Today's LACP news:
January 25, 2015
Japan condemns IS execution, demands remaining hostage release
Japanese leader says saving second Japanese man is top priority, while reiterating Japan would not give in to act of 'outrageous and impermissible' terrorism.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday called the killing of a Japanese captive by Islamic State militants "outrageous" and again demanded the group release a second Japanese national they are holding.
Abe, speaking to public broadcaster NHK, said chances were high that a recording and an image of what appeared to be the decapitated body of captive Haruna Yukawa, which emerged late on Saturday, were authentic.
The Japanese leader called for the immediate release of the remaining Japanese captive, veteran war correspondent Kenji Goto, and said saving Goto's life was a top priority.
But he reiterated that Japan would not give in to terrorism.
"Such an act of terrorism is outrageous and impermissible, which causes me nothing but strong indignation," Abe said. "Again, I strongly demand that Mr. Kenji Goto not be harmed and be immediately released."
The escalation of the hostage crisis has become a test for Abe, who took power in 2012 pledging to bolster Japan's global security role. On Tuesday, Islamic State militants released a video showing Goto and Yukawa kneeling with a knife-wielding, masked man demanding a $200 million ransom for their release. A 72-hour deadline for that payment expired on Friday.
In the latest recording, Goto says Yukawa was "slaughtered in the land of the Islamic Caliphate." But the journalist said the Japanese government could save him by working through Jordan where Abe earlier this week set up an office to coordinate the government's response to the hostage situation.
Goto says the militants would free him in exchange for the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi held in Jordan, and that the militants have dropped the ransom demand.
"I am filled with disappointment, that it has finally come to this," Yukawa's father, Shoichi, told NHK. “I feel pained, that he (Goto) risked his life out of concern (for my son) and ended up being captured. I hope he can be released as soon as possible, and return to Japan to continue his activities.”
Goto's mother, Junko Ishido, told NHK: “First of all I wish it weren't true, that it's some mistake. I'm a mother so it's unbearable. What I want to tell Islamic State is that Kenji's ideal is world peace." She was later quoted by Kyodo news agency as doubting her son would seek a prisoner exchange.
More than 100 people congregated at Tokyo's Denenchofu Protestant evangelical church, where Goto was baptized in 1997 and where he prayed just days after Yukawa was captured in August. Three policemen stood guard outside the church.
"Please have Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa in your thoughts as we go through today's prayers," Pastor Shun Takatsu said.
Abe told NHK he had spoken to Jordan's King Abdullah about the situation, but he had no comment on the Islamic State demand for the release of al-Rishawi.
US President Barack Obama condemned Yukawa's "brutal murder" in a statement released by the White House, and later called Abe to express his condolences and thank him for the humanitarian aid Japan has provided to the Middle East.
French President Francois Hollande in a statement also condemned what he called the "barbaric killing," while Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has forged closer security ties with Japan, called it an "absolute atrocity".
"All this means is it's more important than ever to do everything we can to disrupt and degrade the death cult," Abbott added in a statement from Canberra.
Yukawa, 42, was seized by militants in August after going to Syria to launch a security company. Goto, 47, went into Syria in late October seeking to secure Yukawa's release, according to friends and business associates.
The new recording, released on YouTube late on Saturday before being deleted, showed an image of a gaunt Goto in an orange t-shirt with audio of what appeared to be him making a statement in English.
"I would like to stress how easy it is to save my life," the recording says. "You bring them their sister from the Jordanian regime, and I will be released immediately. Me for her."
Al-Rishawi was arrested shortly after she failed to blow herself up in one of three deadly hotel bombings that hit the Jordanian capital in 2005.
Japan paid $6 million to Japanese Red Army hijackers after a 1977 kidnapping, but in recent years has moved toward the US government's hard line against paying ransoms.
Japan's pacifist constitution also rules out any military response. A briefing paper prepared for Abe's office on Friday and reviewed by Reuters said Japan would not have the legal authority to strike the Islamic State even after proposed legislation loosening military restrictions that the prime minister is seeking to pass later this year.
Abe told NHK that Japan did not intend to join the US-led military operation against Islamic State, but wanted to continue to provide humanitarian aid. The decision by Abe to give aid specifically to countries contending with Islamic State has raised some eyebrows.
"I think it's unavoidable if they (Islamic State) took this as support for their enemies and view Japan as an enemy," Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the small opposition People's Life Party, told NHK, adding the government appeared not to know how to respond.
The Islamic State has executed five British and American aid workers and journalists in recent months. Yukawa's capture by Islamic State fighters outside Aleppo in August was the first time a Japanese citizen has been held by the group.
France sees as many anti-Muslim acts in January as all of 2014
More than 100 incidents against Muslims registered in two weeks after gunmen massacred journalists at Charlie Hebdo, according to French Muslim group.
by The Associated Press
At least as many anti-Muslim acts have taken place in France since the terror attacks this month as for all of last year, a leading Muslim group reported Friday.
The French Council for the Muslim Religion said 128 anti-Muslim actions or threats were reported from January 7th to the 20th — a number that does not include the densely populated Paris region. That's compared to 133 in all of France, including Paris, in 2014.
Three Islamic extremist gunmen carried out the attacks, which began on January 7 with the killing of 12 people at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which lampooned religion and had been threatened repeatedly after publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
One gunman also led an hours-long standoff with police inside a Paris kosher supermarket, killing four French Jews before a special forces raid eliminated him, saving the remaining hostages.
Since then, mosques have suffered a grenade attack, shots and repeated vandalism, and stores owned by Muslims have been burned. At least one person was assaulted and hospitalized, said Abdallah Zekri, of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, which worked with the group to produce the total.
Zekri said the report only included those attacks that were reported to police.
The French government last week deployed security forces to protect mosques and synagogues, as well as other places deemed in danger since the terror attacks that left 20 people dead, including three gunmen killed in stand-offs with police.
Three People Dead, 5 Wounded in 'Gang-Related' Omaha Shooting
Three people were killed and five people were injured in an early Saturday morning "gang-related" shooting at an unoccupied home in Omaha, Nebraska, police said. Jakela Foster, 19, and Latisha Fox, 24, were found dead from gunshot wounds at a house party in the northwest part of Nebraska's biggest city that police were called to at 1:44 a.m. (2:44 a.m. ET), said Police Chief Todd Schmaderer during a Saturday afternoon news conference. Twenty-six-year-old Cameron Harris later died at the hospital, Schmaderer said. Two more victims were brought to the hospital in serious condition, and three more people suffering from gunshot wounds were also hospitalized, police said.
More than 40 people were at the empty home when the "gang-related" violence broke out, Schmaderer said. Omaha police later arrested Christopher T. Grotell, and are investigating if he had any involvement in the shootings. Schmaderer said none of the witnesses would assist police on the scene, but appealed to party goers to come forward now that they "have an opportunity to be away from any intimidation."
Schmaderer said four male victims are affiliated with gangs. "The violence that we're seeing here is the product of gang members that have no regard for human life," he added.
Shocked: VPSO accused of using Taser on 11-year-old
Troopers, Tlingit & Haida investigating alleged incident
by Emily Russo Miller
Terrie Ward, a mother of three in Kake, was stunned Wednesday when she learned that a Village Public Safety Officer had shocked her 11-year-old son and another boy with either a Taser or a stun gun after the curious children asked the officer to “Tase” them.
Equally as concerning, Ward said, is that she was not informed about the incident by authorities. She found out about a month later through a concerned friend.
“She was asking me how my son was doing after the incident, and I was like, ‘What is she talking about?'” Ward said, adding that she and her husband were out of town at the time, and their children were staying at their grandparent's house. “I was in shock because, I mean, I did not hear of it. I did not know about it.”
The Alaska State Troopers, who supervise the law enforcement aspect of the statewide VPSO program, are investigating the alleged incident, which demonstrates the sometimes strained relationship between the only police presence in a small rural village and its residents. Kake, located about 100 miles south of Juneau, has about 600 or so year-round residents, most of whom are Alaska Native.
Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, the tribal government that employs the VPSO in Kake, is also investigating the incident. VPSOs are employed by the regional Alaska Native nonprofit corporation, not the state of Alaska or state troopers.
“This is a personnel issue and T&H is working through the Alaska State Troopers in this matter,” T&H's VPSO program manager Jason Wilson said in a statement Friday provided to the Empire upon request. “This matter was investigated and forwarded to the (attorney general's) office.”
The Alaska Attorney General's office said it had not heard about the incident when contacted by the Empire on Friday. The office referred the Empire to the Juneau District Attorney's Office, and a phone message to the DA was not returned Friday.
In an interview at her home Friday, Ward said not all the details about the incident are known. From what she's been able to gather, her son was among a group of about eight to 10 children who were getting ready to play kickball outside the Boys & Girls Club of Kake one afternoon in December. The club is located next to the VPSO office, and as the VPSO walked by or approached them, her son and another boy asked the VPSO to use his Taser on them. They wanted to know what it felt like, the mother said.
“They were talking about being Tased, and my son did ask to be Tased, and he Tasered him on his arm or his wrist,” the mother said, adding that her son never told her about it later because he thought he would get in trouble.
Ward wasn't sure if the weapon was a stun gun or a Taser. A stun gun produces an electrical shock when placed against a person's skin. A Taser shoots barbs that attach to a person's skin to deliver a disabling shock. The barbs usually require medical assistance to remove, and medical assistance was not rendered in this case. If a Taser's cartridge is removed, it can serve as a stun gun.
The VPSO, Ward said, should have known better than to use a police weapon and deliver an electrical shock to a minor child, especially since it was not warranted. The boy was not harmed physically but she worries if it could have a lasting emotional or psychological effect.
“I'm just not happy about the whole situation,” she said, declining to say whether she has contacted an attorney. “To me, this is considered child abuse.”
She noted that her son is technically her stepson, although she has raised him almost since birth.
The family of the other boy allegedly involved was not willing to discuss with the Empire what happened.
Anchorage-based Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters confirmed the name of the VPSO as Mac McGonigal, who was assigned to Kake in April 2013. The Empire attempted to get McGonigal's side of the story and that of his supervisor in Kake by visiting the VPSO office there multiple times Friday. No one was at the office, likely because they were either off duty or on patrol. The Empire also called the office — the city's office provided the number — but the number was not working. The Empire will publish comments from McGonigal if he wishes to contact the paper.
Spokeswoman Peters told the Empire by email that the troopers and Tlingit & Haida were notified about what happened the day of the incident and sent Alaska State Troopers from Juneau to investigate. The Juneau District Attorney's Office was also informed of the incident, and “the completed report will be sent to them for review and a decision regarding any charges,” Peters said.
When asked specifically why the troopers did not contact the mother of the 11-year-old, Peters only wrote in the email, “The parents or the guardians of the involved children were contacted.”
Ward, however, said she was only contacted this past week by the supervising VPSO in Kake, James Smith. She said he called and asked her to come down to their office to meet with him and a trooper there. She declined, saying she wouldn't talk to them unless a lawyer was present.
She said Smith then informed her that the city councilors would be taking up the matter for discussion during their regular scheduled meeting. When she attended the meeting Wednesday evening, she found out the matter was not on the agenda and was not discussed during the meeting. She brought it up during the public comment portion of the meeting to ask what was being done, and she said she felt “publicly humiliated.” Warn noted she's concerned that the incident will be “swept under the rug.”
The village's mayor did not return messages left for comment Thursday and Friday.
The Alaska State Troopers website makes clear that VPSOs are not police officers or troopers, but citizens who are trained to respond to be first responders to public service emergencies such as fires, medical calls, search and rescues and “basic” law enforcement. Alaska began using the VPSO program in the late 1970s since it can take days for trained law enforcement officers to respond to emergencies in remote rural communities that cannot afford full-time officers.
The citizens are trained at a 10-week village safety officer training course, according to DPS' website, although Peters said McGonigal attended a course that was two weeks long.
VPSOs have been allowed to carry Tasers on their belt at least since 2007, and Peters said VPSOs may use them “in accordance with their training and the specifics of the situation.” When asked if it's ever OK to use a Taser on a minor, Peters said it may be justified in some circumstances.
Soon, villages will choose whether they want their VPSOs to be armed with a more lethal weapon. Former Gov. Sean Parnell last year signed a bill that allows VPSOs to carry a firearm. The legislation was in response to the March 2013 shooting death of Manokotak VPSO Thomas Madole during a call.
Alaska State Troopers are in the process of conducting a pilot project to arm the first group of VPSOs, Peters said. The firearms training and psychological screening that armed VPSOs receive will be identical to that given to State Troopers and municipal police officers.
Eight VPSOs are employed in Southeast Alaska, two in Kake. VPSOs have been a presence in Kake since its police department closed in 2009.
Ward said she has never had a problem with a VPSO in Kake before this incident, and hopes the matter is addressed by the authorities properly.
“He's not the adult; he didn't know better, which the law enforcement knew right from wrong,” she said, adding, “I just think that it was wrong on so many levels.”
From the Department of Justice
Alleged Terrorist, Charged with Murder of Five American Soldiers, Extradited to United States
Defendant Allegedly Aided Suicide Bomb Attack on U.S. Base in Iraq
U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos of the FBI's New York Field Office and Commissioner William J. Bratton of the New York City Police Department announced that tomorrow, Jan. 24, 2015, Faruq Khalil Muhammed ‘Isa, aka “Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa,” “Sayfildin Tahir Sharif,” and “Tahir Sharif Sayfildin,” will have his initial appearance at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, on charges of conspiring to kill Americans abroad; and providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy to kill Americans abroad. ‘Isa was extradited to the United States from Canada.
According to court documents, the defendant is charged in connection with his support for a multinational terrorist network that conducted multiple suicide bombings in Iraq. According to the complaint, filed on Jan. 14, 2011, in the Eastern District of New York, the defendant assisted in orchestrating an attack on the United States Military's Forward Operating Base Marez (FOB Marez) in Mosul, Iraq, on April 10, 2009. A truck laden with explosives drove to the gate of FOB Marez and exchanged fire with Iraqi police officers guarding the base and then with an American convoy exiting the base. The truck detonated alongside the last vehicle in the U.S. convoy, leaving a 60-foot crater in the ground. Five American soldiers were killed in the blast. They are: Staff Sergeant Gary L. Woods, 24, of Lebanon Junction, Kentucky; Sergeant First Class Bryan E. Hall, 32, of Elk Grove, California; Sergeant Edward W. Forrest Jr., 25, of St. Louis, Missouri; Corporal Jason G. Pautsch, 20, of Davenport, Iowa; and Army Private First Class Bryce E. Gaultier, 22, from Cyprus, California.
“Today's extradition demonstrates to those who orchestrate violence against our citizens and our soldiers that there is no corner of the globe from which they can hide from the long reach of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Lynch. “We will continue to use every available means to bring to justice those who are responsible for the deaths of American servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price in their defense of this nation.”
“Faruq Khalil Muhammed ‘Isa is alleged to have helped orchestrate an attack that killed five U.S. soldiers at the Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, Iraq, in 2009,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The families of these five Americans and all who have lost loved-ones to acts of terrorism should know that we will never cease seeking to hold terrorists accountable for their acts. I want to thank the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who are responsible for this matter.”
“As alleged, Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa was involved in the most callous act: a suicide bombing murdering U.S. soldiers in Iraq,” said Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos. “Our memory is long, and our reach is longer. Today we hope to bring some measure of justice to the families of those five servicemen who sacrificed their lives in defense of this nation.”
“I want to commend the United States Attorney Loretta Lynch and her team for working closely with the NYPD and the FBI to extradite this individual who is allegedly responsible for the death of soldiers sworn to protect and serve,” said Commissioner Bratton. “We hope today's extradition will bring some closure to the families.”
The charges in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zainab Ahmad, Alexander Solomon and Peter Baldwin, with assistance provided by the Justice Department's Counterterrorism Section and Office of International Affairs. The department extends its grateful appreciation to the Canadian government for its assistance and cooperation in the extradition.