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27 killed in US church shooting, gunman identified

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Washington, Nov 6: A single shooter walked into an US church in Texas and opened fire, leaving at least 27 worshippers dead and over two dozens injured, media reports said.

The man responsible for the killing on Sunday has been identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, New York Times said.

Kelley, 26, walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs just before noon and began firing, authorities said.

One of the victims shot, was a two-year-old child. Police told Channel KSAT12 that Kelly was dead. However, they did not specify the cause, Efe news reported.

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Sutherland Springs, with a population of about 400, is some 45 km southeast of San Antonio.

A heavy police presence, including Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)personnel, was reported at the crime scene.

The shooting took place during the Sunday morning mass. The 14-year-old daughter of the county pastor was also killed, the NYT report said.

County Commissioner Wilson Albert Gamez Jr. has confirmed the number of casualties. He also expressed fear that the number might rise.

Kelley was married and a resident of New Braunfels, a suburb of San Antonio, the Daily Beast reported.

Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety gave a brief timeline of events, the Guardian reported.

At around 11.20 a.m. the suspect (initially described as a white male in his early 20s), was seen at a gas station over the road from the church.

He was dressed all in black in tactical-style clothes including a ballistic vest.

He crossed the road and as he approached the church he began shooting, carrying on the firing as he entered the place of worship itself.

After the carnage, as he was leaving the church, he was engaged by a resident carrying a rifle. The shooter dropped his own weapon, a Ruger assault rifle, and fled.

He was pursued by police and just as he reached Guadalupe County his vehicle veered off the road. He was found in the car dead, it is not known whether by his own hand or having been shot by a local resident.

The church regularly posts its weekly services to its Youtube page, and investigators are now searching for video that could shed more light on what happened.

The scale of the shooting and its location has presented President Donald Trump with a renewed gun dilemma just as he embarked on a five-country tour in Asia.

In his opening response to the massacre, Trump tweeted: “May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.”

The violence comes just a month after the US’s worst-ever mass shooting – when Stephen Paddock opened fire on an outdoor Las Vegas concert on October 1, killing 58 and injuring hundreds.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, who had proposed stricter gun control, said: “We grieve with all the families in Sutherland Springs harmed by this act of hatred. We’ll stand with the survivors as they recover. May God also grant all of us the wisdom to ask what concrete steps we can take to reduce the violence and weaponry in our midst.”

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UNSC unanimously votes resolution ordering ceasefire in Syria

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UNSC(File Photo)

United Nations, Feb 25: The ten elected non-permanent members (E10) of the UN Security Council pushed the five permanent members (P5) to reach a compromise and got an unanimous vote on a resolution ordering a ceasefire “without delay” in Syria to allow humanitarian aid to reach areas under siege.

After two days of delays and several postponements, Russia and the three western permanent members — Britain, France and the United States — agreed on Saturday, on the final version negotiated by Kuwait and Sweden with the backing of the P10.

Kuwait’s Permanent Representative Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi, who is the Council President for the month, said after the resolution passed that the unanimous vote was a “sign that the Security Council is united” and this could pave the way for finding a lasting political solution to the seven-year conflict.

Hoping to shame the permanent members locked in a standoff and push them to a compromise, all the the E10 representatives lined up together and held a news conference on Friday while the negotiations were on. “We want to show you the solidarity of the E10,” Al-Otaibi declared: “We are all united, we want the resolution to be adopted.”

The unrelenting push by Al-Otaibi and Sweden’s Permanent Representative Olof Skoog won praise from every one of the Council members. It was a rare instance of the E10 bending the P5, instead of the other way around.

Besides the nation-wide ceasefire, the resolution calls for the lifting of all sieges, facilitation of medical evacuations, and permitting convoys of the UN and its partners carrying humanitarian supplies free access.

However, the resolution made one notable exception to the ceasefire: It allowed continued action against the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, A1-Nusra Front and other terrorist organisations.

The key point of contention that held up the resolution since it was formally introduced by Kuwait and Sweden on Wednesday was the timing of when the ceasefire should start. The US demanded it should be immediate, while Russia wanted lag before it went into effect and the threat of a Moscow veto hung over it.

The resolution now says it will come into force “without delay,” leaving an element of ambiguity subject to interpretations.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Al-Otaibi said they debated about the timing during the negotiations all of Friday and into Saturday morning. “Without delay means” immediately, he said.

Russia’s Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia was non-commital about. He told reporters that the reason his country held out on the wording of the timing was that it was logistical issue and a “painful process on the ground.”

He added that another concern of Moscow was that resolution was not used as a pretext to launch an invasion of Syria.

With the drawn-out negotiations, Syria got three days to prepare for it.

Speaking in the Council after the vote, United States Permanent Representative Nikki Haley lashed out at Russia saying that during the time it held up the resolution to change a “few words and some commas,” mothers lost their children to bombing and shelling.

“The Syrian people should not have to die waiting for Russia to organise their instructions from Moscow, or to discuss it with the Syrians,” she added.

The action on the ceasefire was precipitated situation in East Ghouta, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called “hell on Earth”. One of the few rebel-held territories, the Damascus suburb has been under a siege and bombed from the air by the Syrian government forces.

East Ghouta was specifically mentioned, along with several other areas, but the Kurdish city of Afrin was not. Intense fighting has been underway in the area between Turkey’s military and Kurdish militias backed by Syrian government forces.

Asked about it by reporters, Al-Otaiby said the ceasefire applied to all of Syria and to all forces operating there.

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Kabul seeks closure of Taliban’s Qatar office

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Taliban office in Qatar (Photo- The Newyork Times)

Doha, Feb 24: Kabul has started discussions with the Qatari government to close the Taliban office in Doha as it has had “no positive consequence in terms of facilitating the peace talks with the group in Afghanistan”, a senior government official has said.

“There is no need to keep the office open”, said Mohammad Hanif Atmar, National Security Advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, in an interview with Middle East newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat earlier this week.

“The aim behind opening (Taliban’s) Qatar office was to start official peace negotiations with the terror group from the address, but so far no official negotiation from the office has been started with government. Even a single step has not been taken forward in the peace process through this office,” Qadir Shah, a spokesman for Atmar’s office said.

“It had no benefit for us even after seven years… It is better to close it,” Atmar said.

He also said that Kabul has so far witnessed no sign of “sincere” cooperation from Islamabad in counter-terrorism efforts.

The Taliban had earlier reached out to the US with an offer for talks and urged people to pressurize Washington to bring an end to the invasion of Afghanistan.

The Taliban had said that they preferred to resolve the conflict that began in 2001 through peaceful dialogue and warned that the use of force alone would complicate the problem in Afghanistan.

The group had called on the “American people and the peace-loving Congressmen” to pressurize US leadership to end the occupation of the Asian country, a precondition that Taliban has always maintained to begin any negotiation.

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Moon’s water may be widely distributed: Study

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Washington, Feb 24: A new analysis of data from India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests that Moon’s water may be widely distributed across the surface, not confined to a particular region or type of terrain.

The water appears to be present day and night, though it was not necessarily easily accessible, according to the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“We find that it doesn’t matter what time of day or which latitude we look at, the signal indicating water always seems to be present,” said Joshua Bandfield, a senior research scientist with the Space Science Institute in the US, and lead author of the new study.

“The presence of water doesn’t appear to depend on the composition of the surface, and the water sticks around,” Bandfield added.

The results contradict some earlier studies, which had suggested that more water was detected at the Moon’s polar latitudes and that the strength of the water signal waxes and wanes according to the lunar day (29.5 Earth days).

The findings could help researchers understand the origin of the Moon’s water and how easy it would be to use as a resource.

If the Moon has enough water, and if it is reasonably convenient to access, future explorers might be able to use it as drinking water or to convert it into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel or oxygen to breathe.

The new finding of widespread water suggests that it may be present primarily as OH, a more reactive relative of H2O that is made of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom.

OH, also called hydroxyl, does not stay on its own for long, preferring to attack molecules or attach itself chemically to them. Hydroxyl would therefore have to be extracted from minerals in order to be used.

For the study, the researchers analysed data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper spectrometer onboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.

They came up with a new way to incorporate important temperature information, creating a detailed model from measurements made by the Diviner instrument on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.

The researchers are still discussing what the findings tell them about the source of the Moon’s water.

The results point toward OH and/or H2O being created by the solar wind hitting the lunar surface, though the team did not rule out that OH and/or H2O could come from the Moon itself, slowly released from deep inside minerals where it has been locked since the Moon was formed.

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