.”
The American Jewish Committee, an advocacy organization for Jewish people worldwide, also said via X it was “horrified” by the attack and urged “law enforcement to investigate this act as a possible hate crime.”
Last month, an Illinois landlord was charged with a hate crime after being accused of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Muslim boy and seriously wounding his mother in suburban Chicago. Police and relatives said he singled out the victims because of their faith.
Demonstrations have been widespread and tensions in the US have escalated as the death toll rises in the Israel-Hamas war. A fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was back on track Sunday as the militants freed more hostages and Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners. It was the third exchange under a four-day truce deal.


Six killed in Sydney shopping center attack

People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
Updated 13 April 2024
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Six killed in Sydney shopping center attack

People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
  • Multiple people were stabbed by the unidentified assailant, who was shot dead by a policewoman at the scene

SYDNEY: Six people were killed and several others injured — including a nine-month-old baby — when a knife-wielding attacker rampaged through a busy Sydney shopping center on Saturday.
Australian police said multiple people were stabbed by the unidentified assailant, who was tracked down and shot dead by a policewoman who is being hailed as a national hero.
The incident occurred at the sprawling Westfield Bondi Junction mall complex, which was packed with thousands of Saturday afternoon shoppers.
New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb said five women and one man had died. A baby was undergoing emergency surgery.
Police said the attacker is believed to be a 40-year-old man who was known to law enforcement, but he has not yet been formally identified.
Webb played down suggestions that the attack could have been an act of terrorism and said it is believed the attacker acted alone.
“If it is in fact the person we believe it is, then... it’s not a terrorism incident,” she said.
A New South Wales Ambulance spokesperson told AFP that eight patients were taken to various hospitals across Sydney, including the baby who was taken to the city’s Children’s Hospital.
“They all have traumatic injuries,” the official said.
Security camera footage showed a man wearing an Australian rugby league jersey running around the shopping center with a large knife.
Injured people lay lifeless on the floor, or surrounded by pools of blood.
Eyewitnesses described a scene of panic, with shoppers scrambling to safety and police trying to secure the area.
Many people took shelter in shops, trying to protect themselves, their families and frightened strangers.
Ayush Singh was working at a cafe inside the center when the incident occurred.
“I saw the whole thing in front of me,” he told AFP. “I saw a lot of people running around, I saw the guy running with the knife and people running away.”
Singh helped two elderly ladies who were having a coffee to hide inside his cafe. He heard three gunshots ring out, then saw the man lying on the ground.
“It was really scary,” he said. “I’ve felt really safe (in Australia). I’ve been here for six years. I didn’t feel unsafe but now I feel scared.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised the bravery of strangers who helped each other and the woman police inspector who rushed headlong toward danger.
“She is certainly a hero. There is no doubt that she saved lives through her action,” Albanese said.

Pranjul Bokaria had just finished up work and was doing some shopping when the stabbing occurred.
She ended up running to a nearby shop and taking shelter in a break room.
“It was scary, there are some people who were emotionally vulnerable and crying,” she told AFP.
She escaped using an emergency exit with other shoppers and staff, which took them to a back street.
She described a scene of “chaos,” with people running and police swarming the area.
“I am alive and grateful,” she said.
As night fell, dozens of heavily armed police and ambulances were still outside the shopping complex, with stretchers ready to take people to nearby hospitals.
The sound of police sirens and helicopters filled the air.
The mall has been locked down and police have urged people to avoid the area.
Britain’s King Charles III said he and his wife Queen Camilla were “utterly shocked and horrified” by the stabbing.
Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened” by the attack and sent his “spiritual solidarity to all those affected” in a message addressed to the archbishop of Sydney.
Such attacks are virtually unheard of in Australia, which has relatively low rates of violent crime.
 

 


Rwandan expelled from US given life genocide term

Beatrice Munyenyezi is escorted by police officers at a court in Kigali, Rwanda. (AFP file photo)
Beatrice Munyenyezi is escorted by police officers at a court in Kigali, Rwanda. (AFP file photo)
Updated 13 April 2024
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Rwandan expelled from US given life genocide term

Beatrice Munyenyezi is escorted by police officers at a court in Kigali, Rwanda. (AFP file photo)
  • The sentencing came days after Rwanda marked 30 years since the genocide carried out by the extremist Hutu regime between April and July 1994, which left more than 800,000 people dead, mostly Tutsi but also moderate Hutus, according to a UN tally

KIGALI: A Rwandan woman expelled to her homeland three years ago from the US has been given a life sentence for her role in the country’s 1994 genocide, The New Times newspaper reported on Saturday.
A court in the southern town of Huye found Beatrice Munyenyezi guilty of the charges of murder as a genocide crime, complicity in genocide, incitement to commit genocide, and complicity in rape.
However, she was acquitted on a charge of planning genocide, the Rwandan-based national paper said.
The sentencing came days after Rwanda marked 30 years since the genocide carried out by the extremist Hutu regime between April and July 1994, which left more than 800,000 people dead, mostly Tutsi but also moderate Hutus, according to a UN tally.

FASTFACT

Beatrice Munyenyezi was deported in April 2021 from the US after serving a 10-year prison sentence there for lying about her involvement in the genocide as she set about obtaining American citizenship.

Munyenyezi, 54, denied all the charges against her.
But the court concluded she was guilty of ordering and committing murders and attacks herself, including that of a nun who was raped on her orders.
Nicknamed the “commander,” the investigation and several witness accounts said that Munyenyezi was supervising a roadblock in Huye — then called Butare — where she identified Tutsis and had them killed, and also encouraged Hutu extremists to rape women.
She was deported in April 2021 from the US after serving a 10-year prison sentence there for lying about her involvement in the genocide as she set about obtaining American citizenship, saying she faced persecution in her own country.
The case attracted US attention as her mother-in-law Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, a former minister in the genocidal regime, and her husband Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, a former local militia leader, were also on trial for genocide crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.
They were also sentenced to life in prison, in 2011, before their terms were reduced to 47 years on appeal.

 


Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region

Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region
Updated 13 April 2024
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Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region

Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region
  • Somalia called the deal illegal as it considers Somaliland part of its territory even though it has had effective autonomy since 1991

NAIROBI: Somalia will never accept Ethiopia’s plan to build a naval base in its breakaway region of Somaliland but would consider granting Ethiopia commercial port access if discussed bilaterally, a senior Somali official said.
Landlocked Ethiopia sparked a diplomatic row with Mogadishu in January by signing a deal with Somaliland to lease 20 km of its coastline in return for recognizing the region as an independent state.
Somalia called the deal illegal as it considers Somaliland part of its territory even though it has had effective autonomy since 1991.

BACKGROUND

Landlocked Ethiopia sparked a diplomatic row with Mogadishu in January by signing a deal with Somaliland to lease 20 km of its coastline in return for recognizing the region as an independent state.

To defuse the acrimony, Kenya, in consultation with Djibouti and the Eastern African Bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, has proposed a maritime treaty to govern how landlocked states in the region can access ports on commercial terms, a senior Kenyan official said on Thursday.
Somalia’s state minister for foreign affairs, Ali Omar, said that before discussing port access bilaterally, Ethiopia must annul its agreement with Somaliland.
“Somalia will never accept (a) naval base,” Omar said.
“Somalia is ready for commercial access in accordance with the international law of the sea.”
He added that Somalia was willing to discuss proposals as long as they met the country’s interests, which are to “safeguard (our) sovereignty, political independence and unity.”
A spokesperson for Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

 


Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions

Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions
Updated 13 April 2024
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Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions

Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions
  • Soon after the White House announced the change of plans, the Pentagon reported that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Israeli counterpart
  • Amid the Israel-Hamas war, tensions have escalated since a suspected Israeli strike this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria

DELAWARE, USA: President Joe Biden is cutting short a weekend stay at his Delaware beach house and returning to the White House on Saturday to meet with his national security team and monitor the situation in the Middle East.
Soon after the White House announced the change of plans, the Pentagon reported that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Israeli counterpart “to discuss urgent regional threats ... and made clear that Israel could count on full US support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies.
Amid the Israel-Hamas war, tensions have escalated since a suspected Israeli strike this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria killed 12 people, including senior Iranian generals. Israel is bracing for a possible Iranian attack, raising concerns about the United States being pulled into deeper regional conflict.
Biden on Friday said the United States was “devoted” to defending Israel and that “Iran will not succeed.”
Asked by reporters what his message was for Iran, the president’s only reply was: “Don’t.”
He ignored a question about what would trigger a direct US military response, and when asked how imminent an Iranian attack on Israel was, Biden said he did not want to get into secure information, “but my expectation is sooner than later.”
During the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, there have been near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group along the Israel-Lebanon border. US officials have recorded more than 150 attacks by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria on US forces at bases in those countries since war started on Oct. 7.
One attack in late January killed three US service members in Jordan. In retaliation, the US launched a massive air assault, hitting more than 85 targets at seven locations in Iraq and Syria.
Meantime, on Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the US strongly condemned the seizure and urged Iran to release the ship and crew immediately.
“We will work with our partners to hold Iran to account for its actions,” she said.
Also Saturday, the Israeli-occupied West Bank also saw some of the worst violence since Hamas’ attack on Israel.


Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says

Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says
Updated 13 April 2024
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Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says

Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says
  • “I am grateful to the chancellor for the decision to supply another, additional Patriot system to Ukraine,” Zelensky said
  • He described their conversation as “important, productive” and said: “I call on all other leaders of partner states to follow this example“

KYIV: Germany will supply a US-made Patriot air defense system and air defense missiles to Ukraine at a “critical time” as Kyiv struggles to defend its energy system from Russian bombardment, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday.
More than two years into its full-scale invasion, Russia has staged three massive airstrikes on power stations and substations in recent weeks, prompting Kyiv to issue desperate appeals for supplies of high-end air defenses.
“I am grateful to the chancellor for the decision to supply another, additional Patriot system to Ukraine, as well as missiles for the existing air defense systems,” Zelensky said after speaking by telephone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
He described their conversation as “important, productive” and said: “I call on all other leaders of partner states to follow this example.”
Germany will hand over the Patriot system immediately and it will be in addition to air defense systems that were already delivered and planned, the defense ministry said in a post on X.
An April 10 German government summary of arms and military equipment transfers to Ukraine included two Patriot systems on a list of air defense supplies already delivered, making this the third from Germany.
Zelensky said last week that Ukraine needed 25 US-made Patriot air defense systems to cover the country from Russian attacks.
In his statement on the Telegram app on Saturday, the Ukrainian leader said he and Scholz also discussed preparations for a reconstruction conference in Berlin and a peace summit in Switzerland in June.