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Kenya says all gunmen killed in hotel attack; 14 victims

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s security forces have killed the Islamic extremist gunmen whose assault on a luxury hotel and shopping complex took 14 “innocent lives,” the country’s president said Wednesday.

“All the terrorists have been eliminated,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in announcing an end to the overnight operation to secure the complex in the capital, Nairobi.

In a televised address, Kenyatta did not say how many attackers were involved. He said more than 700 people were evacuated during the security operation and urged Kenyans to “go back to work without fear,” saying the East African country is safe.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard while scores of people were rescued at daybreak during what police called a “mopping-up” exercise. A new blast was heard in the afternoon as witnesses said security forces were making a sweep of the complex for any explosives.

Surveillance video showed the attack that began Tuesday afternoon involved at least four armed men.

Al-Shabab — the extremist group allied to al-Qaida and based in neighbouring Somalia — claimed responsibility for the carnage at the DusitD2 hotel complex, which includes bars, restaurants, offices and banks and is in Nairobi’s well-to-do Westlands neighbourhood with many foreign expatriates. Al-Shabab carried out the 2013 attack at the nearby Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people.

Most of the victims were Kenyans, a mortuary attendant said. The U.S. State Department confirmed that an American citizen was among the dead, and the company I-DEV International confirmed that its co-founder, Jason Spindler, had been killed. The British high commissioner in Kenya said at least one British national had been killed, without giving details.

Two local victims had been working on a fund to “bring peace and prosperity to Somalia through more than 100 local community initiatives,” the London-based Adam Smith International said of its employees.

Kenyan authorities sent special forces into the hotel to flush out the gunmen. Scores of people were rushed to safety in the early morning hours as explosions and gunfire continued.

“To God be the Glory. We have been rescued. Over 50 people in my group. No injuries,” tweeted a Kenyan businesswoman, Aggie Asiimwe Konde.

Describing the ordeal, Lucy Wanjiru said she had been trying to flee when she saw a woman on the ground floor get shot. She ended up in a washroom with several other scared people. Her friend Cynthia Kibe stayed in contact with her by phone overnight.

“I think I panicked when she told me that the gunshots are next to her,” Kibe said. “I had to keep telling her ‘Just wait, help is on the way, they are almost there, they are almost there.’ And then at one point she was like, ‘Please tell me I am getting out of here alive’ and then it was just like my breaking point.”

Mourning families and friends gathered at a nearby mortuary.

“I am a Muslim and I am Somali, I am Kenyan living here, and in that way I can assure you if al-Shabab found me today they call us what they call ‘Mortad’ (apostates), that is, someone who works against them and they wouldn’t differentiate me from yourself,” said Mohamed Yasin Jama, a friend of two colleagues killed.

The co-ordinated assault began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank, and a suicide bombing in the hotel lobby that severely wounded a number of guests, said Kenya’s national police chief, Joseph Boinnet.

Kenyan hospitals appealed for blood donations even as the number of wounded remained unclear.

Associated Press video from inside the hotel showed Kenyan security officers searching the building and scared workers emerging from hiding while gunfire could be heard. Some climbed out a window by ladder. One man got up from the floor where he appeared to be trying to hide under a piece of wood paneling, then showed his ID.

Like the attack at the Westgate Mall, this one appeared aimed at wealthy Kenyans and foreigners. It came a day after a magistrate ruled that three men must stand trial in connection with the Westgate Mall siege.

Al-Shabab has vowed retribution against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight it since 2011. Tuesday’s violence came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people.

The group has killed hundreds of people in Kenya. In the deadliest attack, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an assault on Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015 that killed 147 people, mostly students.

The latest carnage demonstrated al-Shabab’s continued ability to carry out spectacular acts of bloodshed despite a dramatic increase in U.S. airstrikes against it under President Donald Trump.

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Associated Press writer Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg contributed.

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Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa

Ben Curtis, The Associated Press












































































































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Theatre star Nick Cordero dies at 41 after months of complications from COVID-19

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TORONTO — Hamilton-raised theatre star Nick Cordero, who had legions of supporters rallying for him on social media during his harrowing health battle with COVID-19, has died in Los Angeles.

His wife, dancer-turned-celebrity personal trainer Amanda Kloots, said Cordero died on Sunday morning, “surrounded in love by his family.”

He was 41.

“My heart is broken as I cannot imagine our lives without him,” Kloots wrote on Instagram. “Nick was such a bright light. He was everyone’s friend, loved to listen, help and especially talk. He was an incredible actor and musician. He loved his family and loved being a father and husband.”

The Tony Award-nominated actor, singer and musician first entered hospital in L.A. at the beginning of April with what was seemingly a case of pneumonia, said Kloots.

Doctors suspected it was the novel coronavirus and administered three tests for it.

The first two tests came back negative and the third was positive for COVID-19.

The disease ravaged his body, according to Kloots, who kept the world updated on his situation daily with posts on her Instagram account.

She said doctors described his lungs as being riddled with holes and looking as if he’d been smoking for 50 years, even though he wasn’t a smoker.

He had a lingering lung infection and major complications from the disease, including blood pressure problems and clotting issues that led to the amputation of his right leg.

Cordero was in an intensive care unit on various machines to help support his heart, lungs and kidneys.

He was in a medically-induced coma but had come out of it before his death.

Kloots put on a brave face on her Instagram account, posting positive messages and often appearing with their son, Elvis, who just had his first birthday.

She encouraged everyone to play Cordero’s song “Live Your Life” to help send positive vibes for him into the universe.

Her plea spurred countless Instagram users, including some celebrities and Broadway stars, to post videos of themselves dancing to “Live Your Life” and performing various incarnations of it.

Kloots said that on Sunday, she sang the song to him in person, holding his hands.

As I sang the last line to him, ‘they’ll give you hell but don’t you (let) them kill your light not without a fight. Live your life,’ I smiled because he definitely put up a fight,” she wrote.

Along with her daily “Nick update” on her account, Kloots also often told heartwarming stories of their relationship and life together.

She said they struck up a relationship while they were performing on the Great White Way in “Bullets Over Broadway,” which earned him the Tony nomination.

Cordero grew up in Hamilton’s west end and attended Ryerson University for acting.

He was also nominated for a Drama Desk Award for his role in the musical “A Bronx Tale.” His other stage credits included “Rock of Ages.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2020.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press


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Tories, NDP at odds over federal spending as Liberals prepare fiscal snapshot

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OTTAWA — Opposition parties have laid out their demands for the federal Liberal government as Ottawa prepares to update Canadians on the country’s finances after four months of COVID-19 — and where it expects the economy to head for the rest of the year.

Wednesday’s fiscal snapshot will be the first public assessment of the country’s economic and financial situation since the pandemic started in earnest in March, forcing provinces into lockdown and the Liberal government to start doling out billions in aid in lieu of a federal budget.

The snapshot is expected to give an idea of how the government sees the rest of the fiscal year playing out, including figures for a potential deficit.

But the Conservatives and NDP made clear Sunday that they want more than just numbers: they want action. That includes additions, changes and expansions to federal COVID-19 support programs along with more accountability and transparency.

Yet while the Conservatives also called for the Liberals to produce a plan to get government spending under control, the NDP warned against any premature efforts to cut federal assistance.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre on Sunday blasted the Liberals’ handling of the economy while small business critic James Cumming underscored the importance of accurate fiscal projections and planning from the government for Canadian business.

“What business needs as they start to open up is some level of certainty,” Cumming said during a news conference on Parliament Hill.

“They need to understand what the government’s finances are to understand how long these programs are going to last to assist them and when they will be starting to phase out. And a lot of that has a lot to do with the financial health of the government.”

Federal figures last week showed direct government spending on COVID-19 supports at just over $174 billion, which included another increase to the budget for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. That is now expected to cost $80 billion as eligibility increased to 24 from 16 weeks.

At the same time, Statistics Canada last week reported that the Canadian economy shrank 11.6 per cent in April — the largest monthly drop on record. That follows a 7.5 contraction in gross domestic product in March. Both are expected to hit Ottawa’s bottom line through lost tax revenue.

Parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux has previously predicted that the increased spending and lost revenue could combine to see the federal deficit top $250 million this year.

With COVID-19 in retreat across most of the country — at least for the moment — Poilievre said it was time for the Liberals to produce a plan to start getting what he described as Ottawa’s “fiscal mess” under control.

That includes weaning Canadians off the CERB and getting them back to work by phasing out the $2,000-per-month benefit based on how much they earn rather than simply cutting off anyone who earns more than $1,000 in a month.

“The government is punishing Canadians for working,” Poilievre said. “We think that people on it should be rewarded when they make the courageous decision to go back to work and make a wage.”

Poilievre, who also demanded more money for the federal auditor general’s office to better scrutinize government spending during the pandemic, dismissed suggestions that Ottawa needs to keep the taps wide open to stimulate the economy as it starts to reopen.

He instead took aim at various Liberal policies and regulations around natural-resource development, particularly in Alberta and Saskatchewan, as having stunted economic growth and prosperity in Canada.

“Removing these government obstacles is the way you unleash growth and create a cornucopia of opportunity for our workers and businesses that will generate the wealth,” he said. “More deficit spending does not create jobs and growth.”

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet also called last week for the CERB to be phased out to encourage Canadians to return to work. He made an exception for seasonal workers in the arts, hospitality and agricultural industries who will not earn a full income until next summer.

Yet NDP finance critic Peter Julian warned against any early cut to COVID-19 benefits and support and instead repeated longstanding calls from his party for the federal government to crack down on tax havens and tax wealthy Canadians and businesses to pay for the federal aid.

“There’s been a call for … dealing with the economic and financial fallout of the pandemic through cutting services,” Julian said in an interview.

“We actually believe that now is the time to handle the pandemic from the revenue side. We believe in tackling the tax haven problem, which is more acute in Canada than any other country. And to put in place a wealth tax.”

The NDP is also pressing for the Liberals to ease the criteria for businesses to access the federal wage subsidy, which covers up to 75 per cent of employees’ salaries, to encourage more hiring. And it wants the government to provide promised support for Canadians living with disabilities.

While the fiscal update will be presented in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Julian said the report itself will not require a vote. However, he suggested NDP support for future legislative proposals from the government could be contingent on the Liberals accepting the NDP’s requests.

The Liberals have leaned heavily on the NDP since being elected to a minority government in October. That included securing NDP support for several confidence motions in the winter and spring that, if defeated, could have triggered a federal election.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2020.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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