By David S. Cloud and David Lauter
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.
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.
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.
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: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/11/saudi-arabia-crown-prince-remove-opponents-national-guard.html#ixzz4xauyT5tO
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."