School rampage in Brazil leaves 8 dead, many wounded

A student from Raul Brasil public school in Suzano, Sao Paulo metropolitan region, Brazil, is comforted while she cries after a shooting took place at the education center on March 13, 2019. (Nelson Almeida/AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019

School rampage in Brazil leaves 8 dead, many wounded

  • The gunmen were identified as former students at the school in a suburb of Sao Paulo
  • Police said the gunmen were armed with a handgun, a crossbow, Molotov cocktails, knives and small axes

SUZANO, Brazil: Two masked men armed with a gun, knives, axes and crossbows descended on a school in southern Brazil on Wednesday, killing five students and two adults before one killed the other and then himself, authorities said.
The men, identified as former students at the school in a suburb of Sao Paulo, also shot and killed the owner of a used car business nearby before launching the attack on the school, authorities said.
Besides the five students, the dead included a teacher and a school administrator, said Joao Camilo Pires de Campos, the state’s public secretary. Nine others were wounded in the school attack and hospitalized, he said.
“This is the saddest day of my life,” de Campos said, speaking to reporters outside the school in the Sao Paulo suburb of Suzano.
Authorities identified the attackers as 17-year-old Guilherme Taucci Monteiro and 25-year-old Henrique de Castro.
“The big question is: What was the motivation of these former students?” de Campos said.
Monteiro’s mother, Tatiana Taucci, offered a possible answer, telling Band News while hiding her face from the camera that her son had been bullied at the school.
“Bullying, they call it. ... He stopped going to school ... because of this,” she said.
She said she was surprised by his involvement and found out about the attack from the television like everyone else.
Minutes before the attack, Monteiro had posted 26 photos on his Facebook page, included several posing with a gun and one that showed him giving the middle finger as he looked into the camera.
In some of the photos, he wore a black scarf with a white imprint of a skull and cross bones. No text accompanied the posts.
By Wednesday afternoon, Facebook had taken down Monteiro’s page.
During the attack, Monteiro opened fire with a .38 caliber handgun and de Castro used a crossbow, de Campos said, adding that forensics would determine how each of the victims died.
The attackers were also carrying Molotov cocktails, knives and small axes, authorities said
“In 34 years as a policeman, it’s the first time I see someone use a crossbow like that,” police Col. Marcelo Salles said. “It is horrendous.”
The assailants were trying to force their way inside a room at the back of the school where many students were hiding when police arrived. Instead of facing police, they took their own lives. Monteiro shot de Castro in the head and then shot himself, police said.
Students gathered outside the school recounted harrowing attacks and seeing several bodies lying in pools of blood.
Kelly Milene Guerra Cardoso, 16, said she and other students took refuge in the school’s cafeteria, locked the door and lay on the floor.
“We stayed there until the door was opened. We thought it was the shooters coming to get us, but it was the police,” she said. “They told us to start running.”
Horacio Pereira Nunes, a retiree whose house is next to the school, said he heard shots around 10 a.m.
“Then a lot of kids started running out, all screaming,” he said. “It didn’t take long until police arrived.”
The Raul Brasil Professor public school has more than 1,600 students from elementary to high school grades, teachers gathered outside said.
Latin America’s most populous nation has the largest number of annual homicides in the world, but school shootings are rare.
In 2011, 12 students were killed by a gunman who roamed the halls of a school in Rio de Janeiro, shooting at them.
President Jair Bolsonaro ran on a platform that included promises to crack down on criminals, in part by expanding public access to guns. Soon after his Jan. 1 inauguration, Bolsonaro issued a decree making it easier to buy a gun.
“A monstrosity and cowardness without equal,” Bolsonaro wrote in a tweet expressing his sympathies for the families of the victims of Wednesday’s attacks.
Similar to arguments made by proponents of less gun regulation in the United States, Bolsonaro and his supporters argue that expanded access to guns will combat crime.
Sen. Major Olimpio, a member of Bolsonaro’s party and a proponent of loosening gun legislation, again made that argument hours after Wednesday’s rampage.
“We can’t let those who take advantage of this tragedy speak about how disarmament is the solution,” he tweeted, adding: “Weak and shameful ‘disarmament farce,’ which gave guns to criminals and prevented self-defense.”


‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

Updated 09 July 2020

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

  • Pakistan played positive role in US-Taliban peace talks, says diplomat

PESHAWAR: Afghanistan’s newly appointed special envoy for Pakistan has had put “mending political relations” between the two estranged nations as one of his top priorities.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, on Tuesday said that his primary focus would be to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan and maintain strong ties with Pakistan, especially after Islamabad’s key role in the Afghan peace process earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, the diplomat told Arab News: “Two areas have been identified to focus on with renewed vigor, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan and cementing Pak-Afghan bilateral ties in economic, social, political and other areas.”

In order to achieve these aims, he said, efforts would be intensified “to mend political relations” between the neighboring countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-kilometer porous border and have been at odds for years. Bonds between them have been particularly strained due to a deep mistrust and allegations of cross-border infiltration by militants.

Kabul has blamed Islamabad for harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in 2001. But Pakistan has denied the allegations and, instead, accused Kabul of providing refuge to anti-Pakistan militants – a claim rejected by Afghanistan.

Daudzai said his immediate priority would be to focus on “political reconciliation” between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a historic peace agreement signed in February this year when Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating a troop withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban to end the decades-old Afghan conflict. “Afghanistan needs political reconciliation which the Afghan government has already been working on to achieve bottom-up harmony,” he added.

Daudzai’s appointment Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took place days after Islamabad chose Mohammed Sadiq as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Reiterating the need to maintain strong bilateral ties with all of its neighbors, Daudzai said Pakistan’s role was of paramount importance to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has a positive role in the US-Taliban peace talks, and now Islamabad could play a highly significant role in the imminent intra-Afghan talks. I will explore all options for a level-playing field for the success of all these initiatives,” he said, referring in part to crucial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were delayed due to a stalemate in a prisoner exchange program – a key condition of the Feb. 29 peace deal.

Under the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 government prisoners were to be freed by March 10. So far, Afghanistan has released 3,000 prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 500. Daudzai said that while dates had yet to be finalized, the intra-Afghan dialogue could begin “within weeks.”

He added: “A date for intra-Afghan talks hasn’t been identified yet because there is a stalemate on prisoners’ release. But I am sure they (the talks) will be kicked off within weeks.”

Experts say Daudzai’s appointment could give “fresh momentum” to the stalled process and revitalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.

“Mohammed Sadiq’s appointment...could lead Kabul-Islamabad to a close liaison and better coordination,” Irfanullah Khan, an MPhil scholar and expert on Afghan affairs, told Arab News.

Daudzai said that he would be visiting Islamabad to kickstart the process as soon as the coronavirus disease-related travel restrictions were eased.

Prior to being appointed as the special envoy, he had served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from April 2011 to August 2013.