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Shocked Serbians Mourn Victims Of Belgrade School Shooting

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Scores of Serbian students, many dressed in black and carrying flowers, paid quiet tribute on Thursday to classmates murdered a day earlier when a 13-year-old boy used his father’s guns in a school shooting rampage that shocked the country and prompted calls for stricter gun control.

Students from all across the city flocked to the streets surrounding the school in central Belgrade. Thousands had gathered earlier to lay flowers, light candles, and leave toys in memory of the eight children and a school guard killed on Wednesday morning.

People cried and hugged outside the school as they stood in front of flower bouquets, teddy bears and soccer balls. A grey and pink toy elephant with messages of mourning was placed by the school fence, and a girl’s ballet shoes hung from the fence.

The Balkan nation is still coming to grips with what has occurred. Despite being awash in weaponry left over from the 1990s wars, mass shootings have been extraordinarily unusual Belgrade — and this is the first school massacre in Serbia’s modern history.

The tragedy also spurred a debate about the country’s overall state after decades of crises and battles that have left the country in a state of constant insecurity and instability, as well as significant political divisions.

According to Dragan Popadic, a psychology professor at Belgrade University, the explanation of the teenager’s reaction is yet unknown, but the tragedy has highlighted the amount of violence existing in society and produced a deep shock.

“All of a sudden, we are living in a different world,” he explained. “We used to live in a world where a 13-year-old couldn’t be a mass killer, and now, all of a sudden, it is possible, and we must accept that it happened.”

Such a shift, according to Popadic, is “deeply disturbing.”

Authorities increased gun control on Thursday, urging citizens to lock up their firearms and keep them secure and away from youngsters.

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A psychology professor at Belgrade University, the explanation of the teenager’s reaction is yet unknown.

According to police, the boy used his father’s weaponry to carry out the attack. According to authorities, he had planned it for a month, created pictures of classrooms, and made lists of the children he intended to kill.

According to authorities, the child, who had visited the shooting range with his father and knew the code to his father’s safe, removed two pistols from the safe where they were stored along with the bullets.

“The Ministry of Interior is appealing to all gun owners to store their guns with care, locked up in safes or closets so they are out of reach of others, particularly children,” police said.

The shooting at Vladislav Ribnikar elementary school on Wednesday morning also hospitalized seven people, including six youngsters and a teacher. Doctors stated to Belgrade Thursday morning that a girl shot in the head is still in critical condition, while a boy is in serious spinal damage.

Authorities announced establishing an assistance line to assist people in dealing with the catastrophe. Hundreds responded to an appeal to donate blood for the injured victims.

A three-day period of mourning will begin on Friday morning for Belgrade.

Teachers’ unions in Serbia have called for rallies and strikes to demand improvements and warn of a school system catastrophe. Authorities brushed off responsibility, with some officials blaming Western influence rather than the country’s severe social malaise.

According to Popadic, numerous forms of violence dominate Serbian society, ranging from schools to politics. He highlighted harassment of political opponents by ruling populists, aggressive hooligan groups in sports, or frequent violence among schoolchildren and teachers that are only revealed in serious cases.

“People have been suddenly shaken into reality and the ocean of violence that we live in, how it has grown over time, and how much our society has been neglected for decades,” he said. “It’s as if flashlights have been turned on over our lives, and we can’t seem to mind our business.”

The shooter, identified by authorities as Kosta Kecmanovic, has not explained his conduct.

When Kecmanovic first entered his school, he killed the guard and three kids in the corridor. He then proceeded to the history classroom and shot the teacher before turning his rifle on the students.

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Another Belgrade resident, Jovan Lazovic, was unsurprised.

Kecmanovic then unloaded the revolver on the schoolyard and called the cops, even though a school official had previously notified them. When he contacted, Kecmanovic indicated he was a “psychopath who needs to calm down,” according to authorities.

Seven girls, one boy, and the school security guard were killed. Belgrade according to France’s foreign minister, one of the girls was a French citizen.

According to authorities, Kecmanovic is too young to be charged and tried. He was committed to a mental institution, while his father was arrested on charges of threatening public safety since his son obtained the guns.

“I believe we are all guilty. “I think each of us bears some responsibility because we allowed some things to happen that we should not have allowed to happen,” said Zoran Sefik, a Belgrade resident, at a vigil near the school on Wednesday evening.

Another Belgrade resident, Jovan Lazovic, was unsurprised: “It was only a matter of days when something like this could happen, given what was going on in the world and here,” he said.

Serbia and the Balkans have a strong gun culture: the region has the highest number of weapons per capita in Europe. At celebrations, guns are frequently fired into the air, and the warrior cult is an important part of national identity. Nonetheless, the most recent mass shooting occurred in 2013, when a war veteran killed 13 people in a central Serbian village.

Experts have often warned of the dangers posed by the large number of firearms in a country as divided as Serbia, where convicted war criminals are idolized and aggression against minority groups routinely goes unpunished. They also point out that decades of instability caused by the 1990s conflicts and persistent economic suffering could lead to such outbursts.

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SOURCE – (AP)

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Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

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Trump Facing 37 Felony Charges, Indictment Unsealed

Washington — On Monday, the Supreme Court overwhelmingly reinstated Donald Trump on the 2024 presidential primary ballot, rejecting state attempts to bar the Republican former President over the Capitol brawl.

The judges concluded a day before the Super Tuesday primaries that states cannot use a post-Civil War constitutional provision to exclude presidential candidates from appearing on ballots. That authority rests with Congress, the court wrote in an unsigned ruling.

On his social media network, Trump said shortly after the ruling was announced, “BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!”

The case constituted the court’s first direct ruling on a presidential election issue in a generation, dating back to Bush v. Gore in 2000. However, it is unlikely to be the last, as Trump is facing four distinct criminal charges and has another Supreme Court appearance scheduled for April.

The verdict puts a stop to efforts in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, and other states to remove Trump, the front-runner for his party’s nomination, from the ballot due to his plans to recoup his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, culminating in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold expressed dismay with the court’s judgment, noting that “Donald Trump is an eligible candidate in Colorado’s 2024 Presidential Primary.”

Trump’s case was the first before the Supreme Court to address a section of the 14th Amendment created after the Civil War to prohibit former officeholders who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office again.

Donald Trump is facing four criminal indictments and a civil suit. You can keep track of all the cases here.

Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled, in a first-of-its-kind decision, that the provision, Section 3, may be applied against Trump, whom the court said incited the Capitol attack. No court had before applied Section 3 to a presidential candidate.

In their judgments on Monday, the judges avoided the politically charged question of insurrection.

The court ruled that states can disqualify applicants for state office. “But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency,” the court stated in its ruling.

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Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

While all nine justices agreed that Trump should be on the ballot, the three liberal members of the court and conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett disagreed that their colleagues went too far in determining what Congress must do to disqualify someone from federal office.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson agreed that upholding the Colorado decision could result in a “chaotic state-by-state patchwork,” but disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that a disqualification for insurrection can only occur when Congress enacts legislation. “Today, the majority goes beyond the necessities of this case to limit how Section 3 can bar an oathbreaking insurrectionist from becoming President,” the three justices wrote in a unanimous judgment.

It is still being determined whether the verdict allows Congress to refuse to certify Trump’s or any other presidential candidate’s election if it believes they violated Section 3.

Derek Muller, a legal professor at the University of Notre Dame, said, “It appears no,” noting that the liberals objected to the majority opinion eliminating any other options for Congress to implement the rule. Rick Hasen, a legal professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, said that Congress’s boundaries could be clearer.

Hasen was among those who urged the court to resolve the issue so that Congress would not reject Trump under Section 3 when electoral votes are counted on January 6, 2025.

“We may well have a nasty, nasty post-election period in which Congress tries to disqualify Trump but the Supreme Court says Congress exceeded its powers,” he warned in an email.

Both sides had asked for quick action from the court, which heard arguments less than a month ago, on February 8. The justices were preparing to decide in Trump’s favour.

Trump had been removed from the ballots in Colorado, Maine, and Illinois, but all three verdicts were on hold until a Supreme Court decision.

trump

Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

The lawsuit is the court’s most direct participation in a presidential election since Bush v. Gore, which effectively gave the 2000 election to Republican George W. Bush. And it’s just one of several cases involving Trump that could affect his chances of reelection, including a late April hearing on whether he can be criminally prosecuted on election interference charges, including his role in the January 6 Capitol attack. Trump has claimed ultimate protection from prosecution. The timing of the high court’s intervention has sparked speculation that Trump will be tried before the November election.

The hearings in February marked the first time the high court heard a case utilizing Section 3. The two-sentence rule, intended to prevent some Confederates from gaining office again, states that those who breach oaths to support the Constitution are forbidden from holding different posts, including congressional seats or acting as presidential electors. However, it makes no specific reference to the presidency.

Both conservative and liberal judges questioned the case against Trump. Their primary worry was whether Congress should intervene before states could invoke the 14th Amendment. There were also disputes over whether the provision covers the President.

The lawyers for Republican and independent voters who sued to remove Trump’s name from the Colorado ballot argued that there is ample evidence that the events of January 6 constituted an insurrection, which was incited by Trump, who had urged a crowd of his supporters at a rally outside the White House to “fight like hell.” They claimed it would be ludicrous to apply Section 3 to everything except the presidency or that Trump is somehow exempt. They contended that the provision does not require any enabling legislation.

Following the verdict, the President of the liberal-leaning organization that represented the voters cited the court’s silence on whether Trump incited the revolt. “They had the opportunity to exonerate Donald Trump, but they did not do so,” said Noah Bookbinder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

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Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

Trump’s lawyers made various points on why the Amendment cannot be used to take him off the ballot. They claimed the January 6 disturbance was not an insurrection and that, even if it was, Trump did not go to the Capitol or join the rioters. They further stated that the Amendment’s text excludes the presidency and presidential contenders. They asserted that even if all of those reasons failed, Congress must approve legislation to resurrect Section 3.

The case was resolved by a court that included three Justices Trump chose as President. They have considered other Trump-related issues in recent years, rejecting his spurious accusations of fraud in the 2020 election and refusing to protect tax information from Congress and New York prosecutors.

The 5-4 judgment in Bush v. Gore, issued more than 23 years ago, was the last time the court became so involved in presidential politics. Only Justice Clarence Thomas remains on the bench from that time. Thomas has rebuffed requests from several Democratic senators to withdraw from the Trump lawsuit since his wife, Ginni, supported Trump’s effort to reverse the 2020 election results and attended the rally preceding Trump supporters’ assault of the Capitol.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Haiti Declares State Of Emergency After Mass Prison Escape

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Haiti’s government announced a state of emergency on Sunday after thousands of inmates reportedly escaped from the country’s largest jail during a spike of gang violence that has rocked the Caribbean nation for months.

According to a statement from Finance Minister Patrick Boisvert, who is acting prime minister, the government cited “deterioration of security,” particularly in the capital Port-au-Prince, and “increasingly violent criminal acts perpetrated by armed gangs,” including kidnappings and killings of citizens, violence against women and children, and looting.

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Haiti Declares State Of Emergency After Mass Prison Escape

It also referenced Saturday’s attacks by armed groups on the country’s two major prisons, one in Port-au-Prince and one in Croix des Bouquets, which resulted in the escape of “dangerous prisoners” and the deaths and injuries of police and prison workers.

According to a United Nations source, some 3,500 detainees fled Haiti’s National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince over the weekend.

The source stated that there were 3,687 convicts in prison. The UN mission in Haiti monitors the country’s jailed population and the humanitarian conditions in its prisons.

According to Haitian lawyer Arnel Remy, who heads the Collective of Lawyers for the Defense of Human Rights in Haiti (CADDHO), 3,597 convicts escaped from the National Penitentiary. CNN cannot independently verify CADDHO’s data.

Remy claimed his team visited the prison on Sunday and told CNN that the remaining convicts are being sent to other facilities, and the prison is now vacant and encircled by police cars.

The Haitian Ministry of Communication claimed in a statement Sunday that police confronted “heavily armed criminals seeking at any cost to free people from custody” and were “unable to prevent the criminals from freeing a large number of prisoners.” The violence damaged multiple inmates and prison officials, according to the report.

On Friday, Haitian gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, popularly known as Barbecue, stated that he will continue to try to remove Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

“We urge the Haitian National Police and military to accept accountability and arrest Ariel Henry. Once again, the population is not our adversary, and armed groups are not your enemy. You capture Ariel Henry for the sake of the country’s liberation,” Cherizier stated, adding, “With these weapons, we will liberate the country and alter the country.”

Cherizier is a former police officer who now controls a gang alliance. The United Nations and the US Department of Treasury have sanctioned him.

Public dissatisfaction with Henry’s inability to quell the unrest reached a boiling point when he refused to resign last month, citing the rising violence.

According to an earlier agreement, he agreed to hold elections and relinquish authority by February 7.

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Haiti Declares State Of Emergency After Mass Prison Escape

Caribbean leaders announced Wednesday that Henry has decided to hold general elections by August 31, 2025.

Earlier, in a post on X, one of Haiti’s police unions appealed for all officers in the capital to have access to automobiles and guns to support authorities in their efforts to keep control of the prison. It warned that if the attacks succeeded, “we’re done.” According to the statement, no one will be spared in the capital since there will be an additional 3,000 bandits.

Multiple security sources in Port-au-Prince told CNN that the most recent rise in violence, which began on Thursday and has targeted police stations, the international airport, and the prison, is unprecedented in recent memory.

The recent fighting occurred while Henry was visiting Kenya to discuss plans with Kenyan President William Ruto for the expected deployment of a multinational security support force to Haiti.

A Haitian law enforcement source told CNN that gangs have targeted various police stations throughout the city since Thursday, murdering at least four people and burning some of them down.

Meanwhile, a shooting near the airport on Thursday caused airlines to cancel flights.

The US Embassy in Haiti issued a security notice Friday, warning of gunfire and traffic interruptions between the domestic and international terminals, as well as other sites such as a hotel and the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police.

haiti

Haiti Declares State Of Emergency After Mass Prison Escape

In a statement sent Sunday, the embassy asked US people to leave the country due to violence and stated that it would operate on a restricted basis on Monday. The French Embassy in Haiti suspended visa and administration services on Monday.

In recent years, Haiti has experienced widespread turmoil and gang violence.

Warring gangs dominate much of Port-au-Prince, cutting off essential supplies to the rest of the country. Gang members have also tormented the urban area, forcing over 300,000 residents to evacuate their homes amid waves of indiscriminate slaughter, kidnapping, arson, and rape.

In January alone, about 1,100 people were killed, injured, or kidnapped, making it the most violent month in two years, according to the UN.

SOURCE – (CNN)

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Alexei Navalny: Hundreds Chant Defiance As They Bid Farewell To Navalny

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Thousands of Russians ignored fear and turned out to say goodbye to opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

On February 16, President Vladimir Putin’s most vociferous critic died in jail.

Authorities had warned that any protest would be illegal. However, a large number of police officers stood by as the crowd yelled Navalny’s name or expressed their opposition to the Russian president.

Mr Putin’s supporters, relatives, and many international leaders have all blamed him for his death.

Russian authorities refute any such allegations, claiming Navalny died of natural causes. He was spending a lengthy sentence in an Arctic jail colony on fabricated charges.

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Alexei Navalny: Hundreds Chant Defiance As They Bid Farewell To Navalny

Russian authorities refute any such allegations, claiming Navalny died of natural causes. He was spending a lengthy sentence in an Arctic jail colony on fabricated charges.

It was believed that authorities would crack down on Friday’s funeral.

Indeed, on Friday morning, a large police presence was seen in Maryino, the Moscow neighbourhood where the funeral was placed and where Navalny had resided with his family for many years.

Despite the grey winter’s day and temperatures hovering slightly around freezing, Navalny’s team estimated that the queue of people stretched for well over 1km (0.6 miles).

However, none of the police officers, many of whom were wearing full riot gear, intervened when expressions of support for Navalny became overtly political.

Thousands screamed “No to War,” “Russia Without Putin,” and “Russia Will Be Free,” sentiments that have previously cost numerous Russians in jail.

The memorial service started shortly after 14:00 Moscow time (11:00 GMT) at the Church of the Icon of Our Lady Quench My Sorrows.

It came after much confusion and protests from Navalny’s team that the authorities were making arrangements difficult, including locating a hearse.

However, hundreds began to come hours before the proceedings began. Foreign dignitaries, including ambassadors from the United States, Germany, and France, later joined them.

The ceremony inside the church was brief; a photograph on social media depicted an open casket, which is usual in Russia, with mourners paying their respects. Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila, and father, Anatoly, were spotted sitting together.

People threw flowers and carnations onto the hearse as the church bell tolled and Navalny’s casket was hauled outside, shouting, “We won’t forget you!”

Following the service, several people approached Lyudmila and hugged her, saying, “Thank you for your son” and “forgive us”.

Navalny’s widow, Yulia; his daughters Daria, 23; Zakhar, 15; and his brother, Oleg, are all believed to reside overseas and were absent.

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Hundreds Chant Defiance As They Bid Farewell To Navalny

Yulia has lately stated that she will continue Navalny’s political activities, which may make it dangerous for her to return to Russia, where Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has been branded an extremist organization.

While the burial occurred, she posted a heartfelt tribute on social media, praising Navalny for “26 years of absolute happiness”.

“I don’t know how to live without you, but I will try to do it so you – up there – can be happy and proud of me,” she said.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation team took the initiative to provide live feeds of the burial proceedings without independent Russian media.

The YouTube channel from which Navalny frequently addressed his fans streamed footage from his funeral. More than a quarter of a million people tuned in all day.

The burial was finally held in Borisovskoye Cemetery around 16:00.

Navalny’s coffin was lowered into the ground to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s My Way and an orchestral version of the Terminator 2 theme song. “Navalny thought The Terminator 2 was the best film in the whole world,” his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on social media.

People continued to queue outside the cemetery as dusk fell, where a sign read: “Putin killed him but didn’t break him.”

“Now is not the time to be a coward. “Those people in our government are cowards because they are afraid of us,” one mourner told BBC Newshour. “We’re just humans with flowers and cemeteries. “That is all.”

By Friday evening, 45 people had reportedly been arrested throughout Russia for attending Navalny mourning rallies.

Overall, the brutal, broad crackdown that many had feared did not occur. In comparison, the authorities’ response to people leaving flowers at improvised memorials following Navalny’s death resulted in hundreds of arrests.

Police may seek out some people who attended today’s proceedings in the coming days. Earlier this week, it was claimed that surveillance cameras had been put around the cemetery.

navalny

Hundreds Chant Defiance As They Bid Farewell To Navalny

Before the funeral, First Department, a group of lawyers and human rights defenders, warned that detentions after the ceremony “could not be ruled out” and advised mourners to “stay under the radar of security forces – do not use public transport or apply for paperwork in the days after the funeral.”

Online initiatives, such as a website where people can light a “virtual candle” for Navalny, have drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Today was the greatest opposition gathering in Russia since Navalny’s imprisonment in January 2021.
Many mourners may have felt it was their final opportunity to join with thousands of like-minded people.

Navalny organised protests and marches for nearly a decade that drew tens of thousands of people in Moscow and elsewhere.

With him gone, it’s still being determined who else could get the level of public support he did.

SOURCE – (BBC)

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