At least 26 people killed after Texas church shooting

Texas shooting: Armed with assault rifle, man kills 26 in Sutherland Springs church; suspect Devin Kelley 'found dead' in vehicle

Law enforcement officials work the scene of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. 

Sutherland Springs (Texas): A man dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside a church in a small South Texas community on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 others in what the governor called the deadliest mass shooting in the state's history.

Officials didn't identify the attacker during a news conference Sunday night, but two other officials - one a US official and one in law enforcement - who were briefed on the investigation identified him as Devin Kelley. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the investigation.

Kelley killed 26 people in what is the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

The US official said Kelley lived in a San Antonio suburb and doesn't appear to be linked to organized terrorist groups. The official said investigators are looking at social media posts Kelley may have made in the days before Sunday's attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.
Kelley posted this picture of a gun on Facebook recently.

At the news conference, Freeman Martin, the regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the attacker was dressed all in black, wearing tactical gear and a ballistic vest, when he arrived at a gas station across from the First Baptist Church at around 11.20 am.

He crossed the street and started firing a Ruger AR rifle at the church, and continued after entering the building. As he left, he was confronted by an armed resident who chased him. A short time later, the suspect was found dead in his vehicle at the county line, Martin said. There were several weapons inside.

Martin said it's unclear if the attacker died of a self-inflicted wound or if he was shot by the resident who confronted him. He said investigators weren't ready to discuss a possible motive for the attack. He said the dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old. Twenty-three were found dead in the church, two were found outside and one died after being taken to a hospital.

Federal law enforcement swarmed the small community 30 miles southeast of San Antonio after the attack to offer assistance, including ATF investigators and members of the FBI's evidence collection team.

Among those killed was the 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri. Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text message to the AP that she and her husband were out of town in two different states when the attack occurred.

"We lost our 14-year-old daughter today (Sunday) and many friends," she wrote. "Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the Charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as I can."

The wounded were taken to hospitals. Video on KSAT television showed first responders taking a stretcher from the church to a waiting AirLife helicopter. Eight victims were taken by medical helicopter to the Brooke Army Medical Center, the military hospital said.

Megan Posey, a spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Center, which is in Floresville and about 10 miles from the church, said "multiple" victims were being treated for gunshot wounds. She declined to give a specific number but said it was less than a dozen.

The scene outside First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, near San Antonio, Texas, where a mass shooting took place
Alena Berlanga, a Floresville resident who was monitoring the chaos on a police scanner and in Facebook community groups, said everyone knows everyone else in the sparsely populated county. Sutherland Springs has only a few hundred residents.

"This is horrific for our tiny little tight-knit town," said Alena Berlanga. "Everybody's going to be affected and everybody knows someone who's affected," she said.

Regina Rodriguez arrived at the church a couple of hours after the shooting and walked up to the police barricade. She hugged a person she was with. She had been at an amusement park with her children when she heard of the shooting.

She said her father, 51-year-old Richard Rodriguez, attends the church every Sunday, and she hadn't been able to reach him. She said she feared the worst.

Nick Uhlig, 34, is a church member who didn't go Sunday morning because he was out late Saturday night. He said his cousins were at the church and that his family was told at least one of them, a woman with three children and pregnant with another, is among the dead. He said he hadn't heard specific news about the other.

Texas church massacre victim Annabelle Pomeroy pictured with her father, Pastor of the church, Frank

"We just gathered to bury their grandfather on Thursday," he said. "This is the only church here. We have Bible study, men's Bible study, vacation Bible school."

"Somebody went in and started shooting," he said, shaking his head and taking a long drag of his cigarette.

President Donald Trump tweeted from Japan, where is his on an Asian trip, that he was monitoring the situation. Texas governor Greg Abbott called the shooting an "evil act."

Annabele Pomeroy, the 14-year-old daughter of First Baptist pastor Frank Pomeroy

Sutherland Springs is in a rural area where communities are small and tight-knit. The area is known for its annual peanut festival in Floresville, which was most recently held last month.

"We're shocked. Shocked and dismayed," said state Senator Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat whose district includes Sutherland Springs. "It's especially shocking when it's such a small, serene area. These rural areas, they are so beautiful and so loving."

Zaffirini said she had called several county and local officials but not been able to get through and didn't have any firm details.

The church is a white, wood-framed building with a double-door at the entrance and a Texas flag on a pole at the front area. A morning worship service was scheduled for 11 am. The first news reports of the shooting were between noon and 12.30 pm.

The church has posted videos of its Sunday services on a YouTube channel, raising the possibility that the shooting was captured on video.

In the most recent service, posted 29 October, Frank Pomeroy parked a motorcycle in front of his lectern and used it as a metaphor in his sermon for having faith in forces that can't be seen, whether it be gravity or God.

"I don't look at the moment, I look at where I'm going and look at what's out there ahead of me," Pomeroy said. "I'm choosing to trust in the centripetal forces and the things of God he's put around me."


Lebanon’s president will not accept the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri

Lebanese president won’t accept PM’s resignation until he returns

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president will not accept the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri until he returns to Lebanon, palace sources said on Sunday, delaying for now politically difficult consultations on his successor.

Hariri left Lebanon for Saudi Arabia on Friday and resigned on Saturday in a televised statement that took the Lebanese political establishment by surprise.

He cited an assassination plot against him and criticised the regional role of Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, however, Lebanon’s army said on Sunday it had not uncovered any plot.
A resignation would thrust Lebanon back into the arena of regional rivalry between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, an ally of Hariri, and Shi‘ite Muslim Iran, which backs Hezbollah.

President Michel Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, will wait to accept or reject Hariri’s resignation until he returns to Lebanon to explain his reasons, sources at the presidential palace said.
Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat cited unnamed sources close to Hariri as speculating that he would probably remain outside Lebanon because of the security threat against him.

Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh sought to calm fears the political turmoil unleashed by Hariri’s bid to resign would hit Lebanon’s already fragile economy, issuing a statement to reaffirm the stability of its currency, which is pegged against the US dollar.

In Lebanon’s sectarian system the president must be a Maronite Catholic, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker of parliament a Shi‘ite. Hariri is Lebanon’s most influential Sunni politician.
His father, Rafik al-Hariri, was prime minister after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war and was assassinated in a car bombing in 2005.

A UN-backed tribunal has indicted five Hezbollah members for the killing but the group denies any involvement.

Saudi media have published reports of a plot to assassinate Hariri in recent days, but all of Lebanon’s main security branches have said they have no information about such a plot.

A Saudi minister said on Saturday that Hariri’s personal security detail had “confirmed information” about the plot. Thamer al-Sabhan said in an interview with a Lebanese TV station on Saturday that there are “threats against the prime minister and the Kingdom is keen for his security


Catalonia Independence: Carles Puigdemont and 13 others summoned

In Belgium for 'safety', axed Catalan leader summoned to Spain court

Catalonia's dismissed leader Carles Puigdemont called on Spain's central government to respect the result if separatists win snap elections Madrid has called for the region in December

Spain's top criminal court on Tuesday summoned Catalonia's axed separatist leader for questioning, hours after he appeared in Brussels insisting he remained the "legitimate president" of a region now under direct rule from Madrid.

The National Audience in Madrid, which deals with major criminal cases, summoned Carles Puigdemont and 13 other former members of his administration, dismissed by Spain's central government last week, to appear Thursday and Friday.

They are then set to be placed under formal investigation.

On Monday, Spain's chief prosecutor said he was seeking charges of rebellion -- punishable by up to 30 years behind bars -- sedition and misuse of public funds.

But the 54-year-old Puigdemont is in Brussels, where he surfaced after reportedly driving to Marseille in France and taking a plane to the Belgian capital.

At a packed and chaotic news conference Tuesday, Puigdemont said he was in Brussels "for safety purposes and freedom" and to "explain the Catalan problem in the institutional heart of Europe."

"We want to denounce the politicisation of the Spanish justice system, its lack of impartiality, its pursuing of ideas not crimes, and to explain to the world the Spanish state's serious democratic deficiencies," he said.

He denied that he intended to claim asylum but said he and several other former ministers who travelled with him would return only if they have guarantees that legal proceedings would be impartial.

But two former ministers flew back to Barcelona late on Tuesday where they were greeted by a small group of demonstrators who waved Spanish flags in their faces and shouted "traitors!" and "Viva Espana!" at them.

If Puigdemont fails to appear in court as requested, Spanish prosecutors could order his arrest.

His lawyer Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas complained in a Tweet that Puigdemont had not been "given time to prepare the defence."

The National Audience also gave Puigdemont and his former ministers three days to pay a combined deposit against potential penalties of 6.2 million euros ($7.2 million).

- Uncharted territory -

Puigdemont's departure and the court's announcement are the latest twists in the saga over semi-autonomous Catalonia's drive for independence, which has sparked Spain's biggest crisis in decades.

With its own language and distinct culture, Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy and 16 percent of its population, is deeply divided over independence.

On October 1, the region held an unregulated referendum -- marked by a heavy-handed operation by Spanish police -- in which a large majority voted in favour of seceding from Spain.

But Spain's top court had ruled the plebiscite illegal, and turnout was just 43 percent.

Puigdemont insists nonetheless the referendum gave the Catalan parliament a mandate to declare independence on Friday, a decision relayed on large screens to cheering crowds in the regional capital Barcelona.

But the reaction from Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government was swift and emphatic.

Invoking a never-used article of the constitution, Madrid dismissed Catalonia's leaders and imposed direct rule.

On Tuesday Spain's top court ordered the suspension of the Catalan parliament's independence declaration.

Spain's Civil Guard police force meanwhile searched the headquarters of Catalonia's regional police in a probe centred on the independence referendum, a spokesman said.

Spain's Supreme Court also summoned the former speaker of the Catalan parliament to be put under formal investigation.

- 'Slow down' -

There had been speculation that Catalan leaders and civil servants might seek to disrupt Madrid's imposition of direct rule but it passed off without major incident.

"We haven't come across a single civil servant who isn't doing his or her duty," Enric Millo, a central government representative in Catalonia, said Tuesday.

But it appears that the crisis has converted more Catalans into independence supporters.

A regional government opinion poll carried out in October suggested more Catalans now favour independence than not.

The survey found that 48.7 percent said they wanted a separate state against 43.6 percent who did not.

The last such poll, conducted in July, found close to 50 percent against secession versus 41.1 percent in favour.

Still, a former Catalan minister, Santi Vila, told Catalan radio Rac1 on Tuesday that Puigdemont's government had been "under the illusion" that breaking away would be easy.

Rajoy has called snap elections for December 21 to replace the Catalan parliament in a drastic bid to stop the secessionist drive.

Puigdemont said that he accepted the "challenge" and that he would "respect" the result -- while calling on Madrid to do the same if separatists retain their majority.


Internet Giants :'We must do better,'

'We must do better,' social media giants tell Congress

(From left) Facebook's General Counsel Colin Stretch, accompanied by Twitter's Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, and Google's Law Enforcement and Information Security Director Richard Salgado, speaks during a Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, on more signs from tech companies of Russian election activity. 

American internet giants told Congress Tuesday they were committed to cracking down on fake news operations on their platforms like the ones Russians conducted to meddle in last year's US presidential elections.

A day after bombshell indictments in a US probe of Moscow's election interference and possible coordination between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia, Facebook,Google and Twitter sought to assure concerned lawmakers that they were taking necessary steps to rid their platforms of disinformation, propaganda and provocation.

In their testimony, the social media companies revealed startling new data showing many more millions of Americans were exposed to the fake news than previously thought.

The new information gives the broadest picture yet of the Russian effort to spread discord across US society.

"We are deeply concerned about all of these threats," Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.

"That foreign actors, hiding behind fake accounts, abused our platform and other internet services to try to sow division and discord -- and to try to undermine our election process -- is an assault on democracy, and it violates all of our values."

The closely-watched hearing comes as the first charges in a US probe into Russian meddling reverberated through Washington.

One of three unsealed indictments brought by US special prosecutor Robert Mueller revealed early contacts between Kremlin-linked figures and a former advisor of Trump's campaign.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted the US accusations of election-meddling were being made "without one piece of evidence."

- Staying ahead of threats -

Testimony by the three companies, whose executives face more congressional questioning Wednesday, shows that Russian activities were far greater than they had previously reported.

Twitter has found that nearly 37,000 automated "bot" accounts with Russian links generated 1.4 million tweets that were seen by a potential 288 million people in the three months before the November 8, 2016 presidential election, the company said.

Twitter's acting general counsel Sean Edgett acknowledged that despite improvements that have helped the company identify and suppress malicious automated and human-generated activity, "we will need to evolve to stay ahead of new tactics."

"We agree that we must do better to prevent it," he added.

Facebook testified that some 126 million US users, a potentially huge portion of the voting public, may have seen stories, posts or other content from Russian sources.

"Foreign governments like Russia -- in the 2016 election cycle -- were deeply involved in manipulating popular social media websites with misinformation to sow discord among Americans," Senator Lindsey Graham, the subcommittee's chairman, said in a statement.

He said social media manipulation by terror networks and foreign governments is "one of the greatest challenges to American democracy" and national security.

Analysts say Russia's social media interference was part of a broader effort to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Some lawmakers sounded exasperated about the extent of the meddling, conducted in part by "troll armies" like the Russia-based Internet Research Agency.

"What is really staggering, and hard to fully comprehend, is how easily and successfully they turned modern technologies to their advantage," Senator Dianne Feinstein said.

All three executives faced intense questioning about how they will counter such operations.

Google's information security director Richard Salgado said users next year will be able to learn the source of each political ad on YouTube with a single click on an icon above the ads.

"We are committed to doing our part," Salgado said.

- Twitter blocking Russian media -

But the social media firms face the difficult challenge of keeping their platforms open, in order to avoid accusations of censorship and bias, and not becoming the curators of truth in society.

The trio has already begun taking measures to try to screen out manipulative Russian content.

Researchers have identified efforts in the past year that aimed to make white Americans angry at blacks, to hurt the image of feminists, and other such targeting that may have hurt Clinton and helped Trump.

Twitter announced last week it would no longer accept advertising from Russia Today and Sputnik, two Russian government-backed media groups that allegedly hone their stories and news placement for political impact.

Facebook's Stretch said the threat was of a global magnitude.

Asked by Graham whether he believed countries like Iran or North Korea could launch similar social media campaigns of misinformation, Stretch noted it was "certainly" possible.

"The internet is borderless," he said.


New York Terror Attack: Eight dead, 11 injured

Eight dead, 11 injured in New York after truck driver ploughs into crowd

THE terrorist who drove a ute onto a bike path in New York and killed at least eight people left revealing notes behind.
DETAILS are starting to emerge about the “very sick and deranged person” police believe killed at least eight people in a New York truck attack.
Sayfullo Saipov, 29, had notes written in Arabic inside his rented ute along with either an Islamic State flag or a smaller picture of a flag, law enforcement sources told The New York Post.

The handwritten notes indicated that he had pledged allegiance to the terror group, the sources said.
Saipov was shot and taken into custody by police, after he injured at least 15 people near the site of the World Trade Centre attacks, at 3.15pm Tuesday afternoon local time.
Saipov emerged from the ute with fake guns in both hands and ran toward a crowd of children before he was gunned down by police.

He was heard to scream “Allahu Akhbar” as he leapt out of the ute.
Saipov reportedly arrived in the US from Uzbekistan in 2010, and had a green card that allowed him to live there permanently.
The man believed to be responsible for the incident in New York

A shocked friend told the Post he was normally “very friendly” and had worked as an Uber driver. He was unware he had any links to terrorism or had been radicalised.

Kobiljon Matkarov, 37, met Saipov in Florida soon after Saipov arrived in the country.
“He is very good guy, he is very friendly… he is like little brother… he look at me like big brother,” Mr Matkarov said.

He believed his friend had been recently living in New Jersey, which is where the Home Depot ute had been rented from.
“My kids like him too, he is always playing with them. He is playing all the time,” Matkarov said.
He last saw him in June when Saipov dropped his family at the airport - the only thing odd about that encounter was when he refused to be photographed.
“He no like that. He said no,” Matkarov said.

A man detained by New York Police is believed to be responsible for mowing down pedestrians on a bike path in Manhattan
Two children travelling on a school bus were among the injured, after the truck rammed into the side of the vehicle.
No victims’ names have been released, but Argentina’s Foreign Ministry confirmed five Argentine citizens had been killed. A sixth victim was from Belgium.

US President Donald Trump said it appeared to be the work of “a very sick and deranged person”.
Sayfullo Saipov, 29, believed to be the New York terrorist truck driver.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a media conference the attack was a “cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent people ... who had no idea what was about to hit them”.
Governor Andrew Cuomo called it a “lone wolf” attack. He said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.

Six men were pronounced dead at the scene while two other people were taken to hospital and died there.
“We also transported 11 people, all with serious but at this moment not life-threatening injuries. The injuries are what you might expect when a truck at high speed went down that bicycle path and struck cyclists and pedestrians. There may be more injuries and we will determine that later,” New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
Emergency crews at the scene of the Manhattan terror attack

The man hit a school bus that was carrying two adults and two children, before he drove onto the bike path. Dramatic images showed mangled bikes left strewn across the pavement, while two bodies could be seen lying under a tarp.
The attack came just hours before New York’s annual Halloween parade, which attracts thousands to the West Village, a few blocks north of Lower Manhattan.

It’s believed the people killed were run over by the truck, rather than being shot. Police told local media the guns the motorist was carrying were fake - a paint gun and a pellet gun.
The damaged front of the truck the man drove onto a bike path in New York
Elizabeth Chernobelsky, 17, a 12th grade student at Stuyvesant High School, said the school went into lockdown for three hours after the attack.
The teenager saw the bomb squad rush in and bodies being taken away from the scene in body bags.
“It was very shocking, like out of the movies,” she told

“What sticks in my mind is that it was taking a really long time.
“There were hundreds of police staff members and they were just circling around the bodies.”
Student Tawhid Kabir, 20, told from near the scene: “I came out and saw a cop. I thought it was an accident so I went to see what happened.”
He said he saw a man with “two guns”.

“He was running in the middle of the street ... there was another guy not in a cop uniform who was also chasing him.”
The students all dropped to the ground when shots, now thought to have been fired by police, rang out. When I heard the gunshots I was so scared.”
Local worker Eugene Duffy described to the anguished screams he heard as the attack unfolded.

“I heard a woman. It was a different kind of yelling, a different kind of screaming. A very scary scream.”
He turned and saw the attacker’s ute.
“I immediately think something bad is happening ... I [saw] the truck drive into another car.”
He didn’t see the man - but saw panicked people running every direction they could to get to safety.

An injured woman is treated at the scene
Mr Duffy said it was lucky that it happened on the West Side Highway on a weekday, not on a weekend.
“There’s always joggers, people walking their dogs and riding bikes.”
A young girl watched the carnage happen.
“I feel very bad for that girl. She must have seen it all,” she said.
Simranjeet Kalra, 21, of Long Island, said she saw two dead cyclists who had been riding City Bikes.
“What happened was there was a car crash … he came out of one of the cars. He had two guns. He was running around Chambers and somebody started to chase him,” another Stuyvesant student Laith Bahlouli, 14, said.
“I heard four to six gunshots - everybody starts running.”

The attack occurred in the shadow of the World Trade Centre and in the middle of an education precinct that was filled with students, leaving those at the scene to question if that had been why the area was targeted.

The man was seen running towards a group of children when he got out of the ute.
Local streets were filled with police and media - but despite horrific the attack kids and parents are still walking past in in steady streams wearing Halloween costumes and big smiles on trick-or-treating missions.
Witnesses described a scene of terror, saying the shooter ran over two people before ploughing into a school bus.
“Jesus! A car just ran over 2 people and then crashed into a school bus. I see two dead bodies and citibikes on the floor destroyed,” a Twitter user wrote.
The suspect then got out of his vehicle with two guns, another witness said. Video of the scene shows at least two people lying limp in the street.

A terrified young girl reacts as police swarm around the scene of the attack

Emergency personnel carry a man into an ambulance.
Photos show a smashed up Home Depot rental truck, and two mangled Citi Bikes. Counter-terror police were searching the truck for explosives.

Uber driver Chen Yi said he saw a truck plough into people on a popular bike path adjacent to the West Side Highway. He said he then heard seven to eight shots and then police pointing a gun at a man kneeling on the pavement.

“I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground,” Yi said.
His passenger, Dmitry Metlitsky, said he also saw police standing near a man who was on his knees with his hands up, and another man bleeding on the ground nearby. He said the truck had also collided with a small school bus and one other vehicle.
A witness told ABC’s New York station WABC: “Everybody started running ... [the driver] kept going all the way down full speed.”

If the attack had happened much later, the street would have been full of trick-or-treaters, the witness added.
A spokesman for Bill de Blasio said there was “no active threat”.
The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force joined the NYPD on the scene, according to NBC.
Emergency personnel transport a man on a stretcher after a motorist drove onto a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Centre memorial and struck several people

New York City Police officers respond to report of gunfire along West Street near the pedestrian bridge at Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan in New York


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