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Officials: Strasbourg market shooter killed in shootout

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Officials Strasbourg market shooter killed in shootout

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — The man authorities say killed three people near a Christmas market in Strasbourg died Tuesday in a shootout with police at the end of two-day manhunt, French authorities said.

Paris prosecutor’s office, which handles terror cases in France, formally identified the man killed in the eastern French city as 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt, a Strasbourg-born man with a long history of convictions for various crimes, including robberies. Chekatt also had been on a watch list of potential extremists.

The news came a couple of hours after Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said a man believed to be Chekatt had been gunned down during a police operation in the city’s Neudorf neighborhood.

Castaner said the suspect opened fire on police Thursday night when officials tried to arrest him.

“The moment they tried to arrest him, he turned around and opened fired. They replied,” Castaner said.

A local police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the man who shot at police was armed with a pistol and a knife.

Strasbourg mayor Roland Ries said police acted on a top from a woman. Local police officer Emmanuel Georg told BFM TV station that three police officers patrolling the neighborhood tried to intercept a suspect corresponding to Chekatt’s description as he was about to enter a building.

“He opened fired, they responded and managed to shoot him down,” Georg said.

A witness to the shootout said he heard shots and rushed to the window to see what was happening. He closed the shutters when he spotted the cornered suspect across the street.

“I was very afraid for my children, I told them to go away, and I went to the side,” Cem Akcakaya told The Associated Press.

After it was over, he said he saw the man motionless on his back on the pavement, his left arm askew.

Chekatt is accused of killing three people and wounding 13 on Tuesday night. Castaner said earlier Thursday that three of the injured had been released from hospital and three others were fighting for their lives.

More than 700 officers were deployed to find Chekatt, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told CNews television. French authorities said Chekatt had 27 criminal convictions, receiving the first at age 13.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online, said the Islamic State group’s Amaq news agency was claiming the gunman as a “soldier” of the group, although IS claims of responsibility have often been considered opportunistic in the past.

Security forces, including the elite Raid squad, spent hours searching in the Neudorf neighborhood on Thursday based on “supposition only” that Chekatt could have been hiding in a building nearby two days after the attack, a French police official said. Chekatt grew up in Neudorf.

Chekatt allegedly shouted “God is great!” in Arabic and sprayed gunfire from a security zone near the Christmas market Tuesday evening. Authorities said he was wounded during an exchange of fire with security forces and a taxi driver dropped him off in Neudorf after he escaped.

So far, five people have been arrested and remanded in custody in connection with the investigation, including Chekatt’s parents and two of his brothers.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said the fifth, who was arrested Thursday at an undisclosed location, was a member of Chekatt’s “entourage” but not a family member.

France has raised its three-stage threat index to the highest level since the attack and deployed 1,800 additional soldiers across the country to help patrol streets and secure crowded events.

Residents of Strasbourg’s Neudorf neighborhood expressed relief.

“Everybody’s quite happy that the killer has been finally shot. I think now, the city and life can keep going on in Strasbourg,” resident Pierre Plasse said.

The people who died in the attack included a Thai tourist, 45-year-old Anupong Suebsamarn, according to the Thai Foreign Ministry. Five of the wounded were in serious condition, the prefecture of the Strasbourg region said.

French President Emmanuel Macron was in Brussels on Thursday for a European Union summit. EU leaders held a minute of silence for the latest victims of a mass shooting in France.

Hundreds of people gathered in Strasbourg’s 500-year-old cathedral Thursday evening to mourn and seek comfort.

“Evil does not prevail,” Archbishop Luc Ravel said. “And the message of Christmas has not been contradicted but rather confirmed by Tuesday’s dramatic night: Evil and good are both there, but in the end the good will have last word.”

Strasbourg’s usually busy streets were eerily empty Thursday morning, with a heavy police and military presence. Some lit candles and brought flowers to a makeshift memorial at the site of the attack.

“You can feel a very heavy atmosphere due all these events,” said resident Lucille Romance. “People are in a state of shock and are avoiding getting out of their house.”

___

Petrequin and Ganley reported from Paris. Jean-Francois Badias in Strasbourg, Sylvie Corbet, Deborah Gouffran, Elena Becatoros and Elaine Ganley in Paris, Colleen Barry in Milan, Italy, Raf Casert and Angela Charlton in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this story.

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Foreign Affairs

Here’s hoping there’s a plan we don’t know about with North Korea

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Heres hoping theres a plan we dont know about with North Korea

In a move that many, including supporters on the right, are calling a move of weakness, the President reversed the Treasury Department’s additional sanctions on North Korea.

My Take

I’m just not sure what to make of this. I understand many have been concerned about how nicely the President has treated Kim Jong un, but I’ve always felt there was some sort of plan happening behind the scenes that would justify it. Now, I’m not so sure.

This move emboldens Kim to continue avoiding any compromise on his nuclear weapons program. It tells him and the rest of the world President Trump isn’t going to be playing hardball and intends to coax the North Korean dictator into signing some sort of agreement before the 2020 elections.

Dare I say, this seems very Obamaesque? Where’s the hardball? Where’s the threats against Rocketman? If there’s some sort of 4D chess being played in the background, I seriously hope we see it in play soon. This is a strange move.

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Immigration

Vice President reacts to Atlanta Mayor Bottoms’ move to turn away ICE detainees

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Vice President reacts to Atlanta Mayor Bottoms move to turn away ICE detainees

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made headlines this week when she announced an executive order forbidding her city’s jails from accepting ICE detainees. It was a move that drew harsh criticism from both sides. The right obviously wanted her to work with immigration enforcement to ease the already-strained detention system for border patrol and ICE. The left told her this would only redirect ICE agents to use for-profit private jails.

But Bottoms was resolute despite the criticism.

“I, like many others, have been horrified watching the impact of President Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy on children and families,” Bottoms said in a statement. “My personal angst has been compounded by the City of Atlanta’s long-standing agreement with the U.S. Marshal’s Office to house ICE detainees in our City jail.”

Vice President Mike Pence brought up the issue in a speech he delivered to ICE employees in Atlanta.

Now, I know you’ve got a hard job. And unfortunately, with the debate in the public square today, sometimes it gets harder. I heard on my way down here that the mayor of Atlanta recently announced that the city government wouldn’t cooperate with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement when it comes to the detention of criminal illegal aliens in this city.

And I — it is amazing to think — the mayor actually said that she would, in her words, “not be complicit in an immigration policy that intentionally inflicts misery.” Well, I would say to the mayor that criminal illegal immigrants, gang members on our streets, are what inflict misery.

The flow of illegal drugs, like cocaine and meth and fentanyl, inflict misery and wreck our families and communities. Human trafficking inflicts misery. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the men and women who enforce our laws do not inflict misery. They bring safety and security to the people of Atlanta, and they deserve the respect of every elected official in this country.

My Take

It’s one thing to object to measures put forth by the federal government. This can be a good thing as the tenets of limited-government federalism teach us. DC is far too powerful right now and cities need to be willing to stand up just as individuals and states do.

But this move by Bottoms is nothing more than political fodder. She’s trying to build a name for herself as someone who stood up to the President’s immigration policy, but is putting her own city and citizens at risk as a result. When ICE has no place to detain criminal illegal immigrants, they often have no recourse but to release them. This may seem insane, but that’s the state of our immigration system thanks to people like Bottoms.

Keep in mind, they aren’t bringing “family units” or separating children from their families, which is the premise behind Bottoms’ protest. The people ICE brings to Atlanta jails are criminals. These are people who have, in many cases, done harm to people who live in Atlanta. For Bottoms to get political while putting her own citizens at risk is ridiculous.

Such is the state of a divided America where Democrats are willing to harm American citizens if it means scoring political points against President Trump. Mayor Bottoms should not be celebrated. She should be condemned for bowing to political expediency.

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Foreign Affairs

Mike Pompeo responds to Venezuela, Biden’s world tour, Hezbollah, and Israel

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Mike Pompeo responds to Venezuela Bidens world tour Hezbollah and Israel

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared on Fox News last night to talk to Shannon Bream about the tumultuous state of affairs around the world and how the United States is handling them.

First, he discussed Venezuela and recent developments where Nicolas Maduro’s regime has essentially framed members of Juan Guaido’s team in an effort to jail and stop the opposition to his presidency there. The Secretary of State said they would hold Maduro’s regime accountable for their actions, but would not elaborate on how U.S. intervention in the poverty-torn nation would manifest.

He jabbed at potential Democratic 2020 candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is being allegedly courted by world leaders to run for the White House in hopes he could bring back proper relations. As Pompeo noted, our relations with world leaders is in a current state of positive action despite the President’s harsh stance with many of them.

As for Hezbollah, Pompeo said the U.S. would press Lebanon for the sake of its people to facilitate change from the anti-Israel, anti-American Hezbollah rule that has basically made the nation a pawn for Iran.

As for the Israel front. where Pompeo was speaking from, he said calls by people like Beto O’Rourke and others to undermine the conservative base shared by the United States and Israel would not help the situation. Only through the President’s peace plan can the Middle East move forward, according to Pompeo.

My Take

Until the Venezuelan government asks directly for help, there should be no action by the United States other than aid for the people. This is an internal affair. Just because the leadership is challenged doesn’t make it our problem. If there was ever a time when the United Nations should flex its puny muscles, that time is now and the place is Venezuela.

Any foreign leaders calling on Biden to replace Trump are doing so because they do not want the United States to continue to maintain and improve upon its position of strength on the world stage. They prefer the good ol’ days under President Obama when the United States was a pawn for many other nations.

Hezbollah must go. That’s not to say we need to be involved with that, but Lebanon will never be free and prosperous as long as they’re the proxy for Iran.

Lastly, the Secretary of State seemed to be echoing a notion that the President would push for a 2-state solution. If that’s the case, it’s a huge mistake. Otherwise, Pompeo is correct in asserting the backwards notions of the Democrats lashing out against President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

We’re in a time when foreign affairs are starting to take center stage. Yes, we have problems of our own, but to ignore the growing threats abroad would be a mistake. It’s good the administration is handling these issues.

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