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What we know about ‘troubled’ Florida shooting suspect



Nikolas Cruz, 19, is in custody accused of massacring 17 people, including students and teachers, at a high school in Florida.

Cruz is suspected of going into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday afternoon, armed with at least one AR-15 assault rifle, a gas mask, smoke grenades and multiple rounds of ammunition.

He raised the fire alarm in order to have people leave classrooms and spill out into the corridor to give him the opportunity to carry out his deadly attack.

:: ‘Outcast’ ex-pupil held after 17 killed in Florida school ‘carnage’

Details have since started to emerge about Cruz, as police reveal details of their investigation and fellow students share stories about their encounters with him.

:: He was expelled from school

Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old student, said Cruz was expelled last year because he got into a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. She said he had been abusive to his girlfriend.

A former friend, Dakota Mutchler, said he hadn’t seen him in more than a year after his expulsion before which “he started progressively getting a little more weird”.

Pic: Alexander Ball

School survivor: Everyone was scared

:: People ended friendships with him

Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behaviour had caused others to end friendships with him.

:: “Very disturbing things have been found”

Police say they are beginning to “dissect” Cruz’s internet history and social media.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel described some things they had already found as “very, very disturbing”.

Soon after the arrest of the suspect, YouTuber Ben Bennight recounted an apparent run-in with Cruz on his account.

The vlogger said an account in the same name as the suspect left a comment on one of his videos several months ago saying he wanted to be a “professional school shooter”.

Mr Bennight, who runs the account Benthebondsman, reported the comment to the FBI, who interviewed him about it. He said he received a call from FBI agents after Cruz’s arrest, but the agency has not confirmed this.

The FBI has not confirmed the account was linked to Cruz.

The suspect in the Florida school shooting is led into hospital
The suspect in the Florida school shooting is led into hospital

:: He was “troubled”

Chad Williams, an 18-year-old at the high school, remembered Cruz as a troubled classmate from middle school.

He said Cruz would set off the fire alarm, day after day, and finally got expelled in the eighth grade.

Teachers and students hide as police search the school. Pic: Ericka Duval

Students and teachers hide in school

:: “He was crazy about guns”

Chad saw Cruz carrying several publications about guns when they met by chance at the high school recently. He thought Cruz was there to pick up a younger brother or sister.

“He was crazy about guns… he was kind of an outcast. He didn’t have many friends. He would do anything crazy for a laugh, but he was trouble.

“I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him,” Victoria Olvera said.

Students raise their hands as armed police enter a classroom. Pic: Alexander Ball

Armed police enter classroom

:: He was banned from bringing his backpack into school

“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” Maths teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald.

:: He was part of the US military-sponsored Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp

Jillian Davis, 19, says Cruz was part of the programme as a high school freshman.

Davis is a graduate and former fellow JROTC member.

The suspect posed for guns on social media Pic:Instagram/cruz.nikolaus
The suspect posed with guns on social media. Pic:Instagram/cruz.nikolaus

:: He was calm during his arrest

Cruz was taken into custody without a fight about an hour after the shooting.

Michael Nembhard was sitting in his garage on a cul-de-sac when he saw a young man in a burgundy shirt walking down the street. In an instant, a police cruiser pulled up, and officers jumped out with guns drawn.

“All I heard was ‘Get on the ground! Get on the ground!'” Nembhard said. He said Cruz did as he was told.

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Afghanistan: Next few weeks pivotal as humanitarian crisis and fight for power looms | World News



The next few weeks will be pivotal for the future of Afghanistan with ominous implications for its people who face a looming humanitarian disaster, but also for the prestige, power and influence of the West.

The Taliban has advanced faster than many had expected, seizing swathes of territory, key border crossings and now threatening three provincial capitals.

Ben Barry, senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies said all eyes are now on Herat in the west and Kandahar and Lashkar Gah in the south.

Since the withdrawal of western forces, violence in the country has increased
Since the withdrawal of Western forces, violence in the country has increased

“If these provincial capitals fall then the Afghan government is in a very difficult position,” he said.

“If most or all of these provincial capitals hold then the chances are the Afghan government itself can continue to hold and the longer the Afghan government holds, then the weaker is the negotiating position of the Taliban.”

The immediate fear is of an impending humanitarian disaster. Terror of the Taliban and a looming civil war is forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Former UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto has years of experience in the country. He told Sky News the situation is deeply alarming, with so many people on the move and far worse than anything he witnessed there until now.

“It’s very serious, very very serious,” he said.

“It is an extremely large number, much much larger than acceptable. And I think the international community has to step up its commitment to aid. The international community has to speak out with unequivocal voice together.”

Two decades after the invasion of Afghanistan and the toppling of the Taliban, US president Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of forces. Talks between the Taliban and Afghan government are continuing in Qatar. Those talks are stalled while the fighting intensifies.

Tadimichi Yamamoto urged international powers to put their weight behind reinvigorating the diplomatic process: “We are seeing a real tragic situation where civilians and others are going to be sacrificed and that is totally unnecessary because the talks would bring the political forces to compromise and create a new future for Afghanistan.”

This week former US commander in the country, General David Petraeus, criticised the decision to withdraw saying America had abandoned Afghanistan to a “bloody and brutal civil war”.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the pace of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations in the United States during remarks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 29, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
Joe Biden has ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan

He condemned the decision to announce withdrawal before talks were complete.

Britain lost more than 450 lives in two decades of fighting in Afghanistan, America more than two thousand, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have died. More than two-and-a-quarter trillion dollars was spent there.

If the Taliban prevails and is able to wind the clock back to 2001, those sacrifices will have been in vain.

The next few weeks will test the Taliban’s ability to mount a sustained military campaign. In the past it has suffered severe losses in attempts to take provincial capitals. But the Afghan forces holding them now have less access to US airpower and US advisers are no longer able to deploy on the ground.

Afghan security personnel inspect a damaged vehicle which was carrying and shooting rockets, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
Afghan security personnel inspect a damaged vehicle that was carrying rockets in Kabul

Either way, the failure of America and its allies to win the war in Afghanistan has long-lasting implications for the West.

The history of the country and the military failures of Britain and Russia there may have made the recent debacle seem inevitable but there was a chance, say observers, to succeed there – an opportunity squandered by the temptation to invade Iraq.

Mr Barry told Sky News the decision to attack Iraq “was as disastrous as Napoleon’s decision to attack Russia, or Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union. And that’s the biggest single reason why the war in Afghanistan sailed into so much difficulty”.

Resources, attention and diplomatic bandwidth were diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq. And the occupation and its abuses undermined the credibility and legitimacy of the US.

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Afghanistan’s Ghani blames US withdrawal for violence

The decision to launch, then lose, two wars at such cost will surely be seen by historians as monumental hubris.

In the nemesis that’s followed, the West’s rivals – Russia, China and Iran – have watched and learned, Mr Barry said: “They will be saying to themselves we’ve seen the weaknesses of the West and the western way of war and we’re more confident in our own military capabilities than they are in theirs.”

Russia and Iran have applied those lessons already to the war in Syria. China has adjusted its tactics and hardware as it has modernised its military over the past twenty years. And other countries looking on will have drawn their own conclusions about the West’s ability to prevail and protect its interests and those of its allies.

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“There will be countries who are allies of the US and UK who will wonder if they are threatened, will the US and UK come to their aid or will they be scared off by the prospect of casualties,” said Mr Barry.

$2.26 trillion later, the West has seen the strategic confidence of allies undermined by its record in Afghanistan, and the confidence of rivals grow.

And the country where so much blood and treasure was spilled is heading back towards civil war, chaos and the possible supremacy of an ultraconservative Islamist theocracy.

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Beirut explosion: Officials knew risks of storing explosive materials but failed to protect public, says rights group | World News



A year on from the massive explosion which hit Beirut, an international human rights group has said senior Lebanese officials failed to protect the public from the risks posed by highly explosive material stored at the capital’s port.

In a report on the explosion, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed those same officials were trying to thwart an investigation into the incident.

It comes as the country prepares to mark the one year anniversary of the blast on Wednesday.

At least 214 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured in the explosion at Beirut’s port.

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Moment of explosion in Beirut

The blast was preceded by a huge fire at a warehouse after hundreds of tonnes of improperly stored ammonium nitrate, a compound used as fertiliser but which has been used to make bombs, detonated.

Protesters are expected to gather in front of the port on Wednesday to hold a moment of silence before heading to the city centre.

Lebanon’s most senior Christian cleric, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al Rai, is also due to hold a mass with the families of victims at the port.

An investigation into the explosion is yet to reveal who ordered the shipment of chemicals and why officials ignored repeated internal warnings of the dangers they posed.

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Inside the Beirut blast site

The chemicals arrived in the country on a ship called the Rhosus in 2013, after it made a stop while on its way from Georgia to Mozambique, in Beirut to try to earn extra money by taking on several pieces of heavy machinery.

However, the additional cargo proved too heavy for the ship and the crew refused to take it on.

It was then impounded by Lebanese authorities for failing to pay port fees, and never left the port again.

The HRW’s 650-page report details documents and exchanges between Lebanese officials about the ammonium nitrates, which had been stored at the port since then.

It concluded that “the actions and omissions of Lebanese authorities created an unreasonable risk of life”, adding that under international human rights law, a state’s failure to act to prevent foreseeable risks to life is a violation of the right to life.

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Beirut’s deadly explosion explained

In addition, HRW said evidence strongly suggested some government officials foresaw the possible devastation from the nitrates’ presence and tacitly accepted the risk.

“Under domestic law, this could amount to the crime of homicide with probable intent, and/or unintentional homicide,” it added.

The report names senior leaders, including President Michel Aoun, prime minister at the time Hassan Diab, and several ministers among others who were informed of risks posed by the nitrates but failed to take any action.

Lebanese officials have acknowledged they knew about the chemicals and either claim they pursued the matter after learning about it, or it was not within their jurisdiction to do so.

HRW said a lack of judicial independence, constitution-imposed immunity for high-level officials, and a range of procedural and systemic flaws in the domestic investigation rendered it “incapable of credibly delivering justice”.

Survivors of the blast and families of the victims have called for an international investigation to take place due to their lack faith in the Lebanese judicial system.

HRW says the case for an “international investigation has only strengthened”.

Last month, Lebanon’s lead investigating judge in the case, Tarek Bitar, announced he intends to pursue senior politicians and former and current security chiefs in the case, and requested permission for their prosecution.

However, those named in the probe have failed to appear at the prosecutor’s office, citing either immunity as members of parliament or needing special permission from the prime minister or the interior minister to appear.

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COVID-19: China orders testing of 12 million Wuhan residents as more Delta variant cases identified | World News



China is conducting mass testing in Wuhan after it identified its first domestic cases of the Delta variant in the city where coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.

Wuhan, which gave the world its first glimpses of lockdowns and mass testing, had reported no local COVID-19 cases since mid-May last year.

But on Monday, authorities confirmed three new cases of the more transmissible variant in the Chinese city.

People scan health check codes with their smartphones to show to a security guard at a tourist shopping street in Beijing. Pic: AP
People scan health check codes to show a security guard at a shopping street in Beijing. Pic: AP

All of its 12 million residents will be tested for coronavirus.

“To ensure that everyone in the city is safe, city-wide nucleic acid testing will be quickly launched for all people to fully screen out positive results and asymptomatic infections,” said Li Qiang, an official in the city, the capital of central Hubei province.

The new cases in Wuhan, along with infections in the nearby cities of Jingzhou and Huanggang since Saturday, were linked to cases found in Huaian city in Jiangsu province, said Li Yang, vice director of Hubei’s provincial disease control centre.

The outbreak in Jiangsu is believed to have begun in the provincial capital of Nanjing, with the Delta variant mostly likely introduced on a flight from Russia, officials have said.

Since then numerous cities in southern China and a few in the north including Beijing have reported infections.

The number of locally transmitted cases in China since 20 July, when the first Nanjing infections were found, stood at 414 on Monday.

However, it is not clear if all of those cases were of the Delta variant, or if they were all linked to Nanjing, as some authorities have not disclosed conclusive results of their virus-tracing efforts.

Authorities in numerous cities have launched mass testing to identify and isolate carriers. Pic: AP
Authorities in numerous cities have launched mass testing to identify and isolate carriers. Pic: AP

The Delta variant poses new risks to the world’s second-largest economy as it spreads from the coast to inland cities.

On Tuesday, the National Health Commission said 90 new cases had been confirmed the previous day, 61 locally spread ones and 29 among people who had recently arrived from abroad.

Most of the local cases were in Jiangsu province, where an outbreak started at the airport in Nanjing, the provincial capital, and has spread to the city of Yangzhou, 65 miles away.

Authorities reported 45 new cases, five in Nanjing and 40 in the city of Yangzhou, which was conducting a second round of mass testing.

Five other provinces and the cities of Beijing and Shanghai reported new local cases in the single digits.

In Shanghai, the nation’s largest city, a driver working at one of its two main airports tested positive. Beijing has reported a total of five cases in recent days.

Government-affiliated scientists have said Chinese vaccines are less effective against the new strains of the coronavirus but still offer some protection.

Only Chinese vaccines are currently being given in China, where authorities say more than 1.6 billion doses have been administered.

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