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‘Kill team’ leader Gibbs guilty

US soldiers file photoGibbs’ 5th Stryker Brigade was deployed in western Kandahar, Afghanistan

A US military court has convicted an American soldier of three counts of premeditated murder for leading a rogue “kill team” in Afghanistan.

Sgt Calvin Gibbs, 26, admitted cutting and keeping fingers from corpses as war trophies, but said he was returning enemy fire and did not set out to kill.

He was given life for 15 convictions related to the killing of three men, but could be paroled within nine years.

Three co-defendants in the case pleaded guilty, and two testified against him.

Gibbs, from Billings, Montana, was the highest-ranking of the soldiers charged with murder.

Prosecutors told the jury that Gibbs and the other soldiers dropped weapons by the bodies to make them appear to be combatants.

Gibbs’ lawyer argued that the three who pleaded guilty conspired to blame him for their own actions.

The jury of five deliberated for four hours before announcing the verdict, pronouncing him guilty on all 15 charges against him.

He faces life in prison, either with or without parole.

Unanswered call

The investigation initially began as a wider inquiry into 5th Stryker Brigade, the unit Gibbs deployed with to Afghanistan.

The platoon was “out of control”, a prosecutor said, including smoking hash, photographing Afghan remains and beating a soldier who reported the drug use.

One member of the brigade, then-Specialist Adam Winfield, told his parents when the first Afghan civilian was killed, and alerted them more killings were planned.


A US Chinook helicopter and US Soldiers in Afghanistan in June 2005

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Two former colleagues testified to army investigators about the alleged self-styled “kill team”

But nothing appeared to change after Winfield’s father called to report the information to a sergeant at the American base where the brigade was based.

Winfield pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the last killing, and received a reduced sentence.

He testified at a hearing that he believed Gibbs would kill him if he did not take part in the violence.

Testimony also came from Spc Jeremy Morlock, who is serving 24 years in prison for his involvement.

According to Morlock, when Gibbs joined the platoon in 2010, he began describing scenarios to kill civilians, saying it would be easy to get away with.

Morlock testified that Gibbs used grenades against two of his victims, and placed an AK-47 near another victim to make it appear he had been armed.

‘Disassociated’

Gibbs took the stand in his own defence during the seven-day court martial, saying he kept the fingers of the dead Afghans because he was “disassociated” during combat and said it was “like keeping the antlers off a deer you’d shoot”.

The killings occurred during routine patrols in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in early 2010.

In March 2011, photographs were published showing the soldiers posing with the bloody corpses of Afghan civilians they had just killed.

The images, described by the US Army as “disturbing and in striking contrast to the standards and values of the US Army” prompted the army to apologise for the distress the photos caused.

In addition to the five soldiers charged with murder, seven other soldiers were charged with less serious, related offences.

Most have agreed to plea deals and all but two have been convicted.

Judge upholds New York eviction

Protesters celebrate after being let back into Zuccotti ParkProtesters were let back into the park in single file a short time after the ruling

A New York court has ruled that a pre-dawn clearance of the Occupy Wall Street camp at Zuccotti Park was legal.

Hundreds of protesters returned to the park as night fell on Tuesday, but they will now not be allowed to pitch tents or use generators in the plaza.

Police arrested some 200 people in a surprise pre-dawn raid and later detained several journalists.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the move was prompted by public health and safety concerns.

The court ruling came at dusk in New York, with hundreds of protesters still gathered around the barricades at Zuccotti Park.

Around 17:30 local time (22:30 GMT), protesters were allowed back into the park, in single file.

Protesters began discussing new plans and the mood remained positive, according to a BBC reporter at the park.

Drummers and guitarists kept playing and some gathered at a junction with nearby Broadway. Organisers handed out ponchos as rain began to fall, but there was no immediate sense of a concerted plan, our reporter said.

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At the scene




Daniel Klein shows me his bruised face and his broken ribs – a casualty, he said, of last night’s eviction of Zuccotti Park by the NYPD. Daniel is back, and intends to stay in the park overnight, somehow – though he can’t sleep here.

A few people sit on the stone benches, wearing space blankets. That seems permissible under the new rules – no sleeping bags, no lying down. Some protesters intend to spend the night in local churches, others in the houses of supporters.

Chris and Mike, brothers who work for a football charity, say it makes no difference to the movement whether people can camp here or not. “Things are bad and they’re not getting any better,” says Chris.

The nightly general assembly discusses the possibility of moving to a different location in Manhattan. The police stand watchfully by, as newly hired burly security guards monitor comings and goings in the newly cleaned park.

Police said there was no official curfew, but that protesters would not be allowed to sleep at the park. Protesters with backpacks and large bags were not allowed inside.

“Whatever the ruling, we have the right to protest. This is our city. This has been our home for two months. The whole world is waiting to see what is happening here,” one protester told the BBC.

Freedom of assembly

At the New York Supreme Court, Justice Michael Stallman denied a motion brought by lawyers for the protesters, saying that rights guaranteed under the first amendment to the US constitution do not entitle them to camp out indefinitely in the plaza.

His judgment allows continued demonstrations, but prevents “tents, structures, generators and other installations”.

Mr Stallman said the protesters had not “demonstrated that the rules adopted by the owners of the property… are not reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions permitted under the First Amendment”.

Speaking after the judgement, New York’s mayor said the rights of non-protesters were as important as the rights of those wanting to stay in the park.

“The court’s ruling vindicates our position that First Amendment rights do not include the right to endanger the public or infringe on the rights of others by taking over a public space with tents and tarps,” Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.

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Start Quote

This is where it all started. A global movement opposed to corporate greed, the political power of big business and what the protesters see as the injustice of inequality. But is this where it all ends, too?”

End Quote




White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on board Air Force One that the Obama administration believes local city governments must each make their own decision on how to deal with protesters, the Associated Press reported.

A number of other US protest camps have also been cleared in recent days.

Police arrested dozens of people in Oakland, California as they closed the protest camp in the centre of that city on Monday morning.

There was a fatal shooting near the camp last week and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said she had to evict the demonstrators “before someone else got hurt”.

Since the weekend, police have also closed solidarity protest camps in Portland, Oregon; Burlington, Vermont; Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; and St Louis, Missouri.

Moving occupation

Tuesday’s operation, launched at about 01:00 (06:00 GMT), swept most of the demonstrators out within an hour.


Protesters re-enter Zuccotti Park

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Paul Browne, NYPD: ”It was done in a very even-handed and restrained way”

As a helicopter circled above, clean-up crews worked through the night clearing away piles of rubbish.

Dozens attempted to resist arrest by linking arms or chaining themselves together with bicycle locks.

“I was bleeding profusely. They shoved a lot of people’s faces into the ground,” protester Max Luisdaniel Santos, 31, told the Associated Press news agency.

Protesters also assembled at nearby Foley Square, and posted updates from there to a new Twitter account.

Some also tried to occupy Duarte Square, but were thwarted by police, who made several arrests.

Small-business owners had complained about the noise and unsanitary conditions in Zuccotti Park, accusing demonstrators of messing up their toilet facilities and driving away customers.

Virginia Tech killer acted alone

Photo of Deriek CrouseOfficer Deriek Crouse, 39, was a married father of five

The man who shot dead a police officer before turning the gun on himself at Virginia Tech’s campus acted alone, investigators have said.

Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller says they are still trying to determine why Officer Deriek Crouse was attacked.

She told journalists the gunman ran from the scene on Thursday and changed clothes before taking his own life.

The university was the site of the worst US school shooting, in 2007, when a gunman killed 32 people and himself.

Ms Geller told Friday’s news conference that the gunman was not a student at Virginia Tech.

But she declined to say more until the medical examiner confirms his identity and next of kin are notified.

Suspect on tape

Investigators have found no link between the gunman and Officer Crouse, a married father of five and 39-year-old Army veteran.

The policeman was attacked while performing a routine traffic stop in a car park shortly after midday on Thursday.

The student driving the car had pulled up beside Officer Crouse, who was inside the police car.

The gunman, who was not linked to the car that was pulled over, walked up and opened fire at close range, before fleeing on foot.

It is not known where the officer was wounded or if he was wearing body armour. He did not return fire. However, a video camera inside the officer’s vehicle captured footage of the suspect.

Ms Geller said the shooter then changed his clothes in an effort to escape the police, taking off a jumper and woollen cap. He put them in a backpack and left it behind a greenhouse.


Student Juliet Fielding

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Student Juliet Fielding saw the police attempting to revive a fellow officer

He was later spotted by another policeman in a nearby car park. He was alone and looked “suspicious”, reports say.

As the policeman approached, the man disappeared from sight and was found on the ground, apparently having shot himself. The gun was found close to the body.

Ms Geller said it is likely the assailant had stolen a rental car at gunpoint about 15 miles from Blacksburg, earlier on Thursday.

On Friday, Virginia State Police said in a news release that “ballistics evidence testing has officially linked the two fatal shootings”.

Broken hearts

An official vigil is planned on Friday night.

About 150 students gathered in a candlelight vigil on Thursday evening at the campus memorial for the shootings of four years ago.

“Our hearts are broken again,” said university President Charles W Steger.

Officer Crouse received an award in 2008 for his commitment to the department’s efforts to deter drink-driving. He was trained as a crisis intervention officer and a defensive tactics instructor.

He was one of about 50 officers on the campus force and had served there for four years, joining about six months after the 2007 massacre.

That tragedy prompted the university, which has about 30,000 students, to implement a highly sophisticated security alert system.

After Thursday’s initial report of gunfire, the procedure was activated. Texts and emails were sent to staff and students warning them to stay indoors.

The campus was placed on lockdown for several hours as police Swat teams scoured the area.

The bloodshed came on the same day as Virginia Tech appealed against a $55,000 (£35,200) fine imposed by the government for not reacting quickly enough to the 2007 massacre.

Thirty-two people died in April that year when a 23-year-old South Korean, Seung-Hui Cho, went on a gun rampage before turning the weapon on himself.

Arrests at Occupy ‘day of action’


Scuffles between NYPD and protesters

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The BBC’s Laura Trevelyan says the situation around the New York Stock Exchange was tense before the opening bell

Occupy Wall Street protesters are preparing for new demonstrations after about 100 people were arrested near the New York Stock Exchange in the morning.

A solidarity protest in Los Angeles saw 20 people arrested for sitting in a street as hundreds marched downtown.

City officials in Dallas evicted the protesters’ camp there, arresting 18.

In New York, demonstrators plan to occupy 16 subway stations on Thursday afternoon and march from City Hall across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Most of the arrests in New York happened at a rally to mark two months of protest. City officials had expected “tens of thousands” of protesters throughout the day.

Police blocked streets and protesters massed at junctions on the edge of the city’s financial district.

Scuffles broke out, with police dragging some protesters away.

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Analysis




It was tense at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway, with protesters shouting “shame” as police in riot gear arrested those they said were being disruptive. In the shadow of the New York Stock Exchange police erected barricades, keeping hundreds of protesters at bay. “Welcome to the police state,” shouted demonstrators. “Get your corporate ID out.”

The rush hour was disrupted, the streets around Wall Street full of those who had come to protest against corporate greed. “Pigs” they yelled as rows of NYPD officers moved protesters back.

Then as soon as the scuffles had begun they ended – now the protesters are back at Zuccotti Park, and later they will converge on subway stations and try to march over the Brooklyn Bridge. They want to prove the breaking up of their encampment hasn’t ended their movement. The police don’t want protesters to leave the bridge’s pedestrian walkway, and there could be a clash in the offing.

Later on Thursday, protesters in San Francisco occupied a branch of Bank of America, holding signs including one that read: “Make Banks Pay”.

A police department spokesman told Reuters that 95 demonstrators were arrested at the bank, most on suspicion of trespassing.

‘Bad guys’

“You do not have a parade permit! You are blocking the street!” a police officer told protesters through a bullhorn during the morning’s protests.

Some protesters were arrested after they sat down in an intersection, while others were arrested as they tried to get closer to the stock exchange.

“All day, all week, shut down Wall Street!” the crowd chanted.

Gene Williams, a bond trader, joked to the Associated Press that he was “one of the bad guys” but said he empathised with the demonstrators.

“They have a point in a lot of ways,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, there is a schism between the rich and the poor and it’s getting wider.”

Lost camps

Thursday’s demonstrations were before Tuesday’s surprise pre-dawn raid of Zuccotti Park, where demonstrators had been camping.

Police allowed them to return but banned them from setting up camp again. Numbers dwindled to fewer than two dozen overnight.

Police chase a protester on the streets of New York, 17 November 2011The aim of the morning’s protest was to disrupt the New York Stock Exchange

Some of the 200 protesters detained during the eviction appeared in court on Wednesday.

A number of similar encampments have been removed in US cities in recent days.

Scores of arrests were made as police removed tents in Oakland, California and Burlington, Vermont.

But evictions went peacefully elsewhere, including Atlanta, Georgia; Portland, Oregon; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Will you be taking part in the protests to mark the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York? Please get in touch using the form below:

Protests map

US

New York

The most high profile protest has been Occupy Wall Street in New York, which began on 17 September. The protesters call themselves “the 99%” and are demanding major reforms of the global financial system by curbing the power of banks and corporations. Protests have also taken place in cities across the US, including Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Houston and Boston. On 15 November, police moved in to clear the Occupy Wall Street protest, earlier they had cleared camps in Portland, Oregon and Oakland, California.

Europe

Europe

A protest in Madrid’s Sol Square began in May and turned into a week-long sit in. Renewed protests in Europe started on 15 October with demonstrations in Rome, Berlin, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Hamburg, Dublin, Bucharest, Zurich and other cities. Demonstrations were largely peaceful, but around 70 people were injured when violence broke out in Rome.

UK

London

Protests at the London Stock Exchange in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street began on 15 October. After being denied access to Paternoster Square in front of the stock exchange, demonstrators organised a camp of around 150 tents outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Protesters were told their camp could remain until the new year, on condition some tents blocking the “public highway” were removed. But the City of London Corporation said it was proceeding with legal action on 16 November, after talks with the protesters broke down.

Canada

Canada

Demonstrations and protest camps began on 15 October in major cities, including Calgary, Halifax, Quebec, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. Police have cleared protesters from sites in Halifax and Ontario but campaigners at the biggest camp, in Toronto, have been allowed to remain.

Australia

Australia

Protests began in Sydney and Melbourne on 15 October. Police forcibly removed around 100 demonstrators from the Melbourne camp on 21 October.

Two die in Virginia Tech shooting


Student Juliet Fielding

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Student Juliet Fielding saw police on campus attempting to revive a fellow officer

Two people have died in a shooting at Virginia Tech university, including a campus police army veteran who was a father of five.

Officials said the gunfire began when Officer Deriek Crouse, 39, made a routine traffic stop on campus.

Multiple reports suggested that the gunman was the second victim, but there was no confirmation of this.

Virginia Tech was the site of the worst US school shooting, in 2007, when a gunman killed 32 people and himself.

“Our hearts are broken again,” said university President Charles W Steger at an afternoon news conference.

On Thursday evening about 150 students gathered in a candlelight vigil at the campus memorial for the 2007 shootings. An official event is to be held Friday.

At the memorial, Reuters reported, a student left a note on orange paper. “We are the Hokies,” it said, referring to the name of the school’s sports teams. “We will prevail”.

State police officer Sgt Robert Carpentieri told reporters it appeared that the shooter was not in the car that was pulled over.

The suspect fled towards another parking lot, where police found the second victim.

“Since the time of the second incidence there have been no other founded reports of any threat to the campus,” Gene Deisinger, Virginia Tech’s deputy chief of campus security, said.

Crouse had served on the campus police force for four years, joining the Virginia Tech Police Department about six months after 2007 shootings.

Weapon recovered

As events unfolded on Thursday police swarmed the campus looking for the shooting suspect, a white male, after he escaped on foot.

The campus was placed on “lockdown”, with staff and students advised to remain in place and not go out while the alert was valid.

No classes were in session, as it was the day before the university’s final exams. Those exams have now been postponed.

Virginia Tech said on its website: “Shortly after noon today, a Virginia Tech police officer stopped a vehicle on campus during a routine traffic stop in the Coliseum parking lot near McComas Hall.


Virginia Tech's President, Dr Charles Steger

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Virginia Tech President Dr Charles Steger: “Our hearts are broken again”

“During the traffic stop, the officer was shot and killed. There were witnesses to this shooting.

“Witnesses reported to police the shooter fled on foot heading toward the Cage, a parking lot near Duck Pond Drive. At that parking lot, a second person was found. That person is also deceased.”

The university’s website said a weapon had been recovered “at the location of the second individual”.

Officials lifted the lockdown at 1630 EST, and gave a news conference in which they confirmed the alert was over.

False alarm fears

The suspect was said to be wearing grey tracksuit bottoms, a grey hat with neon green brim, maroon hoodie and backpack.

Arsalan Heydarian, a graduate student, told BBC that he was in an engineering lab when the events happened.

“We heard sirens around the campus,” he said. “We then started to get text messages via the new security system, telling students to stay where they are and stay away from windows.”

Another student, Pranav Angara, said police cars surrounded his building and were going through all the dorms.

“We’ve had false alarms like this and I thought it might be another false alarm,” he said.

The incident came on the same day as Virginia Tech appealed against a $55,000 (£35,200) fine imposed by the US Education Department for not reacting quickly enough to the April 2007 massacre.

Mr Heydarian was a freshman at Virginia Tech in 2007.

“Now I’m graduating with my masters degree in a few months, and have witnessed a second round of shootings,” he said.

Map

Thirty-two people died in 2007 when a 23-year-old South Korean, Seung-Hui Cho, went on a gun rampage before turning the weapon on himself.

The university, which has about 30,000 students, implemented a highly advanced security alert system after the tragedy.

It was put to the test in 2008, when an exploding nail gun cartridge was mistaken for gunfire.

On Thursday, the university issued several alerts as the situation developed across campus.