No fewer than 1,000 households affected by communal clashes and windstorms in seven local government areas of Taraba State are to benefit from the distribution of relief materials by the Federal Government.
Mr Igue Terungwa, who led a team of officials from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), flagged off the distribution of the materials on Tuesday for the affected communities to rebuild their damaged homes.
He had presented the items to the state deputy governor, Haruna Manu, before proceeding to commence the distribution which he noted was part of the government’s efforts to ameliorate the sufferings of the affected residents.
Giving a breakdown of the beneficiaries affected by the clashes, the NEMA official said the exercise would capture 170 households in Bali, 240 in Donga, and 100 in Ussa Local Government Areas of the state.
For those affected by windstorms, he says 150 households are in Jalingo, 200 in Gassol, 385 in Kurmi, and 100 in Sardauna LGAs.
In his response, the deputy governor thanked NEMA for the intervention, with hopes that there would be no more communal clashes that would warrant assistance from any quarter.
He also gave an assurance that the state government was making frantic efforts to restore peace in affected areas, and would assist NEMA with logistics to ease the onerous task of distribution.
Distraught relatives gathered Friday for the funerals of some of the 74 people killed when fire ripped through a crowded train in Pakistan, with many of the victims residents of a single town.
Sobbing family members crowded a government building in Mirpurkhas overnight as the first bodies covered in white cloth began arriving by ambulance from the scene of the disaster.
After morning prayers, with women watching from nearby rooftops, more than a hundred men attended the first funeral — of a car mechanic named Mohammad Saleem, who was in his late 40s.
It was held at the Bismillah Mosque, from which at least 42 pilgrims had left to board the train one day earlier, bound for a religious festival near Lahore.
According to officials, as some of the passengers cooked breakfast around dawn on Thursday two of their gas cylinders exploded, sending flames racing through three carriages as the train passed near Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab province.
At least 74 people died, some after jumping through windows on the still-moving train to escape the blaze.
Rescue officials found bodies and some injured passengers along a two-kilometre stretch of track, Dawn newspaper reported.
The train was a daily express service that runs between the southern port city of Karachi and Rawalpindi, adjacent to Islamabad.
Trains on that route can reportedly hit speeds of up to 110 kilometres (68 miles) per hour. Local media said that the speed may have helped fan the flames.
Journalists were allowed inside the interior of the carriages early Friday. The fire appeared to have burned them entirely, with virtually no space visible that was not blackened and charred.
One of them — Wagon No.12 — was carrying mainly people from Mirpurkhas, the town’s deputy commissioner, Attaullah Shah, told AFP.
“There was never such a tragic incident to happen to Mirpurkhas,” he said.
Mirpurkhas commissioner Abdul Waheed Sheikh said ten of the bodies had been confirmed as being residents of the town so far.
Twenty-four Mirpurkhas residents were among the injured.
But at least another 45 are still missing, he said.
Officials in Rahim Yar Khan have said many of the bodies are charred beyond recognition and will have to be identified through DNA testing — a process that could take up to one month.
Shah said the government was arranging to send families of the missing from Mirpurkhas to the hospital in Rahim Yar Khan where the bodies have been taken.
Mirpurkhas, a town of some half a million people surrounded by farms and mango orchards, was largely shut down Friday as businesses closed in mourning.
“These were such people that we can not ever forget them,” Mohammad Anwar, the 57-year-old headmaster of a government school, told AFP at the Bismillah Mosque.
He said that among the missing was his nephew, as well as the mosque’s imam. Most of those who left from the mosque had known one another or lived nearby.
Mahmood Iqbal wept outside his home as he told AFP how his two sons were missing, one son-in-law was killed, and one brother-in-law was wounded.
When he looks at his grandsons, he said, he “can’t hold my tears”.
“I am praying to Allah, that they might come back from nowhere. I am waiting for a miracle,” he said.
Yawar Hussain came to the deputy commissioner’s office overnight in the hope of finding his brother Mohsin, 20.
Clutching a photograph of his brother posing in a starched beige shalwar kameez and sunglasses, the 23-year-old described rushing home after hearing of the accident.
“I consoled my father, and my mother and sisters were crying,” he said.
Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment.
Gas cylinders are supposedly banned on trains. Pakistan’s railways minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said Thursday it had been a “mistake” to allow the cylinders on board, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered an inquiry.
But criticism, particularly of Ahmed, was growing as observers said there have been more than 70 railway accidents in the past year, including several major fatal ones.
Sabir Hussain Kaimkhani, a member of the National Assembly’s railways committee, told AFP the accident rate has increased “due to negligence”.
Kaimkhani said that alarm systems and emergency brakes in many trains are missing or broken, and that passenger carriages do not carry fire extinguishers.
Ahmed, who has refused to step down, denies the allegations and says the train in Thursday’s tragedy stopped when someone pulled an emergency brake.
After years of struggling alone or finding support in national groups, survivors of sex abuse by priests have formed a new international alliance to pressure the Catholic Church to face up to its crimes.
The group, called Ending Clerical Abuse (ECA), brings together activists from dozens of countries on several continents and will be mobilised in Rome this week when Pope Francis hosts a hotly awaited summit on tackling the wave of child sex abuse scandals shaking the Catholic Church.
“It’s a momentous and a historic movement… to bring a global and unified voice,” one of its co-founders, Peter Saunders, told AFP. “This is the first truly global initiative.”
Saunders’ personal story is among countless others suffered by people who grouped together to form ECA last June, including survivors from Chile, Poland, Switzerland, France, Italy, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries.
“I was abused at seven years old by a family member. I was also sexually abused by two Jesuit priests at my secondary school at about 12 years of age,” he said.
The same priest targeted his brother Michael at the same school six years before him, and died aged 55 after a lifelong battle with drug and alcohol abuse.
“I think the Church has been resisting change for many, many years and I think at long last the Church is beginning to bow to the pressure put on by survivors, by our media colleagues around the world, and by public opinion,” he added.
The group’s objectives include forcing the Church to take a “zero tolerance” approach to paedophilia, working to overturn the statute of limitations on abuse cases, and supporting victims in areas where speaking out remains difficult, such as in various African and Asian countries.
From Wednesday to Sunday, ECA will bring together victims in Rome to put new pressure on Pope Francis, who has spoken out strongly over the last two years about abuse in the Church after a string of scandals worldwide.
But on the ground, survivors say the fight against the culture of secrecy within the Catholic hierarchy and an instinct to cover up abuse cases remains entrenched.
“Either I committed suicide or I spoke out,” said a 70-year-old Swiss co-founder of ECA, who gives his name only as Jacques. “It was a long and painful fight.”
He said a priest raped him continually when he was aged 14 to 20. After years of therapy, in 2009 he contacted the priest who abused him and attempted to reach closure.
Only after a five-year struggle did senior Church figures “understand the gravity of the acts of their colleague and accept moral responsibility on behalf of the institution,” he said.
As he battled for justice, he also learned that the priest had been identified as a possible paedophile even before he was ordained and had been sent to France several times for “treatment”.
In 2010, Jacques founded SAPEC, a victims group in French-speaking Switzerland, which led to the creation of a commission to investigate abuse and oversee compensation.
In Poland, ECA co-founder Marek Lisinski, 50, said he had long dreamed of a new international organisation “to show Polish victims that they are not on their own.”
He said he was “assaulted for 10 months by a vicar” at age 13 and his search for justice led to a prosecution.
“I was forced to become an adult at age 13,” he said angrily.
Over several years he fought dependencies on alcohol and anti-depressants, made three suicide attempts and went through a divorce.
Finally, after nine years of legal proceedings, the vicar was suspended — but just for three years.
“In 2018, the court ordered him to apologise to me, but did not award damages,” he said. “I have never had the apology.”
Lisinsky added: “The Church has ignored victims, moves the perpetrators around (from one parish to another) and refuses to meet with us despite the instructions from the pope. Officially it has apologised… but as an institution it has never accepted its responsibility.”
In 2013, Lisinsky created the Don’t Be Afraid Foundation, which gathered testimony from 700 victims.
He published a shocking map online in October showing among other things all the parishes where abuse had been reported.
“There is barely a day without a victim coming forward to our Foundation. The youngest is a boy of 11,” he said.
Chilean activist Jose Andres Murillo, 43, struggled for 20 years before getting a measure of justice.
Also a founding member of ECA, Murillo was instrumental in bringing to light a huge scandal in Chile that led to 88-year-old priest Fernando Karadima being defrocked and prosecuted.
He said ECA needs to act “to create secure spaces within the Church”, safe from abuse.
“Faith is something positive for a lot of people, which helps them get through difficult moments, but that does not give the Church the right to create trauma in people’s lives,” he said.
A trickle of accusations of sexual abuse against priests in schools and seminaries is starting to erode the wall of silence in Catholic Spain, whose Church representatives are set to attend a major Vatican meeting on child protection.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” warned Miguel Hurtado, who recently made his case public.
“They’re not ready for the tsunami that is coming,” the 36-year-old said defiantly.
For 20 years, Hurtado stayed quiet, trying to come to terms with the abuse he suffered when he joined a boy scout troup at the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, which sits high up in jagged mountains northwest of Barcelona.
His alleged abuser, whom Hurtado accuses of fondling him for a year, was a charismatic monk who founded the group and died in 2008.
“I would have reported it earlier but I was a kid and I was too scared,” said Hurtado, who revealed his accusations in a Netflix documentary on abuse in Spain’s Church.
“The secret was killing me and I needed to come out with the truth, whether people believed me or not.”
Since then, nine others have come out to allege they were victims of the same monk and fresh accusations have emerged in religious schools in the Basque Country, various Catalan parishes and in a college in Barcelona.
Even the football world was affected.
On Thursday, Atletico Madrid said it had parted ways with a former monk who once trained its young players after he acknowledged having sexually abused one of his students in the 1970s.
The heads of around 100 bishops’ conferences from every continent will convene from Thursday to Sunday for the Vatican meeting on the protection of minors.
“There is a chain-reaction… It’s easy to imagine that there is a lot hidden that has not yet come out,” says Josep Maria Tamarit, a professor in criminal law at the Catalonia Open University who is leading an investigation into the issue.
As scandals erupted in countries like the United States, Ireland or Australia, complaints in Spain were few and far between despite the Church’s loss of influence over the years, particularly with younger generations.
Hurtado believes this was down to how Spaniards deal with trauma in general.
“For example, we have dealt with the traumas of the (1936-9) civil war and the (ensuing) dictatorship via omission,” he says.
“Forgiving and forgetting as it’s part of the past. Leaving it all hidden.”
Many allegations that are proved have also either gone past the time limit in which legal proceedings can be initiated or the accused have died, says Tamarit.
“There is a lot of discouragement,” he adds.
In 2016, one of Spain’s biggest paedophile scandals erupted at schools run by the Marist Roman Catholic community in Barcelona.
Most of the 43 complaints made against 12 teachers were shelved.
Just two teachers ended up facing charges, one of whom was sentenced and the other is awaiting trial.
It’s a similar situation in Italy, another Catholic country criticised by a recent United Nations report for “the numerous cases of children having been sexually abused by religious personnel… and the low number of investigations and criminal prosecutions”.
Tamarit links this to a certain Catholic mentality which sees all sexual acts as sins and therefore “there is not much difference between any old impure act and abuse of a minor”.
“This meant it wasn’t made visible and there was no awareness of its importance and seriousness.”
Silence ‘has to stop’
In Spain though, the recent scandals have pushed the Spanish Church into action.
In October, it announced the creation of a commission to rework its protocol on abuse after being accused of covering up cases by the El Pais daily.
“There has been a kind of silence and the Church has taken part in this silence, which was also a part of society,” says Norbert Miracle, spokesman for the bishops’ conference in Catalonia and neighbouring Valencia and Andorra.
“But that has to stop.”
The justice ministry has also asked prosecutors and religious authorities for a report on all cases of abuse.
In December, it unveiled a new draft bill for child protection that wants the time frame within which legal proceedings can be initiated to start when the victim turns 30 rather than 18 as is the case now, giving victims more time to make their complaints.
But Infancia Robada (Stolen Childhood), the first such victims association created in January, is asking for this time frame to start when the victim turns 50.
“In most recent cases, this time frame wouldn’t have been of any use,” says founder Juan Cuatrecasas.
Thousands of mourners across India attended funerals on Saturday for some of the 41 soldiers killed in a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir as a round-the-clock curfew remained in force in part of the restive region.
The paramilitary troops were killed on Thursday as explosives packed in a van ripped through a convoy transporting 2,500 soldiers in the disputed Himalayan region, the deadliest attack in a three-decade-old armed conflict.
TV stations showed coffins wrapped in Indian flags being carried by thousands of people across their hometowns, such as Gaya in the east and Unnao in the north after the bodies were flown to New Delhi late Friday where Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a wreath.
India has accused Pakistan of harbouring the militants behind the attack, which has sparked nationwide outrage and some public calls for war against the nuclear-armed arch rival to avenge the killings.
Pope Francis vowed justice for victims of clerical sex abuse Monday, describing paedophilia as one of the “vilest” crimes ahead of a historic global meet on the crisis roiling the church.
“I cannot refrain from speaking of one of the plagues of our time, which sadly has also involved some members of the clergy,” he said in his annual address to ambassadors to the Holy See.
“The abuse of minors is one of the vilest and most heinous crimes conceivable. Such abuse inexorably sweeps away the best of what human life holds out for innocent children, and causes irreparable and lifelong damage,” he said.
Francis swore to “render justice to minors”, and said a meeting of the world’s bishops in February was “meant to be a further step in the church’s efforts to shed full light on the facts and to alleviate the wounds caused by such crimes”.
A litany of child sexual abuse scandals has rocked the Catholic church, which has 1.3 billion followers around the world.
In December the pontiff had vowed the church would never again treat abuse allegations without “seriousness and promptness”, calling on abusers to hand themselves in to police.
The Argentine has struggled to resolve the problem as the steady drip of scandal corrodes the church’s authority amid sharp divisions in Rome over how to handle the fallout, and an apparently endless stream of bad news.
In the latest case to shake the Catholic church, the highest-profile Catholic cleric to be caught up in a paedophile scandal in France went on trial on Monday charged with failing to report a priest who abused boy scouts in the 1980s and 90s.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, in central eastern France, is accused along with five others from his diocese of helping cover up abuse in one of the parishes in the area.
On Friday the Vatican confirmed that an Argentinian bishop who has held a senior position at the Holy See since 2017, is under preliminary investigation over sex abuse claims.
Among the 11 people slain at a synagogue in Pittsburgh were beloved pillars of their community whose loss is being mourned by many.
Authorities have now released the identities of the victims of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in recent US history.
Here are names and details about the victims, and how they have been remembered:
The oldest victim of the shooting was Rose Mallinger, 97, a former secretary who was a “lovely lady,” Robin Friedman told CNN.
She was “full of life” and had “so much energy,” Brian Schreiber, a member of the Tree of Life synagogue, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Her daughter Andrea Wedner was also at the synagogue during the attack and was wounded, Schreiber said.
Bernice and Sylvan Simon
Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86, were a married couple killed in the shooting.
Their neighbour Jo Stepaniak told CNN they were “the sweetest people you could imagine” and “were loving and giving and kind.”
“They wanted to give back to people and be kind,” said Stepaniak.
Melvin Wax was a retired accountant who was reported to have been either 87 or 88 years old.
“Mel was a quiet, simple, honest, religious, kind, generous man,” Bill Cartiff told People.
“He was just a quiet man, and he was hard of hearing and soft-spoken, so he couldn’t hear you well and it was hard to hear him. He was sweet and you maybe had to have a little bit of tolerance for his awful jokes, which he incessantly told.”
Irving Younger, 69, was remembered as a regular at Tree of Life services and a “consistent volunteer,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw this gunman walk into the room where the services were and his first thought was ‘Can I help this stranger get settled?’ — until he saw what the stranger was doing — because that’s the kind of thought that he would have,” former Tree of Life president Barton Schacter told the Post-Gazette.
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, was a doctor who “was more than just a physician for me and my family; for over three decades he was truly a trusted confidant and healer,” Lawrence Claus told People.
“He had a truly uplifting demeanour, and as a practising physician he was among the very best,” Claus said.
Rabinowitz was Susan Blackman’s family doctor, and “he was like a member of the family, and a member of the extended family,” she told CNN.
Joyce Fienberg, 75, was a native of Toronto, Canada and a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh.
“She was a very petite woman but lit up a room with her huge personality. We weren’t just welcome in the classroom, but into their home,” Jason Connor, one of her former students, told CNN.
“Everyone says this, but she really was an enormously caring person.”
Daniel Stein, 71, was retired and was a frequent attendee at the Tree of Life synagogue, CNN reported.
“My dad was a simple man and did not require much,” his son Joe wrote on his Facebook page.
“My mom, sister and I are absolutely devastated and crushed! Our lives now are going to have to take a different path, one that we thought would not happen for a long time,” he wrote.
“We love you dad more than you’ll ever know!”
Richard Gottfried, 65 was a dentist and part of an interfaith couple.
He and his wife Margaret Durachko “embraced one another and our families in faith,” an employee at the Catholic church she attended told People.
“It was impressive how supportive they were of one another in practising their faiths,” his cousin Judy Weitzman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
David and Cecil Rosenthal
Brothers David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59, were the youngest people killed in the Tree of Life attack.
“Cecil and David had a love for life and for those around them. They loved their community. They spent a lot of time at the Tree of Life, never missing a Saturday,” Chris Schopf, who managed the home where they lived, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
They would sit in the back of the Tree of Life and greet people as they came in, Suzan Hauptman told CNN.
Roger Federer hailed old rival Rafael Nadal as “super-inspiring” after the world number one joined in the clean-up operation after flash floods killed 12 people on the Spanish holiday island of Majorca.
Spanish tennis star Nadal, 32, was pictured wearing boots and white gloves, mopping up the floor of a warehouse on Wednesday on the island where he lives.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion, currently sidelined through injury, has also offered to open up his sports centre and tennis academy to people made homeless by the floods.
“I know how important Majorca is to Rafa and I have been in touch with him to see if I can help with anything,” Federer said in a video message recorded in Shanghai where he is currently competing.
“I have seen him helping in the village where he comes from and to see that is super-inspiring. Rafa, you have our support.
“We are thinking of all the people in Majorca. We wish you strength in these difficult times and I hope to be back on Majorca soon.”
Fellow rival Novak Djokovic, also taking part in Shanghai, said he hoped Nadal’s efforts would inspire others.
“A big hug and friendly regards to Rafa and well-done amigo for helping out,” said the reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion.
“I invite anyone to give their support in any way they can. Gracias.”
Victims of the Lau Local Government Area of Taraba State are calling the government to herdsmen crisis affecting the community and the state in general.
The victims including women and children seeking shelter in a public school asked the government to deploy more security to the area.
“Our villages have been deserted, and our people want to return home but all our houses have been destroyed. We are calling on the government to provide shelter for us and more security personnel to remain permanently here”.
One of the survivors said “We thank the state government for their efforts. You can see that we have been displaced from our homes.
“We thank God almighty for delivering us with our children and old ones from these attacks. Government is taking care of us, we are given food items but we don’t have condiments and money to buy soap.
The Deputy Governor, Haruna Manu, in the company of government officials and security agencies on his visit to the attack scene met with those displaced by the attack as well community leaders of affected communities to commiserate with the people over those killed during the crises.
The deputy governor, first of all, visited some of the village’s houses set ablaze, food items and other property completely destroyed.
He also visited one of the public schools accommodating those displaced including women and children.
He described the crisis as very sad and unfortunate.
According to the governor, It is sad because it is less than a year when such ugly incidence occurred here. “We went round and saw for ourselves what happened.
“We also had meetings with your leaders with the hope that it will never happen again.
It is a thing of surprise and shameful that this is happening again in Lau local government.
The deputy governor later held meetings with traditional leaders and other community leaders on the need to have a peaceful coexistence.
Some of the affected communities include Katibu, Didango, Laguro and Donada in Lau Local Government Area of Taraba State.
Tears flowed freely in the Benue State capital, Makurdi, on Thursday as the state government conducted a mass burial for the over 70 persons killed by suspected herdsmen in the state.
The burial followed a solemn and emotional memorial service, attended by a crowd of mourners, at the IBB Square in Makurdi.
Seventy-three persons were murdered in brutal attacks by suspected herdsmen on New Year’s Day, amid tension over the decision of the government to implement an anti-grazing law it believes would end the protracted dispute between herdsmen and farmers in the state.
The pain of the brutal attacks and the sorrow it caused was evident at the memorial service with bereaved families and friends of those killed wept uncontrollably in the presence of Governor Samuel Ortom, representative of the United Nations and the APC National Executive, who were present to pay their last respect.
At the event, the state government vowed to seek justice for those killed by suspected herdsmen, while as the United Nations System in Nigerian asked the Federal Government go beyond condemning the attacks and find a lasting solution to such killings.
Governor Ortom in an emotional address to a crowd of mourners insisted on the full implementation of the open grazing prohibition law as a mark of honour for the 73 victims.
Also present, human right lawyer Professor Agbo Madaki vowed to drag the Federal Government before the International Criminal Court on charges of war crime, if it fails to arrest the perpetrators of the attacks, especially when security agencies were informed of the planned attacks by suspected herdsmen.
The paramount ruler of Tiv Nation, the Tor Tiv V, Professor James Ayatse, who was also present, called on the Federal Government to show support for the ban on open grazing and ensure the protection of lives.