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Mexico Senate committees pass controversial security bill

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican Senate committees on Wednesday approved a controversial security bill that human rights groups say risks granting excessive power to the armed forces in their already checkered role in combating organised crime in the country.

Troops take part in a military parade celebrating Independence Day at Zocalo Square in downtown Mexico City, Mexico, September 16, 2017 .

REUTERS/Henry Romero

The bill, which enjoys some cross-party support between conservatives and centrists, will now pass to the floor of the upper house of Congress for discussion and possible approval late on Wednesday or on Thursday morning.

The Law of Internal Security aims to regulate the armed forces role in combating drug cartels, a conflict which has claimed well over 100,000 lives in the last decade.

Senate committees approved the bill on Wednesday, a senate spokesman said .

Lawmakers who support the bill say it will set out clear rules that limit the use of soldiers to fight crime.

Rights groups have strongly attacked the bill, saying it prioritises the military s role in fighting the gangs over improving the police, and could open the door to greater abuses and impunity by the armed forces.

The military has already been embroiled in multiple human rights scandals including extrajudicial killings of gang members and the disappearance of 43 students near one of its bases in 2014.

The United Nations, Amnesty International and Mexican human rights organizations have all criticized the bill.

This law should not be approved quickly, it puts liberties at risk by giving more power to the armed forces without designing controls and counterweights, said Santiago Aguirre from the Miguel Agustin Pro Center for Human Rights.

Last week, President Enrique Pena Nieto asked lawmakers to include civil society s views in their discussion of the bill, which sparked attempts by protesters to bar access to the upper house of Congress when it reached the Senate.

Writing by Christine MurrayEditing by Sandra Maler

New Year’s Eve security tightened after botched NYC bomb attack

Security preparations for New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York’s Times Square will be altered following a botched suicide bombing in a subway tunnel, the city’s counterterrorism chief has said. Akayed Ullah, 27, has ben charged with terrorism crimes after detonating a pipe bomb in the pedestrian tunnel on Monday. John Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said the New York Police Department will carry out an “immediate” and “in-depth” review of the attempted attack. He said: “This is the first time I believe that we have seen an individual with a suicide bomb in mass transit and actually have that bomb function.

“So we’re going to take a hard look at it.”

Image: Attack suspect Akayed Ullah

Plans for security in the New Year will also consider other attacks such as the Las Vegas sniper shooting on 1 October, in which 58 people were killed and more than 500 people wounded, Mr Miller said. An increased police presence will be seen around mass transit and public gatherings, he added. In the short term, that will likely mean more heavily armed and specially trained officers on the streets, as well as more police dogs, bag screenings and checkpoints. Chemicals inside the pipe bomb ignited, but the pipe itself did not explode, officials have said.

Ullah, from Bangladesh, was seriously hurt in the blast during Monday morning rush hour . But the malfunctioning device resulted in only minor injuries for three other people. Acting US attorney Joon Kim said Ullah planned to “murder as many human beings as he could.. . in support of a vicious terrorist cause”. Court papers filed by federal prosecutors claim he told police officers after the blast that “I did it for Islamic State”. He is believed to have begun viewing pro IS material online in 2014 and prosecutors claim he carried out the attack because he was angry over US policy in the Middle East. On the morning of the attack, he posted on his Facebook page1 “Trump you failed to protect your nation”.

He has been charged with providing material support to terrorists and using weapons of mass destruction. Ullah could appear in court on Wednesday via video link.

More from NEW YORK ATTACK

Investigators in Bangladesh are questioning his wife, officials told Reuters news agency . The couple have a six-month-old boy.

President Donald Trump claimed the bombing underlined a need for changes to the US imigration system, which he clamed is “lax” and “allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people” into the US.

References

  1. ^ posted on his Facebook page (news.sky.com)

Salford house fire family had been living under threat and security was increased before devastating attack

The family of Michelle Pearson had been living under threat before the devastating attack. Demi Pearson, 14, Brandon, eight, and sister Lacie, seven, died after a blaze broke out on Jackson Street in Walkden at 5am on Monday morning. Five people have since been arrested in connection with the fire, and police have launched a murder investigation.

The M.E.N . has learned that security had been stepped up at the mid-terrace property. Sources confirmed to the M.E.N . that the house had been target hardened to protect the family living there from attack. Measures included the fitting of an increased security device on the letterbox.

Police confirmed that the force had very recent physical contact with the family – understood to be within 24 hours of the devastating attack.

Read More

The Manchester Evening News understands that police had been called there to a reported incident at the house at around 2am, around three hours before the blaze took hold. As well as the possibility that a flammable liquid was poured through the home s letterbox, there have also been reports that the perpetrator used scaffolding to launch the attack, although there has been been no confirmation of this by Greater Manchester Police. Chief Supt Wayne Miller confirmed at a press conference held at Swinton police station that there had been earlier incidents at the address, but refused to elaborate further or confirm the nature of the call.

As a result of the prior police contact GMP has voluntarily referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in line with procedure.

Read More

The police chief said: There have been earlier incidents at the address and consequently a referral to the IPCC has been made. Asked whether the tragedy is being linked to organised crime, Chief Supt Miller said the force was keeping an open mind and did not comment further. He added: This is a fast moving live investigation and we have a major investigation team with scores of dedicated detectives working tirelessly.

The devastated older brother of the three young children who were killed has spoken of the moment he tried desperately to save them. Speaking about the horrific incident, Kyle Pearson told the M.E.N: I fell asleep and the next thing I knew was I could hear my mum screaming, Fire! . There was lots of smoke so I climbed out of an upstairs window.

I ve gone to get back in but a cloud of smoke hit me in the face.”

I can t get my head around it . It s disgraceful.

I tried to break the front door down and smashed a window, but I couldn t get in because of the flames and the smoke.”

Timeline of events

Monday, December 11

2am

Police were originally called to the house following an incident, around three hours before the fire service were alerted to the blaze.

4.58am

Firefighters raced to the family s mid-terrace home on Jackson Street in Walkden, Salford, after reports of a large fire.

7.26am

Early reports from the fire service said that six people were taken to hospital . The street was closed off and transport bosses warned people to avoid the area.

8.14am

Investigations into the blaze continued . Firefighters remained at the scene to monitor the house for any remaining hotspots.

12.11pm

Neighbours told the M.E.N . of their shock at what had happened . One local resident said she heard screaming and banging during the night, initially thinking it was an argument . She described the street as being quite loud .

1.41pm

Police confirmed three children died in the fire and a three-year-old girl remained in hospital in a critical condition. They also said the fire was being treated as suspicious . Officers revealed a girl, 14, a boy, eight, and a girl, seven, all passed away after the blaze broke out . The 35-year-old mother of all the children was in a serious condition in hospital, they said.

2.22pm

During a press conference at Swinton police station, detectives confirmed they had launched a murder investigation and urged a suspect to give himself up . At the briefing, Chief Superintendent Wayne Miller told reporters that seven people were in the house at the time of the fire.

He added there was an active manhunt for a suspect.

2.46pm

The first victim of the fire was named as 14-year-old Demi Pearson, a pupil at Educating Greater Manchester school Harrop Fold.

6.58pm

GMP said they had arrested a man, 23, and a woman, 20, in connection with the fire . Both were held on suspicion of murder and taken into custody for questioning.

7.58pm

Two more victims of the fire were named – Demi s younger brother Brandon, eight, and his sister Lacie, seven . Their older brother Kyle Pearson, who escaped the burning property, paid tribute to his siblings.

8.51pm

Police confirmed three further arrests . Two young men, aged 18 and 20, were held on suspicion of murder . A 24-year-old man was also detained on suspicion of assisting and offender, a GMP spokesman said .

Five people have now been arrested in connection with the fatal fire.

Anyone with any information should contact police on 0161 856 8797, alternatively call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.