Christchurch attacks: Al-Noor mosque reopens to worshippers


Members of the Muslim community react as they leave the Al Noor Mosque in ChristchurchImage copyright
AFP

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Small groups were allowed to enter the Al Noor mosque on Saturday

Worshippers have returned to the Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch for the first time since a mass shooting there in which dozens of people were killed.

The building had closed so police could investigate the attack but on Saturday small groups were allowed to return.

Fifty people were killed in shootings at two mosques on 15 March.

As the Al Noor mosque reopened, some 3,000 people walked through Christchurch on Saturday for a ‘march for love’ intended to honour victims.

Many walked in silence and some carried placards calling for peace and opposing racism.

“We feel like hate has brought a lot of darkness at times,” said Manaia Butler, a 16-year-old student who helped to organise the march. “Love is the strongest cure to light the city out of that darkness,” she said.

Aden Diriye, who lost his 3-year-old son in the attack, returned to the Al-Noor mosque on Saturday. “I am very happy,” he said after praying. ” I was back as soon as we rebuilt, to pray.”

Australian Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old self-proclaimed white supremacist, has been charged with one murder in connection with the attacks and he is expected to face further charges.

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Media captionThe victims have been remembered at events throughout the week

Bullet holes gone, walls repainted

With the crime scene investigation completed, the Al-Noor mosque, where the majority of the victims were killed, was handed back to the city’s Muslim community.

At around midday local time (23:00 GMT Friday), small groups of worshippers were allowed back onto the grounds, while armed police patrolled the site.

“We are allowing 15 people at a time, just to get some normality,” Saiyad Hassen, a volunteer at the mosque, told AFP news agency. He did not say when the mosque would fully reopen.

The mosque had been repaired, with bullet holes filled in and walls freshly painted – though the lack of rugs on the floor served as a reminder of what had happened.

Worshippers knelt to pray on a grey padded carpet underlay taped to the floor.

“It is the place where we pray, where we meet, we’ll be back,” Ashif Shaikh, who was in the mosque at the time of the shooting, told Reuters news agency.

Police said the nearby Linwood mosque, which was the second to be attacked, had also reopened.

Victims of the Christchurch shootings

Gun law reform

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced a ban on all types of semi-automatic weapons following the Christchurch attacks.

She said she expected new legislation to be in place by 11 April, saying: “Our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too.”

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Media captionNew Zealand’s PM said she hoped the ban would be in place by 11 April

“Six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand,” Ms Ardern said in a news conference.

“Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.”

An amnesty has been imposed so the owners of affected weapons can hand them in, and a buy-back scheme will follow.

The buy-back could cost up to NZ$200m ($138m; £104m), but Ms Ardern said “that is the price that we must pay to ensure the safety of our communities”.

Ms Ardern has also announced that a National Memorial Service for victims is being planned for next week.



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Isleworth stabbing: Teenage boy dies in fight


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Police were called to reports of a fight outside a block of flats in Union Lane

A teenage boy has been stabbed to death in west London.

He was found wounded outside a block of flats in Union Lane, Isleworth, following reports of a fight, at around 22:35 GMT on Friday.

Police officers gave first aid to the victim, who is thought to be 17, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

A murder investigation has been launched and the Met Police said a post-mortem examination and formal identification would be arranged.

Detectives from the Met’s homicide and major crime command will work with officers from the west area command unit on the case.

No arrests have been made.

Officers have begun the process of informing the next of kin.



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Mark Duggan family to sue Met Police over death


Mark DugganImage copyright
Jeff Moore

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Mark Duggan was shot by police in Tottenham

The family of Mark Duggan, whose death sparked riots across England in August 2011, are suing the Metropolitan Police for damages, BBC News has learned.

Mr Duggan, 29, was shot dead by police who believed he was carrying a gun and posed a threat.

An inquest jury found Mr Duggan was not holding the weapon when he was shot, but concluded he had been lawfully killed.

The Met said it had received a civil claim and would not comment further.

However, it is understood the force is defending the claim.

The inquest heard how armed police had intercepted a minicab Mr Duggan was travelling in after intelligence indicated he was part of a gang and had arranged to collect a gun.

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PA

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The rioting erupted following a peaceful protest

After Mr Duggan got out of the cab, one of the firearms officers – referred to as V53 – shot him twice, once in the chest.

A pistol, wrapped in a sock, was later found on grassland behind railings 10-20ft (3-6m) from Mr Duggan’s body.

Jurors concluded in January 2014 that Mr Duggan had dropped the gun when the minicab came to a stop, but decided that V53 had “honestly believed” he still had the weapon and acted lawfully in self-defence.

The civil proceedings, which are being brought by Mr Duggan’s mother, Pamela, and at least some of his children, are in their early stages.

The relatives want the Met to be held liable for his death and to pay compensation.

Stafford Scott, a community activist who has supported the Duggan family, said the legal action was a “good thing”.

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Media captionExclusive footage obtained by the BBC shows the aftermath of Mark Duggan’s shooting

He pointed out the inquest jury was told that to reach a conclusion that Mr Duggan’s death was “unlawful” they had to be “sure”, whereas the standard of proof in a civil case is based on the balance of probabilities.

He added: “Mark Duggan’s family and children have the right to have a second go at the police where the bar isn’t set as incredibly high as at the inquest.”

In a report after the inquest had ended, coroner Judge Keith Cutler said evidence gathered by investigators “did not resolve, the vexed and very important issue of what precisely happened immediately before the fatal shot was fired”.

Judge Cutler also expressed concern the Met and the Serious Organised Crime Agency could have reacted better to events before the shooting and used their joint intelligence resources more effectively.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents the officers involved, said he fully understood why the Duggan family felt the need to pursue a civil claim because they had “lost a loved one”.

But, he added the officers involved wanted to “move on”.

He said: “This has been through the justice system. The findings have been clearly laid out in the public domain.”

Mr Duggan’s family challenged the lawful killing conclusion, but the High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled against them.

The UK Supreme Court declined to hear the case and they have lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights.



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Tag in Cairngorms trial would give ‘instant fix’ on dead eagles


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Some golden eagles will be fitted with the new technology over the next 18 months

A new type of satellite tag for tracking birds of prey is being trialled in the Cairngorms National Park.

Over the next 18 months, some young golden eagles will be fitted with the Raptor Tracker.

Organisations involved in the project said the tag should provide better information on the birds’ movements.

It should also give an “instant fix” on any eagles that die, which would help in efforts to tackle wildlife crime.

Several organisations are involved in the project, including the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Scottish Natural Heritage and British Trust for Ornithology.

They said tags in current use were “limited” in what information they could provide on the exact location of any bird which dies.

The new device uses a satellite network that ensures that signal information is always available.

‘Exciting breakthrough’

The project team said that the new tag’s multiple sensors can send a “distress signal” with an exact location if unusual behaviour is detected.

This early warning system has the added benefit of helping to rapidly identify and recover birds which have died, said the team.

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Lorne Gill/SNH

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The new tag will provide more information on the movement and behaviour of golden eagles in the Cairngorms

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the trial should improve understanding of the behaviour of the Cairngorms’ golden eagles.

She said: “The tags should make a real difference in deterring would-be criminals, as well as playing a key role in establishing exactly what happened, should any of these magnificent birds of prey disappear or die in unusual circumstances.”

Grant Moir, of the national park authority, said: “Raptor conservation and tackling wildlife crime is one of the aims of the recently launched Cairngorms Nature Action Plan 2019-2023.

“This is an exciting breakthrough in the technology around raptor conservation, understanding the birds and combating wildlife crime.”

Robbie Kernahan, of Scottish Natural Heritage, described the tag as “exciting new technology”.

He said it should be a “significant deterrent” to anyone thinking of persecuting raptors.



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No-deal Brexit: What is the UK government doing to prepare?


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EU leaders have agreed on a plan to delay the Article 50 process, offering to postpone Brexit for at least two weeks beyond the original 29 March exit day.

Theresa May says she still wants to leave the EU with a deal, but if she cannot win the support of MPs then the possibility of a no-deal Brexit remains.

So with the clock still ticking, what is the government doing to prepare for a no-deal Brexit?

Operation Yellowhammer

The code name for the government’s no-deal Brexit contingency plan is Operation Yellowhammer, named after a bird.

First launched in June 2018, it covers 12 areas including transport, healthcare, energy, food and water.

It is based on worst-case scenario assumptions – delays at the border over a six-month period, increased immigration checks at EU border posts, reduction in choice and availability of food, and potential price increases for utilities, food and fuel.

Operation Yellowhammer isn’t the government’s only Brexit contingency plan, but sits alongside broader preparations.

This is to “reflect the fact that it would not be possible for departments to plan for every eventuality”, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO), and that the government would need a way of taking control and quickly coordinating different agencies to handle any short-term disruption.

Through Operation Yellowhammer, the government has been looking at what existing powers it could use to prioritise fuel to essential services or to relax rules limiting the working hours of HGV drivers, for example.

As part the contingency plans, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has made 3,500 troops, including reserves, available to be deployed if necessary.

It has also set up an operations room in a bunker at its main Whitehall building to coordinate efforts in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The MoD will not comment on exactly what role the troops could perform, only that they will “support government planning”.

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The MoD says 3,500 troops will be available to be deployed in the event of a no-deal Brexit if necessary

In its report on Yellowhammer, earlier this month, the NAO said some no-deal preparations might not be ready in time.

For example, the report said the government did not have enough time to put in place all of the infrastructure, systems and people required for fully effective border operations on day one.

The cost of Yellowhammer is part of the £1.5bn allocated by the Treasury to government departments for Brexit preparations.

For Yellowhammer to be effective, the NAO says that the “command, control and coordination” structure needs to be in place ahead of the UK leaving the EU.

So the government could decide to activate Operation Yellowhammer a few days ahead of any potential no-deal Brexit date.

But what about the government’s broader no-deal Brexit plans?

Healthcare

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says thousands of medicines have been analysed to work out what might be affected by supply disruption from the EU.

Suppliers are stockpiling an additional six weeks’ worth of these drugs over and above the usual “buffer” stock.

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Getty Images

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Plans are in place to ensure there is enough essential medicines like insulin

The same approach is being taken with vaccines as well as blood and transplant products.

The DHSC has also agreed contracts for extra warehouse space with refrigeration capacity to store these supplies.

A plane has been chartered to fly in medicines which have short shelf-lives and cannot be stockpiled, like medical radioisotopes used in cancer treatment.

Transport

The government has previously warned “there could be some freight traffic disruption in Kent in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.

That’s because under a no-deal scenario, lorries travelling between the UK and the EU will need to complete custom declarations. On top of this, certain goods from the UK, such as food and plant products, arriving into EU ports may also require physical checks, under EU single market rules.

The Port of Dover in Kent handles approximately 10,500 lorries a day and the worry is that extra checks could lead to bottlenecks, leading to many miles of tailbacks.

Independent modelling has estimated that two minutes of extra processing time for each lorry would lead to tailbacks of 17 miles.

To avoid significant disruption, Operation Brock is the name of the plan to hold up to 2,000 lorries heading for mainland Europe in a queue while keeping other traffic flowing around it.

A fallback option would be to divert lorries to the disused Manston airfield, near Ramsgate – and use it to hold up to 6,000 lorries on the runway at any one time.

If further capacity was still required, a “last resort” would be to turn the M26 into a temporary lorry park. The M26 is a 10-mile motorway connecting the M25 at Sevenoaks and the M20, near West Malling.

Under this scenario, the M26 would be closed to normal road users and lorries would park on the carriageway. Kent County Council believes this option could accommodate an additional 2,000 lorries.

Roadworks have been taking place to install a temporary steel barrier on the M20 that would be used for Operation Brock.

Kent County Council has also issued advice to local schools suggesting pupils and staff cold be moved inside school buildings if extra lorry traffic causes air pollution to increase.

Food

The government has published a “tariff schedule” – a list of the taxes placed on different types of products when they are imported from other countries – which has removed most tariffs on imports in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

It will mean some goods from outside the EU that currently attract a tariff could be cheaper. And some goods from the EU that are currently imported with 0% tariffs, like beef and dairy, will now carry tariffs, and so could become more expensive.

The British Retail Consortium has warned that there could be gaps on supermarket shelves if there is disruption at the border.

Irish border

The UK government published on 13 March its contingency plan to avoid a hard border (ie physical infrastructure) in Ireland in the event on a no-deal Brexit.

Under the plans, the UK will not bring in new checks or controls or require customs declarations for any goods moving from across from Ireland to Northern Ireland in the event of no deal.

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But this will only be a temporary measure while negotiations take place to find longer term solutions. The UK government says its contingency plan recognises “the unique social, political and economic circumstances of Northern Ireland”.

To protect people’s health, some plant and animal products that come into Northern Ireland from outside the EU, via Ireland, will still need to be checked. The UK government has said these checks will not happen at the border itself. But it has not specified exactly where they will take place.

It remains unclear what will happen to goods travelling from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland. Under EU rules, checks would normally be required at the point certain goods enter the EU single market (such as at the Irish land border).

However, the Irish government says there are “no plans for Border Inspection Posts on the border with Northern Ireland.”

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Brexit: What are indicative votes?


MPs in Commons during PMQsImage copyright
UK Parliament

The term “indicative votes” has joined the crowded field of Brexit jargon recently. But what does it mean?

Indicative votes are where MPs vote on a series of options designed to test the will of Parliament to see what, if anything, commands a majority.

In the case of Brexit, supporters of indicative votes believe it could provide a way out of the current political deadlock.

How would it work?

Before any indicative votes can take place, MPs must secure the parliamentary time for debate. Usually the government has control over what happens day-to-day.

MPs have tried – and narrowly failed – to take control away from the government in recent weeks, but a fresh attempt by a cross-party group of MPs, including Labour’s Hilary Benn and Conservative Sir Oliver Letwin, may prove successful on Monday evening.

However, to avoid being forced, the government could voluntarily set aside time for MPs to debate – something ministers have previously suggested.

Though the precise format is unknown, one possible process would see a series of motions being presented setting out each Brexit option. MPs would then vote on each option in turn with the results announced after each vote.

But this would mean that the order in which the choices are presented would be very important. That is because once each Brexit option is rejected, it would not be voted on again.

That means each group of MPs would be fighting for their preference to be voted on last, in the hope all other options are rejected and theirs is the last one standing.

Ken Clarke – the longest-serving MP in Parliament – has suggested MPs ranking their preferences to avoid this issue.

Alternatively, MPs could vote on all options at the same time with every result announced at the end – this would lessen the likelihood of tactical voting.

The exact details are still to be confirmed.

Would MPs be forced to vote a particular way?

Usually, MPs are instructed to vote with their party line (a process known as “whipping”) and they can face repercussions if they don’t.

But with indicative votes, MPs might be allowed “free votes” – where they can choose to vote as they wish – meaning the final outcome could be substantially different.

Government ministers have indicated free votes are likely.

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UK Parliament

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Ken Clarke has suggested MPs should be able to vote in order of their Brexit preferences

Does it tie the government’s hands?

Any decision taken by indicative votes would not compel the government into pursuing that course of action, but would show what Parliament wants and where the most votes lie.

However, there is always a risk that either no single Brexit option secures a majority, or more than one does. If this happens then Parliament would still find itself deadlocked over Brexit.

If certain options such as Norway plus or another referendum are chosen and enacted by the government, it would require a longer extension to Article 50.

When have they happened before?

The last time indicative votes were used was in 2003 when MPs were presented with seven different options on how to reform the House of Lords.

It produced exactly the deadlock some fear would be the case over Brexit as nothing was able to secure a majority.

This meant reforms were not passed and the status quo prevailed.

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Indicative votes were last used in 2003 over House of Lords reform, but it did not end the deadlock

But haven’t MPs already voted on all the options?

MPs have had a number of opportunities to vote on different ways forward over the last year, including holding another referendum, leaving without a deal and forming a customs union.

It’s a point that Theresa May has previously made:

“There have been votes in this House on some of the other proposals that have been brought forward, and those have equally been rejected”, she told the Commons.

But these have all been part of whipped votes attached to different pieces of legislation or debates, so the different proposals have not yet been considered side by side in the same context with MPs being allowed to vote freely.

There are a couple of proposals that have not been tested by votes in the House of Commons yet, including revoking Article 50 – effectively cancelling Brexit – and opting for a harder form of Brexit than Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, along the lines of the EU’s relationship with Canada.

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Raheem Sterling: England hat-trick ‘what dreams are made of’


Raheem Sterling has now scored seven goals in 48 appearances for England

Raheem Sterling finished England’s last European Championship campaign as the self-proclaimed “hated one”.