Sabtu, 25 Januari 2014

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The Star Online: World Updates

Twelve dead in fresh violence in China's Xinjiang

Posted: 25 Jan 2014 09:15 PM PST

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police shot dead six people during a "terrorist" attack in the restive western region of Xinjiang and six more died when explosives they were carrying detonated, state media said, as officials accused a prominent academic of aiding militants.

Police came under attack on Friday by a group throwing explosive devices in Xinhe county, the official news agency Xinhua said on Saturday, citing regional authorities, the latest violence to jolt an area with a large Muslim population.

Five suspects were captured and one policeman was slightly wounded, Xinhua said.

Xinjiang has been the theatre of numerous incidents of unrest in recent years, which the government often blames on the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), although experts and rights groups cast doubt on its existence as a cohesive group.

Around 100 people, including several policemen, have been killed in violence in Xinjiang since last April, according to state media reports.

Many rights groups say China has overplayed the threat posed by militants from the large Uighur minority, Muslims who speak a Turkic language, to justify tough controls in energy-rich Xinjiang. The region lies on the borders of ex-Soviet Central Asia, India and Pakistan.

Eleven people believed to be members of a militant group of Uighurs were killed in Kyrgyzstan after illegally crossing into the former Soviet republic from China, Kyrgyz border guards said on Friday.

Police in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi said on Saturday a well-known, Beijing-based Uighur economics professor, Ilham Tohti, was being investigated for promoting Xinjiang's independence and abetting separatists.

Tohti was detained in Beijing last week, prompting concern from both the United States and European Union.

Tohti used his classes to laud the attackers in recent militant incidents as "heroes", "inciting the students to hate the country, hate the government and seek to overthrow it", Urumqi police said on their official microblog.

The Chinese-language statement implied a link with ETIM, but a later English translation by Xinhua did not use such specific terms.

"Ilham Tohti used his position as a teacher to entice, lure and coerce certain people to form a gang, colluded with leaders of overseas East Turkestan separatist forces, and sent followers overseas to engage in separatist activities," the statement said.

Tohti also sowed misinformation and rumours and "agitated for Xinjiang independence", the police said, adding they had "cast-iron evidence" against him.

Tohti's wife, Guzailai Nu'er, said on Sunday she thought the accusations were ridiculous.

"Do they really think the university would allow him to say such things in class? He's just an ordinary teacher. Why are they saying these things?" she told Reuters by telephone from her house, which is under close watch by police.

"And all this stuff about East Turkestan elements. What rubbish."

Nu'er said she still had no idea where he husband was being detained because authorities had not told her anything and were following her every move.

Tohti has championed the rights of the Uighur community in Xinjiang, and has challenged the government's version of several incidents involving Uighurs, including what Beijing says was its first major suicide attack involving people from Xinjiang in Beijing's Tiananmen Square last year.

(Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Ron Popeski, Pravin Char and Paul Tait)

Three dead, including gunman, in Maryland mall shooting

Posted: 25 Jan 2014 08:40 PM PST

COLUMBIA, Maryland (Reuters) - A gunman opened fire with a shotgun in a skate shop at a crowded shopping mall near Baltimore on Saturday, killing two store employees and wounding another person before apparently killing himself, police said.

Howard County police said they did not know the motive for the shooting at the large mall in Columbia, Maryland, about 20 miles (32 km) west of Baltimore. Police said they have tentatively identified the shooter, who was carrying explosive material in a bag, but did not release his name.

Police identified the victims as Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park, Maryland, and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Mt. Airy, Maryland. Johnson had recently moved to Mt. Airy from Ellicott City, police said. Both were employees of Zumiez, a skate shop where the shooting took place.

One person suffered a gunshot wound to the foot, and four others were injured in the chaos, police said. Howard County General Hospital said all five people had been treated and released. The person shot in the foot was a level below the Zumiez store, police said.

The shooting happened at about 11:15 a.m. EST (1615 GMT) on the mall's upper level just above the food court. The mall, which has more than 200 stores, was crowded with weekend shoppers, many of whom sheltered in place after hearing the shots or seeing people fleeing.

Police, who were in the area on another case, responded to the emergency calls within two minutes and found all three bodies either in the store or just outside it. Police said they believe the man shot himself to death.

Police said in a statement Saturday night that a search of the shooter's bag found inside the store revealed "two crude devices that appeared to be an attempt at making explosives using fireworks."

Police said both devices were disabled, and that police will conduct a thorough search of the mall using K-9 units through the night. Investigators also were reviewing footage from surveillance cameras around the mall.

The mall will remain closed on Sunday, police said, though people may retrieve vehicles from the mall parking lot this evening.

It took hours for state and Howard County police, joined by authorities from neighbouring counties, to clear the building of shoppers and employees and ensure there were no other shooters.

"This took a long time because you can imagine how many rooms there are in the mall, how many back offices, bathrooms and dressing rooms and nooks and crannies in the mall," Howard County Executive Ken Ulman told reporters.


A friend of Benlolo, Paul Dorion Malcolm, 24, said she had a young son.

"I met a lot of young mothers that have kids, but I've never met a mom so devoted. She took that kid everywhere, when she wasn't working at Zumiez she was with her kid," Malcolm said in a phone interview.

"Her energy was amazing: always upbeat, positive," said Malcolm, who used to work at a shoe store at the mall and met Benlolo there last year.

A visitor to the mall said the shooting caused panic.

Tonya Broughton of Silver Spring, Maryland, was having a ladies' day out with friend Tarah Lancaster-Williams when they saw people running.

"We were getting facials at a kiosk on the lower level when everyone started running," Broughton said. "We just headed for the nearest store, Victoria's Secret. I still had the facial on."

She said the Victoria's Secret employees herded everyone to the rear of the store.

"They were very nice, keeping us calm. They told us we were safe," Broughton said.

Colin Reddy, who works at the mall, told CNN he heard about eight or nine shots in all.

"We thought it was construction because there's a lot of construction going on at the mall right now. Then I heard it again. Like 'boom, boom, boom.' And then everybody started running," he said.

Reddy said he and the other employees closed the store's gate and waited in a back room for police to arrive.

Zumiez, which has more than 400 stores across the United States, said in a statement it was "deeply saddened by the violence" at its store. The company said it was arranging counseling for its employees in the area.

The attack in Columbia follows a shooting at a New Jersey mall in November in which a gunman fired at least six shots without hitting anyone, sparking a mass evacuation of the complex, then killing himself.

There also has been a spate of shootings in recent days at U.S. schools and universities. A student was shot dead on Friday at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, and at Purdue University in Indiana a teacher's assistant was shot and killed on Tuesday. In both incidents, suspects have been charged with the crimes.

Suicide bomber attacks Afghan army bus killing three

Posted: 25 Jan 2014 08:30 PM PST

KABUL (Reuters) - A suicide bomber attacked an Afghan army bus in the capital, Kabul, on Sunday, killing three people and wounding at least 10, police said.

The attack, the latest in a worrying upsurge of violence in Kabul and around Afghanistan, was claimed by the Taliban.

"The number (of victims) might change. An investigation is ongoing about the incident," said Hashmat Stanikzai, the chief spokesman for police in Kabul.

(Reporting by Mirwais Haroooni and Jessica Donati; Editing by Paul Tait)


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