Records show fervent Trump fans fueled US Capitol takeover

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Washington National Guard members patrol the Washington State Capitol along with a newly fenced perimeter on January 10, 2021 in Olympia, Washington. (David Ryder/Getty Images/AFP)
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Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather at the Washington State Capitol campus on January 10, 2021 in Olympia, Washington. (David Ryder/Getty Images/AFP)
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Conservative demonstrators gather as Washington State security forces surround the capitol along with a newly fenced perimeter on January 10, 2021 in Olympia, Washington. (David Ryder/Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 11 January 2021

Records show fervent Trump fans fueled US Capitol takeover

  • AP reviewed social media posts and public records for more than 120 people either facing criminal charges related to the Jan. 6 unrest
  • Evidence gives lie to claims by Trump apologists that the violence was perpetrated by left-wing antifa thugs, not Trump supporters

WASHINGTON: They came from across America, summoned by President Donald Trump to march on Washington in support of his false claim that the November election was stolen and to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden as the victor.
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Trump tweeted a week before Christmas. “Be there, will be wild!”
The insurrectionist mob that showed up at the president’s behest and stormed the US Capitol was overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, including Republican Party officials, GOP political donors, far-right militants, white supremacists, and adherents of the QAnon myth that the government is secretly controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile cannibals. Records show that some were heavily armed and included convicted criminals, such as a Florida man recently released from prison for attempted murder.
The Associated Press reviewed social media posts, voter registrations, court files and other public records for more than 120 people either facing criminal charges related to the Jan. 6 unrest or who, going maskless amid the pandemic, were later identified through photographs and videos taken during the melee.
The evidence gives lie to claims by right-wing pundits and Republican officials such as Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that the violence was perpetrated by left-wing antifa thugs rather than supporters of the president.
“If the reports are true,” Gaetz said on the House floor just hours after the attack, “some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters. They were masquerading as Trump supporters and, in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.”
Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, told reporters that investigators had seen “no indication” antifa activists were disguised as Trump supporters in Wednesday’s riot.
The AP found that many of the rioters had taken to social media after the November election to retweet and parrot false claims by Trump that the vote had been stolen in a vast international conspiracy. Several had openly threatened violence against Democrats and Republicans they considered insufficiently loyal to the president. During the riot, some livestreamed and posted photos of themselves at the Capitol. Afterwards, many bragged about what they had done.
As the mob smashed through doors and windows to invade the Capitol, a loud chant went up calling for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, the recent target of a Trump Twitter tirade for not subverting the Constitution and overturning the legitimate vote tally. Outside, a wooden scaffold had been erected on the National Mall, a rope noose dangling at the ready.
So far, at least 90 people have been arrested on charges ranging from misdemeanor curfew violations to felonies related to assaults on police officers, possessing illegal weapons and making death threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi D-Calif.
Among them was Lonnie Leroy Coffman, 70, an Alabama grandfather who drove to Washington to attend Trump’s “Save America Rally” in a red GMC Sierra pickup packed with an M4 assault rifle, multiple loaded magazines, three handguns and 11 Mason jars filled with homemade napalm, according to court filings.
The truck was found during a security sweep involving explosives-sniffing dogs after two pipe bombs were found and disarmed Wednesday near the national headquarters of the Republican and Democratic parties. Coffman was arrested that evening when he returned to the truck carrying a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun and a .22-caliber derringer pistol in his pockets. Federal officials said Coffman is not suspected of planting the pipe bombs, though he was charged with having Molotov cocktails in the bed of his truck.
His grandson, Brandon Coffman, told the AP on Friday his grandfather was a Republican who had expressed admiration for Trump at holiday gatherings. He said he had no idea why Coffman would show up in the nation’s capital armed for civil war.
Also facing federal charges is Cleveland Gover Meredith Jr., a Georgia man who in the wake of the election had protested outside the home of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump had publicly blamed for his loss in the state. Meredith drove to Washington last week for the “Save America” rally but arrived late because of a problem with the lights on his trailer, according to court filings that include expletive-laden texts.
“Headed to DC with a (s— -) ton of 5.56 armor-piercing ammo,” he texted friends and relatives on Jan. 6, adding a purple devil emoji, according to court filings. The following day, he texted to the group: “Thinking about heading over to Pelosi (C— — ‘s) speech and putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV.” He once again added a purple devil emoji, and wrote he might hit her with his truck instead. “I’m gonna run that (C— -) Pelosi over while she chews on her gums. … Dead (B— — ) Walking. I predict that within 12 days, many in our country will die.”
Meredith, who is white, then texted a photo of himself in blackface. “I’m gonna walk around DC FKG with people by yelling ‘Allahu ak Bar’ randomly.”
A participant in the text exchange provided screenshots to the FBI, who tracked Meredith to a Holiday Inn a short walk from the Capitol. They found a compact Tavor X95 assault rifle, a 9mm Glock 19 handgun and about 100 rounds of ammunition, according to court filings. The agents also seized a stash of THC edibles and a vial of injectable testosterone.
Meredith is charged with transmitting a threat, as well as felony counts for possession of firearms and ammunition.
Michael Thomas Curzio was arrested in relation to the riots less than two years after he was released from a Florida prison in 2019 after serving an eight-year sentence for attempted murder. Court records from Florida show that he shot the boyfriend of his former girlfriend in a fight at her home.
Federal law enforcement officials vowed Friday to bring additional charges against those who carried out the attack on the Capitol, launching a nationwide manhunt for dozens of suspects identified from photographic evidence
The FBI has opened a murder probe into the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, according to law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly. He died at a hospital.
The Trump supporters who died in the riot were Kevin D. Greeson, 55, of Athens, Alabama; Benjamin Philips, 50, of Ringtown, Pennsylvania; Ashli Babbitt, 35, of San Diego; and Rosanne Boyland, 34, Kennesaw, Georgia.
Boyland’s sister told the AP on Friday she was an adherent of the QAnon conspiracy theory that holds Trump is America’s savior. Her Facebook page featured photos and videos praising Trump and promoting fantasies, including one theory that a shadowy group was using the coronavirus to steal elections. Boyland’s final post on Twitter — a retweet of a post by White House social media director Dan Scavino — was a picture of thousands of people surrounding the Washington Monument on Wednesday.
“She would text me some things, and I would be like, ‘Let me fact-check that.’ And I’d sit there and I’d be like, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s actually right,’” Lonna Cave, Boyland’s sister, said. “We got in fights about it, arguments.”
The AP’s review found that QAnon beliefs were common among those who heeded Trump’s call to come to Washington.
Doug Jensen, 41, who was arrested by the FBI on Friday in Des Moines, Iowa, after returning home from the riot. An AP photographer captured images of him confronting Capitol Police officers outside of the Senate chamber on Wednesday.
Jensen was wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with a large Q and the phrase “Trust The Plan,” a reference to QAnon. Video posted online during the storming of the Capitol also appears to show Jensen, who is white, pursuing a Black police officer up an interior flight of stairs as a mob of people trails several steps behind. At several points, the officer says “get back,” but to no avail.
Jensen’s older brother, William Routh, told the AP on Saturday that Jensen believed that the person posting as Q was either Trump or someone very close to the president.
“I feel like he had a lot of influence from the Internet that confused or obscured his views on certain things,” said Routh, of Clarksville, Arkansas, who described himself as a Republican Trump supporter. “When I talked to him, he thought that maybe this was Trump telling him what to do.”
Jensen’s employer, Forrest & Associate Masonry in Des Moines, announced Friday that he had been fired.
Tara Coleman, a 40-year-old mother who lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was arrested at the Capitol for a curfew violation and for unlawful entry. On her Facebook page, Coleman re-posted articles supporting the QAnon beliefs about a “deep state” conspiracy to target children. The AP could not find a working phone number for Coleman and her attorney, Peter Cooper, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
And Jake Chansley, who calls himself the “QAnon Shaman” and has long been a fixture at Trump rallies, surrendered to the FBI field office in Phoenix on Saturday. News photos show him at the riot shirtless, with his face painted and wearing a fur hat with horns, carrying a US flag attached to a wooden pole topped with a spear.
Chansley’s unusual headwear is visible in a Nov. 7 AP photo at a rally of Trump supporters protesting election results outside of the Maricopa County election center in Phoenix. In that photo, Chansley, who also has gone by the last name Angeli, held a sign that read, “HOLD THE LINE PATRIOTS GOD WINS.” He also expressed his support for the president in an interview with the AP that day.
The FBI identified Chansley by his distinctive tattoos, which include bricks circling his biceps in an apparent reference to Trump’s border wall. Chansley didn’t respond last week to messages seeking comment to one of his social media accounts.
The insurrectionist mob also included members of the neofascist group known as the Proud Boys, whom Trump urged to “stand back and stand by” when asked to condemn them by a moderator during a presidential debate in September.
Nicholas R. Ochs, 34, was arrested Saturday after returning home to Hawaii, where he is the founder of the local Proud Boys chapter. On Wednesday, Ochs posted a photo of himself on Twitter inside the Capitol, grinning broadly and smoking a cigarette. According to court filings, the FBI matched photos of Ochs taken during the riot to photos taken when Ochs campaigned unsuccessfully last year as the Republican nominee for a seat in the Hawaii statehouse.
Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was arrested Monday in Washington on weapons charges and ordered to stay out of the nation’s capital. Tarrio is accused of vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church last month.
Jay Robert Thaxton, 46, was arrested near the Capitol for curfew violations on Wednesday. A North Carolina man with the same name has also been linked to the Proud Boys. He told The Stanly News & Press in 2019 that he was a Proud Boys supporter but wouldn’t say if he was an official member of the group. Another North Carolina newspaper, The Jacksonville Daily News, published a photo of Thaxton wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat at a 2019 protest over the removal of Confederate statues.
A man who answered a telephone number associated with Thaxton hung up on an AP reporter. The recipient of a text message to the same number responded with an expletive.
Also arrested at the Capitol was William Arthur Leary, who owns a manufactured housing business in Utica, New York. In an interview Friday, Leary told the AP that he strongly believes the election was stolen from Trump and that he went to Washington to show his support.
Leary said he doesn’t trust information reported by the mainstream media and that one of his main sources of information was Infowars, the far-right conspiracy site run by Alex Jones. He denied he ever set foot in the Capitol and complained that he was held for more than 24 hours and had his cell phone seized.
“They treated us like animals,” he complained. “They took all our phones. I didn’t get to make a phone call to tell anybody where I was.”
Leary said he remembers seeing a woman, Kristina Malimon, 28, sobbing at the detention center because she had been separated and not allowed to translate for her mother, who primarily speaks Russian. Both women had been charged with curfew violation and unlawful entry. According to a video posted on her Instagram account, the younger Malimon says she was born in Moldova, where her family had faced persecution under the Soviet-era regime for their Christian beliefs.
Malimon, who traveled to D.C. from Portland, Oregon, is vice chairwoman of the Young Republicans of Oregon, according to the group’s website and is also listed as an “ambassador” for the pro-Trump group Turning Point USA. Her social media feeds are full of photos taken at Trump events, including the earlier “Million MAGA March” held in Washington last month. She also posted photos of herself posing with Donald Trump Jr. and Roger Stone, who was convicted of crimes including obstruction of justice and pardoned by Trump on Christmas Eve.
Media reports from Oregon quoted Malimon in August as the primary organizer of a Trump boat parade on the Willamette River, where big waves created by speeding boats flying Trump flags swamped and sank a smaller boat that was not participating, throwing a family into the water to be rescued by the sheriff’s department.
“Oregon, today you came out and showed your love and support for our wonderful President, Donald J. Trump thank you!” Kristina Malimon wrote on Facebook following the parade.
Malimon also served as a Republican poll watcher in Georgia and spoke at an event organized by the Trump campaign in December, claiming to have seen voting machines and tabulation computers in Savannah, Georgia, with suspiciously blinking green lights she interpreted as a sign they were being secretly controlled by outside hackers — a claim debunked as false by GOP election officials in the state.
A phone number listed for Kristina Malimon rang without being answered on Friday. At the address listed for her in southeast Portland on Friday night, her teenage brother answered the door as other family members, including young children, ran around.
The family spoke Russian to each other and the brother, Nick Malimon, translated. He said his sister was still in Washington but had called the family following her release from jail and didn’t seem upset about her arrest.
But others are facing consequences even beyond their arrests.
A Texas sheriff announced Thursday that he had reported one of his lieutenants to the FBI after she posted photos of herself on social media with a crowd outside the Capitol. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Lt. Roxanne Mathai, a 46-year-old jailer, had the right to attend the rally but he’s investigating whether she may have broken the law.
One of the posts Mathai shared was a photo that appeared to be taken Wednesday from among the mass of Trump supporters outside the Capitol, “Not gonna lie......aside from my kids, this was, indeed, the best day of my life. And it’s not over yet.”
A lawyer for Mathai, a mother and longtime San Antonio resident, said she attended the Trump rally but never entered the Capitol.
Attorney Hector Cortes said Mathai’s contract bars her from speaking directly with the press but that she welcomes an FBI investigation and that her actions were squarely within the bounds of the First Amendment.
Brad Rukstales, a Republican political donor and CEO of Cogensia, a Chicago-based data analytics firm, was arrested with a group of a half-dozen Trump supporters who clashed with officers Wednesday inside the Capitol. Campaign finance reports show Rukstales contributed more than $25,000 to Trump’s campaign and other GOP committees during to 2020 election cycle.
He told a local CBS news channel last week that he had entered the Capitol and apologized. He was fired Friday and did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
Derrick Evans, a Republican recently sworn in as a delegate to the West Virginia House, resigned Saturday following his arrest on two charges related to the Capitol riot. He had streamed video of himself charging into the building with the mob.
“They’re making an announcement now saying if Pence betrays us you better get your mind right because we’re storming the building,” Evans, 35, says in the video, as the door to the Capitol building is smashed and rioters rush through. “The door is cracked! … We’re in, we’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!”
On Saturday he issued a statement saying he regretted taking part.
“I take full responsibility for my actions, and deeply regret any hurt, pain or embarrassment I may have caused my family, friends, constituents and fellow West Virginians,” the statement said.
 


China’s plans for Himalayan super dam stoke fears in India

Updated 26 min 33 sec ago

China’s plans for Himalayan super dam stoke fears in India

  • The structure will span the Brahmaputra River before the waterway leaves the Himalayas and flows into India
  • The project is expected to dwarf China's record-breaking Three Gorges Dam

BEIJING: China is planning a mega dam in Tibet able to produce triple the electricity generated by the Three Gorges — the world’s largest power station — stoking fears among environmentalists and in neighboring India.
The structure will span the Brahmaputra River before the waterway leaves the Himalayas and flows into India, straddling the world’s longest and deepest canyon at an altitude of more than 1,500 meters (4,900 feet).
The project in Tibet’s Medog County is expected to dwarf the record-breaking Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in central China, and is billed as able to produce 300 billion kilowatts of electricity each year.
It is mentioned in China’s strategic 14th Five-Year Plan, unveiled in March at an annual rubber-stamp congress of the country’s top lawmakers.
But the plan was short on details, a timeframe or budget.
The river, known as the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibetan, is also home to two other projects far upstream, while six others are in the pipeline or under construction.
The “super-dam” however is in a league of its own.
Last October, the Tibet local government signed a “strategic cooperation agreement” with PowerChina, a public construction company specializing in hydroelectric projects.
A month later the head of PowerChina, Yan Zhiyong, partially unveiled the project to the Communist Youth League, the youth wing of China’s ruling party.
Enthusiastic about “the world’s richest region in terms of hydroelectric resources,” Yan explained that the dam would draw its power from the huge drop of the river at this particular section.

Unique biodiversity threatened
Beijing may justify the massive project as an environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuels, but it risks provoking strong opposition from environmentalists in the same way as the Three Gorges Dam, built between 1994 and 2012.
The Three Gorges created a reservoir and displaced 1.4 million inhabitants upstream.
“Building a dam the size of the super-dam is likely a really bad idea for many reasons,” said Brian Eyler, energy, water and sustainability program director at the Stimson Center, a US think tank.
Besides being known for seismic activity, the area also contains a unique biodiversity. The dam would block the migration of fish as well as sediment flow that enriches the soil during seasonal floods downstream, said Eyler.
There are both ecological and political risks, noted Tempa Gyaltsen Zamlha, an environmental policy specialist at the Tibet Policy Institute, a think tank linked to the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamshala, India.
“We have a very rich Tibetan cultural heritage in those areas, and any dam construction would cause ecological destruction, submergence of parts of that region,” he told AFP.
“Many local residents would be forced to leave their ancestral homes,” he said, adding that the project will encourage migration of Han Chinese workers that “gradually becomes a permanent settlement.”

Water wars
New Delhi is also worried by the project.
The Chinese Communist Party is effectively in a position to control the origins of much of South Asia’s water supply, analysts say.
“Water wars are a key component of such warfare because they allow China to leverage its upstream Tibet-centered power over the most essential natural resource,” wrote political scientist Brahma Chellaney last month in the Times of India.
The risks of seismic activity would also make it a “ticking water bomb” for residents downstream, he warned.
In reaction to the dam idea, the Indian government has floated the prospect of building another dam on the Brahmaputra to shore up its own water reserves.
“There is still much time to negotiate with China about the future of the super-dam and its impacts,” said Eyler.
“A poor outcome would see India build a dam downstream.”


Indian opposition takes jab at Modi over vaccine shortage, COVID-19 crisis

Updated 11 April 2021

Indian opposition takes jab at Modi over vaccine shortage, COVID-19 crisis

  • Most Mumbai vaccine centers closed, city mayor tells Arab News

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of complacency and missteps in the handling of the pandemic by the country’s main opposition party, after six states reported a shortage of coronavirus vaccines and more than 145,000 new infections were recorded on Saturday.

The Congress Party also blamed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for prioritizing “vaccine diplomacy” by exporting vaccine doses instead of reserving them for domestic use.

“The Modi government has mismanaged the situation – exported vaccines and allowed a shortage to be created in India,” Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi said during a special meeting on Saturday to address the COVID-19 crisis.

“We must focus on India’s vaccination drive first and foremost, then only export vaccines and gift them to other countries.”

She emphasized the need for “responsible behavior” and adhering to all laws and COVID-19 regulations “without exception.”

But the government insisted there were enough vaccines in stock, accusing the opposition of “playing politics” even as India grappled with a deadly second wave of infections.

“There is no shortage of vaccines,” BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma told Arab News, adding that state governments were following the “procedure laid down by the center.”

Six opposition-ruled states said earlier this week that they were running out of vaccines and would be forced to discontinue the vaccination drive if the central government did not send supplies.

One of the worst affected states is western India’s Maharashtra, which recorded 58,993 new cases on Saturday out of the nationwide total of 145,384.

“There are 108 vaccines centers in Mumbai, but most of them have been closed due to a lack of vaccines,” Mumbai Mayor Kishori Kishore Pandekar told Arab News.

“The number of doses we have cannot last more than two days. If this is the situation in India’s financial capital Mumbai, imagine the case in remote areas of the state.”

Pune, one of Maharashtra’s biggest cities, has also run out of vaccines.

“We have not been vaccinating since Thursday in Pune, and we don’t know when the next lot of doses will arrive in the city,” Dr. Avinash V. Bhondwe, president of the Indian Medical Association’s Maharashtra wing, told Arab News.

The eastern state of Odisha has reported a shortage in doses, leading to the closure of 700 vaccination centers, according to media reports.

Verma said the current situation was due to the “desperate” measures taken by state governments.

“People above 45 years was the target group for the vaccination (drive). Some state governments are getting desperate, and they want to give vaccines to one and all. This is not possible for a (country with a) size like India. Vaccine production and export needs have been calibrated.”

But the BJP’s explanation did not satisfy Pankaj Vohra, from the New Delhi suburb of Noida, who went to hospital on Friday for his second jab but could not get vaccinated due to a shortage.

“A day before going to the hospital, I got a confirmation that I should come for the second dose,” he told Arab News. “But when I reached the hospital, I was told that the Covishield vaccine was available and not Covaxin. If the government cannot fulfil its domestic demand, why is it exporting vaccines?”

India has allowed permission for the emergency use of Covishield – the local name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India – and Covaxin, directed by Bharat Biotech in the south Indian city of Hyderabad.

It launched its vaccination drive on Jan. 16 and has inoculated 94 million people, far below the initial target of 300 million.

Only 12.5 percent of the 94 million have received the second dose, based on an advisory by the Health Ministry, which recommends a 28-day gap between the first and second dose.

“The government did plan the vaccination drive,” Dr. Amar Jesani, a Mumbai-based public health expert, told Arab News. “Most of the developed countries made arrangements that they get enough doses of vaccines when they need them, but the Indian government did nothing about it.”

He wondered why just two companies in India were producing vaccines, and suggested the government use a compulsory licensing policy and allow other local companies to produce them.

“That way, you could have a large number of vaccines available,” he added.

There has been increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in the past few weeks following a leap in cases, with Saturday’s daily infections rising by a record for the fifth time this week.

Last week experts told Arab News that India was on its way to becoming the “ground zero and global epicenter” for the coronavirus outbreak.

“The rising number of cases is due to the government’s failure to implement preventive measures,” Jesani said. “Political leadership is unhindered in their political campaigns addressing huge gatherings without following any COVID-19 protocol.”

Bhondwe urged the government to allow more companies to produce vaccines in India and to allow more foreign vaccines to come to India.

“People are in a state of panic, and they see some hope in vaccines. The government should not disappoint its people.”


Explosions in two Somalia cities kill at least 5

Updated 10 April 2021

Explosions in two Somalia cities kill at least 5

  • A bomber was targeting the Bay region governor who was outside the Suez Cafeteria, officials reported
  • Another explosion went off in the Huriwa district of Mogadishu, killing one government soldier and wounding a bystander

MOGADISHU: A suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside a cafe in Somalia’s city of Baidoa on Saturday, killing at least four people and wounding more than six others, police said.
The bomber was targeting the Bay region governor, Ali Wardhere, who was outside the Suez Cafeteria, officials reported. The governor escaped the explosion unharmed, according to the official government news agency, SONNA, which reported that at least two of his bodyguards, who were also policemen, were among the wounded.
“The explosion which was heard all around the town of Baidoa has terrorized the people and had created a momentary confusion,” said Amin Maddey, who witnessed the explosion and spoke to The Associated Press by telephone.
The Al-Qaeda linked group Al-Shabab has claimed the responsibility through a report they published on their website and radio Andalus which advocates for their extremists campaigns.
“The target was a convoy accompanying Mr. Ali Wardhere, the governor of Bay region, which was hit hard,” the Al-Shabab statement said, “three of Ali Wardhere’s bodyguards have died in the attack and the target which was Ali Wardhere himself got wounded,” added the statement.
The police have cordoned off the area for investigation as many bystanders gathered around to check whether their family members or friends are among the victims.
Meanwhile, another explosion went off in the Huriwa district of Mogadishu Saturday, killing one government soldier and wounding a bystander, police said.
It is not known whether the two explosions in Baidoa and Mogadishu are related. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing in Mogadishu.
The people of Somalia are seeing major security lapses as leaders remain in deadlock over the political situation after elections were delayed earlier this year.
“The meeting between the federal government and the federal member states has ended in total failure,” said the Minister of Information, Osman Abokor Dubbe, who blamed the two leaders of Puntland and Jubbaland for that failure.
However, both leaders of Puntland and Jubbaland have denied reports of a failed meeting.
There have been fears that the Al-Qaeda-linked group would be emboldened by Somalia’s current political crisis as President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is under pressure to step aside.


Artillery guns fire across UK in solemn tribute to Prince Philip

Updated 10 April 2021

Artillery guns fire across UK in solemn tribute to Prince Philip

  • On its official Twitter feed, the royal family put up a tribute paid by the queen to her husband on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1997
  • The armed forces marked Philip’s death at noon (1100 GMT) with a Death Gun Salute

WINDSOR: Gun salutes were fired across Britain on Saturday to mark the death of Prince Philip as tributes flooded in for a man who was a pillar of strength for Queen Elizabeth during her record-breaking reign.
Members of the public laid flowers outside royal residences, paying their respects to the 99-year-old prince, who died on Friday.
On its official Twitter feed, the royal family put up a tribute paid by the queen to her husband on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1997.
“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know,” she said. The queen has been on the throne for 69 years.
The armed forces marked Philip’s death at noon (1100 GMT) with a Death Gun Salute. Artillery units in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and Gibraltar, and some navy warships, fired their guns.
Buckingham Palace is expected to announce details of the funeral later on Saturday.
It is likely to be a small, private affair, stripped of the grandeur of traditional royal occasions by COVID-19 restrictions and by the prince’s own dislike of people making a fuss.
Despite a request from the royal family for the public to obey pandemic social distancing rules and avoid visits to its residences, people laid cards and bouquets outside Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace through the night.
“What a life! Thank you for serving our country,” read one tribute outside Buckingham Palace.
“We’re all weeping with you, Ma’am,” read the front page of the Sun tabloid, while its rival the Daily Mail ran a 144-page tribute to Philip, who died at Windsor Castle.
The death of “her beloved husband,” announced by the queen, robs the 94-year-old monarch of her closest confidante, the one person she could trust and who was free to speak his mind to her. They had been married for 73 years and he would have turned 100 in June.
Messages of condolence have poured in from world leaders.
The Duke of Edinburgh, as Philip was officially known, was credited with helping to modernize the institution and supporting his wife as the monarchy faced repeated crises during her reign.
The tenor bell at London’s Westminster Abbey tolled 99 times, a traditional marking of the death of a royal family member.
Flags at Buckingham Palace and at government buildings across Britain were lowered to half-mast and billboard operators replaced adverts with a photo and tribute to the prince.
The BBC canceled programming across all of its television and radio channels on Friday, and aired a special program with interviews with the queen and Philip’s children, including heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles.
Philip “probably wanted to be remembered as an individual in his own right,” said Charles.
“He didn’t suffer fools gladly, so if you said anything that was in any way ambiguous, he would say: ‘Make up your mind!’ Perhaps it made one choose one’s words carefully,” Charles said.
A Greek prince, Philip married Elizabeth in 1947 and broke the news of her father’s death five years later while they were in Kenya, meaning that she was queen at the age of 25.
He went on to play a key role helping the monarchy adapt to a changing world in the post-World War Two period.
“I think he’ll be remembered as a modernizer in many ways, as someone who both inside the palace and outside the palace was a force for change,” Simon Lewis, the queen’s communications secretary from 1998 to 2001, told Reuters.
He said Philip’s loss would be a terrible blow to the queen.
“I think they were the most extraordinary partnership and that’s going to be a huge, huge, gap,” Lewis said. “I think he always saw himself partly as the eyes and the ears of the queen — that’s gone forever.”


Myanmar’s UN envoy urges action against junta as bloodshed continues

Updated 10 April 2021

Myanmar’s UN envoy urges action against junta as bloodshed continues

  • Country has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February
  • More than 600 people have been killed by security forces trying to quell protesters

YANGON: Myanmar’s own ambassador to the United Nations has urged “strong action” against the junta, as reports emerged of scores killed in the military’s latest crackdown.
The country has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February, with protesters refusing to submit to the junta regime and continuing to demand a return to democracy.
With more than 600 people killed by security forces trying to quell the movement, the international community has increasingly raised the alarm on the crisis.
During a UN Security Council meeting on Friday, Myanmar’s ambassador pushed for more concrete action – proposing a no-fly zone, an arms embargo and more targeted sanctions against members of the military and their families.
“Your collective, strong action is needed immediately,” Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun told the meeting.
“Time is of the essence for us,” he said. “Please, please take action.”
An independent analyst with the International Crisis Group also warned the council that Myanmar was “at the brink of state failure.”
“The vast majority of the population does not want military rule and will do whatever it takes to prevent that outcome. Yet the military seems determined to impose its will,” said Richard Horsey.
“Its actions may be creating a situation where the country becomes ungovernable. That should be of grave concern to the region and to the broader international community.”
China and Russia wield veto power at the Security Council and generally oppose international sanctions.
However, Beijing – the top ally of Myanmar’s military – has voiced growing concern about instability, and has said it is speaking to “all parties.”
There have been reports that China has opened contact with the CRPH, a group representing the ousted civilian government.
At least 618 civilians have been killed in the military’s crackdown on protests, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a local monitoring group.
Efforts to verify deaths and confirm news of crackdowns have been greatly hindered by the junta’s throttling of mobile data within the country – effectively shunting most of the population into an information blackout.
News emerged Saturday morning of more violence in the city of Bago, 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Yangon – the site of a day-long crackdown that forced residents into hiding in nearby villages.
AFP-verified footage shot early Friday showed protesters hiding behind sandbag barricades wielding homemade rifles, as explosions could be heard in the background.
A resident said that the military crackdown killed at least 40 protesters, and authorities refused to let rescue workers remove the bodies.
“They piled up all the dead bodies, loaded them into their army truck and drove it away,” he said, adding that authorities then proceeded to arrest people around the community.
Local media reports have put the death toll for Bago’s crackdown at far higher.
The junta had branded the victims of anti-coup unrest “violent terrorist people,” putting the total death toll since February 1 at 248, according to a spokesman Friday.
Despite the daily bloodshed, protesters have continued to take to the streets, with dawn strikes sprouting across the country Saturday.
Demonstrators are also manifesting their discontent in pointedly creative ways.
In commercial hub Yangon, crimson paint – representing the blood already spilled – was splashed across the streets in view of the historic Shwedagon Pagoda.
“Let us unite and boldly show in red that the dictatorial regime will not be allowed to rule us at all,” a student activist announced on Facebook.
Flyers with the words “They will not rule us” were scattered across Yangon neighborhoods.
In Mandalay, activists pasted the same flyers on the statue of General Aung San.
The father of Suu Kyi, he is a national hero who is widely regarded as having wrested Myanmar from under the yoke of British colonialism.
Suu Kyi is currently facing a series of charges from the junta – including accusations of corruption and for having unregistered walkie-talkies.
The military has repeatedly justified seizing power by alleging widespread electoral fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.