Jonathan Sacks writes: have been in New York these past few days to give a talk at the 9/11 Museum that has been erected on the site where once the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood. It is a place of collective grief and remembrance, where the exhibits are fragments of twisted wreckage and the debris of destruction.
Most moving are the memorial fountains that occupy the footprint of the original buildings. Around the side, engraved in bronze, are the names of the almost 3,000 victims. Unlike most other fountains, though, here the water flows downward and in the centre disappears into a black hole, an abyss. The intention was to symbolise lives lost that can never be recovered. No matter how much water flows, the emptiness is never filled.
After the tragedies of the past few days and weeks, however, the memorial seems to have another message also. The violence never ends. Innocent blood continues to flow. Every few days there are more newly bereaved families and yet more tears.
A story is beginning to emerge that becomes clearer over time. Asad Shah, the 40-year-old shopkeeper in Glasgow, was a deeply-loved man who represented all that is good in religious faith. His crime was to wish his Christian friends and customers a happy Easter. He wanted to express gratitude to a Christian nation that had given him and his family a home where he could practise his faith without fear. He was an Amaddiya, member of an Islamic sect regarded by some Muslims as heretical. He was murdered, it seems, not just to silence him but to intimidate others who might have followed him on the path to religious tolerance. One must not forget that of the hundreds of Muslims dying daily, the majority are at the hands of fellow Muslims.
The suicide bombings in Lahore are part of a pattern in which Christians have been terrorised across an ever widening swathe of countries across the world. To be sure, the attack was not on a Christian site but a park open to people of all faiths. But the bombers chose to attack at Easter, knowing that many victims would be Christians on their way to or from prayer.
Christians are being persecuted in some 50 countries, among them North Korea, Syria, Somalia and Sudan. In 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq; today a few thousand. In Mosul, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, Christians were forced to flee by Islamic State (Isil) in the summer of 2014. In Afghanistan the last church was burned to the ground in 2010. In Gaza in 2007, after the rise of Hamas, the last Christian bookshop was destroyed and its owner murdered. In Yemen, on Good Friday, Father Tom Uzhunnallil, an Indian Catholic priest, was crucified by Isil. The ethnic cleansing of Christians throughout the Middle East is one of the crimes against humanity of our time, and I am appalled that there has been little serious international protest.
But the real target is not Christianity but freedom. Nor is this a war. Wars are fought between nations, by armies, and the intended victims are combatants. Terrorists wear no uniforms, and their intended victims are innocent civilians. I for one will never forget the episode two weeks ago on the Ivory Coast where terrorists gunned down a five-year-old child begging for his life.
There have been ages of terror before, but never on this scale, and never with the kind of technology that has given the jihadists the ability to radicalise individuals throughout the world, some acting as lone wolves, others, like the attackers in Paris and Brussels, working in small groups, often involving family members. Read the rest of this entry »
President Hollande spoke in front of the Bataclan concert venue shortly after police ended a siege on the building that officials say left around 100 people dead.
Reports from survivors indicate that the attackers may have mentioned Hollande during the attack.
Les Monde journalist Elise Barthet said several survivors were being interviewed by police in a bar near the Bataclan venue. According to Barthet, two witness said one of the shooters said “everything is the fault of your president.” (more)
Source: Live updates: mashable.com
Workers dropped to the crash site from helicopters and had to be tied together because the steep area in the French Alps is so treacherous, said Remi Jouty, head of the BEA, the French aviation investigative arm leading the probe.
Although the external orange casing was damaged, French aviation investigators accessed the computer chips inside, which contain an audio recording of the cockpit during the entire flight.
• 7:51 p.m. ET: One of the pilots on board Germanwings Flight 9525 was locked out of the cockpit when the plane crashed Tuesday, a senior military official told The New York Times, citing evidence from the cockpit voice recorder.
• Helicopters have airlifted some victims’ remains from the site of the Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps, the Gendarmerie said Wednesday, according to CNN affiliate France 2.
• FBI agents based in France, Germany and Spain are looking through intelligence sources and cross-referencing the passenger manifest of Germanwings Flight 9525, two senior law enforcement officials said. So far, their search hasn’t turned up anything that “stands out” or anything linking the passengers to criminal activity, according to one official.
• The victims of the Germanwings crash came from 18 countries, Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann told reporters Wednesday. He also vowed to provide flights for victims’ family members who want to travel to Germany or France and help them financially.
• Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told reporters the company was struggling to understand how an airplane that “was in perfect technical condition” with two experienced pilots “was involved in such a terrible accident.” The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps, he said, “represents the darkest hours in the 60-year history of our Lufthansa Group.”
That will provide important information like whether the pilots were talking in the moments leading up to the crash, what they were saying and what else was happening in the cockpit.
Finding the plane’s second black box will be critical to understanding the mystery of what went on inside the jet. Read the rest of this entry »
Shooting at Danish Free-Speech Event Kills One; Police Report Another Shooting Near Synagogue
Updated Feb. 14, 2015 7:55 p.m. ET
Reporting by Anna Molin in Stockholm and Sam Schechner in Paris: A gunman killed one person and wounded three in Copenhagen on Saturday, when he tried to force his way into an event discussing Islam and free speech in the wake of the January attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
[An audio recording obtained exclusively by the BBC captures the moment two gunmen struck a free speech debate in the Danish capital, Copenhagen. A manhunt is underway for a suspect who targeted the event at the Krudttoennen cafe in the Oesterbro district of the city. Controversial Danish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who has drawn caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, is understood to have been present at the debate, as well as the French ambassador, Francois Zimeray. A speaker at the event is interrupted by a volley of shots.]
Later, police reported another shooting, near a synagogue in downtown Copenhagen. One person was shot in the head and two police officers were shot in the arms and legs, the Associated Press reported. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the incident was linked to the earlier shooting, police said.
‘I was inside; I had just reached back to my seat after delivering my speech, when I heard a gunshot…First I thought a closet had fallen on the ground, then that it was some fireworks.’
—French Ambassador to Denmark François Zimeray, speaking about the shooting at the free-speech event where he was present.
Police said after the earlier shooting that they were hunting a man dressed in a dark parka who sprayed dozens of gunshots through the plate-glass windows of the Krudttoenden cafe in central Copenhagen, where Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks and France’s ambassador to Denmark François Zimeray were attending an event hosted by the Lars Vilks committee. Neither Mr. Vilks nor Mr. Zimeray was injured.
Authorities didn’t disclose the identity of the victim, saying only it was a male in his 40s who was present at the conference. Police said the motive for the shooting remained unclear, but that it was possible that Mr. Vilks was the target. The artist achieved notoriety nearly a decade ago for trying to exhibit caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad as a dog.
“Denmark has today been hit by a cynical act of violence,” said Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. “Everything suggests that the shooting in Osterbro was a political assassination and thus an act of terrorism.”
“What happened in Sarcelles is intolerable. An attack on a synagogue and on a kosher shop is simply anti-Semitism. Nothing in France can justify this violence.”
— France’s prime minister Manuel Valls
JULY 2014: France’s politicians and community leaders have criticised the “intolerable” violence against Paris’ Jewish community, after a pro-Palestinian rally led to the vandalizing and looting of Jewish businesses and the burning of cars.
It is the third time in a week where pro-Palestinian activists have clashed with the city’s Jewish residents. On Sunday, locals reported chats of “Gas the Jews” and “Kill the Jews”, as rioters attacked businesses in the Sarcelles district, known as “little Jerusalem”.
Manuel Valls, France’s prime minister said: “What happened in Sarcelles is intolerable. An attack on a synagogue and on a kosher shop is simply anti-Semitism. Nothing in France can justify this violence.”
Religious leaders gathered for an interfaith service on Monday to call for calm, and Haim Korsia, the chief rabbi of France, and Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy shook hands on the steps of the synagogue.
Francois Pupponi, the mayor of Sarcelles, told BFMTV that the violent attacks were carried out by a “horde of savages.” Read the rest of this entry »
French Police Launch Operation Northeast of Paris
French police faced off with gunmen on two fronts Friday, as the suspects behind the attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo holed up with a hostage in a printing facility north of Paris and prosecutors said another gunman took captives in a kosher grocery store on the eastern edge of the capital.
PARIS—Noémie Bisserbe, William Horobin and Jason Chow reporting: French police faced off with gunmen on two fronts Friday, as the suspects behind the attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo holed up with a hostage in a printing facility north of Paris and prosecutors said another gunman took captives in a kosher grocery store on the eastern edge of the capital.
“An operation is currently under way near Dammartin-en-Goële that is mobilizing all the forces in the area.”
— French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, in a short televised address
The incidents escalated a three-day spree of violence in France and raised fears that officials are dealing with a broader militant network. Police believe the gunman in the kosher store is connected to the brothers who allegedly carried out the shooting at the magazine.
The same man is also suspected of killing a policewoman near Paris on Thursday. He is linked to the same Paris-based jihadist recruitment ring that one of the magazine-shooting suspects was convicted of being a member of, a police officer familiar with the matter said.
Police were swarming an industrial area near a town not far from the Charles de Gaulle airport where the Charlie Hebdo suspects are believed to be holed up, as helicopters loomed low overhead.
“An operation is currently under way near Dammartin-en-Goële that is mobilizing all the forces in the area,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a short televised address.
Tensions soared Friday when two gunmen believed to be the suspected shooters seized a Peugeot car in a forest area north of Dammartin-en-Goële. Thousands of policemen had been combing that area all night after witnesses had alerted authorities about the suspects’ possible presence in Villers-Cotterêts.
The gunmen drove south toward Paris before clashing with police forces when crossing through Dammartin-en-Goële, according to a police official. Read the rest of this entry »
Chris Morris reports on from Dammartin-en-Goele where police have surrounded the warehouse
French police have surrounded a building in a northern town where two Islamists suspected of the Charlie Hebdo massacre have taken a hostage.
Holed up in a small printing business in Dammartin-en-Goele, 35km (22 miles) from Paris, the gunmen reportedly said they were prepared to die.
Shots were fired during a high-speed car chase earlier on Friday, the third day of the manhunt for the attackers.
Twelve people were shot dead and 11 injured in Wednesday’s attack.
The suspects, two brothers linked by intelligence officials to militant groups, shouted Islamist slogans during the shooting and then fled Paris in a hijacked car, heading north.
It appears that on Friday they hijacked another car in the town of Montagny-Sainte-Felicite before travelling on to Dammartin.
The car’s owner recognised them as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, the key suspects.
In a televised statement Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed the men being sought on Friday were those wanted for the Charlie Hebdo attack and said they would be “neutralised”.
In another development, a police source said there was a connection between the Charlie Hebdo attack and the shooting of a policewoman in Paris on Thursday.
The suspects have been surrounded in a small printing business named CTD, a source close to the investigation told AFP news agency.
Officials from the town council say pupils from three schools are being evacuated to a nearby gymnasium, where they will be reunited with their parents.
An interior ministry official said there had been no deaths or injuries on Friday, as reported by some media.
Christelle Alleume, who works near CTD in Dammartin, said a round of gunfire had interrupted her morning coffee break.
“We heard shots and we returned very fast because everyone was afraid,” she told French broadcaster iTele. “We had orders to turn off the lights and not approach the windows.”
People in the area say police helicopters began arriving around 08:45 (07:45 GMT) followed by convoys of armed officers. Sharpshooters could be seen taking up position on rooftops.
Thousands march through French cities in protest of Israeli operation in Gaza Strip; French president says will not allow violence to spill over into France
REUTERS – Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters marched in French cities on Saturday to condemn violence in Gaza, defying a ban imposed after demonstrators marched on two synagogues in Paris last weekend and clashed with riot police.
“The far-left New Anticapitalist Party, an organizer of last Sunday’s rally and the banned one in Paris, urged protesters in Paris to defy the ban, prompting police to issue a warning”
A Reuters photographer said demonstrators in northern Paris launched projectiles at riot police, who responded by firing teargas canisters and stun grenades.
Demonstrators also climbed on top of a building and burned an Israeli flag. At least one car was set on fire.
A police spokesman said that 38 demonstrators had been arrested by early evening and that the clashes were dying down.
French President Francois Hollande said he understood emotional responses to the killing of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in a flare-up of hostilities with Israel but would not allow violence to spill over into France. Read the rest of this entry »