Germany Admits Failings A Year After Christmas Market Attack

Merkel Asked To Seal Repeat Coalition With SPD

Germany’s leaders admitted Tuesday that the government failed to provide adequate support and comfort to relatives of victims in last year’s devastating Christmas market attack, and acknowledged security gaps in the run-up to the atrocity.

A year after rejected Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri rammed a truck into the crowded market at the Breitscheidplatz, killing 12 people and wounding 70, the authorities have come under fire over security failings and their clumsy handling of the aftermath of the assault.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, accused of failing to reach out personally to families of victims, had met with them for the first time only Monday.

“The talks were very open, and from the part of those affected, no holds barred, and pointed to the weakness of our country in this situation,” Merkel said, as Germany held a day of solemn commemoration for the victims on Tuesday.

“Today must be not the only day of sadness, but also a day of our will to make better things that did not work well,” she vowed, adding that she had offered to meet the bereaved again in a few months’ time.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also told the bereaved and emergency workers at a private church memorial for the victims that “it is true that some support came late and remained unsatisfactory”.

“Many family members and injured — many of you — felt abandoned by the state,” he said, recalling the words of a mother who had lost her daughter and said no one had comforted her after the attack.

“I can’t get those words out of my head,” he said, saying that the relatives’ appeal to be heard had “triggered something and set it in motion.”

In the hours following the assault, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, politicians had put on a brave front and repeated the mantra that Germany would not be cowed by terror.

But Steinmeier said such rhetoric had done little for the victims.

“So soon after the attack… these words don’t sound simply defiant and self-confident, but also strangely cold and detached,” he said.

– ‘We can only apologise’ –
At midday, Merkel joined relatives in inaugurating a memorial — a 14-meter (46-foot) golden crack in the ground engraved with the victims’ names.

An ecumenical prayer was held later to remember the victims, while at 8:02 pm (1902 GMT) — the exact time when Amri rammed his truck into the crowded square — the church’s bells chimed for 12 minutes.

But the run-up to the commemoration has been marred by criticism of the authorities by families of the victims.

A wrenching open letter by some of the bereaved accused Merkel of failing to personally offer condolences.

“They have not even tried to listen to us, to understand our needs,” said Bild Yaron, the brother-in-law of Dalia Elyakim, an Israeli woman killed in the attack.

Susanne Covington, 62, who came to light a candle at Breitscheidplatz, said Merkel “should have done something a little earlier”.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas apologised in an editorial in the Tagesspiegel newspaper: “We were not sufficiently prepared to deal with the consequences of such a terror attack.

“For that, we can only apologise to the victims and their surviving relatives.”

– ‘Taxi costs not reimbursed’ –
Kurt Beck, who was commissioned by the government to look into the handling of the aftermath, last week outlined a litany of official failings, including taking up to three days to inform anxious relatives that their loved ones had perished and even sending the bereaved autopsy bills complete with late-payment warnings.

Further adding to the embarrassment, the Bild newspaper said the letter inviting relatives to Tuesday’s commemoration was accompanied by an information sheet stating that “taxi costs will not be reimbursed!” and urging them to use public transport instead.

A spokeswoman for Berlin authorities, Claudia Suender, told Tagesspiegel that such information was “required under the budgetary and administrative law” even if she “regretted the impression it gave.”

Police also faced fierce criticism after it emerged that Amri, who arrived in Germany in 2015 and registered under several different identities, should have been deported.

On Sunday, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper said the Tunisian had been under close surveillance by Germany’s secret service than previously thought, suggesting the authorities might have left him free in order to detect his instigators.

Amri himself was shot and killed four days after the attack by police in Italy, where he had previously lived.

AFP

Merkel To Meet Bereaved A Year After Christmas Market Attack

Merkel, Schulz Open Talks Aiming To Break Govt Impasse
German Chancellor Angela Merkel smiles as she is offered Christmas trees at the Chancellery on November 30, 2017.
Silas Stein / dpa / AFP

A year after an Islamic jihadist ploughed a truck into a Christmas market crowd, killing 12, Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet Monday with the victims’ families for the first time.

The private gathering on the eve of the anniversary of the atrocity comes against the backdrop of angry recriminations by many of the bereaved, who say official incompetence and neglect since the assault have inflicted fresh wounds.

Last December 19 at 8:02 pm, Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian who had failed to obtain asylum, rammed a stolen truck into crowds at the market on the Breitscheidplatz, a popular destination for Berliners and tourists alike.

The victims came from Germany as well as countries including Israel, Italy, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.

More than 70 people were injured in the attack, the deadliest ever carried out in Germany.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility the next day, and Amri was shot and killed four days later by police in Italy, where he had previously lived.

Although Merkel has visited the scene of the attack at least four times, including once to the reopened Christmas market last week, it will be her first face-to-face talks with relatives of the victims, some of whom have accused her of ignoring their needs and concerns.

In a wrenching open letter to the chancellor this month, before the meeting was announced, several family members condemned her “political inaction” and accused her of failing to reach out to them.

“Almost a year after the attack, we note that you have not shared your condolences with us either in person or in writing,” the letter said.

“In our opinion, this means that you are not living up to the responsibilities of your office.”

– ‘Bills for autopsies’ –
A government-commissioned report released last week identified a litany of shortcomings in the response to the tragedy.

Some relatives desperately searching for their loved ones were told only three days after the attack that a family member had perished, even though they could have been given early warning through facial identification.

Others were sent “bills for autopsies — including warnings for late payment, I didn’t want to believe it, but I had such a letter in hand,” said the author of the report, Kurt Beck.

“Such experiences should never be repeated,” he said, adding that Germany “was not prepared” to deal with the attack’s aftermath.

The government has paid out 1.6 million euros ($1.9 million) in compensation to the wounded and victims’ families.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas pledged that Berlin would take action “to ensure that when something so terrible happens that the relatives of victims are taken care of as well as possible.”

“We have learned from our mistakes,” he said.

Another factor keeping the wounds raw has been steady leaks in the press about administrative gaffes and missteps leading up to the attack.

Amri, who arrived in Germany in the summer of 2015, at the height of the refugee influx, registered under several different identities. Media reports citing the investigation have said that he plotted the attack from the start.

Authorities knew him to be an Islamist extremist and drug dealer whose asylum claim had been rejected and who was being intermittently monitored by police.

But Amri was never deported or arrested.

– ‘Maybe Germans are naive’ –
Israeli tourist Rami Elyakim, 64, who lost Dalia, his wife of four decades, in the attack, said he remembered only drinking mulled wine together at the market.

Elyakim, who sustained broken bones throughout his body and still has difficulty moving, said that living in Israel he and his family had grown used to attacks, but they did not expect terror would strike them in Berlin.

“We thought Germany was safe,” he told the Bild newspaper. “In Israel no one who was planning something like this would walk around free. Maybe the Germans are naive.”

On the anniversary itself Tuesday, the Christmas market will be closed for the day so the families and first responders who tended to victims can attend a memorial ceremony in the church on the same square.

Merkel, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller will inaugurate a memorial — a 14-metre (46-foot) golden crack in the ground engraved with the victims’ names.

In the afternoon, the site will open to the public for those wishing to pay their respects and join in a prayer for peace at dusk.

At the exact time of the attack, the church’s bells will chime above a sea of lighted candles.

AFP

Gunmen Attack Magu’s Farm House, Kill One

EFCC boss, Magu

Gunmen on Tuesday were said to have invaded a farmhouse belonging to the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu.

The anti-graft agency which confirmed the incident also noted that a policeman was killed in the process.

The gunmen were said to have opened fire on the security personnel after storming the house located in the Karshi area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja killing the police sergeant.

It was also gathered that this is the second of such attacks on the facility.

The incident comes barely two days after the EFCC acting chairman led public demonstrations across the country against corruption, to mark the anti-corruption day.

Mr Magu had at various times insisted that he would not give up in the fight despite attempts targeted at frustrating his efforts.

At Least 20 Feared Dead In Another Plateau Attack

Gunmen Kill Ex-Plateau Head Of Service, Two Others
Plateau State on the map of Nigeria

More than 20 people are feared dead in an early morning attack on Nkyie Dongwro village in Miango district of Bassa Local Government Area in Plateau State.

The attack is the second in less than 24 hours after six people were killed in a late-night sneak attack on Ta’agbe village, also in Miango.

Gunmen have continued to attack communities in spite of a curfew imposed by the state government on Bassa LGA.

Before Monday’s attack, the government had vowed to identify and prosecute all those behind the attack on Ta’agbe village.

It had also warned that any person or group found to be providing refuge and escape for perpetrators of the act would not be spared the wrath of the law.

 

Plateau Attack: Govt Vows To Arrest, Prosecute Perpetrators

Plateau Attack: Govt Vows To Arrest, Prosecute Perpetrators
File photo: Simon Lalong

Plateau State government has condemned the attack on a village which left six persons dead and five others injured in Bassa Local Government Area of the state.

Tegbe village in Jebbu Miango area of the state was attacked on Saturday, hours after the state government imposed a 12-hour curfew on the local government.

In a statement issued on Sunday by the Director, Press and Public Affairs, Samuel Nanle, the state government said the incident sought to “take the state back to the dark days of violent conflicts”.

It, however, said it would not relent in its renewed efforts at identifying and prosecuting all those behind the heinous crime.

“Government is, therefore, pleading with all residents of these areas of conflicts in Bassa and the surrounding border villages to volunteer useful information that will lead to the apprehension of all the criminals behind this sudden resurgence of terror,” the statement said.

The government also warned that any person or group in villages and neighbourhoods identified to have been providing refuge and escape for perpetrators of the act would not be spared the wrath of the law.

While sympathising with families of the victims, the state governor, Simon Lalong, directed the State Emergency Management Agency and the Ministry of Health to urgently coordinate medical services for the injured., as well as provide all necessary humanitarian relief materials to the areas of the attacks.

He also ordered the supply of all necessary humanitarian relief materials to the areas of the attacks and called for calm from all law-abiding citizens in the areas as security has been reinforced.

The governor added that intelligence and security search and patrol have been intensified to ensure the immediate arrest of the culprits.

Six Killed In Northern Kenya School Raid

Six people, including five students, were killed in an attack by suspected South Sudanese raiders on a boarding school in Lokichogio, in Kenya’s far north, early Saturday, authorities said.

“Six people were killed in the attack, including students, and we have others injured,” said Seif Matata, Turkana county’s commissioner.

Matata said the incident occurred at around 03:00 am (00:00 GMT) while students at Lokichogio Mixed Secondary School were asleep in their dormitories.

Members of the Toposa tribal militia from South Sudan, 200 kilometres (124 miles) to the north, are believed to be responsible for the attack with Matata alleging that a suspended student participated in the raid.

Kenya Red Cross said it had evacuated some of the injured by plane to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret for emergency treatment.

Turkana, an arid region bordering South Sudan, is awash with small arms and violent clashes between competing communities over resources and territory are common.

AFP

Gunmen Kill Two University Employees, Injure Policemen In Kenya Attack

Two university employees were killed and two police officers and a driver injured Tuesday morning when unknown gunmen fired on a vehicle close to Diani, a popular coastal tourist resort in Kenya.

The car was transporting officers and staff members from Diani to the Technical University of Mombasa’s nearby Kwale campus when gunmen opened fire on Tuesday morning.

“The officers were escorting university staff members when they were ambushed by the gunmen who killed two and wounded three including two officers,” said regional police chief Larry Kieng.

Kieng said the two university workers died at the scene while the wounded have been taken to the hospital.

After the attack, a silver sedan car was left riddled with bullet holes and abandoned on the side of a narrow dirt road about two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the university.

No students were reported injured in the attack.

– AK47 rifles used –

Kieng said an investigation was underway with police searching for the assailants, who used AK47 rifles, and that Islamic militants, as well as bandits, were among the suspects.

A month ago suspected Islamic militants attacked a church in the area killing two police officers and stealing their rifles.

Kenya’s coast attracts foreign and domestic tourists but has been affected in recent years by fears of radicalisation of the predominately poor Muslim residents by militants linked to Somalia’s Shabaab.

A series of attacks have also hit visitor numbers with some foreign governments warning their citizens against travelling to Kenya’s coast.

However, most terror attacks on Kenya’s coast have occurred much further north, towards the border with Somalia.

AFP

Gunmen Attack Olubadan Palace

Gunmen on Monday attacked the palace of the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji wreaking havoc on some vehicles parked inside the palace.

The gunmen launched their attack while Oba Adetunji was installing some chiefs including Baales and Mogajis.

It was gathered that the gunmen arrived at the palace around noon in a black car and shot at the palace, damaging cars parked in front of the palace.

After shooting for a while and daring people in the palace to come out, they drove off.

More to follow…

Six-year-old Boko Haram Attack Victim Survives Spinal Cord Surgery

Ali Ahmadu, a 6-year-old victim of Boko Haram attack in Chibok, Borno State has successfully undergone a spinal cord surgery in Dubai, United Arab Emirate.

Ali, who was flown out of the country by Dickens Sanomi Foundation survived a six-hour operation that put him back on his feet after being restricted to a wheelchair for three years.

The foundation has collaborated with a non-governmental organization, the global initiative for peace, love and care, which drew the attention of Nigerians to the boy’s plight.

READ ALSO: Troops Kill Two Boko Haram Suspects, Arrest Terrorists’ Informant

The group had approached eminent Nigerians for assistance, culminating in Dickens Sanomi Foundation picking up the bill.

Contrary to doctors’ predictions that Ali would be able to walk after three weeks of recuperation, the little boy without prompting walked unaided on September, the 23rd, 2017, six days after the operation.

 Three UN Peacekeepers Killed In Mali Attack

File Photo of Mali Troops

At least three United Nations peacekeepers were killed on Sunday during an attack on their convoy in Mali, the UN mission to the conflict-torn country said, without specifying their nationality.

In a separate statement, the Bangladeshi armed forces said three of its soldiers had been killed in Mali and another four were wounded when their vehicle hit an explosive device, without saying exactly where it happened.

 

AFP

London Train Attack: British Police Arrest 18-year-old

An armed police officer stands guard as the Household Cavalry leave the Horse Guards Parade in central London on September 16, 2017.
/ AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE

British police made their first arrest on Saturday over the bombing of a London underground train, detaining a man at the country’s main ferry port and describing the development as significant.

30 people were treated in hospital after the bomb detonated in a packed train carriage on Friday morning, in what was Britain’s fifth terror attack in six months. The blast inflicted flash burns on passengers while others fled in panic.

Police in the southern port area of Dover said an 18-year-old man had been detained and he is due to be transferred to custody in London.

“This arrest will lead to more activity from our officers,” they said in a statement, outlining that the teenager was being held under anti-terror legislation.

Friday’s incident which was claimed by the Islamic State group has led to the national threat level being raised to critical — meaning another attack could be imminent.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced late Friday that troops numbering 1,000 were deployed and would take on responsibility for guarding key sites, including nuclear facilities, to free up police.

In a statement, anti-terrorism Chief Mark Rowley said officers were “chasing down suspects”.

“Somebody has planted this improvised explosive device on the Tube. We have to be open-minded at this stage about him and potential associates,” he said.

 

AFP

London Train Attack: Trump’s Tweet Angers Britain

File Photo

President Donald Trump sparked fury, in London and yet another pointed rebuke from Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday after he claimed that “loser terrorists” were behind a botched train attack were known to British police.

Trump took to Twitter to condemn an attack on a packed London Underground train that injured 22 people, but also appeared to suggest that British authorities had dropped the ball.

“Another attack in London by a loser terrorist,” the US president tweeted.

“These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!” Trump added, appearing to reveal undisclosed intelligence from the headquarters of London’s Metropolitan police force.

This online broadside brought a terse public response from May, who warned the United State president and others not to speculate.

“I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation,” May told journalists in London.

Trump’s latest comments were described as “unhelpful” by London’s Metropolitan Police, as well as by Nick Timothy, May’s former chief of staff.

“True or not — and I’m sure he doesn’t know — this is so unhelpful from leader of our ally and intelligence partner,” Timothy wrote on Twitter.

After his tweets, and with ties apparently under strain, Trump spoke with May to convey “his sympathies and prayers” for victims of the London attack, the White House said in a statement.

“The president pledged to continue close collaboration with the United Kingdom to stop attacks worldwide targeting innocent civilians and to combat extremism.”

Trump’s keenness to underline a series of terror attacks in Britain, virtually in real time, has led to a repeated outcry across the Atlantic that has helped indefinitely delay his much-vaunted state visit to the country.

In May, British officials were furious after their US counterparts leaked shared material about an investigation into a bomb attack at a concert by pop star Ariana Grande in Manchester which left 22 dead.

The bomber’s identity and details of the probe leaked to US media before British officials felt ready to disclose them.