NBA Legend Kobe Bryant, Daughter Die In Helicopter Crash

Bryant, 41, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on January 26, 2020.Robyn BECK / AFP

 

NBA legend Kobe Bryant died Sunday when a helicopter he was riding in crashed and burst into flames in thick fog, killing all nine people on board including his teenage daughter and plunging the sports world into mourning.

Bryant, 41, was travelling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when their Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.

Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist, is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history, an iconic figure who became one of the faces of his sport during a glittering two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dozens of firefighters and paramedics battled across steep terrain to reach the flaming wreckage at the crash site but found no survivors, officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said an 18-strong team of investigators would be sent to California to probe the causes of the crash.

Investigators work at the scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

 

Bryant’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world, with basketball stars stunned by the news.

“Laker Nation, the game of basketball & our city, will never be the same without Kobe,” former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan said Bryant was “like a little brother” to him.

“Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” Jordan said. “We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations very much.”

In this file photo taken on April 09, 2014, NBA Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant stands on the sideline with his daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant on his shoulders prior to the start of a friendly game between the United States and China at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. 
Photo: Kent Horner / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Worldwide tributes

Tributes to Bryant flooded in from former US presidents, pop stars and athletes from different sports, a sign of how the man known as the “Black Mamba” had transcended basketball.

“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” former US President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter.

American football star Tom Brady wrote simply: “We miss you already Kobe.”

Brazilian soccer star Neymar paid tribute to Bryant after scoring for his French club side Paris Saint-Germain, making the number 24 — Bryant’s old shirt number — with his fingers.

At the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, several hundred shocked fans gathered to pay tribute as the venue which witnessed many of Bryant’s career highlights hosted the music industry’s Grammy Awards.

“This dude is everything to me man. It makes no sense,” said distraught Lakers fan Bobby Jimenez, sobbing as he stood outside the venue.

The Grammys got underway with a somber tribute from singer Alicia Keys.

“To be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” Keys told the audience. “Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero. And we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”

Across the NBA, tributes were held at several of the eight games scheduled for Sunday.

Denver Nuggets fans began chants of “Kobe, Kobe” as a minute’s silence was held before their game against the Houston Rockets.

In New York, Madison Square Garden was lit up in purple and gold colors of the Lakers, alongside a giant image of Bryant captioned: “Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020.”

The crash came only hours after Bryant was passed by current Lakers star LeBron James for third on the all-time NBA scoring list in a Saturday game at Philadelphia.

Bryant’s final post on social media had been a tweet congratulating James on surpassing him.

“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote. “Much respect my brother #33644”.

Five-time champion

Bryant was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of a high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.

He also was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping spark the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.

Bryant bowed out of the NBA in 2016, scoring 60 points in his final appearance before his adoring fans at the Staples Center.

It was a fairytale farewell to a sporting career that began two decades earlier.

The son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, the Lakers legend was born in Philadelphia in 1978 while his father played for the 76ers.

The elder Bryant played from 1984 to 1991 in Italy, giving young Kobe a global worldview as he grew up dreaming of following his dad into the NBA.

He would eventually join the ranks of professionals at the age of 17, jumping directly into the NBA, only the sixth player and first guard to make such a leap.

At 18, Bryant became, at the time, the youngest player or starter in an NBA game and the youngest winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

With Bryant paired alongside Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers captured three NBA crowns in a row from 2000-2002, returning the team to glory days unseen since 1988.

Bryant’s career was almost derailed in 2003 when he was arrested in Colorado over a sexual assault complaint filed by a 19-year-old hotel employee where Bryant was staying ahead of knee surgery.

Bryant was accused of rape. He admitted to adultery but said he did not commit rape. The case was dropped in 2004 after the accuser refused to testify in a trial.

A separate civil suit was settled under terms kept private.

Bryant saw out his career with the Lakers, successfully branching out into the entertainment industry following his retirement.

In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball”, a love letter to the sport which brought him fame and fortune.

AFP

18 Killed In New Militia Attack In Eastern DR Congo

 

 

Eighteen people in eastern DR Congo’s troubled region of Beni have been killed in a fresh attack by a notorious armed group, a local official said on Monday.

“There was an incursion in Apetina-Sana by the ADF last night,” Beni administrator Donat Kibwana told AFP, referring to the Allied Democratic Forces militia.

“(They) hacked 18 civilians to death.”

Apetina-Sana is 16 kilometres (10 miles) west of Oicha, the chief administrative town in the Beni region.

It is a point on the so-called Death Triangle, along with Mbau and Eringeti — the worst-hit area for attacks.

ADF fighters have killed more than 200 people since the army launched an offensive against the militia on October 30, according to a toll compiled by civil society groups.

The toll has sparked anger over the authorities’ response.

“The authorities were tipped off on Sunday evening about the presence of suspicious men west of Oicha,” said Teddy Kataliko, a civil society activist in Beni.

“We continue to ask the DRC armed forces to launch operations on the western side as well, to save civilians.”

There have also been demonstrations in the city of Beni, where local people accuse the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO of failing to protect them.

The ADF began as an Islamist rebellion hostile to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

It fell back into eastern DRC in 1995 and appears to have halted raids inside Uganda. Its recruits today are people of various nationalities.

In a separate incident in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, “armed bandits” attacked a base used by a Chinese-owned gold mine, killing four people, the military said.

The raid happened in the Irumu district in the northeastern province of Ituri, said Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, the army’s provincial spokesman.

Two soldiers, a policeman and a driver for the mine were killed, he said.

“The assailants have not been completely identified but they must be armed bandits who look for supplies during the year-end festivities,” Ngongo said.

US Strikes On Pro-Iran Group In Iraq Kill 25, Sparking Anger

In this file photo taken on May 31, 2019 Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Iran-backed armed group, Hezbollah brigades, burn a US and Israeli flags during a military parade marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) International Day in Baghdad. The US bombed the headquarters of the group in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said today, after a series of attacks in Iraq again.

 

 

US air strikes against a pro-Iran group in Iraq killed at least 25 fighters, a paramilitary umbrella said Monday, triggering anger in a country caught up in mounting tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Sunday night’s attacks saw US planes hit several bases belonging to the Hezbollah brigades, one of the most radical factions of Hashed al-Shaabi, a Tehran-backed Iraqi paramilitary coalition.

The strikes “killed 25 and wounded 51, including commanders and fighters, and the toll could yet rise,” said the Hashed, which holds major sway in Iraq.

Victims were still being pulled from the rubble of bases near Al-Qaim, an Iraqi district bordering Syria, on Monday, it said.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the US had “shown its firm support for terrorism and its neglect for the independence and sovereignty of countries” by carrying out the attacks.

READ ALSO: Woman Dies After Being Set On Fire During Hospital Operation

Washington, itself a key ally of Baghdad, must accept the consequences of its “illegal act”, he added.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper described the attacks — which hit three locations in Iraq and two in neighbouring Syria — as “successful”, and did not rule out further military action against Iran-backed militias.

The strikes were in retaliation for a series of rocket attacks since late October against US interests in Iraq, including a barrage of more than 30 fired on Friday at an Iraqi base in Kirkuk, where a US civilian contractor was killed.

The office of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is highly revered by Iraq’s Shiite majority, denounced the attacks.

“The authorities must prevent Iraq being used as a place for the settling of accounts,” it said in reference to growing tensions between the United States and Iran.

These tensions have soared since Washington pulled out of a multilateral nuclear agreement with Tehran last year and imposed crippling sanctions.

Iraqi leaders fear their country could become a battleground between Tehran and Washington, in a context where they are also grappling with huge street protests against corruption and Iran’s political influence.

Pro-Iran factions angry

The protest movement forced prime minister Abel Abdel Mahdi to resign last month and it has rejected Iran’s favoured successor — a position shared by President Barham Saleh.

On Monday demonstrators in the Shiite-dominated southern cities of Basra and Najaf torched US flags and chanted anti-American slogans, with similar scenes reported in Kirkuk north of Baghdad.

US sources say pro-Iran armed factions now pose a greater threat than the Islamic State group, whose rise saw the US freshly deploy troops on Iraqi soil.

But significant elements of the Iraqi political class view the 5,200 US troops in the country as a “threat”, with Sunday night’s strikes reviving calls for them to leave the country.

Abdel Mahdi’s military spokesman decried “a violation of Iraqi sovereignty”, while the Hezbollah brigades are demanding the “withdrawal of the American enemy”.

Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah — which is separate from the targeted faction — called the attacks a “flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and security” and noted that Hashed had been a key player in the battle against IS.

Another powerful pro-Iran group, Assaib Ahl al-Haq — whose leaders were recently hit with US sanctions — also called for Americans to withdraw from Iraq.

“The American military presence has become a burden for the Iraqi state and a source of threat against our forces. It is therefore imperative for all of us to do everything to expel them by all legitimate means,” it said.

Parliament’s deputy speaker, part of influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s bloc, called on the Iraqi state to “take all necessary measures” in the face of the US attacks.

The Badr organisation, another key pro-Iran group, took a similar line.

Several lawmakers have castigated afresh an agreement permitting American soldiers to deploy in the country, arguing the strikes amount to a violation that renders the pact obsolete.

Since October 28, at least 11 attacks have targeted Iraqi military bases where US soldiers or diplomats are deployed.