Friday, January 6, 2017
By Zachary Fagenson
An Iraq war veteran took a gun out of his checked luggage and opened fire in a crowded baggage claim area at Fort Lauderdale's airport on Friday, killing five people, months after he showed up at an FBI office behaving erratically.
Esteban Santiago, 26, who was taken into custody immediately following the shooting and questioned at length, was expected to face federal charges in the shooting rampage, said George Piro, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's office in Miami.
Piro said investigators had not ruled out terrorism as a possible motive in the rampage and were reviewing the suspect's recent travel.
Santiago, who had served in the U.S. military, had arrived in Ft. Lauderdale shortly before 1 p.m. local time (1800 GMT) on a connecting flight from Alaska, authorities said, when he retrieved a 9mm semi-automatic handgun from his checked luggage and began firing indiscriminately.
Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca said on Twitter that the gunman went into a restroom to load his weapon and came out firing. Witnesses told MSNBC television he only stopped after running out of ammunition, at which point he surrendered to police.
Cellphone video posted on social media showed travelers kneeling and treating victims on the floor next to a carousel. At least two victims had pools of blood from apparent head wounds.
The gunman, who wore a "Star Wars" T-shirt, said nothing as he fired, witnesses told MSNBC.
"This is a senseless act of evil," Florida Governor Rick Scott told reporters.
A White House spokesman said President Barack Obama had spoken to Scott and Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief and had extended his condolences to the loved ones of the victims. n addition to the five killed, eight others were wounded by gunfire and some three dozen were taken to local hospitals with bruises or broken bones suffered in the chaos surrounding the shooting massacre. Piro said that Santiago had turned up at an FBI office in Anchorage in November of last year behaving erratically and was turned over to local police, who took him to a medical facility for a mental evaluation.
A federal law enforcement official told Reuters that Santiago told agents at the Anchorage office in November that his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency, which was ordering him to watch Islamic State videos.
Santiago served from 2007 to 2016 in the Puerto Rico National Guard and Alaska National Guard including a deployment to Iraq from 2010 to 2011, according to the Pentagon. A private first class and combat engineer, he received half a dozen medals before being transferred to the inactive ready reserve in August last year.
An aunt said he came back from his deployment "a different person," MSNBC reported.
LEGAL TO FLY WITH GUNS
Flying with firearms is routine and legal in the United States as long as the guns are kept in a locked, hard-sided container as checked baggage only, under TSA rules. Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on bags but is allowed in checked luggage.
The attack was the latest in a series of mass shootings that have plagued the United States in recent years, some inspired by militants with an extreme view of Islam, others carried out by loners or the mentally disturbed.
John Schlicher, who told MSNBC he saw the attack, said the shooter was "directly firing at us" while passengers waited for their bags. His wife gave first aid to a victim who had been shot in the head, and his mother-in-law used her sweater to tend to another victim but it turned out that person was already dead, he said.
Mark Lea, another eyewitness, told MSNBC, "He didn't say anything; he was quiet the whole time."
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is the second largest in South Florida, serving as an intercontinental gateway.
Nearly two months ago a former Southwest Airlines worker killed an employee of the company at Oklahoma City's airport in what police called a premeditated act.
The deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place last June, when a gunman apparently inspired by Islamic State killed 49 people and wounded 53 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Hours after the tragic attack on Friday in the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport that killed five and injured at least eight people, President Barack Obama told George Stephanopoulos “these kinds of tragedies have happened too often during the eight years that I’ve been president.”
Speaking to Stephanopoulos, 55, for ABC’s This Week, Obama said he would not comment on the incident “until I have all the information” but he did want to express “how heartbroken we are for the families who have been affected.”
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“The pain, the grief, the shock that they must be going through is enormous,” he told Stephanopoulos. Obama, 55, added that his staff has reached out to the mayor of Fort Lauderdale “to make sure that coordination between state and local officials is what it should be.”
“I think we’ll find out over the next 24 hours exactly how this happened and what motivated this individual,” Obama continued.
Gunshots broke out on Friday at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport. The Broward County Sheriff confirmed via Twitter that multiple people have been killed and the suspect is in custody. Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief told CNN that 13 people were transported to local hospitals.
The suspected shooter used a gun he retrieved from baggage he checked on a Delta flight to the airport, a federal law enforcement official tells PEOPLE.
A federal law enforcement official tells PEOPLE the suspect is Esteban Santiago, 26. He is of Puerto Rican descent. He arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Friday, on a Delta red-eye flight originating from Anchorage via Minneapolis, with checked baggage containing a firearm.
He picked up the checked firearm at baggage claim, before allegedly going to the bathroom, gathering his weapon and changing into a Star Wars shirt. He then exited the bathroom and allegedly began firing at those around the baggage carousel. Santiago had a military ID on him when he was taken into police custody.
The shooter was discharged from the Army last year on a general discharge, the official says.
Santiago was apprehended by a Broward County sheriff’s deputy and taken into custody, Sheriff Scott Israel said at a Friday press conference. Israel added that the gunman, who wasn’t hit by gunfire, is being interviewed by FBI agents and Broward County sheriff’s deputies.
A gunman opened fire at Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood International Airport Friday afternoon, killing at least three people before being taken into custody, law enforcement sources told NBC News. At least nine people in total were shot, sources said earlier. The shooting occurred at the baggage claim inside Terminal 2. Aerial footage showed a crowd of people gathered outside on the tarmac. http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Shooting-Reported-Inside-Fort-Lauderdale--Hollywood-International-Airport-409905825.html
By Manik Aftab
The brutal murder of Salmaan Taseer, a former governor of the Punjab who was gunned down by his own bodyguard at the Kohsar Market in Islamabad six years ago, screams of societal ignorance at large. Taseer was murdered because he sought reforms in Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws.
The late PPP stalwart also proved himself to be a champion of minority rights when he announced his open support for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who is alleged of blasphemy and is awaiting final verdict by the Supreme Court. Her case, which is the first such to be heard under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, dates back to 2009.
Fast forward to January 4, 2017 and pro-blasphemy law demonstrators are clashing with security forces as Pakistan walks a line between upholding human rights and appeasing hardliners. Over 150 persons were arrested in Lahore after they attempted to hold demonstrations against the proposed amendments in the blasphemy law. There was no official permission, yet the protesters belonging to the Sunni Tehreek, Tehreek-i-Khatme Nabuwat and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah somehow managed to convey their message.
Call them what you me, but these religious groups are so well-organized that the state has no other option but to bow down to their demands. Despite all their internal differences, these groups feed on the very emotion of human mind that considers hatred above humanity. Any sane person, who knows or practices any religion, is aware of the fact that every major religion in the world promotes humanity and tolerance. The idea of universal brotherhood is greatly stressed upon by major religions of the world. But these religious fanatics make sure that the society at large stick to their twisted interpretation of religion.
Just two days ago, Senate's Functional Committee on Human Rights unanimously approved the Hindu marriage bill. The landmark move set a precedent that the state is willing to deliver if it wants to. It shows that Pakistan is willing to protect its minorities, but we still have a long way to go.
It is a painful truth that the Zia regime destroyed three generations by implementing its twisted version of the religion. And we haven't been able to recover from that. We won't as long as we aren't able to understand the essence of religion, that is humanity. And as long as the state is governed by religious fanatics and hardliners who have forgotten that the Benevolent God indeed exists.
Raza Habib Raja
Right now Pakistan is once again in the news related to its controversial anti-blasphemy law. Shaan Taseer, the son of late Salman Taseer is in hot water after posting a video message in which he condemned Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and tried to show solidarity to its oppressed Christian minority.
After seeing the message the religious community is calling for his arrest. Some have gone even further and have started to incite violence against him. Pakistan over the years has become so bizarre that now even criticism against a man-made law has assumed the status of blasphemy.
Shaan Taseer is now facing similar risks which his father, the late Salman Taseer, had faced after criticizing the blasphemy laws. If these religious zealots are not controlled, I fear that he may end up sharing the same unfortunate fate of his father.
His father, Salman Taseer, a politician and Governor of Pakistan’s most populous province Punjab, was an outspoken man and was murdered by Mumtaz Qadri, his own security guard, for speaking in favor of repealing Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, according to which a person found guilty of blasphemy can be sentenced to death. Salman Taseer had also asked for official pardon of an illiterate woman, Aasia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death by Pakistani courts after being found guilty of blasphemy.
However, even this humane gesture was construed as blasphemy by the religious lobby and they started to agitate against him. The drop scene finally came when Qadri, his own guard, shot him and surrendered himself to police.
Later, in embarrassing scenes which have been permanently ingrained in the memory, he was showered by rose petals. After Qadri’s arrest he went to court where finally he lost his appeal. He was executed on 29th February 2016 and his funeral was attended by millions.
But why did it happen? Why did Qadri shoot Taseer, and why was he subsequently showered with rose petals? Why was his funeral was attended by millions despite the fact that he cowardly murdered a person he was supposed to protect?
And why is Shaan Taseer, son of the late Salman Taseer being threatened so openly and the state is literally helpless to offer protection. In fact, the only thing it has done so far is to register a case of “hate speech” against him rather than against those who are threatening him!
To some extent the murder of Salman Taseer happened due to the extreme reverence attached to religion and the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). Outright religious fanaticism is of course responsible and perhaps the only cure in the long run is desensitizing people from religion. I will not dispute this obvious reality.
But this only partially explains the complex situation. Reverence alone does not lead men to commit murders. It is what the society explicitly or implicitly expects with respect to actual demonstration of reverence (particularly when the revered figures and symbols are perceived to be under attack) which often leads to adoption of a particular action.
These expectations are not always spelled out clearly but nevertheless articulated through loaded slogans and narratives which project some real life individuals as heroes and villains.
Extremely pervasive and loaded slogans in Pakistan like “Hurmat-e-Rasool per Jaan be qurban hai” (for the honor of the Prophet (PBUH) we are ready to sacrifice our lives) actually expect that the honor of the Prophet (PBUH) should be protected even if one has to give their life. Slogans such as these become extremely dangerous with respect to their potential impact. I am not saying that they affect every person in the same way, but it merely takes one individual to get affected in “that” way to do the unthinkable.
Moreover, such slogans and the related literature also lowers the threshold of the desired level of “reverence,” as that line where so-called blasphemy starts, becomes blurred, and is eft for the individuals to simply decide what they consider as blasphemy.
I think this is important because such acts are often committed for personal glorification which the society is willing to bestow on such individuals. Yes, Mr. Qadri courted possible death when he fired upon Taseer but he also looked towards widespread hero worship and “immortality’ in the similar vein of Ilm-ud-Din ( a hero for some Muslims) who had killed had stabbed a Hindu in 1929 on publishing a supposedly blasphemous book which had contained derogatory remarks about Prophet (PBUH). He was tried in court and hanged but over time has achieved a legendary status.
His act was subsequently glorified and his legacy has been immortalized in the following words of Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan: “This uneducated young man has surpassed us, the educated ones”. The narrative around Ilm-ud-Din is that he did the right thing and today he is highly respected. This, in my opinion, is a dangerous narrative as it is projecting the wrong kind of heroes.
In a society where Ilm-ud-Din has been made into a legend and a “Shaheed”, the murder of Salman Taseer is hardly a surprise. Mumtaz Qadri, in his head was going to heaven and on his way to attaining the same legendary status when he fired shots at Salman Taseer, despite the fact that the latter had only asked for a presidential pardon of an illiterate woman accused of blasphemy. And yet Mumtaz Qadri took the decision, a calculated one, and literally got away with it. And the subsequent showering of the rose petals demonstrate that he was not wrong in his calculations.
No society is monolithic, as it is composed of numerous individuals and has so many cultures and sub cultures. It would be totally wrong for me to say that actions of Mumtaz Qadri were supported by all and he is a universal hero. I know that many hated his act. And many of those who did not support his act were devout Muslims. I personally talked to many and found that apparently a large number was utterly shocked by Mumtaz Qadri’s act.
However, those many never came out to protest. Immediately after his act, it was the Islamists chiefly belonging to the Brailvi sect who thronged the streets. And they were celebrating and threatening that any review of the controversial blasphemy law would be met with severe resistance.
The vigil which was organized by those protesting Taseer’s murder barely attracted a few hundred and those who attended look so different from the rest of Pakistan. The size and the appearance of the crowd contrasted so much from the processions of the “other” side. There could be no greater disparity between the two groups.
So-called moderates may be more, but it is the hardliners to whom the street and the weapons belong. And by the word “moderate” too is relative to hardliners only. If we start judging with respect to Western standards then an overwhelming majority is hardliner.
We need to reexamine the narratives here about people like Ilm-ud-Din. Why do we try to narrate the story of men like Ilm-ud-Din in a consecrated manner? By such narrations, we may not be converting the entire population into fanatics but nevertheless a critical mass is getting “motivated,” and all the hardliners need is that critical organized mass which is ready to even adopt violence.
In the end, I would like to make a humble plea to all my Muslim brothers and sisters.
When you kill in the name of Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) then you are portraying Islam and his legacy in an extremely wrong way. The world will, and in fact already is, judging Islam by the way Muslims behave in the name of Islam. If we want the world to consider Islam as a peaceful religion then remember to act in such a way. Being violent, endorsing violence, giving apologetic defense to violence and then also demanding that world should not “stereotype” Muslims and consider Islam as a religion of peace won’t work.
By Jalees Hazir
Blasphemy fatwas are back in business.
A cleric from Gujrat pronounced one against Imran Khan and our brave tabdeeli warrior who doesn’t tire of quoting Iqbal and Quranic verses, was quick to come up with an apology as demanded. The cleric had threatened the PTI chief that a failure to do so would make him a blasphemer and hence free-game for the ‘aashiq-e-rasool’ assassins.
End of story? I don’t think so.
A few days earlier, the same cleric, who goes by the name and title of Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi abused Shaan Taseer and his dead father from the pulpit of a mosque.
He hurled death threats at the son for expressing his reservations about the much-abused blasphemy law and the mazar that is being patronised around the grave of the ‘aashiq-e-rasool’ who murdered his father for alleged blasphemy. It’s as if the Supreme Court never wrote that famous judgment. Wasn’t the policeman assassin, who was on duty to guard the Governor when he murdered him, hanged for his crime after the Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence? So now, what does one make of the comfort with which a cleric could hurl death threats at individuals for what he considers blasphemous utterings, and get away with it? Has the landmark Supreme Court judgment landed in the bin? Is the National Action Plan as good as dead?
Why has the government failed to act against a cleric who is clearly inciting people to murder? Who he is and where he lives is no secret. What he said is on record. It’s not as if he said he would take Imran Khan to court.
Clearly, he is on a mission to glorify the now-hanged policeman-assassin Mumtaz Qadri and motivate others to follow his foot-steps. Why doesn’t the government act against those who are building him up as a hero and patronising the mazar around his grave?
Instead, a case was registered in Lahore against Shaan Taseer for wishing merry Christmas to Aasia Bibi and Nabeel Masih who are accused of blasphemy.
In another fatwa, a cleric from Lahore had declared the slain governor’s son as a blasphemer for doing that. It was reported that the Punjab Police, under the National Action Plan, booked him for hate speech on the application of a worker of the sectarian Sunni Tehreek.
So, while the clerics are free to openly incite people to murder and issue self-styled blasphemy fatwas when they wish, the police decided to register an FIR against ‘an unidentified man in the video they found in a USB outside the police station’. Interestingly, Shaan Taseer identifies himself in the first sentence of the video. Surely, the way the PML-N government is going about implementing the National Action Plan says a lot about its priorities. It doesn’t come as a surprise though.
Along with every other mainstream political party, the elitist cults, coteries and cliques fighting for power in the parliamentary circus we call democracy, the PML-N would like to outsource our religion to the clergy; the religious elements promoting sectarianism in our midst. Our political leaders would like us to believe that they are serious about fighting terrorism and extremism but they are clearly not interested in doing any such thing.
We have made serious headway in our fight against terrorism and extremism in the last three years, thanks mainly to the clear-headed and courageous leadership of General Raheel.
Terrorists were sent running, complete with their guns and suicide vests.
Their hideouts were smashed and their accomplices arrested. No-go areas under their control were liberated. The infrastructure of militancy was remarkably downgraded under his command, and the reign of terror that used to hang over Pakistan like a dark cloud was lifted.
Positive developments in other non-military spheres would not have been possible with terrorist-guns still pointed at the head of an entire society.
Terrorists were not only killed in combat, they were captured, convicted and hanged. Their ideological edifice was destroyed by the Supreme Court judgment that confirmed the death sentence for Mumtaz Qadri. Many young voices found some breathing space to broaden the scope of discussion on Islam. Not so our political leaders.
For the sake of political gains, our oh-so-democratic leaders are always happy to co-opt the traditional self-proclaimed custodians of faith, the clerics in our midst wearing turbans of different colours and mouthing ignorance and sectarian venom. They would rather not challenge the hate-filled industry of ignorance they peddle in the name of Islam. They would not reclaim our great religion from the clutches of a sponsored clergy even when the time is so very ripe for doing that. They’d still like to hand to the maulvis and maulanas a monopoly over matters of faith in a platter.
One expected Imran Khan to resist the clerical diktat.
He says Iqbal inspires him, and our national poet was very clear about what he thought of religious elements and their fatwas. On occasions, Imran Khan has also challenged the monopoly of clerics over Islam and felt free to give a more enlightened perspective on religious belief.
But then, we saw him offer prayers behind the likes of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Tahir-ul Qadri. And now he has tendered this apology on clerical demand.
The sad part is that Imran Khan did not explain his words which were considered blasphemous. He did not explain the plain point that he was trying to make or how his words had been twisted to sound blasphemous. He did not question the authority of the cleric from Gujrat to declare him a blasphemer, a kafir and wajibul qatal. He just gave the man the apology he had demanded.
Most people agree that military success on the counter-terrorism front is not enough to win the war against extremism.
It is not sufficient on its own.
Unless the supreme civilians, whether in government or opposition, put their act together, we cannot win this war. Unfortunately, the supreme civilians seem to be sleeping as extremism claws its way back to terrorise an entire society.