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FBI boss faces calls to resign over missed warning

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The FBI’s director is facing calls to resign over its failure to investigate a warning about Florida gunman Nikolas Cruz, six weeks before the school massacre in which 17 people were killed.

A person close to Cruz called the FBI with information on 5 January that should have been deemed a “potential threat to life” but was not passed on, the agency said.

“The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behaviour, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” the FBI said.

FBI director Christopher Wray is facing calls to resign
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FBI director Christopher Wray is facing calls to resign

Florida Governor Rick Scott said the FBI’s failure to take action was “unacceptable” and called for its director Christopher Wray to step down.

“Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going to cut it,” Governor Scott said.

“An apology will never bring these 17 Floridians back to life or comfort the families who are in pain.”

Mr Wray said: “We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy.”

:: Pictured: 17 victims gunned down in school massacre


Students at South Broward High School in Hollywood, Florida, protested gun violence and showed support for gun control measures on Friday, February 16. The protest came in the wake of the shooting at a Parkland high school that killed 17 people.

Jacquelyn Noval, a South Broward junior, said she and her classmates are tired of legislators not listening to them and not doing anything about the issues of gun violence.



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Florida students protest gun violence

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review into the FBI’s procedures, saying it was clear “warning signs” were missed.

It comes after Ben Bennight said he told the FBI in September about a comment on YouTube under Cruz’s name which read: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

Funerals were held on Friday for two teenagers killed in the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Mourners broke down in tears as services were held for 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff and Meadow Pollack, 18.

Mourners break down in tears at the funeral of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff
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Mourners break down in tears at the funeral of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff

The grief and anger of Meadow’s father Andrew Pollack boiled over at her funeral as he yelled: “You killed my kid!”

“My kid is dead,” he said.

“This is just unimaginable that I will never see my princess again.”

Donald Trump said on Friday he was travelling to Florida amid calls from survivors for action to tackle gun violence.

The US president tweeted: “I will be leaving for Florida today to meet with some of the bravest people on Earth – but people whose lives have been totally shattered.”


David Hogg, A survivor of the Florida shootings, speaks his mind to give trump a message.



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Survivor to Trump: We need action, not lies

In a direct message to Mr Trump, student David Hogg, who survived the massacre, told Sky News: “Don’t let this be another mass shooting. This is an event that needs to be a turning point and it’s an event nobody should have to go through.

“You can make as many promises as you want. But promises without action are simply lies.”

Cruz, who admitted to police that he carried out the shootings, reportedly said he heard voices in his head telling him how to carry out the massacre.

A mugshot taken after Nikolas Cruz's arrest. Pic: Broward County Sheriff's Office
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Nikolas Cruz reportedly spoke of hearing ‘demons’. Pic: Broward County Sheriff’s Office

The voices were described as “demons” by police sources, according to ABC News.

It was also reported that Cruz, who is in custody over the killings, “excelled” in an air-rifle marksmanship programme supported by funding from the National Rifle Association Foundation.

The grant was part of a multi-million dollar effort by the pro-gun group to support youth shooting clubs.

Seven people remain in hospital following America’s second deadliest ever school shooting.

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COVID-19: US president Joe Biden signs 10 executive orders to curb spread of coronavirus | US News

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Joe Biden has signed 10 new executive orders in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus across the United States.

On his first full day in office, the newly-inaugurated president launched new measures on vaccines, masks and testing.

He hit out at Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic, saying his predecessor lacked the “urgency, focus and co-ordination we needed”.

“We have seen the tragic cost of that failure,” Mr Biden said.

He warned that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better”, predicted the death toll will reach 500,000 next month and said the roll-out of vaccines in the US had been a “dismal failure” so far.

The US has seen the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths of any country in the world.

Mr Trump, who left the White House for Florida on Wednesday, was much-criticised for his handling of the pandemic.

He caught the disease in October, after hosting a reception where guests were seen not social distancing or wearing masks.

And when a US journalist said Mr Trump told him he knew how dangerous the virus was but liked “playing it down”, former first lady Michelle Obama accused him of trying to “gaslight the American people by acting like this pandemic is not a real threat”.

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COVID-19: Coffins stacked high in crematorium of German town ravaged by coronavirus | World News

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A crematorium is a sobering place to visit during a pandemic. Especially the one in the town of Meissen, eastern Germany, where coffins are stacked on top of each other in every available space.

Attached to each simple wooden casket is a small piece of paper giving the basic details about the body inside. The name of the deceased, date of birth and death.

And chalked on to the side of so many is the word COVID. We are standing amongst the victims of a virus which has hit Meissen hard.

In the basement, vast furnaces and workers are operating around the clock. They need to, such is the demand for cremations in a town which has experienced one of the highest COVID-19 rates in Germany.

A crematorium in the German town of Meissen
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Chalked onto the side of so many is the word COVID

We watch coffin after coffin disappearing into the flames knowing that family members, unable to be with their loved ones as they passed away, will be desperate to collect the urn of ashes to mourn.

Crematorium director Jörg Schaldach speaks of sadness for the families.

“For us, the problem isn’t storage. The problem is actually for the bereaved,” he says.

“The ambulance leaves the yard and they never see their relatives again. There are no hospital visits. People understand that this is a crisis and they accept that. But the psychological aspect of parting is very, very difficult.”

It is made all the more difficult by the fact that COVID restrictions mean normal funeral services aren’t possible.

Even the chapel at the crematorium is now a storage facility for the dead. The chairs, which before COVID would have accommodated mourners, have been moved out to make way for coffins.

At this, Meissen’s sole crematorium, they dealt with more than 1,400 bodies last month, double the number a year ago.

And Mr Schaldach worries that figure could be higher by the end of January.

The high COVID infection and death rate in Meissen has created nervousness amongst many residents, who ask why the town has been so hard hit.

A crematorium in the German town of Meissen
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Meissen’s crematorium dealt with more than 1,400 bodies last month – double the number a year ago

One elderly man said: “It’s because the old live here in eastern Germany. The young are in the west. And COVID affects the old much more badly.”

Another says: “We are near to the Czech border. There is high incidence there and traffic.” He struggles to speak as he says it is so sad, so upsetting to see what is happening.

There is genuine fear and worry here. The crematorium sits in the middle of a residential area and it must be unnerving for people seeing the constant stream of hearses and vans arriving.

Mr Schaldach is hoping that tough lockdown restrictions the German government has decided to keep in place will make a difference.

He lives in the community where he works and feels the loss shared by so many here.

COVID rates are now falling in Germany, but he agrees with the government that there is no room for complacency.

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Baghdad: At least 28 killed and dozens injured in twin suicide attack on Iraq’s capital | World News

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At least 28 people have died and dozens more are wounded after a double suicide attack in Iraq’s capital.

According to police in Baghdad, the explosions hit a commercial area in the centre of the city.

Many of the wounded – of which there are at least 73 – are reported to be in a serious condition and there was widespread damage to buildings.

The bombings are the first in years to target Baghdad’s bustling commercial area and all of the city’s hospitals were mobilised to treat the injured, the health ministry said.

Iraqi security forces keep guard the site of a suicide attack in Baghdad, Iraq January 21, 2021.
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Iraqi security forces patrol the area after the blasts

They come amid heightened political tensions as Iraq looks to have early elections in October, while also battling a severe economic crisis brought about by low oil prices.

It is not clear who is responsible for the blasts, which left blood smeared across the floors of the busy Bab al-Sharqi market and piles of clothes and shoes.

The attack occurred as security forces pursued two suicide bombers who detonated their explosives in the market near Tayaran Square, according to military spokesman Yahya Rasool.

Iraq has seen attacks by both the Islamic State group and militia groups in recent months.

Militias have routinely targeted the American presence with rocket and mortar attacks, especially the US Embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Attacks has decreased since an informal truce was declared by Iran-backed armed groups in October.

The Islamic State group has carried out similar attacks in the past but has rarely been able to target the capital since being dislodged by Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition in 2017.

The last deadly suicide blast in the Iraqi capital took place in January 2018, killing at least 27 people.

An attack like this is rare these days making it all the more concerning
Analysis: Mark Stone, Middle East correspondent

Violence and Iraq may seem to be tragically synonymous, but in fact an attack like this is rare these days making it all the more concerning.

While the country is still deeply divided and troubled, bloodshed of this magnitude has not been seen since January 2018 when 27 people were killed in an attack.

The images, most of which are too horrific to broadcast, show bodies lying all around Tayaran Square.

Victims, some alive, but others clearly not, are seen being lifted into vehicles. One video clip shows the decapitated head of man.

It was mid-morning when the bombs detonated. It was a cruelly intentional “double-tap” attack – the second bomb detonated amid the crowd as casualties were carried away.

No one has yet claimed responsibility. The Islamic State terror group is still a threat in parts of the country despite a continued effort by Iraq’s security forces, with western coalition support, to defeat the group.

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