Graeme Gallagher | Contributor
While waiting to get inside a St. Patrick’s Day disco at a hotel, a stampede erupted and resulted in the death of three teenagers in Northern Ireland, according to The Guardian.
On a cold and wet night, the “crush” occurred at around 9:45 p.m., as hundreds of people were waiting to enter the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, County Tyrone. A 17-year-old boy, 17-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy died as the stampede broke out.
“Our preliminary investigations show that there was a crush toward the front door of this hotel, and in that crush, people seem to have fallen, said Mark Hamilton, an assistant chief constable with the Police Serice of Northern Ireland (PSNI). (RELATED: Six Dead And Nearly 50 Injured After Night Club Stampede In Italy)
ACC Mark Hamilton extends condolences to the families of the three teenagers who died at a St. Patrick’s Day event in Cookstown. A major investigation is now underway. pic.twitter.com/UiktCkx4IU
— PSNI (@PoliceServiceNI) March 18, 2019
In addition to the three deceased teenagers, another 16-year-old girl was in stable condition and other teenagers were injured after the incident.
The Greenvale hotel has the capacity of about 500 people and is a popular venue for discos. While the doors to the hotel were locked on Sunday night, several coaches of young people arrived at the same time resulting in a large flux of people waiting for the gates to open. (RELATED: Farmer Accuses Vegans Of Killing Piglets In Stampede While Trying To Cuddle Them)
“We were all outside waiting for the gate to open and get in,” an unnamed teenager, who was at the incident, told the Ulster Herald. “Then, everyone just started swaying back-and-forth and pushing from side-to-side. Suddenly, there was a rush forward and the whole queue collapsed and everyone fell to the ground.”
The teenager went on the explain that there were “more than 100” people who fell down in the crowd, including himself, who was “pinned down” under others and unable to move for “20 minutes.”
“I didn’t know what was going to happen or how I’d get out,” said the teenager. “Eventually I was pulled out and thankfully was able to walk away. There were ambulances and police all around. I could see them giving one person CPR treatment.”
The incident “traumatized” the teenager and made him reconsider if he would go out ever again: “It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, really frightening. I’m traumatized, and after this, I don’t know if I ever want to go out again.”
Reports of assaults during the chaos at the hotel were downplayed by police, who said the struggle to get people off the ground could have led to some fighting.
“There seems to have been a little bit of struggling to get people up off the ground. And that may have explained why there was some reports of fighting,” said Hamilton.
In an effort to understand what happened, Hamilton and the Northern Ireland police are interviewing those who are present and are asking those with footage of the incident to share it with them directly.
Do you have footage or images from the Greenvale Hotel last night? Please send them to us using this link only
— PSNI (@PoliceServiceNI) March 18, 2019
“It is heartbreaking that an event which should have been fun for these youngsters on St. Patrick’s night should end in such a terrible tragedy,” said Hamilton.
Politicians from Northern Ireland offered their thoughts and prayers for those affected in the incident, including Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of the Sinn Féin, an Irish-left wing party, who called it a “night of tragedy.” (RELATED: Northern Ireland’s Citizens Want Abortion Decriminalized, According To Poll)
“I cannot fathom the horror that the parents of these children are going through this morning,” McDonald tweeted. “What should have been a night of fun and celebration for young people has turned into a night of tragedy.”
I can’t fathom the horror that the parents of the three young people are going through this morning. What should have been a night of fun and celebration has turned into a night of tragedy. My deepest sympathies at this time of heartbreak, shock and loss https://t.co/g9FelSfY4C
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) March 18, 2019
Source: The Daily Caller
Oyub Titiev, the head of human rights group Memorial in Chechnya, attends his verdict hearing at a court in the town of Shali, in Chechnya, Russia, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Said Tsarnayev
March 18, 2019
By Maria Vasilyeva
SHALI, Russia (Reuters) – A court in Chechnya on Monday sentenced Oyub Titiev, a prominent human rights activist, to four years in a penal settlement after finding him guilty of possessing illegal drugs, a charge his supporters say was trumped up.
Titiev, who runs the office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in the southern Russian region, was detained in January last year by police who said they had found 206.9 grams (7.3 oz) of cannabis in his car after stopping him to check his documents. Titiev said the cannabis was planted.
He and his supporters allege he was framed in order to punish him for his human rights work and to stop Memorial working in Chechnya.
“They fabricated the criminal case for five months and they fabricated the sentence for eight months,” Titiev told reporters after the verdict.
Reporters, diplomats and Titiev’s neighbors and relatives packed the courtroom to hear the verdict. Titiev watched proceedings from inside a cage, leaning on the white bars as he listened to the judge read the verdict in the trial for over nine hours.
The majority-Muslim republic of Chechnya is governed by Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov whom human rights workers accuse of widespread abuses in the region, allegations he denies.
Kadyrov’s supporters credit him with bringing relative calm and stability to a region dogged for years by a simmering insurgency following two wars between Moscow and separatists after the 1991 Soviet break-up.
(Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn)
FILE PHOTO: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir delivers a speech at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
March 18, 2019
By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters, mostly students, took to the streets in and near Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Monday, continuing a three-month wave of demonstrations that has posed the most serious challenge yet to President Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule.
Students, activists and other protesters frustrated with economic hardships have held almost daily demonstrations across Sudan since Dec. 19, calling for Bashir to step down.
Police used tear gas on Monday to disperse hundreds of students from Eastern Nile University protesting in Khartoum North, and hundreds of other demonstrators on Sitteen Street, which runs through several upscale neighborhoods, witnesses said.
At least four demonstrators were detained on Monday by security forces in Khartoum 2, an upscale area in the heart of the capital where dozens protested, a Reuters witness said. Security forces used batons to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom torched car tires.
Dozens more protested on a main street in Khartoum’s Riyadh neighborhood.
Police have used tear gas, batons and sometimes live ammunition to break up protests. Officials have confirmed 33 deaths in the unrest since December, but activists say the toll is significantly higher.
Opposition organizers often give the protests a theme for the day – Monday’s were for “student martyrs”. Demonstrations on Sunday, which drew thousands in and near Khartoum, were for “graduates and the unemployed”.
Bashir, who took power in a military coup in 1993, promised during a swearing-in ceremony for a new cabinet last week that he would engage in dialogue with the opposition. The opposition has rejected dialogue with Bashir and has continued to call for him and his government to step aside.
Last month Bashir declared a state of emergency, dissolved the central government, replaced state governors with security officials, expanded police powers and banned unlicensed public gatherings.
That has not stopped the protesters, who have stepped up demonstrations in recent days.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Frances Kerry)
FILE PHOTO: Felix Tshisekedi holds up the constitution during his presidential the inauguration ceremony in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Olivia Acland/File Photo
March 18, 2019
By Stanis Bujakera and Giulia Paravicini
KINSHASA (Reuters) – President Felix Tshisekedi’s Congo government on Monday blocked newly-elected senators from taking office after a disputed vote that gave allies of his predecessor an overwhelming majority in the upper house of parliament.
The decision, announced after a meeting between Tshisekedi, cabinet ministers, the electoral commission chief and others, could trigger a standoff with ex-president Joseph Kabila’s camp two months after Tshisekedi succeeded him in Democratic Republic of Congo’s first ever transfer of power via the ballot box.
Kabila’s FCC coalition won 80 out of 100 seats, which are voted on by provincial assembly members, in Friday’s election, compared to just three for Tshisekedi’s UDPS party and its allies.
UDPS supporters protested over the results at the weekend. They pointed to about 20 candidates from across the political spectrum who withdrew from their races because they said provincial assembly members were demanding bribes of tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for their votes.
At least one person was killed in the protests and some offices of Kabila’s political party were ransacked.
Speaking to reporters after Monday’s meeting, Basile Olongo, the interim interior minister, said participants had decided to suspend the installation of new senators pending investigations by prosecutors into corruption allegations.
Gubernatorial elections scheduled for next week, which are also voted on by provincial assembly members, have been suspended indefinitely, Olongo added.
Kabila’s camp immediately criticized the decision.
“The constitution does not authorize an inter-institutional meeting to make these decisions,” Jean-Pierre Kambila, who served as Kabila’s deputy chief of staff, told Reuters. He did not say if the FCC planned to challenge the decision in court.
Opposition leader Tshisekedi’s victory in the Dec. 30 presidential election was also marred by allegations of graft.
Supporters of the runner-up, Martin Fayulu, accused Tshisekedi of striking a deal with Kabila to rig the outcome when it became clear Kabila’s preferred candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, could not win. Kabila was barred by term limits from standing again after 18 years in office.
Tshisekedi and Kabila’s camps deny the election was rigged. But some Tshisekedi supporters have voiced concern about his ability to govern independently, given the FCC’s parliamentary majorities and Kabila’s grip on the security services.
Despite losing the presidency, the FCC won about 70 percent of seats in the lower house of parliament and a clear majority of provincial assembly seats in elections also on Dec. 30.
(Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
FILE PHOTO – A German soldier holds NATO flag during a ceremony to welcome the German battalion being deployed to Lithuania as part of NATO deterrence measures against Russia in Rukla, Lithuania February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
March 18, 2019
By Andrea Shalal
BERLIN (Reuters) – NATO is to receive the first of five Northrop Grumman high-altitude drones in the third quarter after years of delays, giving the alliance its own spy drones for the first time, the German government told lawmakers.
Thomas Silberhorn, state secretary in the German Defence Ministry, said the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) drone would be delivered to an air base in Sigonella, Italy, followed by four additional systems, including drones and ground stations built by Airbus, later in the year.
NATO plans to use the aircraft, a derivative of Northrop’s Global Hawk drone, to carry out missions ranging from protection of ground troops to border control and counter-terrorism. The drones will be able to fly for up to 30 hours at a time in all weather, providing near real-time surveillance data.
Northrop first won the contract for the AGS system from NATO in May, 2012, with delivery of the first aircraft slated for 52 months later. However, technical issues and flight test delays have delayed the program, Silberhorn said.
Andrej Hunko, a member of the radical Left opposition party, called for Germany to scrap its participation in the program, warning of spiraling costs and the risk that it could escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“The drones are closely linked to a new form of warfare,” he said. “They stand for an arms race that will see existing surveillance and spy systems replaced with new platforms.”
Silberhorn, in a previously unreported response to a parliamentary query from Hunko, said NATO had capped the cost of the program at 1.3 billion euros ($1.47 billion) in 2007.
Germany, which is funding about a third of system, scrapped plans to buy its own Global Hawk drones amid spiraling costs and certification problems, and is now negotiating with Northrop to buy several of its newer model Triton surveillance drones.
Fifteen NATO countries, led by the United States, will pay for the AGS system, but all 29 alliance nations are due to participate in its long-term support.
Germany has sent 76 soldiers to Sigonella to operate the surveillance system and analyze its findings, Silberhorn said. He said a total of 132 German soldiers would eventually be assigned to AGS, of whom 122 would be stationed in Sigonella.
NATO officials had no immediate comment on the program status or whether Northrop faced penalties for the delayed delivery.
No comment was available from Northrop.
(1 euro = $1.1336)
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, editing by Ed Osmond)
FILE PHOTO: Flares are seen in the sky during fighting in the Islamic State’s final enclave, in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo
March 18, 2019
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran and Syria on Monday demanded the United States withdraw its troops from Syria, and the Damascus government threatened to defeat Washington’s Kurdish allies by force if they did not submit to the return of state authority.
The Iranian and Syrian military chiefs were speaking after a meeting in Damascus that also included their Iraqi counterpart, who gave a political boost to President Bashar al-Assad and Tehran by announcing the Syrian border would soon be reopened.
Their remarks point to the risks of a new escalation in Syria after the defeat of Islamic State, with Assad seeking to retake the two major territories outside his control, and the United States working to curb Iranian influence.
Washington has vowed to contain what it calls Tehran’s “destabilising” role in the region, but the entrenched nature of Iran’s ties with both Damascus and Baghdad were on vivid display on Monday.
Standing alongside his Iraqi and Syrian counterparts on live television, Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri said the three countries were “united against terrorism” and coordinating at a high level.
The United States said last month it would keep some forces in Syria, reversing course from an earlier decision to pull them all out once Islamic State is militarily defeated.
It has deployed air power and some ground troops in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia that is close to seizing the jihadists’ last enclave in eastern Syria. It also has a military base at Tanf, near the Damascus-Baghdad highway and the Iraq and Syrian frontier.
After Washington in December announced its intention to pull out troops, the Kurdish-led authorities controlling northeast Syria unsuccessfully sought a deal with Damascus to protect their area from a potential Turkish assault.
“The only card remaining in the hands of the Americans and their allies is the SDF, and it will be dealt with through the two methods used by the Syrian state: national reconciliation or the liberation of the areas that they control through force,” Syrian Defence Minister General Ali Abdullah Ayoub said.
Large areas of Syria have been brought back under government control through “reconciliation agreements” that have typically been concluded after the military defeat of rebel forces.
‘READINESS FOR SACRIFICE’
Ayoub noted there was no doubt that U.S. military capabilities were “big and advanced” but said that the Syrian army’s sources of strength included a “readiness for sacrifices” and it was “capable of taking action and having an effect”.
Baqeri said the Damascus meeting had “studied the means that should be taken to recover” territories still outside government hands, including the areas of U.S. deployment, adding the decision in this regard was up to the Syrian state.
Syria’s border crossing with Iraq has been closed for years. The area was overrun by Islamic State in 2014, which swore to eradicate modern nation states and meld them into its self-declared caliphate.
“God willing the coming days will witness the opening of the border crossing and the continuation of visits and trade between the two countries,” Iraqi Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanimi said at a news conference broadcast by Syrian state television.
Baqeri said opening the border was important to Iran because of trade and for Iranian tourists traveling to Iraq and then Syria. Critics of Iran have voiced concerns over a “land bridge” for Iranian influence to the Mediterranean and the Israeli border.
For Assad, reopening the Iraqi border will accelerate Syria’s physical reintegration with neighboring economies after the opening of the frontier crossing with Jordan last year.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall and Tom Perry, Additional reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva, Editing by David Holmes, William Maclean)
FILE PHOTO: A man stand in front of a damaged shop on the Champs Elysees avenue during a demonstration by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, March 16, 2019. Picture taken March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
March 18, 2019
PARIS (Reuters) – France will shut down any anti-government “yellow vest” protest if violent groups are identified taking part with an intent to wreak havoc in Paris and other major cities, the prime minister said on Monday.
“From next Saturday, we will ban ‘yellow vest’ protests in neighborhoods that have been the worst hit as soon as we see sign of the presence of radical groups and their intent to cause damage,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a televised statement.
Rioters set fire to a bank and ransacked stores on Paris’s Champs Elysees avenue on Saturday, the latest flare-up of violence in four months of protests against President Emmanuel Macron and his pro-business reforms.
(Reporting by Richard Lough)
Turkish police detain demonstrators as they protest the death of a Kurdish inmate, in Diyarbakir, Turkey, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar
March 18, 2019
By Umit Ozdal
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkish police fired water canons and detained some members of a group of about 100 that attempted on Monday to visit the grave of a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who died in prison, a Reuters witness said.
The PKK member, Zulkuf Gezen, had been sentenced in 2010 to life in jail for links to a bombing in 2007 that killed one and injured six, according to media reports. He was jailed in the northwestern province of Tekirdag where initial findings showed he committed suicide, the local prosecutor’s office said.
The group of people heading to visit Gezen’s grave in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir were blocked by police who fired a water canon on them, according to Reuters footage from the scene. The crowd chanted, “We will win by resisting,” before some were detained by police and taken away.
Police said the group included Sezai Temelli, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and other lawmakers from his party. The lawmakers were allowed entrance to the cemetery but not the whole group, police said.
Ten people were detained after security forces called for the group to disperse and some responded by throwing rocks, police added.
The HDP has said hundreds of prisoners in Turkish jails have been on hunger strike to protest the prison isolation of Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the PKK. Gezen was also on hunger strike and committed suicide to protest the isolation, the party said.
“We invite those in power to act responsibly and realize the request to lift the isolation and the public to be sensitive before a similar pain is experienced,” the HDP said on Twitter.
The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has waged an insurgency in Turkey since the 1980s. Some 40,000 have been killed in the conflict.
Ankara accuses the HDP of ties to the PKK. The HDP denies direct links.
HDP lawmaker Leyla Guven was the first to go on hunger strike. She was released from prison in January after spending a year in custody on charges of terrorism leadership and propaganda for her opposition to Turkey’s incursion into northwest Syria’s Afrin region. She still faces trial and up to 31 years in jail.
(Reporting by Umit Ozdal; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)
FILE PHOTO: A Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bomber drops bombs during the Aviadarts competition, part of the International Army Games 2018, at the Dubrovichi range outside Ryazan, Russia August 4, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
March 18, 2019
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has decided to deploy nuclear-capable Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bombers to the Crimean peninsula in response to the U.S. rolling out missile defense systems in Romania, the RIA news agency cited a senior Russian lawmaker as saying on Monday.
Russia plans to station the bombers at the Gvardeyskoye air base in Crimea, Viktor Bondarev, head of the upper house of parliament’s defense and security committee, was quoted as saying.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and President Vladimir Putin flew into the Black Sea peninsula on Monday to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the annexation.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn)