Gunmen kill 15 police officers, priest and multiple civilians in Russia’s southern Dagestan region

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This screengrab picture taken from video released on June 23, 2024 by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti shows an area sealed off by police following deadly attacks on churches and a synagogue in Russia's North Caucasus region of Dagestan. (RIA Novosti via AFP)
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This photo taken from video released by Golos Dagestana shows smoke rises following an attack in Makhachkala, republic of Dagestan, Russia, on June 23, 2024. (Golos Dagestana via AP)
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This screengrab picture taken from video released on June 23, 2024 by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti shows an area sealed off by police following deadly attacks on churches and a synagogue in Russia's North Caucasus region of Dagestan. (RIA Novosti via AFP)
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A view shows emergency service vehicles on the street of Makhachkala in southern Russia, June 23, 2024, in this still image obtained from a video. (Reuters) 
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Updated 24 June 2024
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Gunmen kill 15 police officers, priest and multiple civilians in Russia’s southern Dagestan region

  • Gunmen targetted two Orthodox churches, a synagogue and a police post in two cities
  • Six of the gunmen were shot and killed as the incidents unfolded, says governor

MOSCOW: Gunmen opened fire at a synagogue, an Orthodox church and a police post in attacks across two cities in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday, killing an Orthodox priest and multiple police officers, the region’s head said.
“This is a day of tragedy for Dagestan and the whole country,” Sergei Melikov, governor of the Dagestan region, said in a video published early on Monday on the Telegram messaging app.
Melikov said that more than 15 police officers “fell victim” to what he said was a “terrorist attack,“” but he did not specify how many of the police were killed and how many were injured. Russia’s Interfax agency reported that at least 15 police officers were killed.
The simultaneous attacks across the cities of Makhachkala and Derbent came three months after 145 people were killed in an attack claimed by the Daesh (Islamic State) on a concert hall near Moscow, Russia’s worst terrorist attack in years.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in the volatile North Caucasus region.
“We understand who is behind the organization of the terrorist attacks and what goal they pursued,” Melikov said, without disclosing further details.

Six of the gunmen were shot and killed as the incidents unfolded, Melikov said. Russian state news agencies cited the National Anti-Terrorist Committee as saying that five of the gunmen had been killed.

Russia’s state media cited law enforcement as saying that among the attackers had been two sons of the head of central Dagestan’s Sergokala district, who had been detained by investigators.
Melikov said that among the dead, in addition to the police officers, were several civilians, including an Orthodox priest who worked in Derbent for more than 40 years. A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said on Telegram that the priest, Nikolai Kotelnikov, was “brutally murdered.”
Dagestan’s RGVK broadcaster said Kotelnikov had served more than 40 years in Derbent.
“The synagogue in Derbent is on fire,” the chairman of the public council of Russia’s Federation of Jewish Communities, Boruch Gorin wrote on Telegram.
“It has not been possible to extinguish the fire. Two are killed: a policeman and a security guard.”
He added: “The synagogue in Makhachkala has also been set on fire and burnt down.”

Days of mourning
June 24-26 have been declared days of mourning in Dagestan, Melikov said, with flags lowered to half-staff and all entertainment events canceled.
The restive region was in the 2000s hit by an Islamist insurgency spilling over from neighboring Chechnya, with Russian security forces moving aggressively to combat extremists in the region.
In recent years, attacks had become rarer, with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) saying in 2017 that it had defeated the insurgency in the region.
The agencies reported exchanges of gunfire in the center of Makhachkala. They cited the interior ministry as saying that exits from the Caspian Sea port of around 600,000 had been closed, and that conspirators who were still at large may yet attempt to flee the city.
About 125 km (75 miles) south of Makhachkala, gunmen attacked a synagogue and a church in Derbent, home to an ancient Jewish community and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Authorities were quoted as saying that both the synagogue and church were ablaze, and that two attackers had been killed.
Russian media cited the head of the country’s federation of Jewish communities as calling for people to avoid reacting to “provocations.”
In Israel, the Foreign Ministry said the synagogue in Derbent had been burned to the ground and shots had been fired at a second synagogue in Makhachkala. The statement said it was believed there were no worshippers in the synagogue at the time.
Russian authorities have pointed to militant Muslim elements in previous incidents in the region.
In October, after the war in Gaza broke out, rioters waving Palestinian flags broke down glass doors and rampaged through Makhachkala airport to look for Jewish passengers on a flight arriving from Tel Aviv.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West and Ukraine of stirring up unrest inside Russia in connection with the incident.

Russia’s FSB security service in April said it had arrested four people in Dagestan on suspicion of plotting a deadly attack on Moscow’s Crocus City Hall concert venue in March, which was claimed by Daesh.
Militants from Dagestan are known to have traveled to join the Daesh group in Syria.
In 2015, the group declared it had established a “franchise” in the North Caucasus.
Dagestan lies east of Chechnya where Russian authorities battled separatists in two brutal wars, first in 1994-1996 and then in 1999-2000.
After the defeat of Chechen insurgents, Russian authorities have been locked in a simmering conflict with militants from across the North Caucasus that has killed scores of civilians and police.

 

 


US Navy pilots come home after months of shooting down Houthi missiles and drones

Updated 16 sec ago
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US Navy pilots come home after months of shooting down Houthi missiles and drones

  • Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have been attacking ships linked to Israel, the United States or Britain in what they say is a campaign to support the militant group Hamas in its war the Gaza against Israel

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia: US Navy fighter pilots came home to Virginia feeling relieved Friday after months of shooting down Houthi-launched missiles and drones off Yemen’s coast in the most intense running sea battle the Navy has faced since World War II.
F/A-18 Super Hornets swooped over waiting families in a low formation before landing at their base in Virginia Beach. Dressed in green flight suits, the aviators embraced women in summer dresses and kids carrying American flags. Some handed red roses to their wives and daughters.
“We’re going to go sit down on the couch, and we’re going to try and make up for nine months of lost time,” Cmdr. Jaime Moreno said while hugging his two young daughters, ages 2 and 4, and kissing his wife Lynn.
Clearing the emotion from his voice, Moreno said he couldn’t be prouder of his team and “everything that the last nine months have entailed.”
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group, which includes three other warships, was protecting merchant vessels and allied warships under fire in a vital Red Sea corridor that leads to the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have been attacking ships linked to Israel, the United States or Britain in what they say is a campaign to support the militant group Hamas in its war the Gaza against Israel, though they frequently have targeted ships with no clear links to Israel or its supporters, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade.
The US and its allies have been fighting back: One round of fire in January saw F/A-18s from the Eisenhower and other ships shoot down 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles and a ballistic missile launched by the Houthis.
US Navy sailors have seen incoming Houthi-launched missiles seconds before they are destroyed by their ship’s defensive systems. Officials in the Pentagon have been talking about how to care for the sailors when they return home, including counseling and treatment for possible post-traumatic stress.
Cmdr. Benjamin Orloff, a Navy pilot, told reporters in Virginia Beach on Friday that most of the sailors, including him, weren’t used to being fired on given the nation’s previous military engagements in recent decades.
“It was incredibly different,” Orloff said. “And I’ll be honest, it was a little traumatizing for the group. It’s something that we don’t think about a lot until you’re presented with it.”
But at the same time, Orloff said sailors responded with grit and resilience.
“What’s impressive is how all those sailors turned right around — — and given the threat, given that stress — — continued to do their jobs beyond reproach,” Orloff said, adding that it was “one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
The carrier strike group had left Virginia in mid-October. Its deployment was extended twice because of the importance of having a powerful carrier strike group, which can launch fighter jets at a moment’s notice, in the volatile region.
The months of fighting and extensions placed extra stress on roughly 7,000 sailors and their families.
Caitlyn Jeronimus, whose husband Keith is a Navy lieutenant commander and pilot, said she initially thought this deployment would be relatively easy, involving some exercises with other NATO countries. But then Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, and plans changed.
“It was going to be, if you could call it, a fun deployment where he’s going to get lots of ports to visit,” Jeronimus said.
She said the Eisenhower’s plans continued to change, which was exacerbated by the knowledge that there were “people who want to harm the ship.”
Jeronimus leaned on counselors provided by the Navy.
Her two children, aged 5 and 8, were old enough to understand “that daddy has been gone for a long time,” she said. “It was stressful.”

 


Webb Space Telescope’s latest cosmic shot shows pair of intertwined galaxies glowing in infrared

Updated 28 min 47 sec ago
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Webb Space Telescope’s latest cosmic shot shows pair of intertwined galaxies glowing in infrared

  • The Penguin and Egg galaxies have been tangled up and will eventually merge into a single galaxy, according to NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: The Webb Space Telescope has captured a pair of intertwined galaxies glowing in the infrared.
The observatory operated by NASA and the European Space Agency photographed the two galaxies 326 million light-years away, surrounded by a blue haze of stars and gas. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles.
The pictures, released Friday, marks the second anniversary of Webb’s science operations.
The neighboring galaxies, nicknamed Penguin and the Egg, have been tangled up for tens of millions of years, according to NASA. They’ll eventually merge into a single galaxy. The same interaction will happen to our own Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy in 4 billion years, the space agency said.
Considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope, Webb is the biggest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever launched. It rocketed away in 2021 and underwent six months of commissioning, before its first official images were released in July 2022.
It’s positioned 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth.
“In just two years, Webb has transformed our view of the universe,” NASA’s Mark Clampin said in a statement.
 


Alabama agrees to forgo autopsy of Muslin inmate scheduled to be executed next week

Keith Edmund Gavin. (Photo/Social media)
Updated 31 min 17 sec ago
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Alabama agrees to forgo autopsy of Muslin inmate scheduled to be executed next week

  • “No autopsy will be performed on Keith Edmund Gavin. His remains will be picked up by the attending funeral home,” the Alabama Department of Corrections said in an emailed statement

MONTGOMERY, Alabama: Alabama has agreed to forgo an autopsy on a Muslim death row inmate, scheduled to be executed next week, who said the post-mortem procedure would violate his religious beliefs.
Keith Edmund Gavin had filed a lawsuit against the state seeking to avoid the autopsy, which is typically performed after executions in Alabama. The Alabama prison system in a Friday statement said it had agreed to forgo the autopsy.
“No autopsy will be performed on Keith Edmund Gavin. His remains will be picked up by the attending funeral home,” the Alabama Department of Corrections said in an emailed statement.
Gavin, 64, is set to be executed July 18 by lethal injection at a south Alabama prison.
Gavin filed a lawsuit last month asking a judge to block the state from performing an autopsy after his execution. His attorneys did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
“Mr. Gavin is a devout Muslim. His religion teaches that the human body is a sacred temple, which must be kept whole. As a result, Mr. Gavin sincerely believes that an autopsy would desecrate his body and violate the sanctity of keeping his human body intact. Based on his faith, Mr. Gavin is fiercely opposed to an autopsy being performed on his body after his execution,” his attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed in state court in Montgomery.
His attorneys said they filed the lawsuit after being unable to have “meaningful discussions” with state officials about his request to avoid an autopsy. They added that the court filing is not an attempt to stay the execution and that “Gavin does not anticipate any further appeals or requests for stays of his execution.”
William Califf, a spokesman for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, said earlier this week that “we are working on a resolution” in the case,
Gavin was convicted of capital murder for the 1998 shooting death of William Clinton Clayton Jr. in Cherokee County in northeast Alabama. Clayton, a delivery driver, had stopped at an ATM to get money to take his wife to dinner when he was shot, prosecutors said.
A jury voted 10-2 in favor of the death penalty for Gavin. The trial court accepted the jury’s recommendation and sentenced him to death.

 


SpaceX rocket accident leaves company’s Starlink satellites in wrong orbit

Updated 27 min 57 sec ago
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SpaceX rocket accident leaves company’s Starlink satellites in wrong orbit

  • An upper stage engine malfunctioned minutes after the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California on Thursday night, carrying 20 Starlink satellites
  • More than 6,000 orbiting Starlinks currently provide Internet service to customers in some of the most remote corners of the world

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A SpaceX rocket has failed for the first time in nearly a decade, leaving the company’s Internet satellites in an orbit so low that they’re doomed to fall through the atmosphere and burn up.
The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California on Thursday night, carrying 20 Starlink satellites. Several minutes into the flight, the upper stage engine malfunctioned. SpaceX on Friday blamed a liquid oxygen leak.
The company said flight controllers managed to make contact with half of the satellites and attempted to boost them to a higher orbit using onboard ion thrusters. But with the low end of their orbit only 84 miles (135 kilometers) above Earth — less than half what was intended — “our maximum available thrust is unlikely to be enough to successfully raise the satellites,” the company said via X.
SpaceX said the satellites will reenter the atmosphere and burn up. There was no mention of when they might come down. More than 6,000 orbiting Starlinks currently provide Internet service to customers in some of the most remote corners of the world.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the problem must be fixed before Falcon rockets can fly again.
It was not known if or how the accident might impact SpaceX’s upcoming crew flights. A billionaire’s spaceflight is scheduled for July 31 from Florida with plans for the first private spacewalk, followed in mid-August by an astronaut flight to the International Space Station for NASA.
The tech entrepreneur who will lead the private flight, Jared Isaacman, said Friday that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has “an incredible track record” and as well as an emergency escape system.
The last launch failure occurred in 2015 during a space station cargo run. Another rocket exploded the following year during testing on the ground.
SpaceX’s Elon Musk said the high flight rate will make it easier to identify and correct the problem.

 


District court rebuffs fining Netherlands for Israel jet parts

Updated 12 July 2024
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District court rebuffs fining Netherlands for Israel jet parts

  • The Hague District Court’s judges agreed on Friday but stressed February’s judgment “said nothing about the route that parts take via other countries for the production of the F-35”

THE HAGUE: Dutch judges on Friday slapped down an urgent request by a trio of rights groups to penalize the Netherlands for not respecting a ban on supplying F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel.
In a landmark verdict in February, an appeals court ordered the Netherlands to stop delivering parts for fighter jets used by Israel in its offensive in the Gaza Strip.
But the rights groups went back to court in June, saying that the ban has not prevented parts ending up in Israeli planes.
Their lawyers accused the Dutch government of continuing “to deliver (parts) to other countries, including the US.”
The three groups asked The Hague District Court in an urgent request to impose a €50,000 per day fine on the state for not respecting the verdict.
Their lawyers said F-35 parts exported by the Netherlands continued to reach Israel via other routes, including the so-called “Global Spares Pool” — a joint stock of spare parts maintained by countries that operate the F-35.
The Hague District Court’s judges agreed on Friday but stressed February’s judgment “said nothing about the route that parts take via other countries for the production of the F-35.”
The judges said the February judgment had a “more limited scope” than the rights group’s current urgent request.
“It has not been demonstrated that the state is not complying with the ban or does not intend to continue to comply,” the judges said.
“Therefore, there is no penalty for a violation,” the judges said.
In its verdict in February, appeals judges found that there was a “clear risk” the planes would be involved in breaking international humanitarian law.
The Dutch government then acknowledged it could not prevent parts shipped to the US from eventually ending up in Israeli F-35s.
But its lawyers said it did not believe the Netherlands had to restrict exports of F-35 parts to countries other than Israel.
The Dutch government added that it would implement the February verdict but announced that it would appeal to the Supreme Court.