Copenhagen attacks suspect killed, say police

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Updated 16 February 2015

Copenhagen attacks suspect killed, say police

COPENHAGEN: Danish police shot and killed a man early Sunday suspected of carrying out shooting attacks at a free speech event and then at a Copenhagen synagogue, killing two men. Five police officers were also wounded in the attacks.
Officials have not identified the perpetrator but say it is possible he was imitating the terror attacks last month in Paris in which radicals carried out a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo newsroom followed by an attack at a kosher grocery store.
“Denmark has been hit by terror,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said on Sunday.
He said the shootings, which bore similarities to an assault in Paris in January on the offices of weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, were terrorist attacks.
“We do not know the motive for the alleged perpetrator’s actions, but we know that there are forces that want to hurt Denmark. They want to rebuke our freedom of speech.”
Leaders across Europe condemned the violence and expressed support for Denmark. Sweden’s security service said it was sharing information with its Danish counterpart, while US National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said US officials were ready to help with the investigation and have been in touch with their Danish counterparts.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius compared the Copenhagen attack to the Paris killings, told Europe 1 radio on Sunday: “I am struck by the similarities of this sequence. First an attack against freedom of speech, then an attack against Jews, and then the confrontation with the police.”
French President Francois Hollande said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve would go to the Danish capital later on Sunday.
European Council President Donald Tusk called Saturday’s attack “another brutal terrorist attack targeted at our fundamental values and freedoms, including the freedom of expression.”
A man died in Saturday’s shooting at a cafe hosting Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has received death threats for depicting religion in poor image. Vilks was unhurt. A security guard died in a separate attack overnight at a nearby synagogue.
“We’ve tasted the ugly taste of fear and impotence that terror wants to create,” Thorning-Schmidt told reporters.
Police had released a photo of the suspect, dressed in a heavy winter coat and maroon mask. But the motivations of the gunman, who police said was armed with an automatic weapon, were not known.
Danish police had launched a massive manhunt with helicopters roaring overhead and an array of armoured vehicles on the usually peaceful streets of Copenhagen.
Police said they shot dead the suspect near a train station in Norrebro, an area in Copenhagen not far from the sites of the two attacks. Police said he had fired on officers. Some local media said police raided an apartment in the area.
“We assume that it’s the same culprit behind both incidents... that was shot by the police,” Chief police inspector Torben Molgaard Jensen told reporters.
French Ambassador Francois Zimeray attended the cafe event, entitled “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression,” and praised Denmark’s support for freedom of speech following the Paris attacks.
Witnesses said the envoy had barely finished his introduction when up to 40 shots rang out, outside the venue, as an attacker sprayed the cafe’s windows with bullets.
Security experts said they considered Vilks, the main speaker, to have been the target. A 55-year-old man died as a result of that shooting, police said early on Sunday.
Witnesses said police who were at the heavily-guarded venue fired back at the attacker. Vilks was taken to a back cold storage room for protection.
“The rather spare audience got to experience fear and horror - and tragedy. I can’t say it affected me as I was well looked after,” Vilks wrote in a blog post.
Hours later, shots were fired at a synagogue about a half hour’s walk from the cafe. A man guarding the synagogue was shot in the head and died later. Two police officers were wounded.
“He was a member of the community, a fantastic guy,” Rabbi Bent Lexner, Denmark’s former chief rabbi, told Israeli Army Radio. “We are in shock. I am sitting now with the parents of the man killed. We didn’t think such a thing could happen in Denmark.”
Helle Merete Brix, organizer of the event at the cafe, told Reuters she had seen an attacker wearing a mask.
“The security guards shouted ‘Everyone get out!’ and we were being pushed out of the room,” Brix said.
Danish authorities have been on alert since three gunmen killed 17 people in three days of violence in Paris last month that began with an attack on Charlie Hebdo, long known for its acerbic cartoons on Islam, other religions and politicians.
Authorities have also been worried about possible lone gunmen like Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-immigrant Norwegian who killed 77 people in 2011, most of them at a youth camp run by Norway’s ruling center-left Labor Party.


UK court blocks Heathrow expansion over climate concerns

Updated 27 February 2020

UK court blocks Heathrow expansion over climate concerns

  • The ruling throws in doubt the future of the £14 billion-plan to build a third runway at Heathrow
  • Environmental campaigners challenged the project because of concerns that a third runway would encourage increased air travel and carbon emissions

LONDON: Heathrow Airport’s plans to increase capacity of Europe’s biggest travel hub by over 50% were stalled Thursday when a British court said the government failed to consider its commitment to combat climate change when it approved the project.
The ruling throws in doubt the future of the £14 billion ($18 billion) plan to build a third runway at Heathrow, the west London hub that already handles more than 1,300 flights a day.
While Heathrow officials said they planned to appeal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government indicated it wouldn’t challenge the ruling by the Court of Appeal.
“We won!” said London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a long-time opponent of the project who joined other local officials and environmental groups in challenging the national government’s approval of Heathrow’s expansion plans.
At stake is a project that business groups and Heathrow officials argue is crucial for the British economy as the UK looks to increase links with countries from China to the United States after leaving the European Union. Heathrow has already reached the capacity of its current facilities, and a third runway is needed to serve the growing demands of travelers and international trade, they say.
Environmental campaigners, however, challenged the project because of concerns that a third runway would encourage increased air travel and the carbon emissions blamed for global warming. The British government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a signatory to the 2016 Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
The court upheld the appeal, saying the government had failed to consider its commitments under the Paris Agreement when it approved a national policy on airport capacity in southeastern England that paved the way for a third runway at Heathrow. That policy statement backed the Heathrow project over a competing plan from Gatwick Airport, 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of central London, and a proposal to build a new airport in the Thames estuary east of London.
In a narrowly written opinion, the three-judge panel stressed that it wasn’t ruling on the merits of the Heathrow project. Instead, the court said the national policy statement would be suspended until the government has reviewed the findings in accordance with Britain’s obligations under the Paris Agreement.
“We have not found that a national policy statement supporting this project is necessarily incompatible with the United Kingdom’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change under the Paris Agreement, or with any other policy the Government may adopt or international obligation it may undertake,” the court said.
“The consequence of our decision is that the Government will now have the opportunity to reconsider the (national policy statement) in accordance with the clear statutory requirements that Parliament has imposed.”
The Department for Transport said the government wouldn’t challenge the ruling.
“We take seriously our commitments on the environment, clean air and reducing carbon emissions,” the department said in a statement. ”We will carefully consider this complex judgment and set out our next steps in due course.”
Heathrow said the issue raised by court’s ruling is “eminently fixable,” and it will work with the government to resolve the problem. The airport also said it planned to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
“Expanding Heathrow, Britain’s biggest port and only hub, is essential to achieving the Prime Minister’s vision of global Britain,” the airport said in a statement. “We will get it done the right way, without jeopardizing the planet’s future.”
Thursday’s ruling is just the latest twist in a 13-year battle over increasing airport capacity in and around London.
Choosing a project pits the economic benefits of expansion against the pollution, noise and congestion that it will produce. The issue is so toxic that politicians created an independent commission to weigh the options.
Amid furious public relations battles, the Airports Commission in 2015 backed a third runway at Heathrow. Parliament finally approved the airport policy statement in June 2018.
But things have changed since then. Most notably, perhaps, is Boris Johnson’s election as prime minister last year. Johnson, a long-time opponent of Heathrow expansion, once promised to lie down in front of the bulldozers to prevent construction of the third runway.
Tony Travers, an expert on London issues at the London School of Economics, pointed out that the debate over Heathrow has been going on intermittently since the 1960s and choosing another option to expand airport capacity would take years.
Meanwhile, the government has staked its future on increasing trade with nations outside the EU, and in this context it makes little sense to ignore the Heathrow project.
“Brexit means trade with countries further away than you can get on a train,” Travers said.
The Department for Transportation argued that the Heathrow project would permit an additional 260,000 flights a year and give a 74 billion-pound ($99 billion) boost to the British economy over 60 years.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, an industry body representing UK-registered airlines, described Thursday’s decision as “extremely disappointing.”
“The economic prize is enormous if expansion is done right, with airlines ready to respond to the unlocking of new capacity by creating new routes and helping to connect the UK to new markets and destinations,” he said.
The court dismissed appeals that dealt with issues such as noise and air pollution raised by Heathrow’s neighbors.
But local campaingers, some of whom have been fighting expansion for decades, popped champagne corks and cheered when they heard the ruling. Many saw it as decisive.
“It surely must be the final nail in the coffin for Heathrow’s attempts to steamroll over local and national opposition to their disastrous third runway plans,” said Gareth Roberts, the leader of Richmond Council, the local government body for a community in the flight path of the proposed runway. “The expansion of Heathrow would be a catastrophe for our climate and environment and for the thousands of Londoners who would be forced to live with the huge disruption it will cause.”