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Phuket Gazette World News: Boston bomb suspect identified; Assad threatens West; Suu Kyi on Myanmar tensions

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Boston bomb suspect identified on video, no arrest made
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Investigators believe they have spotted a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing from security video, a U.S. law enforcement source said on Wednesday, but no arrest had yet been made.

Police may make an appeal to the public for more information at a news conference scheduled for later on Wednesday, a U.S. government source said.

Earlier, cable news network CNN reported a suspect was in custody, citing Boston and U.S. law enforcement sources, but it later retracted its report.

Three Reuters sources also disputed there had been an arrest. Officials later confirmed the arrest report was inaccurate.

The suspect in the video had not yet been identified by name, two U.S. government officials said.

“Despite reports to the contrary there has not been an arrest in the marathon attack,” Boston police said in a statement.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a statement asking the media to “exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.”

Shortly after the false arrest report, security officials at Boston’s federal courthouse ordered staff, media and attorneys to evacuate and move at least 100 yards (91.4 meters) away, according to a Reuters reporter on the scene.

Bomb-sniffing dogs and fire engines arrived at the courthouse.

The identification of a possible suspect marked the most significant, publicly-disclosed break since Monday’s blasts at the Boston Marathon’s finish line killed three people and injured 176 others in the worst attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001.

The bombs killed an 8-year old boy, Martin Richard; a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell, and a Boston University graduate student who was a Chinese citizen. Boston University has identified the student as Lu Lingzi.

The crowded scene in central Boston was recorded by surveillance cameras and media outlets, providing investigators with significant video of the area before and after the two blasts.

Investigators were also searching through thousands of pieces of evidence from cellphone pictures to shrapnel pulled from victims’ legs.

Based on the shards of metal, fabric, wires and a battery recovered at the scene, the focus turned to whoever may have placed homemade bombs in pressure cooker pots and taken them in heavy black nylon bags to the finish line of the world-famous race watched by thousands of spectators.

Streets around the bombing site remained closed to traffic and pedestrians on Wednesday, with police continuing their work.

Sense of relief

Rich Havens, the finish area coordinator at the Boston Marathon who also witnessed Monday’s blasts, said he was relieved officials had identified a suspect.

“When the police said we are turning every rock, they really meant it,” Havens said. “There is a sense of relief that the amazing work they are doing – breaking through bits and pieces – is actually turning things up. And that they’ve gotten to this point in a matter of two days.”

Bomb scene pictures produced by the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force and released on Tuesday show the remains of an explosive device including twisted pieces of a metal container, wires, a battery and what appears to be a small circuit board.

One picture shows a few inches of charred wire attached to a small box, and another depicts a half-inch (1.3 cm) nail and a zipper head stained with blood. Another shows a Tenergy-brand battery attached to black and red wires through a broken plastic cap. Several photos show a twisted metal lid with bolts.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Whether it’s home-grown or foreign, we just don’t know yet. And so I’m not going to contribute to any speculation on that,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who until January was Massachusetts’ senior senator. “It’s just hard to believe that a Patriots’ Day holiday, which is normally such time of festivities, turned into bloody mayhem.”

The head of trauma surgery at Boston Medical Centre, which was still treating 19 victims on Wednesday, said his hospital was collecting the shards of metal, plastic, wood and concrete they had pulled from the injured to save for law enforcement inspectors. Other hospitals were doing the same.

“We’ve taken on large quantities of pieces,” Dr. Peter Burke of Boston Medical Centre told reporters “We send them to the pathologists and they are available to the police.”

Security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said instructions for building pressure-cooker bombs similar to the ones used in Boston can be found on the Internet and are relatively primitive.

Pressure cookers had also been discovered in numerous foiled attack plots in both the United States and overseas in recent years, including the failed bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square on May 1, 2010, the officials said.

Assad says West will pay for backing al Qaeda in Syria
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Western nations will suffer the consequences for what he said was their support for al Qaeda militants in his country’s civil war.

“The West has paid heavily for funding al Qaeda in its early stages in Afghanistan. Today it is supporting it in Syria, Libya and other places, and will pay a heavy price later in the heart of Europe and the United States,” he told Syrian television channel al-Ikhbariya, according to extracts published on the Syrian presidency’s Facebook page on Wednesday.

Assad was speaking a week after Syria’s rebel al-Nusra Front, one of the most effective rebel forces battling his troops, formally pledged allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

The United States has designated the Nusra Front a terrorist organisation and the presence of militant Islamists in Syria’s two-year conflict poses a quandary for Western powers who favour Assad’s overthrow, but are alarmed at the growing influence of the Islamists in Syria.

“The truth is, what is happening is that we are mainly facing extremist forces,” Assad said in the interview.

The United Nations says more than 70,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict, which started as mainly peaceful protests two years ago but has evolved into a civil war.

EU set to lift Myanmar sanctions, except on arms
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The European Union is expected to lift all sanctions on Myanmar next week, except for an arms embargo, in recognition of the “remarkable process of reform” in the country, a document seen by Reuters showed on Wednesday.

The EU agreed a year ago to suspend most of its sanctions against Myanmar for a year, but it is now expected to go further by agreeing “to lift all sanctions with the exception of the embargo on arms”, the document said.

The step, which was agreed by EU ambassadors on Wednesday, paving the way for ministerial approval on Monday, will allow European companies to invest in Myanmar, which has significant natural resources and borders economic giants China and India.

“The EU is willing to open a new chapter in

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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