Amazon killers acted alone: Brazil police

One of the coffins containing human remains found during the search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and expert Bruno Pereira in the Amazon forest, is taken to the Federal Police hangar in Brasilia on Thursday. (AFP)
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Updated 17 June 2022

Amazon killers acted alone: Brazil police

  • "The investigations... suggest that the perpetrators acted alone," the Federal Police said in a statement
  • The investigations continue and there are indications of the participation of more people

ATALAIA DO NORTE, Brazil: Brazilian police said Friday the killers of British journalist Dom Phillips and his expert guide Bruno Pereira had acted on their own initiative and not as part of a criminal group — an assertion rejected by Indigenous leaders.
“The investigations... suggest that the perpetrators acted alone, without there being an intellectual author or criminal organization behind the crime,” the Federal Police said in a statement.
“The investigations continue and there are indications of the participation of more people” in the murders, it added.
Veteran correspondent Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, went missing on June 5 in a remote part of the rainforest rife with illegal mining, fishing and logging, as well as drug trafficking.
Ten days later, on Wednesday, a suspect named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira — known as “Pelado” — took police to a place where he said he had buried bodies near the city of Atalaia do Norte, where the pair had been headed by boat.
Human remains unearthed from the site arrived in Brasilia on Thursday evening for identification by experts.
Police have said there was “a 99 percent probability” the remains belong to the missing men.
Phillips, a longtime contributor to The Guardian and other leading international newspapers, was working on a book on sustainable development in the Amazon with Pereira as his guide.
Pereira, an expert at Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency FUNAI, had received multiple threats from loggers and miners with their eye on isolated Indigenous land.
The Univaja association of Indigenous peoples, which had taken part in the search for the missing men, on Friday refuted the police’s conclusion that the killers had acted alone.
“These are not just two killers, but an organized group that planned the crime in detail,” Univaja said in a statement.
It claimed authorities had ignored numerous complaints about the activities of criminal gangs in the area.
Univaja said it had filed a report in April to say that “Pelado” was involved in illegal fishing.
He had previously been accused, it said, of “being the perpetrator of gun attacks in 2018 and 2019 against a base of FUNAI,” the organization Pereira had worked for.
Univaja said that “a powerful criminal organization (had) tried at all costs to cover its tracks during the investigation” of the double murder.
Experts say illegal fishing of endangered species in the Javari Valley takes place under the control of drug traffickers who use the sale of fish to launder drug money.
On Thursday, the UN denounced a “brutal act of violence” as activists blamed the murders on President Jair Bolsonaro for allowing commercial exploitation of the Amazon at the cost of environment and law and order.
UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said attacks and threats against activists and Indigenous people in Brazil were “persistent” and urged the government to step up protections.
Investigations continue to look into the motive for the crime.
Police have been unable to find the boat in which Phillips and Pereira were traveling when they were last seen.
Blood found in Oliveira’s boat belonged to a man, investigators said, but not to Phillips.
Analysis had also revealed that entrails found in the river during the search contained “no human DNA,” according to police.
On Monday, Bolsonaro had said that entrails were found floating in the river, in an interview in which he appeared to blame the missing men for undertaking a “reckless” trip in an area where Phillips was “disliked.”
“All signs indicate that if they were killed — and I hope that’s not the case — they’re in the water, and in the water there won’t be much left. I don’t know if there are piranhas in the Javari,” said the far-right president, whose government is accused of dragging its feet in the investigation.


Greece accuses Turkey of forcing stranded migrants over border

Updated 10 sec ago

Greece accuses Turkey of forcing stranded migrants over border

  • The migrants were trapped on an islet in the Evros river at the border between the two countries
  • Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said the group were now being provided medical treatment in Greece
ATHENS: Greece on Tuesday accused Turkey of forcibly pushing a group of stranded migrants onto a small Greek island and leaving behind the body of a five-year-old child who died.
The incident follows years of tensions between the neighbors over migration issues, with each side blaming the other of avoiding their responsibilities.
The migrants were trapped on an islet in the Evros river at the border between the two countries.
In a statement issued while visiting the area, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said the group were now being provided medical treatment in Greece.
He said the 35 Syrians and three Palestinians had originally arrived on the Turkish side of the river.
“The Turkish authorities forced them to cross illegally into Greece,” he wrote on Twitter.
“It appears from statements that a 5-year-old child died on Turkish soil,” he added. Greek officials would work with the Red Cross to ensure her body was recovered for a proper burial.
Greek police suggested the group had not been found earlier as the migrants, who included a pregnant woman, were “some four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the point initially declared, which was outside Greek territory.”
The pregnant woman has been transferred to hospital.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR had previously expressed concern for the group and called for them to be cared for.
Greek police said they had informed Turkish border authorities about the case “twice” in recent days.
Tensions have simmered between Greece and Turkey over the issue of migrants, with both sides accusing the other of “pushbacks” on the border.
Earlier this year, Turkey said 12 migrants had frozen to death after being stripped of their clothes and moved on by Greek border guards.

Jill Biden tests positive for COVID-19, ‘mild’ symptoms

Updated 16 August 2022

Jill Biden tests positive for COVID-19, ‘mild’ symptoms

  • She has been prescribed the antiviral drug Paxlovid and will isolate at the vacation home for at least five days

KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina: First lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing “mild symptoms,” the White House announced Tuesday.
She had been vacationing with President Joe Biden in South Carolina when she began experiencing symptoms on Monday. She has been prescribed the antiviral drug Paxlovid and will isolate at the vacation home for at least five days.
Joe Biden tested negative for the virus on Tuesday morning, the White House said, but would be wearing a mask indoors for 10 days in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. He recovered from a rebound case of the virus on Aug.7.


Bus falls in gorge in Indian-administered Kashmir, kills six border policemen

Updated 2 min 19 sec ago

Bus falls in gorge in Indian-administered Kashmir, kills six border policemen

  • Police said 35 people survived the crash but some were badly injured
  • The bus was carrying members of the Indo Tibetan Border Police Force

SRINAGAR: A bus carrying personnel from India’s high-altitude border police rolled off a mountainous road and fell into a gorge in Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday, killing at least six officers, police said.

Kashmir police said on Twitter the injured were being flown to an army hospital in the Himalayan region’s main city of Srinagar, some 90 km (55 miles) from the accident site in Anantnag district.

A police officer told Reuters that 35 people survived the crash but some were badly injured.

The bus was carrying members of the Indo Tibetan Border Police Force, a federal force specializing in high-altitude operations, mainly on the Indo-China border.

Pictures from the site showed mangled remains of the bus by a fast-flowing river.


Taliban add more compulsory religion classes to Afghan universities

Updated 16 August 2022

Taliban add more compulsory religion classes to Afghan universities

  • Minister for higher education said they are adding five more religious subjects to the existing eight
  • Many conservative Afghan clerics in the hard-line Islamist Taliban are skeptical of modern education

KABUL: Afghan university students will have to attend more compulsory Islamic studies classes, education officials said Tuesday while giving little sign that secondary schools for girls would reopen.
Many conservative Afghan clerics in the hard-line Islamist Taliban, which swept back into power a year ago, are skeptical of modern education.
“We are adding five more religious subjects to the existing eight,” said Abdul Baqi Haqqani, minister for higher education, including Islamic history, politics and governance.
The number of compulsory religious classes will increase from one to three a week in government universities.
He told a news conference that the Taliban would not order any subjects to be dropped from the current curriculum.
However, some universities have altered studies on music and sculpture — highly sensitive issues under the Taliban’s harsh interpretation of sharia law — while an exodus of Afghanistan’s educated elite, including professors, has seen many subjects discontinued.
Officials have for months insisted that schools will reopen for girls, swaying between technical and financial issues as reasons for the continued closures.
Abdulkhaliq Sadiq, a senior official at the education ministry, on Tuesday said families in rural areas were still not convinced of the need to send girls to secondary school.
Under the Taliban’s last regime between 1996 and 2001, both primary and secondary schools for girls never reopened.
“We are trying to come up with a sound policy in coordination with our leaders... so that those in rural areas are also convinced,” he said.
Since seizing power on August 15 last year the Taliban have imposed harsh restrictions on girls and women to comply with their austere vision of Islam — effectively squeezing them out of public life.
Although young women are still permitted to attend university, many have dropped out because of the cost or because their families are afraid for them to be out in public in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, without a secondary school certificate, teenage girls will not be able to sit future university entrance exams.
The international community has made the right to education a key condition for formally recognizing the Taliban government.
Despite being in power for a year, no country has so far recognized the government.


Father and son linked to murders of Muslims, including two Pakistanis, in New Mexico

Updated 16 August 2022

Father and son linked to murders of Muslims, including two Pakistanis, in New Mexico

  • Police charged Afghan Muhammad Syed with two  murders, linked four killings to personal grudges
  • Son Shaheen Syed was arrested last week on federal firearms charges for providing a false address

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico: Police believe the son of the prime suspect in the killings of four Muslim men may have played a role in the murders, which have shaken the Muslim community in New Mexico's largest city.

Cellphone data shows Shaheen Syed, 21, was in the same "general area" of Albuquerque as his father at the time of the Aug. 5 killing of 25-year-old trucking entrepreneur Naeem Hussain, according to a filing by federal prosecutors for a Monday detention hearing during which Syed was denied bail.

Syed's attorney John Anderson said the allegations were "exceedingly thin and speculative."

Police last week charged Shaheen Syed's father, Muhammad Syed, 51, with two of the murders and linked the four killings to personal grudges, possibly fueled by intra-Muslim sectarian hatred. Shaheen Syed was arrested last week on federal firearms charges for providing a false address.

"Law enforcement officers also have recently discovered evidence that appears to tie the defendant, Shaheen Syed, to these killings," the filing said.

Agents believe Shaheen Syed observed Naeem Hussain leaving an Aug. 5 funeral service for two of the murdered Muslim men, based on FBI analysis of cell tower data. He then followed Hussain to the area of a parking lot where he was shot dead.

"Telephone calls between Muhammad Atif Syed and the defendant (Shaheen Syed) would be consistent with quick surveillance calls, both before and after the shooting," the filing said.

Prosecutors did not provide evidence on the other shootings.

Imtiaz Hussain said he believed at least two people were involved in the Aug. 1 murder of his brother Muhammad Afzaal Hussain.

A pistol and rifle were used to shoot Afzaal Hussain, a city planning director, 15 times in around 15 to 20 seconds, according to police records and Imtiaz.

“For one suspect it is difficult to use two weapons in that short an interval,“ said Imtiaz Hussain.

The victims Naeem Hussain and Afzaal Hussain were not related.

Muhammad Syed, an Afghan refugee, has been charged with killing Afzaal Hussain, who was from Pakistan, and cafe manager Aftab Hussein, 41, who had ties to Afghanistan and Pakistan. A fourth man, supermarket owner Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, was shot dead on Nov. 7, 2021.

Police have said they are working with prosecutors on potential charges for the murders of Naeem Hussain and Ahmadi.