Wednesday, 4 April 2012

At least six dead in rain-ravaged Haiti

AFP - At least six people, including a child, were killed in Haiti when their homes collapsed during heavy rains that have ravaged Haiti for several days, the Civil Protection Office said Friday.

The victims were members of two families living in a neighborhood erected on a hill in the Petionville suburb of the capital.

Nadia Lochard of Haiti's Civil Protection Office said that three women, two men and a girl died "when their homes collapsed as they were carried away in a mudslide."

"It was difficult to find their bodies buried under much mud," she told AFP.

Three more bodies were also found in another neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, but the authorities could not confirm whether they had been killed by the rains.

Several neighborhoods of the capital were flooded and streets were heavily damaged following the rains still hitting Haiti.

The humanitarian community launched a plea for urgent help to obtain funds for the needy still living in often squalid camps over two years after a devastating 2010 quake.

Over half a million Haitians still live in camps for the displaced, where they are threatened by flooding at the start of a rainy season that has already ravaged streets and roads.

31 March 2012

continue reading

Compensation at last for Punjab killings

The National Human Rights Commission, which went through 2,097 cases of killing of youth and mass cremation of their bodies by the Punjab Police during the peak of militancy in the State, has ordered a relief of Rs.27.94 crore to the families of 1,513 victims of such extra-judicial killings. The remaining bodies were not identified.

When terrorism was at its peak in the State during 1984-96, Punjab Police personnel, whether officers or constables, were a law unto themselves and many of them were involved in merciless killing of youth by branding them as terrorists for rewards and promotions. The bodies were silently cremated with no questions asked.

The Commission took up the cases after the Supreme Court referred the matter to it on December 12, 1996. The Court said any compensation awarded by the Commission shall be binding and payable.

The cases related to mass cremations in Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran districts alone between 1984 and 1994. These include 195 cases where the victims were in deemed police custody and 1,318 others whose bodies were cremated by the police. A total of 532 bodies remained unidentified despite efforts by the Commission from the date of remittance in December 1996.

The Commission held that for violation of human rights of a total of 194 victims admittedly in police custody immediately prior to their death and their cremation, their kin were entitled to monetary compensation of Rs.2.5 lakh each. For the remaining cases, the families were paid Rs.1.75 lakh each.

Excessive powers

Human rights activists world over had alleged that the inhuman killings were the result of excessive powers given to the police by the government. Many civil rights lawyers and activists paid with their lives for treading the path of political justice. While the official figures put the total number of people killed in Punjab during 1984-1996 at 15,000, according to various investigating agencies and human rights groups more than 25,000 people were killed by the Punjab Police. They include persons “missing” from their homes, killed in “encounters”, cremated as “unidentified” and “escaped from police custody”.

According to civil rights groups, boys were picked up from their homes or fields and taken blindfolded to isolated places and told to run. A burst of AK-47 rifle-fire ended their lives. Such was the terror that no one dared ask why not even a single member of the police force was hit in cross-fire. Many members of the police force in Punjab got out-of-turn promotions, gallantry awards and monetary rewards for killing “militants”.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

continue reading

Mass cremation of un-identified / un-claimed bodies by Punjab police in the police districts of Majitha, Tarn Taran and Amritsar.

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has ordered Rs 27.94 crore as monetary relief to the families of 1,513 people who were killed and cremated during militancy period in Punjab.

The order comes as NHRC investigated the "illegal killing and disappearances" which culminated in the cremation of 2,097 bodies in Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran districts between 1984 and 1994.

The case is known Punjab Mass Cremation case. Of the 2,097 cases, only 1,513 could be identified.

"The NHRC has recommended a total of Rs 27.94 crore as monetary relief to the next of kin of 1,513 deceased whose bodies could be identified out of cases of unidentified 2,097 bodies which were remitted to the Commission by the Supreme Court, popularly known as the Punjab Mass Cremation case," an NHRC spokesperson said.

These include 195 cases, where the deceased were in deemed police custody and 1,318 others whose bodies were cremated by the police. 532 bodies remained unidentified despite the best efforts made by the Commission, from the date of remittance in December 1996.

The Supreme Court had referred the matter to NHRC on December 12, 1996 saying any compensation awarded by the Commission shall be binding and payable.

Since then, the spokesperson said, the Commission heard the matter from time to time and through its proceedings on October 10, 2006, it found that out of the total 2,097 bodies which were cremated in the three districts of Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran, 1245 bodies had been identified.

The Commission held that for the violation of human rights of a total of 194 deceased admittedly in police custody immediately prior to their death and their cremation, their next of kin were entitled to monetary compensation of Rs 2.50 lakh each. Regarding 1,051 other identified deceased persons whose bodies were not in police custody but cremated by the state without following Punjab Police Rules, the Commission awarded monetary relief of Rs 1.75 lakh to their families.

For the identification of the remaining 814 bodies, excluding some duplicate names, the Commission appointed Justice K S Bhalla, a retired judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court for receiving evidence and conducting an inquiry to fix the identity of as many dead bodies, as possible out of the 814 unidentified deceased persons.

Justice Bhalla, submitted a report in June 2007 mentioning that the Committee had been able to identify 143 deceased persons.

For facilitating identification of the remaining dead bodies, the Commission constituted another Committee comprising D S Bains IAS, Virender Singh, district and sessions judge (retired) and DIG Border Range, Amritsar as members.

The Bains Committee on March 22 submitted its final report which mentions that the Committee has been able to identify 125 bodies during the sittings sittings.

The spokesperson said the Commission on the March 27 considered the report and recommended monetary relief of Rs 1.75 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased identified by the committee.

Tuesday, 03 Apr 2012

continue reading

Oakland mourns victims of deadly campus shooting

OAKLAND, Calif. — Civic and religious leaders pleaded for an end to violence in Oakland after seven people were gunned down at a small Christian college by a suspect who police say was angry about being expelled and teased for his poor English skills.

Several hundred friends, family and community members gathered for a multicultural prayer vigil Tuesday night to mourn the victims of the nation's biggest campus shooting since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

Six students and a receptionist were killed and three others were wounded when the gunman went on a shooting rampage Monday morning at Oikos University, an Oakland school founded to help Korean immigrants adjust to life in America and launch new careers.

"Only God knows the meaning of the suffering we endure," Dr. Woo Nam Soo, the university's vice president, said in Korean during the church service. "In this unbearable tragedy and suffering, only God can create something good out of it."

Shortly after the deadly shooting spree, police arrested 43-year-old nursing student One Goh at a supermarket a few miles from campus.

The South Korea native is being held without bail on suspicion of seven counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and other charges. He is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

Since his arrest, emerging details of Goh's life suggest a troubled man who has been struggling to deal with personal and family difficulties over the past decade.

Romie John Delariman, an Oikos nursing instructor who knew the suspect and victims, said Goh got good grades, but he used to boast about violence and told a story about beating someone up who tried to mug him in San Francisco.

"I don't know if you could call it mentally unstable, but sometimes he would brag that he was capable of hurting people," Delariman said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Delariman said Goh was one of his most eager students, but he felt disrespected by his younger classmates.

"He said he was too old to go school with all the young people, and he said all his classmates were mean to him," Delariman said.

Police have released little background information about Goh, other than to say he had become a U.S. citizen.

Though records list an Oakland address for Goh in 2004, he lived for most of the decade in Virginia, where a mentally ill student fatally shot 32 people at Virginia Tech before turning the gun on himself.

Next-door neighbors in Gloucester County recalled him as being very quiet, but said he would speak if they spoke first. Goh kept to himself to the point that neighbor Thomas Lumpkin, 70, never learned Goh's name.

"He was always well-dressed, nicely shaved, and his hair nicely cut," he said.

Online records in the two Virginia localities show that, while Goh was there, he racked up tens of thousands of dollars in liens and judgments, including a $10,377 debt to SunTrust Bank in 2006.

The Internal Revenue Service also issued tax liens against him in 2006 and 2009 totaling more than $23,000, though he apparently paid about $14,000 back in 2008, according to records.

Capital One sued him for $985.96 on an unpaid credit card bill, plus court costs, according to Gloucester County Court records. The court issued a judgment against him on Dec. 9, 2011.

His brother was an Army sergeant stationed in Germany who died in a March 2011 car crash while attending Special Forces selection training in Virginia, according to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

The same year, Goh's mother died in South Korea, where she had moved, her former Oakland neighbors told the San Francisco Chronicle.

It's unclear how Goh earned a living before he became a nursing student at the tiny private school of about 100 students. But in January, Goh found himself expelled. Oikos officials have not said publicly what led to his expulsion.

According to the school's disciplinary policy, dismissal can come if a student threatens or harms someone or school property. "Because Oikos functions as a community of believers, students are to demonstrate a respectful attitude in all encounters," it states.

The school kicked Goh out for unspecified behavioral problems and because he had "anger management" issues, according to Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan.

People at the school "disrespected him, laughed at him," Jordan said. "They made fun of his lack of English speaking skills. It made him feel isolated compared to the other students."

Around 10:30 a.m. Monday, after planning the attack for weeks, Goh arrived at the school in an industrial park near Oakland's airport, police said. Upon entering the building, Goh was intent on finding a female school administrator who wasn't there, Jordan said.

Goh then accosted the receptionist, marching her to a classroom, he said.

Goh "started ordering people to stand up, started yelling at them," the police chief said. "They started freaking out. He asked them to line up. Some did, some didn't, and that's when he began to shoot."

By the time police arrived, five of the victims were already dead. Two died later in the day at the hospital.

Goh appeared to have selected his victims at random and none were his alleged tormentors. So far, Goh has not shown any remorse, investigators said,

Those killed in the shooting have been identified as Katleen Ping, 24, of Oakland; Lydia Sim, 21, of Hayward; Bhutia Tshering, 38, of San Francisco; Sonam Choedon, 33, of El Cerrito; Judith Seymore, 53, of San Jose; Kim Eunhea, 23, of Union City; and Doris Chibuko, 40, of San Leandro.

At Oakland's Allen Temple Baptist Church on Tuesday night, Mayor Jean Quan joined pastors from the Bay Area's Korean Christian community in calling unity and peace in their often troubled city.

"America has to look into its soul," Quan told the audience. "This is America where you can find a gun easier than you can find mental health services."

Among those attending the service were friends of Ping, the slain receptionist who came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 2007 and leaves behind a 4-year-old son, according to her family.

Bev Concepcion, a nursing instructor who often had lunch with Ping, was supposed to teach a class Monday morning, but the receptionist told her to teach the evening class instead. Concepcion said she's still not sure why, but that last-minute change may have saved her life.

"She's a very sweet young lady, very hard working and family-oriented," Conception said after Tuesday's service. "It's so sad. It's very tragic, very painful. She's my very, very close friend and now she's gone."

April 4, 2012

continue reading

Casualties reported in Mogadishu blast; bodies carried out of Somali National Theater on stretchers

MOGADISHU, Somalia - A suicide blast during a ceremony at Somalia's newly reopened national theatre on Wednesday killed at least 10 people, including two of the country's top sports officials, officials said.

Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu's ambulance service, said at least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded.

The dead included the president of Somalia's Olympic committee and the president of its soccer federation, according to Shafici Mohyadin, the federation's secretary.

A survivor of the blast said he feared few inside the theatre escaped death or injury. The witness, Zakariye Osman, said he counted at least eight dead bodies. Osman's clothes were covered in blood as he spoke outside the theatre.

Policeman Abdimalik Hassan said government officials and other dignitaries attended the ceremony. Muse said the wounded included the country's national planning minister.

The national theatre reopened for the first time in 20 years on March 19 with a concert featuring musicians playing guitars and drums. Wednesday's ceremony was held to mark the first anniversary of the start of a national TV station.

Al-Shabab militants were largely pushed out of Mogadishu last year by African Union troops, and a period of relative peace has descended on Mogadishu, allowing sports leagues, restaurants and even a little night life to flourish.

Despite those advances, al-Shabab has continued to carry out suicide and roadside bomb attacks, sometimes with devastating effect. Last October militants detonated a truck loaded with fuel drums at a government ministry gate, killing more than 100 people.

Wedn, 4 April 2012

continue reading