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Phuket Gazette World News: Woman shot dead in White House death drive; Italy migrant boat disaster beyond 300; Europeans burned alive for organ trafficking

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

Driver shot dead in car chase near U.S. Capitol
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A dramatic car chase through the streets of Washington from near the White House to the U.S. Capitol ended in gunfire on Thursday when law enforcement officers shot and killed the driver as lawmakers and aides huddled in a lockdown.

The incident rattled Washington just three weeks after a government contractor opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the Capitol, killing 12 people and wounding three others before he was shot to death by police.

The car involved in the chase was registered to Miriam Carey, 34, of Connecticut, and law enforcement officials believe she was the driver, the Washington Post reported, citing officials. NBC News also identified the driver as Carey.

Reached by phone at Washington’s Metropolitan Police headquarters, a police officer confirmed that Carey was the driver, but declined to provide his name.

“The suspect in the vehicle was struck by gunfire,” Washington’s police chief, Cathy Lanier, told reporters.

Driving a black car, the woman rammed security barricades “at the very outer perimeter of the White House,” U.S. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said. Then the car, carrying a 1-year-old girl, raced up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol where Congress was in session.

Police chased and fired at the car. It came to a halt near the Capitol building, said Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine.

“My understanding is there was a 1-year-old child in the car,” Dine said. “I believe one of our officers rescued the child,” who was taken to a hospital.

Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, told CNN that officials believe the woman driving the car may have had mental health problems.

“I got that from multiple sources – that they think she may have had some mental health issues,” he said. “Obviously the way she responded at the gate near the White House and then turning around and hitting Secret Service.”

The woman was a resident of Connecticut and the girl in the car was her daughter, McCaul said.

When the shooting erupted, lawmakers were trying to find a solution to a budget impasse that partially shut down the U.S. government this week. The Capitol was locked down for about an hour during the incident.

Lawmakers were told to shelter in place on the floor of the House. Outside, some tourists were frightened.

“I was just eating a hot dog over here and I heard about four or five gunshots, and then a swarm of police cars came in wailing their sirens,” said Whit Dabney, 13, who was visiting Washington from Louisville, Kentucky, and heard the shots a couple of blocks away.

Witness Travis Gilbert said several police cars chased the black sedan at high speed toward the Capitol.

“They ran all the red lights. It was a very dangerous situation,” Gilbert said.

Hit by car

Two officers were hurt in Thursday’s incident. One was a Secret Service officer who was struck by the suspect’s car outside the White House, Donovan said.

The other was a Capitol Police officer whose car struck a barricade during the mid-afternoon chase. It ranged over about a mile and a half and lasted just a few minutes, officials said.

All the shooting appears to have been done by police; law enforcement sources said the suspect did not shoot a gun and there is no indication that she had one.

Dine said it appeared there was no connection to terrorism.

Just before the Capitol lockdown, Senator John McCain of Arizona was on the Senate floor urging that President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of senators launch negotiations to break the deadlock over government funding and a debt limit increase.

The House had just passed a bill to fund the National Guard and reservists who are not on active duty during the shutdown.

The Capitol police, who were deemed “essential” staff, were at work despite the government shutdown, but they are not being paid.

“What really comes home to me is that these are all people who are working without pay right now,” Representative Matt Cartwright, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said on CNN. He was outside on a Capitol balcony when he said he heard seven or eight shots “all in less than a second.”

Obama was briefed on the incident, a White House official said, providing no further details.

Security is tight near the Capitol, but there have been previous shootings in the area. In 1998, a gunman burst through a security checkpoint at the Capitol and killed two Capitol Police officers in an exchange of fire that sent tourists and other bystanders diving for cover. The suspect, Russell Eugene Weston Jr., was not charged with a crime because of apparent mental instability.

Hundreds dead, missing in Italian migrant boat disaster
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: More than 300 people drowned or were feared dead after a boat packed with African migrants caught fire and sank off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday, one of the worst disasters of Europe’s chronic immigration crisis.

The 20-metre (66-foot) boat, believed to be carrying around 500 people, mostly Eritreans and Somalis, sank no more than 1 km (half a mile) from shore after a fire broke out, triggering a general panic that capsized the vessel.

The incident occurred when the boat’s motor stopped working and the vessel, which had set out from the Libyan port of Misrata, began to take on water, Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said.

People on board burned a sheet to attract the attention of rescuers, but ignited fuel on the vessel.

“Once the fire started, there was concern about the boat sinking and everyone moved to one side, causing the boat to go down,” he told a news conference.

Bodies pulled from the water were laid out along the quayside as coast guard vessels brought in more victims.

“It’s horrific, like a cemetery,” said Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, the tiny island which has been at the centre of southern Europe’s migration headache.

Fishing boats and coast guard vessels rescued 151 people in the morning and by late evening 104 bodies, including at least three children and two pregnant women, had been recovered. But divers had seen scores more trapped in the sunken ship, which rested in some 40 metres (132 feet) of water.

“They’re certainly all dead,” said Domenico Colapinto, a local fisherman whose vessel rescued 18 survivors in the morning. “There won’t be anyone alive now because when we picked them up people were already exhausted,” he told SkyTG24 television as evening fell.

The disaster happened four days after 13 migrants drowned off eastern Sicily. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said action was needed by the European Union to stem “a succession of massacres of innocent people”.

Last year, almost 500 people were reported dead or missing on the crossing from Tunisia to Italy, the U.N. refugee office UNHCR says. Syrians fleeing civil war have added to the numbers.

Endless tragedy

The search for survivors and victims began within a four nautical mile radius, in water around 30-45 metres deep, and widened later in the day in an effort to find bodies that had been pulled away by the tides, Alfano

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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