Dallas police shooting: Five officers killed, six wounded by gunmen

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Five Dallas police officers have been killed and six wounded by gunmen during protests against the shooting of black men by police, authorities say.

Three people are in custody and one man who was in a stand-off with police shot himself dead, US media have reported.

Gunfire broke out at around 20:45 local time on Thursday (01:45 GMT Friday) as demonstrators marched through the city.

The protests came after this week’s deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana.

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The Dallas attack marks the deadliest day for US law enforcement officers since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

President Barack Obama, who is visiting Poland, said it was a “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement”. He said the entire city of Dallas was grieving and the “tight-knit US police community feels this loss to their core”.

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Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the suspects were all believed to have been working together, using rifles to carry out attacks while the protest rally was drawing to a close.

Two snipers had fired from “elevated positions”, shooting some officers in the back.

“We believe that these suspects were positioning themselves in a way to triangulate on these officers from two different perches… and planned to injure and kill as many law enforcement officers as they could,” Chief Brown said.

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Officers later surrounded a car park near El Centro College, as an armed man fired off rounds with a rifle.

Chief Brown said the suspect had told negotiators that “the end is coming” and that he was going to attack more officers and had “bombs all over the place”.

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US media say the man is now dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and the stand-off is over, although the police have yet to confirm this.

Police are continuing to sweep the downtown area. No explosives have been found so far.

A woman who was in the vicinity of the suspect at the car park is being questioned.

Police also said officers had intercepted a car after a person threw a camouflaged bag into the back and sped off. Two occupants were detained.

Chief Brown said earlier: “We do not have a comfort level that we have all the suspects.”

He said that 11 officers had been shot “ambush style” by sniper fire.

One of those killed was Brent Thompson, 43, a transport police officer with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). He is the first DART officer to be killed in the line of duty.

Amateur video footage showed one police officer approaching a gunman and taking cover behind a concrete pillar. The gunman shoots the officer at least twice, leaving him motionless, and then flees.

One civilian, named by her family as Shetamia Taylor, was shot in the leg while protecting her children and is recovering in hospital.

Mr Obama said that “anyone involved in these senseless murders will be held fully accountable”.

He said the attacks were a “wrenching reminder” of the sacrifices made by law enforcement officers.

The Officer Down Memorial website says 53 US officers have died in the line of duty in 2016, 21 of them as a result of gunfire. The toll does not include those killed in Dallas.

Mr Obama added that “when people are armed with powerful weapons it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic”, a subject that, he said, must be addressed in “the days ahead”.

Police had earlier issued a photo of one man at the rally with a rifle slung over his shoulder, saying he was a suspect.

The man, named as Mark Hughes, turned himself in to police and was later released.

Source: BBC

UK’s Iraq war inquiry delivers damning verdict on Blair

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Former British prime minister Tony Blair took his country into a badly planned, woefully executed and legally questionable war in Iraq in 2003, according to the findings of a long-delayed inquiry published Wednesday.

The Chilcot report said Britain joined the US-led invasion before all other options had been exhausted and on the basis of false intelligence that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Blair faced particular criticism for pledging to support US president George W. Bush the year before the invasion, writing: “I will be with you, whatever”.

Blair failed to ensure “there was a flexible, realistic and fully resourced plan”, said the report, which found preparations for occupation after the initial invasion were “woefully inadequate”.

More than 150,000 Iraqis had died by the time most British troops withdrew in 2009, while 179 British soldiers also lost their lives.

The country remains plagued by sectarian violence, as shown notably by Sunday’s Baghdad suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State which killed at least 250 people.

In a statement, Blair said he had acted “in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country”.

He said he took “full responsiblity for any mistakes, without exception or excuse”, but added: “I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein.”

The inquiry drew a different conclusion.

It found that “military action in Iraq might have been necessary at some point. But in March 2003 there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein.”

Britain’s scarring experience in Iraq has made it deeply wary of committing ground troops to international military interventions in countries like Syria and Libya.

Unveiling the 2.6 million-word report, which took seven years to complete, inquiry chairman John Chilcot said it was “an account of an intervention which went badly wrong, with consequences to this day”.

More than 100 anti-war protesters gathered outside the conference centre where the report was published, with many shouting: “Blair lied, thousands died” and “war criminal Tony Blair”.

Relatives of some of the soldiers killed said the report could form the basis of legal action against Blair and other officials.

“The inquiry has confirmed all our fears that these young men and women were deployed on the back of a falsehood,” said Roger Bacon, whose son Matthew, 34, died in 2005.

“We reserve our right to call specific parties to answer for their actions in the courts, if such process is found to be viable.”

Rose Gentle, who lost her 19-year-old son Gordon, said the findings were “gut-wrenching” — and dismissed Blair’s response.

“I hold him responsible for the murder of my son,” she told reporters.

– Peaceful options not exhausted –

Although the legality of the invasion was not in his remit, retired civil servant Chilcot said the process of deciding the legal basis for war was “far from satisfactory”.

“We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort,” he said.

The report laid the blame for mistaken fears of Saddam’s WMD firmly on the intelligence community, but said the government had “overstated the firmness of the evidence” about Iraq’s capabilities and intentions.

It confirmed long-held suspicions that Blair put Britain on a path to war as early as July 2002.

Blair was also criticised for failing to challenge Bush on the lack of planning for the aftermath of the invasion.

It dismissed Blair’s assertion that it was not possible to predict the strength of local opposition, the rise of Al-Qaeda and the involvement of Iran, which all fuelled the violence, saying these were “explicitly identified before the invasion”.

– ‘Lessons learned’ –

The inquiry was called under pressure from relatives, concerned about the justification for the war as well as poor military equipment, over which the Ministry of Defence was strongly criticised in the Chilcot report.

The families are not the only ones considering legal action against Blair — a cross-party group of MPs is also looking into the possibility, including of taking a case to the International Criminal Court.

The war, which at one point saw 46,000 British troops deployed, mostly in southern Iraq around the strategic oil hub of Basra, still looms large over British politics.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron said that all the MPs who voted for the war must “take our fair share of the responsibility.

“We cannot turn the clock back but can ensure that lessons are learned and acted on,” he said.

Cameron said new procedures to ensure “proper separation” between intelligence and the process for assessing has already been put in place.

“Taking the country to war should always be a last resort,” he said, adding however that “we should not conclude that intervention is always wrong”.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, the current head of Blair’s Labour party, said the war was “an act of military aggression launched on a false pretext” that “fuelled and spread terrorism across the region”.