New Zealand shooting
TWO gunmen have opened fire at two New Zealand mosques today killing 40 people and injuring 20 others including kids in a sickening terror attack. Shooters executed Muslim worshippers in Christchurch during Friday prayers – with one live-streaming the slaughter on Facebook in a 17-minute video. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared the mosque massacres a “terrorist attack” and said it was one of the country’s “darkest days”. The shooting was the result of two gunmen, the PM added. Three men and one woman are in custody following the shootings at Masjid Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Masjid Mosque in Christchurch at around 1.40pm local time. One of those arrested was wearing a suicide vest, cops confirmed as they warned “let’s not presume the danger has gone”.
At least 49 people have been killed, and at least 20 others seriously injured, in mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand. Police have arrested four people in connection with the terror attack and have charged a man with murder. Officials refused to confirm the identity of the man who will appear in court on Saturday morning. Police defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned incident. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” as she confirmed the number of dead and injured.
RESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tyrannical regime in Turkey was handed €1.5 billion (£1.2bn) from the EU today as the undemocratic body was accused of having “the blood of Kurds on its hands.” EU policy chief Federica Mogherini announced the release of the bumper payout in Brussels today during the neoliberal economic bloc’s “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” Third Annual Conference. Speaking at a press conference in the Belgian capital, she said: “I would like to confirm the European Union contribution of €1.5bn to the second tranche of the facility for refugees in Turkey.”
The European Parliament has failed to endorse opening trade talks between the EU and the United States amid fears over Donald Trump‘s trade and environmental policies. MEPs voted down a resolution on the talks by 223 votes to 198 in a session in Strasbourg on Thursday. The motion had been successfully amended by MEPs critical of the European Commission’s proposed approach to talks. As a result, the final resolution was rejected, after supporters of the Commission’s approach declined to vote for it.
A new £3bn scheme will fund the building of 30,000 affordable homes, the chancellor has said, as he proclaimed that the government was on track to reach its target of 300,000 new homes a year in Britain. Philip Hammond’s spring statement also contained a patchwork of separate schemes to boost housebuilding, including £717m to “unlock up to 37,000 homes” in the Oxford-Cambridge arc, Cheshire and west London. “The government is determined to fix the broken housing market,” said Hammond. “Building more homes in the right places is critical to unlocking productivity growth and makes housing more affordable.”
Favourable public finances have given Philip Hammond enough leeway to spend £15bn in this summer’s spending review to show austerity is “coming to an end”, a think tank has said. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the chancellor has room to find “a reasonable amount of extra cash” for the period 2020-23. Delivering the IFS’s verdict on Wednesday’s Spring Statement, director Paul Johnson said public finance figures had “surprised on the upside”, with borrowing at its lowest level since 2001-02.
Philip Hammond promised a £26billion “Brexit dividend” yesterday if MPs finally approve an EU withdrawal deal. The Chancellor said a spending spree on public services could be forthcoming once the “cloud of uncertainty hanging over our economy” is lifted. Mr Hammond made the suggestion during a spring statement designed to build support for Government efforts to break the Brexit deadlock. He said that a no-deal departure could have wiped out the expected windfall and risked a return to austerity. The statement was given amid parliamentary chaos following the rejection of Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement by MPs on Tuesday.
The number of criminals caught with knives or other potentially deadly weapons reached its highest level for almost a decade last year, it was revealed yesterday. There were 21,484 such offences that came before the courts – but more than six out of ten of those arrested and dealt with by the law were allowed to go free without serving jail terms. A record share of the weapons cases were those involving individuals who either carried or brandished knives, as opposed to improvised weapons such as bottles and knuckle dusters, according to Ministry of Justice figures.
A&E waiting times have hit a new all-time low as the NHS posted its worst ever figures for the second month in a row. February was the ‘toughest month to date’ for the ‘overwhelmed’ health service, NHS bodies admitted today as figures show the dire state of waiting times in England. Only 84.2 per cent of A&E patients were seen within the NHS’s four-hour waiting limit in February – a further drop from the lowest ever 84.4 per cent in January. The falling figure comes in the same week as the health service announced plans it could use to replace the four-hour benchmark it has failed to meet since 2015. Other ‘shameful’ statistics show waits for cancer treatment are longer than ever, with record numbers of people waiting more than a month to start therapy. And the NHS missed its target to treat people within two months of a doctor’s referral for the 37th month in a row.
Almost a quarter of cancer patients face delays to starting their treatment as NHS figures show the longest waits since records began a decade ago. The health service has missed its main cancer target for more than a thousand days. The latest data also shows lengthening waits for emergency and routine care, days after NHS chiefs announced plans to scrap the targets that measure them. In January 76.2 per cent of cancer patients started treatment within two months of a GP referral. The 85 per cent target has not been hit since December 2015.
CANCER patients are facing record NHS delays – with one in four now waiting too long for life-saving care. Experts warn overwhelmed hospitals are in “crisis” as A&E delays also hit an all-time high. Official stats reveal the NHS has missed a flagship cancer treatment target for more than 1,000 days. More than 85 per cent of patients should start receiving therapy within 62 days of being referred by their GP. But in January just 76.2 per cent were seen on time – the worst performance since records began in 2009. The last time the standard was met was in December 2015. Cancer charities said 127,000 Brits had been being put at risk by the delays. Dr Fran Woodard, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Behind the numbers are real people who tell us how delays cause real anxiety for them and their loved ones at a time when they are already trying to deal with the many worries cancer is throwing their way.”
BRITAIN’S £1.3billion cyber security programme might fail to meet its aims, financial watchdogs warned yesterday. They identified shortcomings in deciding how much money the five-year Government initiative needed before its launch in 2016. This has led to concern about how computer attacks will be tackled after 2021, partly because proper funding has not been assessed, said the National Audit Office. It added: “The Cabinet Office did not produce a business case for the programme first.” The NAO said the project has had successes such as establishing the National Cyber Security Centre and “reducing the UK’s vulnerability”. But NAO chief Sir Amyas Morse said it was not certain the Government’s approach to better cyber security “will represent value for money” or be properly funded after 2021. Tory MP mocked on Twitter for calling on knives to be fitted with GPS trackers.
A secondary school is being held to ransom after a cyber attack caused students to lose GCSE coursework, with hackers demanding money to return the work. It is believed that a member of staff at the Sir John Colfox Academy in Bridport, Dorset, mistakenly opened an email, which contained a virus. Malicious software, known as ransomware, was released onto the school’s computer network and used to encrypt files – making them unavailable for the school to access. The cyber attack on February 28 caused the loss of Year 11 students’ GCSE coursework in product design and food preparation and nutrition. The email was sent from China and forwarded from a server in Germany and hackers are asking for money to return the data.
Emergency services found 18 illegal migrants in the back of a lorry following a random stop on a Kent motorway. The German truck was pulled over on Wednesday night and Kent police confirmed 18 Eritrean people were in the back of the lorry. The group, which consisted of 11 men, six women and a child, were assessed by paramedics on the side of the road before being taken away in minibuses and ambulances.
Authorities in a district of rural Germany covered up a long list of asylum seeker crimes including rape, assault, and child sex abuse so as not to “stir up prejudice”, it has been alleged. Internal police figures revealed 117 criminal offences took place at refugee housing in Boostedt, northern Germany, during the last three months, and that third world migrants housed in other accommodation in the municipality were listed as suspects in a further 23 crimes. But officers neglected to announce the incidents after orders from the Interior Ministry instructed police that “active” notifications from the force’s press office on potential migrant involvement in crimes would be “irresponsible”, and likely to “stir up prejudice”, local media reports.
Two rogue police officers have been found guilty of sabotaging child abuse investigations. Detective constables Sharon Patterson, 49, and Lee Pollard, 47, forged documents, concealed evidence and lied about investigations out of laziness and ‘cynical disdain’ for victims, the Old Bailey heard. Patterson was even accused of ditching work to get a manicure and have a four-hour-long lunch at a Chinese restaurant with her married lover Pollard.
David Steel has been suspended from the Scottish Liberal Democrats over remarks he made to the Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse about Cyril Smith. On Wednesday the former Liberal leader told the inquiry that in 1979 he had confronted Smith over allegations of child sexual abuse, prompted by a story in Private Eye reporting he had been investigated but not charged. He said he came away from the conversation assuming the allegations were true but took no further action, as Smith was not a member of the party at the time. The peer denied he had been “hiding his head in the sand” over Cyril Smith’s alleged crimes.
Former Liberal leader Lord David Steel has been suspended from the Lib Democrats following his evidence to an inquiry about child abuse allegations against former MP Sir Cyril Smith. In a hearing on Wednesday, he denied “hiding his head in the sand” over child abuse allegations against Sir Cyril. The former MP for Rochdale, who died in 2010, has been accused of sexually abusing a number of young boys. Lord Steel said he asked the late politician in 1979 about claims he abused boys at a hostel in the town and found it dated back to Smith’s time as a Labour councillor in the 1960s. He told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) that he came away from the conversation “assuming” Smith had committed the offences because he did not deny them.
LORD Steel has been suspended after he admitted he knew Cyril Smith was a paedophile but did nothing about it. The ex-Liberal leader, now 80, had said the MP had confirmed to him that claims he spanked young boys and fondled their testicles were true. But Lord Steel refused to take action because the offences happened before Smith was a member of the Liberals or an MP. He told an inquiry yesterday: “It had nothing to do with me.” Lib Dem sources told the Daily Mail that the peer will be suspended from the party today. Lord Steel had said he would act in the same way again, even though Smith would go on to abuse other victims. His remarks sparked a huge backlash and demands for his suspension. The party announced it had launched a probe into Lord Steel over his comments.
David Steel has been suspended from the Liberal Democrats after admitting he was aware that Cyril Smith was a child abuser but failed to assess whether he was a risk to children. Party officials decided on Thursday night that Lord Steel, the former leader of the Liberal party, should have the whip withdrawn and face a formal investigation. It follows an outcry over the peer’s testimony to an inquiry that in 1979 the late MP for Rochdale confirmed reports that he had assaulted children. Rather than launch an investigation into Smith, Steel said he allowed him to continue in office and waived through a recommendation for a knighthood.
Bloody Sunday shootings
British military veterans have slammed the double standards they say are being applied to the Troubles – which today saw a former paratrooper charged with murder while IRA terrorists go free. It was announced today that a former serviceman, named only as ‘Soldier F’, will stand trial for the murders of two men during the Bloody Sunday shooting in 1972 and the attempted murders of four others. The prosecution has sparked a political row, with Armed Forces groups saying soldiers who served their country are facing investigation while IRA members avoid action under so-called ‘comfort letters’. Alan Barry, founder of Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans, said: ‘Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, veterans are being left open to prosecution while terrorists have been cleansed of their past crimes.’ At the same time as Soldier F’s prosecution was announced this morning, authorities revealed that two alleged Official IRA members would face no criminal action.
One former British soldier – known only as soldier F – will be charged with the murder of civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday. The single prosecution came to the dismay of the families of victims who had campaigned for more ex-paratroopers to face action over the deaths in 1972. The families later also called on the Attorney General to investigate whether Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has interfered in the judicial process. Speaking recently in a BBC interview, Mr Williamson said he was saddened that protection against “spurious prosecutions” would not be given to service personnel ahead of Thursday’s decision. John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was killed, said the Attorney General should decide if Mr Williamson or other politicians had broken the law.
FURY erupted after a lone veteran was charged with murder over two Bloody Sunday killings on Thursday – nearly 50 years after the tragedy. Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service said there was enough evidence to prosecute the unnamed Para – known as Soldier F – for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney. He also faces charges for the attempted murder of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell, nearly 50 years ago in Londonderry. But 16 other elderly veterans probed by cops – plus two suspected ex-members of the Official IRA – will face no action due to “insufficient evidence”. The charges come despite the vents of Bloody Sunday being subject to a multi-million pound public inquiry. And scores of IRA suspects have escaped prosecution for terrorist atrocities after being given “comfort” letters making them immune from charges following the Northern ireland peace process.
A former British soldier faces murder charges over the killing of two people on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972. The Public Prosecution Service said there was enough evidence to prosecute Soldier F for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney. The sole prosecution is seen as a “terrible disappointment” by some of the families of the 13 people killed. They were shot dead at a civil rights march on 30 January 1972. The day became known as Bloody Sunday – one of the darkest days of the Northern Ireland Troubles.
BLOODY Sunday families vowed to continue their fight for justice today after the “disappointing” decision to prosecute just one British soldier for the murder of two unarmed civilians in Derry almost 50 years ago. They marched together from Derry’s Bogside memorial to the court in honour of the 14 people who were killed after soldiers from the Parachute Regiment opened fire on a civil rights demonstration in 1972. There was a mixture of relief and disappointment as Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service announced that only one Paratrooper — Soldier F — was to be prosecuted for their role in the killings, which were described as “unjustified and unjustifiable” by Lord Saville in his 2010 report. He faces charges for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell. However the PPS ruled today there is insufficient evidence for a reasonable prospect of conviction for the remaining 16 soldiers, with some being deceased, leaving many families feeling that justice has not been fully served.
North Korea is considering suspending nuclear talks with the United States and its leader may rethink a ban on missile tests, news reports from the North’s capital on Friday quoted a senior official as saying. After the failure of last month’s summit of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,the North’s top nuclear envoy said its leadership was considering dropping denuclearisation talks, Russia’s TASS news agency said. “We have no intention to yield to the US demands (at the Hanoi summit) in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind,” the agency quoted North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui as saying.