Sunday, November 5, 2017

Man identified as Texas shooter was court-martialed for assault on his spouse and child

By David S. Cloud and David Lauter

The man authorities have identified as the shooter in the massacre at a Texas church was give a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force three years ago after being court-martialed for assault, a military spokesperson confirmed Sunday.
Federal law prohibits a person who has been dishonorably discharged from buying a firearm. Whether Kelley's discharge would trigger the law was not immediately clear. 
Devin P. Kelley, who served in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico starting in 2010, was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts alleging assault on his spouse and assault on their child, Ann Stefanek, the chief of Media Operations for the Air Force, said in a statement.
Kelley was convicted and sentenced to 12 months in custody and given a bad conduct discharge,  Stefanek said. He was discharged in 2014.
The 1968 Gun Control Act made it unlawful for a licensed firearms dealer to sell a weapon to a person with a dishonorable discharge or for such a person "to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce."
Officials have said they found multiple weapons in Kelley's vehicle when he died. They have not said how he obtained them.

Video - Texas Gov. Abbott gives emotional update on shooting

Video - Texas community holds vigil for church shooting victims

Obama: May God grant us the wisdom for how to prevent gun violence


Former President Obama called for action on gun violence after the deadly mass shooting at a church in Texas on Sunday.
"We grieve with all the families in Sutherland Springs harmed by this act of hatred, and we’ll stand with the survivors as they recover,” Obama tweeted Sunday.
“May God also grant all of us the wisdom to ask what concrete steps we can take to reduce the violence and weaponry in our midst.” 
At least 26 people were killed after a gunman opened fire at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said it was the deadliest mass shooting in the state's history, and it came a little more than a month after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, in Las Vegas.
Obama pushed to pass new gun laws following deadly mass shootings during his administration, most notably after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Obama issued executive orders in 2016 that expanded background checks for people buying firearms online or at gun shows. 
Trump repealed another Obama rule that required the Social Security Administration to share information about mentally ill recipients of Social Security benefits. That information was included in background checks for gun sales.

In Solemn Tweets, Obama Calls For ‘Concrete Steps’ To Tackle ‘Weaponry In Our Midst’

By Nick Visser

“We grieve with all the families in Sutherland Springs harmed by this act of hatred.”

Former President Barack Obama offered his condolences to the 26 victims who lost their lives after a shooting at a church on Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
In a pair of somber messages posted to Twitter, Obama said he grieved with the families “harmed by this act of hatred,” and said he would “stand with the survivors as they recover.” He followed up with a message urging those in power to take action to combat violence and reduce the prevalence of guns. 
“May God also grant all of us the wisdom to ask what concrete steps we can take to reduce the violence and weaponry in our midst,” he wrote.
The 26 people were killed after a man, identified in reports as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, walked into the First Baptist Church and began shooting with an “assault-type rifle.” At least 20 other people were injured in the massacre, including a 5-year-old boywho was shot four times. The suspect was killed, although his cause of death is unclear.
Obama has remained relatively quiet on social media since the end of his presidency in January, but has frequently weighed in on issues of national concern with his sympathies and similar calls to action.
Following the attack in Las Vegas last month that killed 59 people, the president called the event “another senseless tragedy,” and he posted a message in June for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

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More Than 20 Dead In Shooting At #Texas Baptist Church: Reports

By Nina Golgowski

The gunman is also dead, according to a local news outlet.

A shooting killed more than 20 people and left dozens injured at a church outside of San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday, according to reports.
Paul W. Pfeil, a Wilson County, Texas, commissioner, told The New York Times the number of fatalities is “more than 20.” ABC News reported at least 27 people were killed, citing law enforcement sources, and that more than two dozen were injured.
A man reportedly walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs around 11:30 a.m. local time and began shooting, San Antonio TV station KSAT reported. The station, citing local police, reported that the gunman is dead and the FBI and Texas Rangers are at the scene.
It is unclear whether law officers killed the gunman or if he killed himself. The San Antonio Express-News reports police were checking for explosive devices at the suspect’s home with a K9 unit.
The church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, told ABC News that his 14-year-old daughter is among those killed. The pastor was out of town at the time of the shooting, a Wilson County official told a reporter for San Antonio TV station KENS 5 in a Facebook video.
Other children are believed to be among the dead, the official said.
“He killed multiple people, he wounded many others, he himself is down,” the official told the reporter of the suspect, who has not been identified.
A witness at the scene told the station that the fatalities accounted for about half of the church’s congregation. University Hospital in San Antonio has reported taking in nine patients from the shooting ― five adults and four children. A 10th patient was expected. A spokesperson for Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville, Texas, told KENS 5 that they had taken in eight patients. Four of those patients were transported to University Hospital, two were discharged and two are said to be in stable condition.
The station also reported that a 2-year-old child is among the victims.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), in a post on Twitter Sunday afternoon, also responded to news of the shooting by calling it an “evil act.”

Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response. More details from DPS soon. 
Sutherland Springs is located about 35 miles east of San Antonio. 
The shooting comes just over a month after a gunman murdered 58 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas before killing himself.

On Sept. 24, one woman was killed and seven people were injured in a shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee. The alleged gunman in the Tennessee attack, Emanuel Samson, 25, was arrested at the scene.

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In war-stricken Yemen, Cholera takes the greatest toll SOFREP Original Content

Since the civil war in Yemen began almost two years ago it has claimed over 10,000 lives and has left millions destitute and at risk for the disease. The disease, which has seized the nation, is Cholera and the numbers are staggering. One in 62 Yemenis is estimated to be sick with Cholera. There have been over 436,000 cases since the war began and in May and June of 2017 alone, there were more cases of Cholera in Yemen than in the entire world during 2015.

This catastrophic number leads one to ask the question “why?” Cholera is an easily preventable and treatable disease. The answer is clean water is in short supply in Yemen. Cholera is spread through water contaminated by feces and garbage. The ongoing war in Yemen has greatly deteriorated the country’s water infrastructure leading to mass supplies of water being contaminated by piling rubbish and feces that have not been properly removed. 
The Red Cross has ordered tons of chlorine from neighboring countries to help treat the contaminated water. However, to get the chlorine to the areas that need it most, aid workers must cross conflict zones. There are dozens of checkpoints throughout the country and what was once a simple 20-minute trip can take up to six hours to get through. This leads many Yemeni to travel hours to major cities seeking treatment for their infected family members. Some may return home too late to save their loved ones.


Two bomb attacks have hit Aden as insecurity continues to grip the southwestern Yemeni province despite the presence of forces loyal to Saudi-backed former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
A high-ranking member of pro-Hadi forces said a car bomb exploded outside the security headquarters in Aden's Khur Maksar district on Sunday.
He blamed the incident, which killed at least seven pro-Hadi soldiers, on the al-Qaeda militant group. Local residents said clashes erupted in the area immediately.
In a second incident moments later, gunmen stormed the Aden criminal investigations unit and set alight the files stored there, as a bomber set off his explosive belt in the building, according to a source in the unit.
Aden is dominated by pro-Hadi Yemeni forces, backed by the United Arab Emirates, which is a key member of the Saudi-led military campaign on Yemen.
However, there have been some indications that Saudi Arabia and the UAE disagree on a number of issues over the war on Yemen, among them the control of Aden International Airport.
Saudi strikes continue
In another development on Sunday, Saudi jets conducted fresh airstrikes on Yemen.
The air raids left two people dead and two more injured in the northern province of Amran and also destroyed al-Sabeen Square, the main square of national celebrations in Sana’a.
The Saudi-led war, which began in March 2015, has been accompanied by a naval and aerial blockade on Yemen. It has so far killed over 12,000 people and led to a humanitarian crisis.
The Riyadh regime launched the offensive to eliminate Yemen’s Houthi movement and reinstall a friendly regime there.
The campaign, however, has failed to achieve its goals despite spending billions of dollars.

High stakes as Saudi crown prince tries to remove opponents

By Bruce Riedel
The decision by Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud to sack Minister of National Guard Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the favorite son of the late King Abdullah, is intended to remove a potential powerful rival of his own favorite son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Mutaib's ouster is the most crucial part of a large-scale wave of arrests in the kingdom that suggests deep opposition to the young prince's ambitions.
The Saudi Arabian National Guard was the creation of King Abdullah in the 1950s and 1960s. It has been the power center for the Abdullah wing of the family and the Shammar tribe for over a half-century. The National Guard was originally designed to be a counter-coup force to defend the royal family from revolutionary plots in the regular army. It is deployed in the capital and holy cities as well as along the borders. It was a crucial player in the forced abdication of King Saud in 1964 that brought Faisal to the throne, and it bore the brunt of the fighting for the recovery of the holy mosque in Mecca from religious extremists in 1979.
The National Guard also participated in the defense of the kingdom from Iraq in 1990 and the liberation of Kuwait. In 2011, it was sent across the King Fahd causeway to Bahrain to secure the survival of the Sunni minority ruling family against protesters from the Shiite majority. The National Guard is still on the island.
The 100,000-man National Guard is separate from the Royal Saudi Land Forces, the kingdom's army, which has over 200,000 soldiers and roughly 1,000 tanks. Mohammed, also the minister of defense, is the civilian commander of the Royal Saudi Land Forces. Traditionally, it has been deployed on the kingdom's borders to defend the country from foreign enemies and to project power in the neighborhood. In 1991, it participated in the battle of Khafji, repelling the Iraqis, and then in the liberation of Kuwait.
Royal Saudi Land Forces troops were involved in border clashes with Houthi rebels in Yemen in 2009-10. The Saudis did not fare well in the clashes and had considerable casualties. Gradually, the Houthis consolidated their control of the border region and northern Yemen.
The two armies are very expensive. There is no authoritative breakdown of defense spending by service, but the majority of military personnel are in the Royal Saudi Land Forces and the National Guard. Both are very well-equipped. The National Guard is completing the purchase of 24 Apache helicopter gunships bought from the United States in 2010, for example, which will increase the force's firepower.
Saudi defense spending in 2015 was $87 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute; this was the third highest in the world and larger than any of our NATO partners or Russia. Per capita spending is $6,900 a year, a phenomenal amount for a nation of only 20 million Saudi nationals.
Mutaib and the National Guard represent a potential alternative power center to the crown prince. By sacking Abdullah's son, the king and crown prince are further consolidating power in their own hands. Earlier, they ousted former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was also minister of the interior, the third leg of the national security apparatus of the kingdom.
The determination to consolidate power in the hands of the crown prince suggests both ambition and anxiety. The young prince is a man in a hurry with a sweeping vision of transforming his country. Just last month he announced plans to build a new city in the kingdom's northwest, to be called NEOM, and financed by $500 billion in investment. His Saudi Vision 2030 is the most expansive program for change in the country's history.
But Mohammed bin Salman is also aware that his rise to power has alienated many in the royal family who have been sidelined. The forced ouster of Mohammed bin Nayef was done ham-handedly, with little respect or honor for the long years of loyal service he had provided in fighting terrorism. Since his removal, Nayef has yet to be seen in public or speak about his dismissal.
Knowledgeable observers of Saudi internal politics point to the many arrests of prominent clerics and intellectuals this summer as a sign of tensions inside the kingdom. There is no guarantee that if Mohammed bin Salman's father dies or abdicates that the succession will be smooth. The latest round of arrests only reinforces the sense that the succession debate is more difficult than the king and his son want. The crown prince is now in charge of an anti-corruption task force that looks more like a means to punish his opponents than anything else. Eleven princes have been detained, and the number of royals under suspicion is unprecedented.
The kingdom is at a crossroads: Its economy has flatlined with low oil prices; the war in Yemen is a quagmire; the blockade of Qatar is a failure; Iranian influence is rampant in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq; and the succession is a question mark. It is the most volatile period in Saudi history in over a half-century.
Read more:


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman removed one of the royal family’s most prominent princes from his ministerial role and arrested other royals and top officials in a sweeping purge that clears any remaining obstacles to his son’s potential ascension to the throne.
Acting on orders from a newly established anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, security forces arrested 11 princes, three ministers and dozens of former ministers, according to Saudi media.
Three ministers were removed from their positions: Economy and Planning Minister Adel bin Mohammed Faqih, National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Naval Forces Commander Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan, said Saudi TV, the government’s official broadcaster.
The three ousted ministers were replaced, with Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed bin Ayyaf Al Muqren becoming National Guard minister, Mohammed bin Mazyad Al-Tuwaijri becoming the Economy and Planning Minister, and Vice Admiral Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghifaili taking on the role of Naval Forces Commander.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men and a shareholder of Citigroup Inc. and Twitter, was among those detained, according to a senior Saudi official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Laws will be applied firmly on everyone who touched public money and didn’t protect it or embezzled it, or abused their power and influence,” King Salman said in comments shown on state TV.
King Salman had already sidelined other senior members of the royal family to prevent any opposition to the crown prince, 32-year-old Prince Mohammed, known as MBS among diplomats and journalists, who replaced his elder cousin, Muhammed bin Nayef, in June. That maneuver removed any doubt of how succession plans will unfold following the reign of King Salman, now 81.

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US drone attacks kill 15 Daesh fighters near Pak-Afghan border

Fifteen Daesh fighters were killed in three US drone attacks near the Pak-Afghan border in Afghanistan on Sunday, sources told Geo News. 
6 Daesh fighters were injured in the attacks that targetted four bases of the terrorist organisation in the Afghan province Nangarhar, as per sources.  
Last month, at least 31 people were killed in three drone strikes on October 17. 
The strikes that left at least 12 people injured, had targetted areas near the Pak-Afghan border in Afghanistan.

Pakistan - Unprecedented smog exposes inefficiency, mismanagement of power sector

  • Despite surplus power generation capacity, large parts of country experiencing tripping, unannounced hours-long power cuts

  • Smog-triggered tripping has already led to forced closure of all Chashma Nuclear Power plants

Despite tall claims of the government, prevailing smog coupled with dense fog have exposed the inefficiency and mismanagement of the power sector, as large parts of the country have been facing tripping and unannounced hours-long power cuts from last few days.
Through discussions with energy experts and background interviews, Pakistan Todayhas learnt that large parts of the country have been experiencing tripping and unannounced hours-long power cuts from last few days, which is expected to persist for one and half month, despite surplus power generation capacity.
Experts have said the government has destabilised the transmission and distribution system by pulling out above 4200MW without any planning. On top of that, smog and fog have adversely affected the power supply situation, which has led to tripping and thereby affecting circuits and grid stations in many parts of the country.
“Outdated transmission and distribution system of the country is unable to bear changing weather conditions,” experts said.
A spokesman for energy ministry was not available for a comment, despite repeated attempts to get updates on the power situation.
However, official sources in energy ministry on condition of anonymity said the power division has directed the National Power Control Centre (NPCC) to chalk out a well-managed emergency load management plan until restoration of power supply situation. They said dense levels of smog has posed a serious challenge to the national transmission system, and the power division, NPCC, NTDC and power distribution companies (Discos) were closely monitoring the situation. Special teams and lines formations have been deputed by the NTDC and Discos to meet any emergency situation due to the weather conditions. Patrolling of all high transmission lines has been increased by the NTDC.
According to a spokesman of NTDC, power supply to Bahawalpur, Multan and many other areas affected due to dense fog and smog caused tripping in the NTDC system. Also, NTDC teams busy in restoration work have been facing hardships, and the system is gradually improving.
“Energy ministry has advised the NTDC and all Discos to put their operational teams on alert, and patrolling of sensitive and important points of transmission system of the electricity,” said NTDC spokesman.
According to National Weather Forecast Centre of Pakistan Metrological Department, “Due to deficient/delayed winter rains, fog is likely to prevail in most of the plain areas of Punjab, upper Sindh, central and lower parts of KP during the month of November and December. Dense fog in the above areas is likely to dominate during mid-November to end of December 2017.”
It is crucial to note here that the smog-triggered tripping has already led to the forced closure of all Chashma Nuclear Power plants (C1, C2, C3, C4)—having a cumulative capacity of almost 1,200MW and need 72 hours for a full revival. Similarly, the hydel generation average, from last few days, has also come down to 2,700MW against its capacity of 7,000MW due to fewer releases of water from reservoirs as per the demand of the provinces.
Moreover, the SNGPL has reportedly curtailed 200 MMCFD gas supplies due to annual maintenance of regasification terminal at Karachi on Nov 3-7, resulting in a reduction of 500MW in the system.
Interestingly, however Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, while presiding over a meeting last week, directed the power division to gradually close down furnace oil and diesel-based plants and convert to LNG-based generation to avert the impact of looming capacity trap. Not only that, the power sector had also closed all expensive furnace oil and diesel-run power plants of a cumulative capacity of 4,250MW under the directions of the federal government.
The closed down furnace oil plants included 950MW Hubco, 1,000MW Muzaffargarh, 400MW Jamshoro and 700MW Kapco. The diesel/furnace oil-fired smaller plants which were closed under these directions were Nishat Power, Nishat Chunian Power, Liberty, Hubco Narowal, Atlas and Kel, of cumulative capacity of around 1,200MW.
The power system on Friday suffered a major breakdown and affected key parts of Punjab and Balochistan following the government’s decision to close down furnace oil and diesel-based power plants.
So far, the power system has not been fully revived.

'What kind of justice is this?' A cry from Pakistan's remote tribal lands

By Umar Farooq
A frail Shah Khan Kukikhel was walking through the rubble of what used to be his brother’s home. The trouble, he recalled, had begun after his 19-year-old nephew began to leave the family compound for days at a time.
“We got worried, we made him swear on the Koran that he was not involved in any militancy,” said Kukikhel. In June, government officials turned up with an ultimatum: Hand over the nephew, Sheheryar, for interrogation, or the family home would be razed.
By then, Sheheryar was gone.

“We spent months looking around, we visited every madrassa we could, we asked all Sheheryar’s friends, but the deadline came and we couldn't produce him,” said Kukikhel.
In most of Pakistan, a manhunt for one person — whether justified or not — would not imperil the rest of his family. But Kukikhel lives in Pakistan’s tribal region, a dangerous and nearly lawless area along the Afghanistan border. In recent years, it has been a favored hiding place for Taliban and Al Qaeda militants, and a focal point of the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Authorities suspected Sheheryar of being a member of a local Taliban group.
Neither Pakistan’s parliament nor its judiciary has any power in the tribal areas. Instead, the region remains subject to a 1901 set of British colonial laws called the Frontier Crimes Regulation, which has seen little modification since Pakistan gained independence in 1947.
Under those laws, federally appointed civil servants, called political agents, enjoy nearly unchecked power. And they wield an especially harsh form of criminal enforcement known as collective punishment.
Collective punishment allows government agents to exact retribution on an entire family, or even an entire tribe, for the misdeeds of one member.
Such was the experience of the Kukikhel family.
The family’s compound sits near the town of Jamrud, a few miles west of Peshawar, a city of roughly 2 million that serves as the administrative hub for the tribal region. The compound is off the main road, a storied highway that snakes west through the Khyber Pass and into Afghanistan.
Here, one tribesman can kill another in broad daylight, and if tribal elders decide it was justified, can get away with it. But if the political agent takes an interest, the entire family can be punished. On Aug. 3, officials returned to the Kukikhel compound with a bulldozer and a document bearing the signature of tribal elders allowing them to raze part of the house.
“They drove the bulldozer through the outer wall, then completely destroyed my brother’s home,” Kukikhel said. Officials also arrested another one of his brothers, 65-year-old Khalil, and said he would be detained until Sheheryar turned himself in. That hasn’t happened yet.
“What kind of justice is this?” Kukikhel said.
In 2011, Pakistan amended the Frontier Crimes Regulations, restricting detention for collective responsibility to men ages 18 to 60, and establishing a tribunal for hearing appeals against the decisions of the political agent. But the restrictions are often ignored. In September, for instance, a roadside bomb exploded in Landi Kotal, along the road to the border with Afghanistan. Authorities arrested 30 tribesmen and a 10-year-old boy under the collective responsibility law.
The tribunal, part of an $8.8-million U.S. and European grant to encourage good governance, has disposed of more than 2,200 appeals so far, but is short staffed and lacks the means to impose its powers. It is often unable to compel political agents to provide judicial records so it can deliberate appeals. “The government needed to implement these reforms right away in 2011, but they have yet to even come up with procedural rules we need to do our work,” said the tribunal’s chairman, Sange Marjan. Marjan, a Mehsud tribesman from South Waziristan who once served as a political agent, had his home razed as part of the collective responsibility law in 2009. Nearly 1 million locals left the area then ahead of a military operation to eliminate Taliban fighters. When they returned three years later, more than 4,000 homes had been leveled by authorities.
“How can we all be held responsible for the government’s failure to fight these militants?” said Marjan. “We all left when the army told us to do so, and when we came back we were punished. If we were terrorists, why would we have left in the first place?”
In 2014, after a Taliban attack killed 132 schoolchildren in Peshawar, the Pakistani military waged a new multi-pronged war in the tribal areas, which had served as the nerve-center for the militant groups. The civilian government, in an acknowledgment that it was time to lift the Frontier Crimes Regulation, issued a comprehensive plan to tackle terrorism that included an end to collective punishment. Yet none of the reforms have been carried out.
In the last two years, terrorism-related deaths across Pakistan have fallen by more than half, but for those living in the tribal areas, every bombing or drive-by shooting on soldiers still elicits the use of the most brutal measures available to authorities under the collective punishment law.
At an intersection on the main road to Peshawar, blocks of low-rise markets still stand shuttered, ordered closed two years ago by the government after a local factory was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades. “The political agent said we were responsible under the law,” said Zeeshan Afridi, one of the handful of local traders who had managed to open his shop again this year. “I had to sign a special agreement taking responsibility if any attacks happen again. What can I do? That’s the law here.”
“Where in the world does a country include an area that is mentioned in its constitution, but has no law applied there?” said Shah Jee Gul Afridi (no relation to Zeeshan Afridi), one of the leading voices in what has become a popular movement for mainstreaming the tribal areas.
He too has spent time behind bars for collective responsibility. In 1992, a minibus was stolen near his family home near Jamrud. Shah Jee Gul Afridi and 20 other tribesmen were arrested and spent six months in prison until they agreed to pay the owner compensation. “We later found out the minivan had been stolen and taken across into Afghanistan,” he said. “But we never got that money back, and we never got that time in prison back. What kind of a country has a law like that?”
Shah Jee Gul Afridi is one of 12 lawmakers from the tribal areas who hold seats in parliament, but are constitutionally barred from voting on legislation that could be applied in their constituencies. Still, Afridi has tried to push Islamabad to lift the Frontier Crimes Regulation and fully integrate the tribal areas into the country.
In a meeting with tribal leaders in August, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the government was "prioritizing legal reforms" in the tribal areas, and that Islamabad would ensure that practices like collective punishment would end. But residents are skeptical.
"We have been hearing about these reforms since we were children," said Afridi. "We only want a sustainable, peaceful Pakistan. I only want to see this nation survive, and for that we need to end this law in the tribal areas."