Philadelphia gunman in custody after hourslong standoff

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Philadelphia police take cover as they respond to an active shooting situation. (AP)
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A police officer with an assault rifle monitors activity while responding to a shooting on August 14, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (AFP)
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Police escort a woman away from the scene of a shooting on August 14, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2019

Philadelphia gunman in custody after hourslong standoff

  • Local media reported the shooter appeared to have a high-powered weapon and a significant amount of ammunition

PHILADELPHIA: A gunman who opened fire on police Wednesday as they were serving a drug warrant in Philadelphia, wounding six officers and triggering a standoff that extended into the night, is in police custody, authorities said.
Philadelphia police Sgt. Eric Gripp said early Thursday morning that the man was taken into custody after an hourslong standoff with police.
The shooting began around 4:30 p.m. as officers went to a home in a north Philadelphia neighborhood of brick and stone rowhomes to serve a narcotics warrant in an operation “that went awry almost immediately,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said.
Many officers “had to escape through windows and doors to get (away) from a barrage of bullets,” Ross said.
The six officers who were struck by gunfire have been released from hospitals, Philadelphia police Sgt. Eric Gripp said.
Two other officers were trapped inside the house for about five hours after the shooting broke out but were freed by a SWAT team well after darkness fell on the residential neighborhood. Three people that officers had taken into custody in the house before the shooting started were also safely evacuated.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we don’t have multiple officers killed today,” Ross said.
Temple University locked down part of its campus, and several children and staff were trapped for some time in a nearby day care.
Police tried to push crowds of onlookers and residents back from the scene. In police radio broadcasts, officers could be heard calling for backup as reports of officers getting shot poured in.
“I was just coming off the train and I was walking upstairs and there were people running back downstairs who said that there was someone up there shooting cops,” said Abdul Rahman Muhammad, 21, an off-duty medic. “There was just a lot of screaming and chaos.”
Police implored the gunman to surrender, at one point patching in his lawyer on the phone with him to try to persuade him to give up, Ross said.
“We’re doing everything within our power to get him to come out,” Ross said during the standoff. “He has the highest assurance he’s not going to be harmed when he comes out.”
Dozens of officers on foot lined the streets. Others were in cars and some on horses.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said its agents responded to the scene to assist Philadelphia police.
President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr were briefed on the shooting, officials said.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he was thankful that officers’ injuries weren’t life-threatening.
“I’m a little angry about someone having all that weaponry and all that firepower, but we’ll get to that another day,” Kenney said.
 


US opens first round of resurrected peace talks with Taliban

Updated 07 December 2019

US opens first round of resurrected peace talks with Taliban

  • The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence
  • Permanent cease-fire would be the eventual goal, said a US statement

KABUL: US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held on Saturday the first official talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban since President Donald Trump declared a near-certain peace deal with the insurgents dead in September.
The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal, said a US statement. Khalilzad is also trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict.
The meetings being held in the Middle eastern State of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, follow several days of talks in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, where Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
The Taliban have so far refused direct talks with Ghani calling him a US puppet.
Ghani leads the Afghan government with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in a power-sharing agreement brokered by the United States after the presidential elections in 2014 were so deeply mired in corruption that a clear winner could not be determined.
To head off a conflict Washington stepped in and forced the two leading candidates __ Ghani and Abdullah __ to share power in a so-called Unity Government that has been largely paralyzed because of the relentless bickering between the two leaders.
The Afghan government is now embroiled in a fresh elections standoff. Presidential polls on Sept. 28 again ended in accusations of misconduct and corruption, with no results yet announced.
Repeat leading contender Abdullah has challenged the recounting of several hundred thousand ballots, accusing his opponent Ghani of trying to manipulate the tally.
Meanwhile, Khalilzad’s return to his peace mission followed Trump’s surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to Afghanistan in which he said talks with the Taliban were back on.
While Khalilzad is talking to the Taliban about reducing violence, the US military in its daily report said overnight on Saturday US airstrikes killed 37 Taliban and operations by the Afghan National Security Forces killed another 22 of the militants.
The insurgents have continued to carry put near daily strikes against military outposts throughout the country. They now hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan.
Trump has expressed frustration with America’s longest war repeatedly saying he wants to bring the estimated 12,000 US soldiers home and calling on Afghanistan’s own police and military to step up. The Afghan government has also been criticized for its relentless corruption.