The accused terrorist in the recent foiled train attack in France is a Moroccan who lived in Algeciras, Spain. It’s a diverse port city where immigrants are well integrated.
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Protesters hold a sign Saturday that reads, in Portuguese, “Don’t kill our children,” in a march against police and gang conflicts that have left residents of the Complexo de Alemao favela in the crossfire.
On a Saturday morning, in a group of Rio de Janeiro’s notoriously violent shanty towns, or favelas, heavily armed pacification police stand on one side of the street, on the other side, protestors call for them to withdraw.
On the protest side, Mayse Freitas lists the people she knows who have been injured or killed in shootouts in the area recently.
“I’m a mother and a grandmother,” Freitas says. “I don’t want my children or grandchildren to be next.”
Six years ago, the police moved into Rio’s notorious favelas in a pacification project aimed to reduce violence in the city’s worst neighborhoods, violence that was daily and brazen. The government was hoping to reduce crime ahead of the Olympics next summer.
But in Freitas’ group of favelas, called Complexo de Alemao, pacification has been a failure, she says.
“There is no pacification here,” she says. “What we have is a war. Criminals against police, fighting over who are the more powerful the more influential. And who suffers? We do.”
In some of the larger favela complexes, where armed traffickers are more entrenched, police pacification units, known as UPPs, have been much more heavy-handed. In Alemao, shootings in which residents are caught in the crossfire are common.
Police have been discovered trying to plant weapons on innocent bystanders. There have even been cases of forced disappearances and torture. Traffickers have also attacked and surrounded pacification police outposts, and many cops have been injured and some killed.
But the pacified favela of Vidigal feels completely different: relaxed and quiet. Visitors are ferried up to the top of the community by motorcycle to take ocean-view snaps or stay at guesthouses.
“Here it is peaceful,” says resident Carlos Pedroso. “I go to other pacified favelas, and it is also much better than before.”
Vidigal and a clutch of other favelas that are doing well are close to the tourism areas of Leblon and Copacabana. They are also smaller, and in many cases, pacification was followed by investment in infrastructure and social welfare spending.
“They are not a single experience,” says Ignacio Cano, an expert on pacification with Rio de Janeiro’s State University. “The situation varies a lot from some communities to others. Anything good or bad which has happened in the last five, six years in terms of public security in Rio has systematically been attributed to the UPPs.”
But the data, he says, show that the situation is much more complicated.
Since pacification began in 2008, UPPs are now in 38 communities encompassing 264 separate favelas — only a quarter of the total number of favelas in Rio.
Cano says between the program’s start and 2012, Rio saw a steep decline in homicides and robberies all over the city. Inside favelas with UPPS, homicide rates were actually halved.
He says before pacification, there was no state presence in most of these informal communities.
“They have given us an alternative paradigm for public security,” he says. “After the UPPs, even though the results are mixed, I think there is a clear perception that there is another way to deal with insecurity.”
But there are still many problems. Recently, crime is again on the rise. There had been a hope that this type of community policing would change the extremely violent police culture in Rio, but that hasn’t happened.
“The relationship between the police and the communities are still very tense and very bad in many UPP communities,” Cano says. “Most policemen don’t want to work in the UPPs, so the degree of internal legitimacy is very low.”
Still, analysts say pacification has been a net positive for the city, and simply ending the program would be disastrous. So far, the promise is that the program will continue through at least 2018, beyond next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.
But a massive economic crisis currently grips Brazil.
“The state has already cut its budget by over 25 percent when it comes to public security,” says Robert Muggah, a specialist with the IGARAPE Institute, which studies public security in Rio. “There is a big question mark looming over all of this, which is whether the Brazilian government can sustain financing for these kinds of innovative models.”
UPP commander Lt. Carlos Viega in Vidigal says the pacification program is already feeling the pinch.
“It’s important to have a budget to meet our needs” he says. “We can try to be more efficient. But we need more money, as sometimes we feel we are kind of alone out here.”
Inspektor Jan Gieber of Austrian police shows the inside of the large van outside the police station in Braunau, Upper Austria, on Sunday, where the children were found among 26 migrants trying to reach Europe.
Three refugee children who were rescued from a minivan as they were being smuggled into Europe have reportedly disappeared from a hospital where they were being treated for dehydration.
Meanwhile, there were more arrests in a similar case in Austria last week in which 71 migrants were found dead in a truck.
The Syrian children, two girls and a boy aged five and six, were part of a group of 26 migrants also from Afghanistan and Bangladesh who were pulled over by police near the town of St. Peter am Hart, near the German border. The refugees were crammed into the vehicle and described by medical officials as being near death.
Police said they van was intercepted after a chase with police and that its Romanian driver was arrested.
“The emergency doctor told us they would not have made it much longer — two, maybe three hours,” said David Furtner, police spokesman for Upper Austria province, according to Reuters.
But the BBC reports that the children and their families, who faced deportation, had disappeared from the hospital.
Last week, 71 would-be migrants from war-torn North Africa and the Middle East were found dead after apparently suffocating in a truck that was abandoned along Austria’s A4 autobahn.
The Independent reports:
“A fifth suspect of Bulgarian citizenship was arrested today by Hungarian police in connection with the deaths.
“Austrian police have said that they believe the migrants suffocated after autopsies were performed on 16 of the bodies.
“Three Bulgarians and one Afghan citizen are currently under arrest pending an investigation in Hungary. They face up to 16 years in prison for trafficking in Hungary plays murder charges in Austria.”
Three Al Jazeera English journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste were sentenced to up to 3 years and 6 months in prison in a controversial case that’s dragged on for nearly 2 years.
Al-Jazeera English television journalist Mohamed Fahmy talks to his lawyer Amal Clooney before hearing the verdict at a court in Cairo, Egypt, on Saturday. Fahmy and two others were sentenced to three years in prison on terrorism-related charges.
A trio of journalists from Al-Jazeera English has been found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison after their re-trial in an Egyptian courtroom on terrorism-related charges.
Mohammad Fahmy, a Canadian, and Baher Mohammad, an Egyptian producer for the Qatar-based network, were on hand for the Saturday sentencing hearing. They were immediately taken into custody. The third defendant, Australian Peter Greste, was deported in February and sentenced in absentia.
The three had been accused with having links to a “terrorist organization” and for “spreading false news” — charges widely viewed by rights organizations as trumped up and politically motivated.
The Sydney Morning Herald clarifies that specifically, they were convicted of “operating without a press license and broadcasting material harmful to Egypt.” The “terrorist organization” in question is the Muslim Brotherhood, now banned in Egypt.
The three were arrested in December 2013 while working for Al-Jazeera and spent 400 days in jail before their original conviction was overturned in January.
Al-Jazeera Media Network’s Acting Director-General Mostefa Souag said was a verdict that “defies logic and common sense.”
“The whole case has been heavily politicized and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner,” he said.
NPR’s Leila Fadel, speaking with Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon, called the sentences “shocking.”
“There had been indications that the government wanted this to go away,” she said.
The New York Times reports:
“It wasn’t immediately clear how the sentence would affect the three men, although lawyers said they would be asking for a pardon from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who has personally spoken out against the case.
“Greste … spoke to Al-Jazeera from Sydney and said he believed an Egyptian appeals court would overturn the verdict. …
“‘We broke no laws, we did nothing unethical or illegal or immoral. And so it’s just incomprehensible to see how the court can come to this conclusion,’ Greste said, adding that the verdict was ‘clearly political.’”
Amal Clooney, a lawyer for Fahmy, called on Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to overturn the court’s decision, The Guardian reports.
A Thai Royal Police handout photo taken with a mobile phone showing an unidentified suspect, who police say may be linked to the Aug. 17 shrine bombing.
Thai Royal Police/Handout/EPA/Landov
Thai Royal Police/Handout/EPA/Landov
Thai Royal Police/Handout/EPA/Landov
Police in Bangkok says they have arrested a suspect that they think was involved in the deadly shrine bombing earlier this month that killed 20 people and wounded more than 120 others.
A foreigner was taken into custody today, Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung, the head of Thailand’s national police force, told reporters.
He said authorities had also “seized a lot of evidence, including bomb-making materials.” Somyot added that it was too early to say for sure that the suspect was involved in the Aug. 17 bombing of the Erawan shrine in central Bangkok.
Asked about a motive, however, he offered: “it’s a personal grudge … not international terrorism.” He did not elaborate or give a clear explanation, The Associated Press says.
The New York Times reports that: “The arrest on Saturday was made at an apartment in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in the northern suburbs of Bangkok.”
Meanwhile, national police spokesman Prawuth Thavornsiri said in a televised statement that the bomb-making materials matched those used in the attack on the shrine.
“Our preliminary investigation shows that he is related to both bombings,” Prawuth said, as he showed photographs of detonators, ball bearings and a metal pipe that police said could have been used to make another bomb.
Prawuth also said police had found “a number of passports from one country,” but he declined to say which country.
The AP reports:
“Earlier, Prawuth said that authorities had not yet determined his nationality and dismissed Thai news reports saying he is Turkish. Images of a Turkish passport with the apparent suspect’s picture were posted on social media.
“‘The passport you see is fake,’ said Prawuth, referring to the online photos. ‘We don’t know if he is Turkish or not.’”
The BBC adds:
“Photos handed out by the police show a man with short dark hair and a beard and wearing a yellow shirt and trousers sitting handcuffed at the house.
But he may not be the prime suspect who was seen on security camera leaving a backpack at the busy shrine shortly before deadly the blast earlier this month.”
“ThaiPBS reported that the suspect first rented room 412 on July 21. A police source who declined to be named told the news agency [Deutsche Press-Agentur] that the tip came from the landlord, who grew suspicious because the suspect did not speak Thai and rented five rooms on the same floor of the building,” The Bangkok Post writes.
Officials in Poland are investigating claims that two men have discovered a Nazi-era train full of gold. Two men, who want a finder’s fee, say they found it in an abandoned coal mine.
Japan’s team clinched a spot in Saturday’s championship games at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. Their training involves strict discipline, drilling and group responsibility.
Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic, offers mass in Santo Domingo in August 3, 2009. The former archbishop and papal ambassador died Friday at the Vatican awaiting trial on child sex offences.
Former Polish Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski — the highest-ranking church official to be caught up in the clergy sex abuse scandal — has died at age 67, a month after his Vatican trial was delayed due to his health.
Wesolowski was found dead at his Vatican residence on Friday, the Holy See said in a statement. Catholic News Service (CNS) quotes officials from the Vatican police as saying that the initial assessment was that the death is from natural causes. An autopsy is scheduled to verify the report.
Vatican spokesman Ciro Benedettini said Wesolowski’s body was found early Friday by a priest who lives in the building.
The Guardian describes the death of Wesolowski as “a significant blow to Pope Francis’s efforts to tackle child sex abuse within the Catholic church.”
In an unprecedented move last year, Wesolowski was placed under house arrest in the Vatican for allegedly paying for sex with children during his tenure as the papal ambassador to Dominican Republic. The National Catholic Reporter says he was also accused of possessing child pornography.
He was recalled to Rome from his post as the Vatican’s chief diplomat in Santo Domingo in August 2013 and defrocked in June of last year.
The Reporter says:
“The Vatican later publicly acknowledged his removal, but came under criticism when the former diplomat was spotted walking freely around Rome. While Wesolowski was later said to be under house arrest at a Vatican apartment, reports as recent as this month indicated he had been essentially free to roam the city-state.
“His case also ignited a global debate over which of three countries — the Dominican Republic, Poland, or the Vatican — would have jurisdiction to try the diplomat. Poland originally sought Wesolowski’s extradition, which was refused by Vatican authorities.”
According to CNS:
“Wesolowski was to be the first person to be tried by a Vatican criminal court on sex abuse charges. The first session of the trial had been scheduled for July 11, but was postponed when he was taken to the hospital the day before after suffering ‘a collapse,’ Father Benedettini said. He remained in the hospital until July 17.
“The Vatican court had not announced a date for the continuation of the trial …”
The bodies of dozens of dead migrants were discovered in an abandoned truck along autobahn A4 between Parndorf and Neusiedl, Austria, on Thursday.
At least 20 migrants were found dead in a truck on Thursday in eastern Austria, apparently from suffocation. Police said the number could be as high as 50.
The food-delivery truck was found along Austria’s A4 autobahn near the town of Parndorf, which is not far from the border with Hungary and Slovakia.
“We can assume that it could be 20 people who died. It could also be 40, it could be 50 people,” an unnamed police official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“The level of information is currently very poor. One can imagine how the condition of these people is. Therefore we cannot yet say how many dead there are also,” National Police Director Hanspeter Doskozil was quoted by RT.com as saying.
Austria’s Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner called it a “dark day.” She said the tragedy highlighted the need for common European Union policies to protect migrants being smuggled across Europe.
The Guardian writes: “Road employees spotted the lorry and alerted the police. Detectives then made the horrific discovery. A manhunt for the driver is now underway.”
On Tuesday, Austrian police arrested three drivers suspected of transporting migrants from Syria into the EU. One of the drivers had 34 people packed in the back of a truck, the Guardian reports.
Also, as The New York Times notes:
“The grisly discovery coincided with the start of a conference in Vienna on how to make the Balkans more secure and prosperous, partly as a means to stop the flight of thousands seeking better economic conditions in Austria, Germany and other, more wealthy parts of the European Union. The conference is being attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and Balkan heads of government.
“The deep divides and dysfunction of the European Union in handling a crisis that is straining resources and good will were immediately evident at a news conference at the start of the one-day conference. With the foreign ministers of Germany and Austria and a senior European Union official looking on, the foreign ministers of Serbia and Macedonia — two Balkan states that have had tens of thousands of migrants cross their borders in recent weeks — criticized the bloc’s response as wholly inadequate.”