The Guardian 2024-07-11 00:12:56


Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary-general, is now addressing reporters in Washington.

This will be a historic summit, he said, adding that the alliance will do more than celebrate its 75th anniversary, but “make important decisions” for the future.

“On Ukraine, I expect allies to agree a substantial package,” he said.

This will include five parts, according to Stoltenberg:

  • Nato command to provide security assistance and training

  • A long-term pledge to continue sustaining support

  • New announcements of immediate support, including air defence

  • New bilateral security agreements

  • Stepping up work on interoperability

“All together, these five elements constitute a strong bridge for Ukraine to membership of the alliance, and I’m confident that allies will then reiterate the commitment to that Ukraine will become a member of Nato,” he added.

First F-16 jets heading to Ukraine after months of training and negotiations

Dutch and Danish leaders say Ukraine will be ‘flying operational F-16s this summer’ as Kyiv seeks battlefield wins

  • Nato summit – live updates

The first F-16 fighter jets are on their way to Ukraine and will be flying sorties this summer, according to a statement from the Dutch and Danish governments that was released by the White House at the Nato summit.

Dick Schoof, the prime minister of the Netherlands, and Mette Frederiksen, his counterpart from Denmark, said the “transfer process” of F-16s to Kyiv was under way after months of pilot training and political negotiations.

The two leaders said that “Ukraine will be flying operational F-16s this summer” – the first of about 85 of the combat aircraft that have been committed to Kyiv to turn around its fortunes on the battlefield.

An announcement on F-16s had been expected at the same time as the summit, and the hope is that the fighters will be able to stifle Russian glide bomb attacks launched from warplanes operating up to 43 miles (70km) away that have been devastating frontline positions.

It ends a lengthy wait for Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has been lobbying for at least 18 months for western jets to complement its small and ageing Soviet standard air force, which is no match for Russia’s.

Zelenskiy said he was grateful to Denmark, the Netherlands and the US for taking what he described as practical steps of assistance – and indicated that he was hopeful of more donations to boost numbers to a target of 130.

“F-16s will also be used to bolster Ukraine’s air defence. I am confident that they will assist us in better protecting Ukrainians from brutal Russian attacks, such as this week’s strike on the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital in Kyiv,” the president said.

Norway and Belgium have also committed to supplying F-16s in the future, but Zelenskiy went further and said: “I anticipate that our air force capability coalition will be strengthened even further through the joining of new participants.”

It remains unclear how effective the F-16s, a combat jet designed in the 1970s, will be in the war against Russia. Particularly important will be how they are concealed and protected when on the ground, at a time when Ukraine’s air defences have been stretched.

This month, Russia said it had destroyed five Ukrainian Su-27 jets in an Iskander missile attack on an airbase in Myrhorod. Ukraine acknowledged some losses amid criticism that the planes were lined up on the tarmac in daylight within range of Russian missiles.

On Tuesday night, Joe Biden, the US president, announced that Nato members would supply four Patriot anti missile batteries, while Italy would supply a similar Samp-t, which could be used to protect airbases from Russian attacks.

Confirming the development, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said: “As we speak, the transfer of F-16 jets is under way, coming from Denmark, coming from the Netherlands”.” It should, he added, “concentrate Vladimir Putin’s mind on the fact that he will not outlast Ukraine”.

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Analysis

European leaders use Nato summit to sell military alliance to US voters

Andrew Roth and Julian Borger in Washington

Issue of burden-sharing threatens to become major stumbling block should second Trump administration come into power

  • Nato summit live: latest updates

European leaders at the Nato summit in Washington are focused on explaining to ordinary American taxpayers that the military alliance is worth the money, as the issue of burden-sharing has become a political football for both parties in the US – and threatens to become a serious stumbling block for the alliance should a second Trump administration come to power.

“There is a debate in the United States that the US are doing a lot to support Ukraine and Europe is not doing enough. If you look at figures, it’s actually a different picture. Europe is doing more than the United States: the financial support, military support we all have provided so far has been enormous … We are taking the security and defense seriously,” said Edgars Rinkēvičs, the president of Latvia, during a speech on Tuesday alongside the former CIA director Leon Panetta and the Estonian defense minister, Hanno Pevkur. “It’s also very important to explain to the American public.”

In background briefings, European officials have said they have been concerned with political turmoil in the US and Europe. The US was among countries that pushed back against a multi-year financial pledge for military aid to Ukraine – in part because of the bitter fight in Congress over the Ukraine supplemental bill.

“We think that this is essential to signal that Europeans are taking a greater burden of their own security,” said another European official ahead of the summit. “And it’s an important message to Ukraine, to Russia – but also for domestic audience. Here in DC, we are aware of the sensitivity of that topic, and I think you can expect a lot of strategic communication on that next week.”

European officials are balancing concerns over the growing Russian threat in Ukraine and the political sensitivities that could further divide the alliance.

“We also understand that the ordinary people, in Latvia or the United States or somewhere else, sometimes do care more about economy, social issues, internal security, and we should take those concerns seriously and address them in the same manner that we are addressing the high geopolitical issues,” said Rinkēvičs.

Polling has shown that views on Nato are subject to a partisan divide in the US, and that the alliance has become steadily less popular among Republicans in the past year. According to the Pew Research Centre, just 43% of Republicans have a positive view of the alliance, down from 49% who said the same in 2023.

European leaders have taken different tacks, with some talking points seemingly tailored toward the Republican candidate as well. “Nato is a club, and when you have a club rules, then you respect the rules, and you expect that everybody will also respect the rules,” Pefkur, the Estonian defense minister, said on Tuesday. “So Trump is a golfer, so when you pay your fee, in the golf club, you can play. Doesn’t matter how big is your wallet. So when you pay that fee, you can go to the golf course and play.”

In a speech at the Hudson Institute on Tuesday, the Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, said that he supported Nato but that he would press European leaders on fulfilling a pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defense. He also tied national security to US border security, once again reinforcing how Nato policies have become subsumed to domestic US politics.

“Nato needs to be doing more,” he said. “Not all Nato members have reached their current commitment. It may even need to be closer at a level during the cold war. But if we’re all going to enjoy a future of peace and prosperity, we all need to have skin in the game.”

Critics have said that the US is going through a period of isolationism. “On a tectonic level, our allies should understand that there is a usually isolationist instinct in this country,” said Representative Jim Himes, a senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee. “And it emerges from time to time, when economic conditions here are not good,” or after moments of disenchantment like the Iraq war. “We are in that isolationist moment and it’s not just Donald Trump.”

Others describe it as restraint. Trump is not the only one calling for the US to withdraw forces and resources from Europe, leaving Europeans to take on the burden of defending themselves. Several liberal foreign policy analysts have been calling for years for a switch to American restraint when it comes to US military projection, especially in Europe.

“It is in the interest of a transatlantic alliance to shift the burden toward Europe and transition over, a decent period, maybe about a decade, toward European leadership of European defense with the United States moving to a supporting role,” Stephen Wertheim a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a leading advocate for restraint.

Wertheim was one of dozens of foreign policy experts who wrote an open letter published in the Guardian urging Nato leaders not to invite Ukraine to become a member.

“It could also be counterproductive insofar as Russia believes that Ukraine is advancing down this bridge to Nato membership, Russia gains an incentive to prolong the war so that that moment never arrives, so that Ukraine never crosses that bridge on the other side.”

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Ukraine war briefing: Nato summit opens with Patriot pledges

Putin intent on ‘total subjugation’ and wiping Ukraine off the map, says Biden; Russia ‘lacks troops or ammo for major offensive’. What we know on day 868

  • Joe Biden has welcomed Nato member states to a Washington summit warning that “[Vladimir] Putin wants nothing less, nothing less, than Ukraine’s total subjugation … and to wipe Ukraine off the map. Ukraine can and will stop Putin.”

  • Biden announced Nato will provide Ukraine with five new strategic air defence systems, the promise coming just a day after a deadly missile strike against a paediatric cancer hospital and other civilian targets. “All told, Ukraine will receive hundreds of additional interceptors over the next year, helping protect Ukrainian cities against Russian missiles and Ukrainian troops facing their attacks on the frontlines,” said Biden.

  • On Wednesday morning the Ukrainian air force announced Russian attacks with one Iskander-M ballistic missile and four KH-59/69 guided air missiles fired from occupied Crimea, and 20 Shahed drones from the Kursk region inside Russia. As a result of combat work, 14 Shaheds were shot down in Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk, Khmelnytskyi, Cherkasy, Vinnytsia and Rivne regions. Fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft missile units of the air force, calculations of mobile fire groups of the defence forces of Ukraine and electronic warfare units were involved. Rockets attacked the port infrastructure of Odesa. As a result of active countermeasures, three enemy KH-59/KH-69 missiles and three attack UAVs did not reach their targets.”

  • Russian drones attacked energy facilities in Ukraine’s Rivne region, the Ukrainian national grid operator said on Wednesday morning.

  • Returning to the Nato summit – the US, Germany and Romania will send additional Patriot air defence systems, while Patriot parts donated by the Netherlands will enable another battery to operate, according to a statement by the leaders of the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Romania. The Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, approved the donation of an Italian-French SAMP/T air defence system.

  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, arrived in Washington on Tuesday and said he would “fight” for Nato to strengthen Ukrainian air defences and furnish it with more F-16 fighter jets. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said Nato would announce a new military command in Germany for training and equipping Ukrainian troops and appoint a senior representative in Kyiv.

  • The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, told defence industry leaders in Washington that the leaders would pledge to enable arms makers across Europe and North America to produce more. He said Nato had placed an order for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles worth almost $700m in the name of several member states.

  • Zelenskiy said on Tuesday he could not predict what Donald Trump would do if he regained the US presidency in November, but the whole world, including Vladimir Putin, was awaiting the outcome. Zelenskiy said he hoped Trump would not quit Nato and that America would keep supporting Ukraine in its defence against Russia’s invasion. “I don’t know [him] very well,” Zelenskiy said, adding they had “good meetings” during Trump’s presidency but that was before Russia’s 2022 invasion. “I can’t tell you what he will do, if he will be the president of the United States. I don’t know.”

  • Russia lacks the munitions and troops to start a major offensive in Ukraine and to do so would need to secure significantly more ammunition from its suppliers like Iran and North Korea, reporters were told at a Nato briefing on Tuesday. Russia was suffering “very high” losses over small territorial gains, ordering “undermanned, inexperienced units to move into areas to achieve unrealistic objectives”.

  • India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, told Vladimir Putin that the death of innocent children was painful and terrifying, a day after the lethal strike on the children’s hospital in Kyiv. “Whether it is war, conflict or a terrorist attack, any person who believes in humanity, is pained when there is loss of lives,” Modi said. “But even in that, when innocent children are killed, the heart bleeds and that pain is very terrifying.” The deadly hospital strike was likely caused by a direct hit from a Russian missile, said Danielle Bell, UN human rights monitoring head of mission for Ukraine.

  • India’s relationship with Russia gives it an ability to urge Vladimir Putin to end the war with Ukraine, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said in response to Modi’s meeting Putin and his remarks.

  • After rescue operations stretched into a second day at the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital, officials said at least 42 people throughout Ukraine were killed in Monday’s attacks. Zelenskiy said 64 people were hospitalised in the capital, in addition to 28 in Kryvyi Rih and six in Dnipro – both in central Ukraine. It was Russia’s heaviest bombardment of Kyiv in almost four months.

  • The UN nuclear watchdog will hold a special meeting after Ukraine accused Russia of undermining atomic safety by shattering the radiation-equipped children’s hospital, according to a confidential document seen by AFP. Children with cancer are treated at the hospital.

  • Russia has been obliged to chair a UN security council meeting where it was condemned over the hospital strike. France and Ecuador asked for the session, which Russia led as the current holder of the council’s rotating presidency, putting its ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, on the receiving end of the criticism.

  • The US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told colleagues that they were there “because Russia, a permanent member of the security council, current rotational president of the security council, attacked a children’s hospital … Even uttering that phrase sends a chill down my spine.” The British ambassador, Barbara Woodward, called it “cowardly depravity”. Ecuador’s envoy, José De La Gasca, described it as “particularly intolerable”. Nebenzia dismissed that and other criticisms as “verbal gymnastics” and repeated Russian denials of responsibility for the attack.

  • Ukrainian drones attacked a Russian oil refinery, military airfield, and electricity substation in a joint operation by Kyiv’s security and military intelligence agencies, a security source told Reuters. The source said the attacks hit the Akhtubinsk airfield in Russia’s southern Astrakhan region, an oil refinery in the Volgograd region and an electricity substation in the Rostov region.

  • Russia claimed to have captured the village of Yasnobrodivka in eastern Ukraine near the Russian-held city of Donetsk, according to its defence ministry.

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Former Democratic speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who is thought to be among the lawmakers whose opinion Joe Biden cares about most, gave an interview to MSNBC this morning in which she signaled that the president’s future has not yet been decided.

Though Biden insists he has no intention of suspending his re-election campaign despite concerns over his performance in the first debate against Donald Trump, Pelosi said: “It’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run.”

When the interviewer pointed out that Biden has already made that decision, Pelosi said: “I want him to do whatever he decides to do”.

Here’s the moment:

Analysis

Biden may have pulled off a great escape – but the curtain can fall at any time

Robert Tait in Washington

The president might have wiggled out of a dire circumstance after his debate after Democrats missed their chance, but uncertainty still lingers

In his dotage and with images of his epic Georgia debate meltdown still fresh in the popular mind, Joe Biden is probably nobody’s idea of a Harry Houdini copycat.

Yet, with the Democratic party seemingly paralysed between the terror of a second Donald Trump presidency and fear of the consequences of taking decisive action, the US president may – barring mishaps – be on the verge of one of history’s great political escape acts.

A meeting on Tuesday of the party’s House members in the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington ended without any resounding unified call for Biden to stand aside as its presidential candidate in November.

On the contrary, the 81-year-old president – apparently so close to political extinction last week – seemed unexpectedly revived at the end of the event; members who had earlier forecast his imminent demise now changed tack to support his candidacy.

Jerry Nadler, a congressman from New York who only on Sunday privately called for Biden to abandon his campaign amid concern about his age and mental acuity dismissed his previous misgivings as “beside the point”.

“He’s going to be our nominee, and we all have to support him,” Nadler told reporters after the meeting.

Though hardly a ringing endorsement, it was a triumph of sorts for Biden – who the evening before had already earned the support of the congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses – and a reward for his chutzpah in writing to the Democratic congressional contingent en masse on Monday to tell them he was determined to stay the course, come what may.

A seventh congresswoman, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, added her voice on Tuesday to those who had already publicly called on Biden to stand aside following his bewildering performance in the 27 June debate, when he appeared powerless to counteract a torrent of untruths from Trump.

But it did not amount to a groundswell and all the indications were that Biden had wriggled out of the trap.

“They’ve accepted that there’s no alternative to having Biden, and the status quo is the only possible outcome, so long as Biden is determined to stay in, and he clearly is determined,” said Larry Sabato, director of the centre for political at the University of Virginia.

Biden’s Democratic critics missed their chance, argued Sabato, undone by a lack of ruthlessness.

“The opportunity to solve this problem came in the 24 to 48 hours after the debate,” he said. “That was the chance for an overwhelming number of Democratic members of Congress and Democratic donors to come out and say, it hurts as a family, but you must leave the race. And they didn’t do it.

“Everybody waited for somebody else to move. Nobody wanted to be first. So this is what they got, because they let Biden recover, get back on his feet and have his enormous family and staff take it from there.”

Does this mean that Biden is now assured of being the Democratic nominee against in Trump in November – a contest in which most polls have him trailing, though by a smaller margin than the initial debate fallout might have suggested?

Not necessarily, according to James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute and a member of the Democratic National Committee, who proposed a plan for an open competition to elect a new nominee at next month’s national convention in the event that Biden bowed to pressure to step aside.

“None of [the Democrats] want to make the decision,” he said. “[But] from what I heard coming out of the Democratic caucus, there were members from swing districts, some of whom were in tears about their futures and felt desperately that unless there were a change we might lose in November.

“There was concern to the extent that they did not make a statement when [Hakeem] Jeffries [the Democratic leader in the House] adjourned the meeting decisively saying, this is the direction we’re going in. So he lives another day. But is that enough? I don’t know.”

Fuelling the uncertainty is the feeling that Biden will be prone to further verbal stumbles in the days and weeks ahead, probably triggering renewed doubts about his mental competence and fitness to campaign.

Zogby, who called the forthcoming poll against Trump an “Armageddon election”, said concerns over the president’s cognitive powers and age-related decline could become a feeding frenzy that could still sink his candidacy.

“Jesse Jackson, who I worked with, used to call it sharks in the water smelling blood,” he said. “It’s very clear that this is where we are, that it’s been a story every single day. It will continue to be the story tomorrow, and most likely the next day. The press will be waiting for the next gaffe and misstep – and frankly I don’t know how we get over that.”

Larry Jacobs, a politics professor at the University of Minnesota, said predictions that Democrats were resigned to uniting behind Biden were “premature”.

“There has been kind of a counteroffensive that’s been orchestrated by the White House, but you’re still seeing a drumbeat of doubts about Joe Biden, including alarming reports about visits from a Parkinson’s [disease] expert,” he said.

Biden, argued Jacobs, had been seriously undermined by putting his “political power on the line” just to save his candidacy.

“Each time an elected official, particularly if they’re well-known, comes out and questions him, it’s another kind of demotion,” Jacobs said. “It’s a sign that his power, his ability to impose his will on his political party, is no longer what it was. So Joe Biden may hang on, but he’s weakened and he still may end up being pushed out.”

All of which raises the question of whether his Darwinian battle for political survival in his own party is worth it. If he prevails, can he still win the war against Trump?

Yes, said Sabato. “But only because he’s facing Donald Trump and because [Trump] is truly a living, breathing threat to the American republic. Even if Biden can’t win, Trump can lose. That’s really that’s what the debate was. Trump didn’t win that debate. Biden lost it.”

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Democratic senator says Trump is on track to win as Pelosi says Biden must ‘decide if he’s going to run’

Michael Bennet said Trump may win ‘by a landslide’ while actor George Clooney urged the president to step aside

A Democratic senator has predicted Donald Trump will defeat Joe Biden in a “landslide” while the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, said it was up to Biden “to decide if he’s going to run”, in remarks that will intensify the pressure on the president to reconsider his determination to stay in the race.

In an impassioned interview with CNN, Michael Bennet of Colorado said he believed Biden could no longer win November’s election and said his campaign needed to assess the decision of whether he steps aside in “moral” terms based on the importance of saving the country from the “American tragedy” of a second Trump presidency.

“This race is on a trajectory that is very worrisome if you care about the future of this country,” Bennet told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins. “Donald Trump is on track, I think, to win this election and maybe win it by a landslide, and take with him the Senate and the House. It’s not a question about politics, it’s a moral question about the future of our country.”

Pelosi, who was speaker of the House until the Republicans regained control of it in the 2022 midterm elections, told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that “it’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run” and said of House Democrats: “We’re all encouraging him to make that decision. Because time is running short.”

The Hollywood actor and Democratic fundraiser George Clooney on Wednesday added his voice to the growing number of calls for Biden to drop out. In an opinion article for the New York Times, he expressed concern about the president’s showing at a recent fundraiser in Los Angeles, where he “wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.” Clooney called Biden a friend but said “the one battle he cannot win is the fight against time”.

Bennet’s and Pelosi’s comments followed a lunch meeting of the Democratic Senate caucus in which Bennet and two other senators, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana, reportedly said they believed Biden was no longer able to win after the 27 June debate failure, in which he appeared repeatedly confused, lost his train of thought and failed to counter a spate of lies from Trump.

While no senators have explicitly called for Biden to step aside – in contrast to seven House members who have appealed to him to abandon his re-election bid – the debate fallout has plunged the Democrats into paralysis as the campaign approaches a key phase.

Biden has emphatically refused to yield to pressure to bow out, writing to the party’s congressional contingent en masse to emphasise that he is there to stay and throwing the gauntlet down to doubters to challenge him at next month’s convention in Chicago.

He has secured crucial support from the Congressional Black caucus, although on Wednesday one of its members, Marc Veasey of Texas, became the first to break ranks by telling CNN that Democrats running in tight races should “distance themselves” from Biden in an effort to “do whatever it is they need to do” to win.

Bennet, while stopping short of an all-out call for Biden to withdraw, said that defiant posture was unfitting to the moment – even while voicing empathy for the position of a president who had served his party and country for more than half a century.

“I’m sure President Biden has a different view of his prospects in this election than I do, but we should be having a discussion,” he said. “The White House in the time since that disastrous debate has done nothing to really demonstrate that they have a plan to win.

“I have not seen anything remotely approaching the kind of plan we need to see out of the White House that can demonstrate that he can actually beat Donald Trump, which is not going to be about the accomplishments that we all had, you know, three and four years ago. This is something for the president to consider.”

Bennet’s comments came after a meeting of House Democrats yesterday that failed to produce an expected groundswell of calls for Biden to stand aside but instead saw some previously sceptical members back down in the face of his resolve to continue. Rumbles of discontent among House members continue, however.

The president himself held a virtual meeting from the White House on Tuesday evening with about 200 Democratic mayors in which he restated his determination to remain and reportedly won their support.

The 40-minute meeting consisted of Biden talking for the first 20 minutes and taking just three questions – chosen by a moderator, Kate Gallego, the mayor of Phoenix – the New York Times reported.

Participants could not see who else was on the call or add comments to a chat screen but they were able to show their feelings by adding emojis, with many contributing smiley faces in response to Biden’s words.

The president reportedly called the debate “a lousy night”. He promised to prioritise housebuilding in his second term and warned the mayors about the consequences of another Trump presidency, focusing on the ex-president’s pledge to be a dictator “only on day one” and stressing the Project 2025 rightwing blueprint for government, which Trump has recently, though unconvincingly, disavowed.

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  • The BBC has confirmed that the victims of the triple murder in Bushey, Hertfordshire are Carol Hunt, 61, and two of her daughters. They were the family of the BBC racing commentator John Hunt

  • Police are hunting for a 26-year-old man, Kyle Clifford, who they have warned may be armed with a crossbow. He should not be approached

  • Officers found three women, aged 25, 28, and 61 at a house on Tuesday evening. Despite emergency services attending, including air ambulances, the three were pronounced dead at the scene

  • Police described it as a “targeted” attack, using a crossbow and possibly other weapons

  • At 8am on Wednesday Clifford’s home in Enfield, north London was raided by police

  • Local policing commander Jon Simpson made a direct appeal to Clifford to contact the police himself via 999

  • Police have also appealed to anyone who was in or around Ashlyn Close between lunchtime and 7pm on Tuesday to contact them if they believe they saw anything that could help their investigation

  • Det Supt Rob Hall, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire major crime unit, earlier said: “This is an incredibly difficult incident for the victims’ family and we would ask that their privacy is respected as they come to terms with what has happened”

  • New home secretary Yvette Cooper has described the deaths as “truly shocking”, and said that she is being kept informed

Victims of Bushey triple murder believed to be family of BBC commentator

Police search for Kyle Clifford, 26, as BBC says victims are Carol Hunt and two of her daughters, family of BBC racing commentator John Hunt

  • Police search after three women killed in Bushey – live updates

A man feared to be armed with a crossbow was being hunted by armed police after three women from the same family died in a suburban home in a suspected targeted attack.

Police said they urgently wanted to trace Kyle Clifford, 26, after being called to a home in Bushey, Hertfordshire, on Tuesday evening.

Officers found three women, aged 25, 28, and 61, who police say were related. They are investigating what relationship any of the victims may have had to Clifford.

Those who died are understood to be Carol Hunt and two of her daughters. The women are understood to be the family of the BBC’s racing radio commentator, John Hunt.

Police said a crossbow or other weapons may have been used in the attacks.

Detectives are investigating when the incident started, and have asked the public to report anything suspicious they saw in Ashlyn Close from midday on Tuesday, about seven hours before they found the seriously injured women.

One source said the women may have been held hostage for some hours before police were called.

Police named Clifford in connection with the deaths and said they believed he was from Enfield, north London, about 16 miles from the scene.

Police said Clifford may be dangerous and have a crossbow. On Wednesday morning armed police raided an address in Gordon Hill, Enfield, north London as the manhunt intensified.

Police appealed directly to Clifford to contact them, with officers continuing to search in Hertfordshire and London, having been warned he should be considered armed and dangerous.

Hertfordshire police say they were called to a home in Ashlyn Close in Bushey just before 7pm on Tuesday and discovered three women who had suffered serious injuries. All three died at the scene.

Police say they are “actively seeking” Clifford, and have been hunting him since the discovery of the three women.

Chief Supt Jon Simpson said: “Our overarching objective today is to protect public safety and to locate Kyle Clifford, who is wanted in connection with the murder of the three women in what we believe is a targeted incident.

“We have extensive police resources deployed to various locations in north London and also the Bushey area … The manhunt also involves armed police officers and specialist search teams responding at pace in the wake of what has been an horrific incident involving what is currently believed to be a crossbow, but other weapons may also have been used.”

Simpson made a direct appeal to Clifford: “Kyle, if you are seeing or hearing this, please make contact with the police via 999.”

One person who lives nearby said after police found the women the area was in effect put into lockdown. The woman said: “It was between 6.30pm and 7pm last night and it literally just sounded like kids, somebody screaming, and then it was more shrill and I was like ‘that’s definitely a woman screaming’, and within 15 minutes, it was absolute chaos.

“We had armed police running down, screaming ‘stay in your house’ … they shut us off and basically put us into lockdown.”

Two air ambulances – one from London – along with ambulances and other paramedics were sent to the scene.

Police believe Clifford may be in the Hertfordshire or north London areas. Officers are warning people who believe they have seen him not to approach him, but to call 999 instead.

A spokesperson for East of England ambulance service said: “We were called around 7pm on Tuesday 9 July to a property in Ashlyn Close in Bushey. Three ambulances, a rapid response vehicle, an ambulance officer vehicle, the hazardous area response team, the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance and London Air Ambulance were sent to the scene.

“Sadly, despite the team’s best efforts, three women were pronounced dead at the scene.”

The home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said on social media: “The loss of three women’s lives in Bushey last night is truly shocking. My thoughts are with the family & friends of those who have been killed & with the community.

“I am being kept fully updated. I urge people to support @HertsPolice with any information about this case.”

A local councillor, Laurence Brass, who lives close by, said: “At 7pm last night a helicopter landed on the lawn in the development I live in, which is 100 yards away from here, but it was an air ambulance, I’m told, and then rumours started circulating about a crossbow.

“The worst thing that’s ever happened in this part of Bushey is a bit of illegal fly-tipping and then suddenly we get three murders and we’re all a bit shellshocked.

“This is a very traditional, quiet, leafy suburb, we don’t get this sort of thing in this area and I want residents to know that the council will be ensuring that the liaison team is down here and doing everything they can to comfort them and make sure that they are reassured that everything is being done.

“But we’re worried that this guy is still floating around somewhere.”

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Irish woman charged with ‘attempted suicide’ in Dubai has travel ban lifted

Tori Towey’s case was raised for second day in row in Irish parliament

The Irish premier, Simon Harris, has said that a travel ban imposed by Dubai authorities on Tori Towey, an Irish woman who was reportedly charged with attempted suicide, has been lifted.

Towey, 28, a flight attendant from Co Roscommon, was charged with attempted suicide and alcohol abuse after waking up in a police station after an attack, Irish parliamentarians were told.

Dubai authorities had also banned her from leaving the state, the Dáil chamber heard.

Addressing the Irish parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Harris said: “I’ve just been informed that the travel ban has been lifted, that the embassy will take Tori to the airport as soon as she is ready to go and that the embassy of course will continue to follow up on the case, which is still active as of now.”

He thanked the Irish embassy in the United Arab Emirates for their work on the case.

Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Ireland’s main opposition party, Sinn Féin, had raised the case in the Irish parliament on Wednesday for the second day in a row, criticising what she said was the “medieval, grotesque treatment of women” in the United Arab Emirates.

She said she had spoken to Towey and her mother, Caroline, who is with her in Dubai. “[Tori] does not belong to Dubai, she belongs at home in Ireland,” McDonald said.

The taoiseach thanked McDonald and the Roscommon TD Claire Kerrane for raising the “distressing” case. He said the Irish embassy in the United Arab Emirates had been in constant contact with Towey.

“We want Tori Towey back in this country, we want her back home in Roscommon,” Harris said.

“No effort will be spared by us, by Ireland, to make progress on this matter, to get Tori home. She’s not a criminal, she’s a victim of gender-based violence.”

Harris said he had spoken to Ireland’s deputy premier, Micheál Martin, who is the minister of foreign affairs, and Ireland’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

Her aunt Ann Flynn said both were trying to stay positive. “They’re very nervous and can’t wait to get home,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“It’s really terrible that this has happened to a young woman that was full of life, full of adventure, she loved travelling.”

Radha Stirling, founder of the Detained in Dubai group, said the support of the Irish people and the Irish government had “given them hope and inspiration”. She said the case was due to be heard next week.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was providing “ongoing consular assistance” in the case, as was Ireland’s embassy in the United Arab Emirates.

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Israeli strike on Khan Younis shelter kills at least 31 amid surge in Gaza fighting

IDF reviewing airstrike after confirming an attack using ‘precision munitions’, which Gaza officials say killed eight children

  • See all our Israel-Gaza war coverage

An Israeli airstrike on the entrance of a school-turned-shelter in southern Gaza has killed at least 31 people as a stepped-up military offensive in the territory sent thousands fleeing in search of refuge.

The airstrike on Tuesday afternoon hit the tents of displaced families outside a school in the town of Abassan, east of Khan Younis. Officials at the nearby Nasser hospital said on Wednesday that 31 people had been killed, including eight children, and more than 50 wounded.

Footage broadcast by Al Jazeera showed children playing football in the school’s yard when a sudden boom shook the area, prompting shouts of “a strike, a strike!”

The Israeli military said it was reviewing reports that civilians were harmed. It said the incident occurred when it struck with “precise munition” a Hamas fighter who took part in the 7 October raid on Israel that precipitated the Israeli assault on Gaza.

The area hit was crowded at the time of the attack, according to witnesses who spoke to the BBC, one of whom reported that as many as 3,000 people were there at the time of the strike.

Further Israeli strikes in the early hours of Wednesday morning killed at least 20 Palestinians. Associated Press reported that 12 people had been killed in the Nuseirat refugee camp and eight at a home in Deir al-Balah, an area that is located within the “humanitarian safe zone” where Israel has told Palestinians to seek refuge as it conducts offensives in multiple parts of the Gaza Strip.

Last week, the the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) ordered a mass evacuation of parts of southern Gaza. Much of Khan Younis was destroyed in a long assault this year, but large numbers of Palestinians had moved back to escape another Israeli offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city, Rafah.

The militant group Hamas said the renewed Israeli campaign had killed more than 60 Palestinians across the territory on Tuesday alone.

This week, Israeli troops have also been waging a new ground assault in Gaza City in the north of the territory – its latest effort to battle Hamas militants regrouping in areas the army previously said had been largely cleared.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said its crews received dozens of humanitarian distress calls from Gaza City but were unable to help due to the intensity of the bombing there.

“The fighting has been intense,” Hakeem Abdel-Bar, who fled Gaza City’s Tuffah district to the home of relatives in another part of the city, told the Associated Press. Israeli warplanes and drones were “striking anything moving” and that tanks had moved into central districts, he said.

According to the United Nations’ humanitarian office, ‘‘only 13 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are functioning, and those only partially’’.

“People have been observed fleeing in multiple directions, not knowing which way may be safest,” the agency said in a statement. It said the largest UN bakery in the city was forced to close, and that the fighting had blocked aid groups from accessing warehouses.

The Israeli military said that one overnight attack in Gaza City targeted Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets operating from inside the headquarters of the UN agency for Palestinians, Unrwa. The agency has not had control of the building since October. Israeli forces said in February they had found a Hamas tunnel underneath the headquarters.

The military said the militants were “operating inside Unrwa’s headquarters in the area and using it as a base to conduct attacks on IDF troops in the central Gaza Strip”.

It said that militants had been “eliminated” and “large amounts of weapons” found.

Unrwa had no immediate comment on the attack, but has said it has “no way to verify” claims that its facilities are being used by Hamas and its allies.

The last few days of airstrikes on the blockaded Palestinian territory are some of the fiercest since the war broke out. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, described the fighting as “the most intense in months”.

The new fighting has unfolded as international mediators led by Egypt, Qatar and the US make a renewed effort to push through a proposed ceasefire deal. Talks are due to continue in Doha and Cairo this week, attended by the CIA director, William Burns, and the Mossad chief, David Barnea. “There is an agreement over many points,” a senior source told al-Qahera news on Tuesday.

However, Hamas has again accused Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of deliberately trying to thwart the truce talks.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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Israeli strike on Khan Younis shelter kills at least 31 amid surge in Gaza fighting

IDF reviewing airstrike after confirming an attack using ‘precision munitions’, which Gaza officials say killed eight children

  • See all our Israel-Gaza war coverage

An Israeli airstrike on the entrance of a school-turned-shelter in southern Gaza has killed at least 31 people as a stepped-up military offensive in the territory sent thousands fleeing in search of refuge.

The airstrike on Tuesday afternoon hit the tents of displaced families outside a school in the town of Abassan, east of Khan Younis. Officials at the nearby Nasser hospital said on Wednesday that 31 people had been killed, including eight children, and more than 50 wounded.

Footage broadcast by Al Jazeera showed children playing football in the school’s yard when a sudden boom shook the area, prompting shouts of “a strike, a strike!”

The Israeli military said it was reviewing reports that civilians were harmed. It said the incident occurred when it struck with “precise munition” a Hamas fighter who took part in the 7 October raid on Israel that precipitated the Israeli assault on Gaza.

The area hit was crowded at the time of the attack, according to witnesses who spoke to the BBC, one of whom reported that as many as 3,000 people were there at the time of the strike.

Further Israeli strikes in the early hours of Wednesday morning killed at least 20 Palestinians. Associated Press reported that 12 people had been killed in the Nuseirat refugee camp and eight at a home in Deir al-Balah, an area that is located within the “humanitarian safe zone” where Israel has told Palestinians to seek refuge as it conducts offensives in multiple parts of the Gaza Strip.

Last week, the the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) ordered a mass evacuation of parts of southern Gaza. Much of Khan Younis was destroyed in a long assault this year, but large numbers of Palestinians had moved back to escape another Israeli offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city, Rafah.

The militant group Hamas said the renewed Israeli campaign had killed more than 60 Palestinians across the territory on Tuesday alone.

This week, Israeli troops have also been waging a new ground assault in Gaza City in the north of the territory – its latest effort to battle Hamas militants regrouping in areas the army previously said had been largely cleared.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said its crews received dozens of humanitarian distress calls from Gaza City but were unable to help due to the intensity of the bombing there.

“The fighting has been intense,” Hakeem Abdel-Bar, who fled Gaza City’s Tuffah district to the home of relatives in another part of the city, told the Associated Press. Israeli warplanes and drones were “striking anything moving” and that tanks had moved into central districts, he said.

According to the United Nations’ humanitarian office, ‘‘only 13 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are functioning, and those only partially’’.

“People have been observed fleeing in multiple directions, not knowing which way may be safest,” the agency said in a statement. It said the largest UN bakery in the city was forced to close, and that the fighting had blocked aid groups from accessing warehouses.

The Israeli military said that one overnight attack in Gaza City targeted Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets operating from inside the headquarters of the UN agency for Palestinians, Unrwa. The agency has not had control of the building since October. Israeli forces said in February they had found a Hamas tunnel underneath the headquarters.

The military said the militants were “operating inside Unrwa’s headquarters in the area and using it as a base to conduct attacks on IDF troops in the central Gaza Strip”.

It said that militants had been “eliminated” and “large amounts of weapons” found.

Unrwa had no immediate comment on the attack, but has said it has “no way to verify” claims that its facilities are being used by Hamas and its allies.

The last few days of airstrikes on the blockaded Palestinian territory are some of the fiercest since the war broke out. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, described the fighting as “the most intense in months”.

The new fighting has unfolded as international mediators led by Egypt, Qatar and the US make a renewed effort to push through a proposed ceasefire deal. Talks are due to continue in Doha and Cairo this week, attended by the CIA director, William Burns, and the Mossad chief, David Barnea. “There is an agreement over many points,” a senior source told al-Qahera news on Tuesday.

However, Hamas has again accused Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of deliberately trying to thwart the truce talks.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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Armed men jump onboard small boat during rescue near Libya

Group of masked men approached wooden vessel in dinghies, prompting panic during rescue by charity ship

A group of masked and armed men have threatened a wooden boat in distress in the central Mediterranean, provoking the frightened passengers to throw themselves into the sea.

The incident happened early on Tuesday morning as crew from Ocean Viking, a rescue ship operated by the charity SOS Méditerranée, were evacuating 93 people who had been crammed on to the blue wooden vessel in distress about 19 miles (30km) off the coast of Libya.

The remaining passengers were being transferred on to a safety boat when a group of masked and armed men on two unidentifiable rubber dinghies arrived on the scene. In video footage, one of the men can been seen jumping on to the wooden vessel, provoking panic as its passengers threw themselves overboard. The men then fled, taking the empty boat with them.

We don’t know who the individuals were or where they came from,” said Francesco Creazzo, a spokesperson for SOS Méditerranée. “But we have no doubt they were Libyan.

“The people onboard, many who couldn’t swim, were so afraid of being taken back to Libya that they chose to throw themselves into the sea. They preferred to die in the sea rather than return to Libya – we often hear this from shipwreck survivors.”

Ocean Viking rescued a further 27 people from a second vessel in distress, saving a total 120 people in one day, including babies and unaccompanied minors.

Creazzo said a similar incident had happened in February. “It is a chaotic situation in an area where there is no European safety mission,” he added.

There have been cases in the past of migrant boats and charity rescue vessels being shot at, sometimes by the Libyan coastguard. Creazzo said that such incidents had become more prevalent since 2017, when the Italian government struck a deal with Libya, approved by the European Council, offering to fund, equip and train its coastguard to intercept and bring boats back to a country where aid agencies have said they suffer abuse and torture.

The sea was completely abandoned by those that should be guaranteeing rescues, that is the EU states,” said Creazzo. “The Libyan coastguard was already an element of chaos and unpredictability, carrying out serious human rights violations against these people. But since 2017 the situation has got progressively worse.”

The number of rescue ships operating in the central Mediterranean, considered one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of sea, has also vastly dwindled since 2017 as a result of strict measures by various Italian governments.

Under legislation introduced by Giorgia Meloni’s far-right government soon after taking power in October 2022, charity ships can undertake only one rescue operation at a time and must subsequently proceed directly to a port assigned by the Italian coastguard. In many cases, the ports assigned have been in central or northern Italy, as opposed to closer ports in Sicily or Calabria. Several ships have been impounded and their captains fined for flouting the rules. Critics say the measure has led to more deaths at sea.

After Tuesday’s rescue operation, Ocean Viking was assigned the port of Marina di Carrara in Tuscany.

Italy is one of the main landing points for people trying to reach Europe. The UN has registered more than 20,000 deaths and disappearances along the route since 2014. As of 17 June, an estimated 749 people have died while trying to make the journey so far this year.

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Senators accuse JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon of backtracking on climate commitments

Exclusive: Letter from senators, led by Elizabeth Warren, says JPMorgan may have misled investors and public

JPMorgan Chase, the world’s biggest investor in fossil fuels, may have misled investors and the public by backtracking on its already weak climate and environmental commitments, six US senators have warned in a letter to the CEO Jamie Dimon.

Although a climate-disrupted world demands stronger action by the financial sector to reduce emissions and protect nature, the Wall Street firm is heading in the opposite direction, say the upper chamber legislators, who include Senate banking committee member Elizabeth Warren.

They have demanded clarification about the intentions of the world’s biggest bank. Senator Warren said: “If JPMorgan Chase has misled investors and the public, both Congress and regulators have a range of tools to respond as necessary.” They have given the bank until 24 July to reply.

The letter, shared exclusively with the Guardian, reflects growing concern that JPMorgan Chase is watering down public commitments it has made over decades. Campaigners say this poses a structural risk because short-term interests are taking precedence over long-term climate – and financial – stability.

JPMorgan Chase, which has $4tn in assets, has been criticised for making profits while the world burns. The letter notes that the company has financed over $430bn in fossil fuel projects since 2016, more than any other institution on the planet.

Concerns rose earlier this year when Dimon announced a shift in policy that suggested JPMorgan Chase would dilute its environmental goals. In an 8 April letter to shareholders, he indicated the company was “going to use the word ‘commitment’ much more reservedly in the future, clearly differentiating between aspirations we are actively striving toward and binding commitments”.

The senators’ letter said the company reversed its previous promise by pulling out of the Climate Action 100+ and the Equator Principles, which serve as a common baseline for institutions to manage environmental and social risks when financing projects.

Instead of being proactive about the climate threat, Dimon said JPMorgan Chase would wait for “proper government action . . . [that is] not there yet”.

The firm also swapped its clear Paris Climate Agreement goal to reduce its emissions intensity with a blurry new “Energy Mix” target that makes it impossible, the senators say, for an investor to know if JPMorgan Chase is doing anything at all to reduce its oil and gas financing because it now dumps this into a blender with clean energy.

“Your full set of comments indicated JPMorgan was completely abdicating any role in addressing climate change,” says the letter, which is also signed by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Peter Welch, Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley. “This raises questions about the impact of these policy changes moving forward, and about whether you were misleading investors and the public when you made these commitments.”

Concerns are also growing that other major US banks are sliding away from their promises of climate and biodiversity action. Citi, Bank of America and Wells Fargo also quit the Equator Principles earlier this year, a move that climate groups condemned as “shocking” and “cowardly”.

At a time of record temperatures and deadly storms, this has led to a public backlash. On the streets, the climate finance movement has staged protests outside several Wall Street institutions, including Citi, Bank of America and major insurers.

Pressure also came in the annual banking on climate chaos report, produced by a coalition of environmental groups, which details the investments of JPMorgan Chase and other majors bankers in climate destabilising projects. BlackRock also limited its involvement.

Last month, the financial watchdog NGO Stand.earth highlighted JPMorgan Chase among five of the world’s biggest banks, whose environmental and social guidelines fail to cover more than 70% of the Amazon rainforest. The report found JPMorgan Chase made $2.4bn in capital available to companies that operate oil and gas projects in the Amazon and its biodiversity protections applied to only Unesco world heritage sites that cover just 2% of the region. By contrast, the study commended the British bank HSBC, which was once a major funder of destructive projects in the region but has not provided any financing since it adopted a 100% Amazon exclusion policy in December 2022.

Ernesto Archila of the Public Citizen’s Climate Program, said banks needed to be brought into line. “They made commitments when it was politically expedient and now they are walking them back. It is really important for senators to call attention to this issue,” he said. “This underlines the need for regulators to take urgent action. Banks should be compelled to take a serious look at their financed emissions, and make effective and transparent plans to address the financial risks associated with climate change. It is clear that a short-term profit motive is driving the behaviour of the banks. It is now up to regulators to step in and prevent those short-term interests from creating structural risks.”

JPMorgan Chase declined to comment on the record. A representative shared materials showing the company is a major financier of clean energy, as well as fossil fuels. On its website, the bank says it has broken down the elements in its Energy Mix Target to show oil and gas financing. A recent op-ed by a senior executive said banks have a role in supporting the energy transition with capital, but stressed that governments need to take the lead: “To transform the energy mix, boost new industrial activity, and build sustainable infrastructure at speed and scale, governments need to lead by setting necessary enabling regulatory frameworks and policy incentives to transform regional and local economies, reskill global workforces, unblock permitting to develop the backlog of necessary infrastructure, and so on.”

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Rio’s ‘narco-pentecostal’ gangs accused of ordering Catholic churches to close

Bible-bashing drug boss accused of targeting Afro-Brazilian religions and Catholic congregations

Reports that a powerful Rio drug lord known for his extremist religious beliefs ordered Catholic churches near his stronghold to close have spooked worshipers and security experts and exposed the advent of a “narco-pentecostal” movement made up of heavily armed evangelical drug traffickers.

Claims emerged in the Brazilian press over the weekend that Álvaro Malaquias Santa Rosa – a notorious gang boss known as Peixão (Big Fish) – had determined that three places of worship should shut down in and around the agglomeration of favelas that he controls in northern Rio.

Since Peixão – whose nickname comes from the ichthys “Jesus” fish – took power in 2016 of five favelas that have become known as the Complexo de Israel, an allusion to the evangelical belief that the return of Jews to the Holy Land is a step towards the second coming of Christ and Armageddon.

A neon Star of David has been erected at the top of the complex and at night can be seen for miles around – an unmissable symbol of Peixão’s force and his faith. The roofs of the favelas’ redbrick houses are dotted with blue and white Israel flags demarcating the territory the gangster controls. When police raided one of his hideouts in 2021 they found a swimming pool framed by a mural of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem and the words: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

In the past, Peixão’s troops have been accused of ransacking Afro-Brazilian temples and banning Afro-Brazilian celebrations in the Complex of Israel, where more than 100,000 people live. But this week’s reports were the first relating to Catholic places of worship.

The first inkling that something was amiss came on Saturday when staff at the Our Lady of Conception and Saint Justin Martyr parish told parishioners that meetings and mass were suspended “until further notice”. The social media post was later deleted but, according to local newspapers, word quickly spread among churchgoers that the order had come from Peixão.

The broadsheet O Globo said there were subsequent reports that armed men on motorbikes had visited two other local churches, Saint Hedwig and Saint Cecilia, and decreed that weddings or christenings should not take place. Those churches also published messages announcing their temporary closure.

The Archdiocese of Rio denied the media reports, insisting their churches were operating as normal. In a statement, Rio’s public security secretary attributed the reports to online rumours and claimed no such order had been given.

But the civil police’s anti-intolerance and racism unit is reportedly investigating. On Monday morning, military police launched an operation to remove barricades blocking roads leading into Peixão’s domain, where Bible-themed murals carry quotations from Psalms. The government said police had been deployed to prevent “instability in the region and ensure that churches can operate and that residents are safe”.

Whatever the truth, the drama has alarmed churchgoers and highlighted the growing influence of Bible-bashing bandits known as “narco-pentecostals” who now control large swaths of Rio.

“They call themselves evangelicals but I refuse to use this term. In reality, [Peixão] is a narco-religious-fundamentalist,” said the commentator and former newspaper editor Octavio Guedes on the television network GloboNews.

Experts say the backdrop to the rise of narco-pentecostalism is the breakneck spread of evangelical churches through Brazil in the almost four decades since 37-year-old Peixão was born in Rio’s dilapidated northern suburbs.

Since then, Brazil’s evangelical community has exploded, from less than 7% of the population in 1980 to 22% in 2010 and about 30% today. The Catholic congregation, meanwhile, has shrunk dramatically. In 1991, 83% of Brazilians identified as Catholic, compared with about 50% today.

The evangelical revolution has been particularly fervid in Rio, especially in deprived suburbs and favelas where preachers provide crucial support to downtrodden residents whose relatives face unemployment, alcoholism and drug addiction.

But a byproduct has been the disturbing melding of Christian extremism and members of the drug factions who govern many such communities. Some observers credit preachers with reducing levels of violence by embracing Rio’s drug lords and trying to convince them to spill less blood.

But others fear they have radicalized highly dangerous outlaws such as Peixão – a fugitive who is reportedly wanted for crimes including trafficking, murder and concealment of a human corpse – with dire consequences for religious freedom.

Cecília Olliveira, a security expert whose group, Fogo Cruzado, tracks armed violence, said it was common to hear of incidents in which radicalized traffickers attacked Afro-Brazilian temples called terreiros or banned favela residents from wearing religious necklaces known as guias or white clothes.

But Olliveira had never heard of Catholic churches facing similar repression, which she called the consequence of longstanding religious intolerance from sectors of the neo-pentecostal church.

“What it shows us, above all, is the extent to which the state does not have formal control over certain areas,” Olliveira said of the gangster’s alleged order to close the churches.

“Democracy never reached certain parts of the country and this [order] is crystal-clear proof of this because it infringes one of the most basic rights … which is having the right to profess your faith. And it’s becoming clearer by the day that in fact, no, you don’t have this right,” she said.

Olliveira suspected the government’s denial of the situation was a reflection of how mortifying this reality was. “If you admit that this has happened, then you are admitting that you have failed,” she said.

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Alec Baldwin’s manslaughter trial for Rust film set shooting begins in New Mexico

The actor is being tried for his role in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in 2021

Almost three years after the fatal shooting on the movie set of Rust, prosecutors will begin to lay out their case against Alec Baldwin as the actor’s involuntary manslaughter trial starts.

The proceedings were expected to kick off on Wednesday with the prosecution and defense offering their opening statements.

Baldwin is accused of involuntary manslaughter for his role in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was killed on the film’s New Mexico set in October 2021. The actor and producer on the western was rehearsing when he pointed a prop firearm at Hutchins and the weapon fired a single bullet, killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.

The trial will focus extensively on the Colt .45 used in the shooting. Baldwin has long claimed that he did not fire the weapon and that it had malfunctioned. The prosecution contends that forensic testing on the gun shows the actor had pulled the trigger and that Baldwin was negligent in his handling of it.

This criminal case against Baldwin has been winding its way through the New Mexico legal system since January 2024, when a grand jury indicted him on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors had previously charged him with the same offense in 2023 but later dropped the charge and said they needed more time to review the evidence.

Baldwin’s legal team had repeatedly attempted to get the charge against him dropped, and last month sought dismissal on grounds that prosecutors had allowed potentially “exculpatory evidence” to be destroyed in the FBI testing of the firearm before the defense could examine it. Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer denied those requests.

On Tuesday, proceedings moved forward as a jury of 11 women and five men were selected from a pool of 70 people. Only three of the 70 potential jurors said they had not seen or heard anything about the case, but all of those selected said that they had not formed an opinion about the incident and that they felt they could be fair.

“Our job – the attorneys for both sides – is to make sure we get a fair and impartial jury,” prosecutor Kari Morrissey said on Tuesday. “We want to get jurors who can be fair to the state. We also want to get jurors who can be fair to Mr Baldwin.”

The trial comes after Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the chief weapons handler on the Rust set, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Legal experts have said that prosecutors may have a harder time proving Baldwin’s guilt after Gutierrez-Reed was deemed responsible in her trial.

Read more on the case:

  • What you need to know about Alec Baldwin’s trial

  • Alec Baldwin heads to trial for manslaughter

  • Rust film armorer sentenced for fatal on-set shooting

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Wimbledon to pay at least £250,000 in refunds after near-non-stop rain

Seventy-five of 91 matches scheduled for Tuesday were cancelled, while 12 were carried over to Wednesday

Wimbledon is to hand out at least £250,000-worth of refunds after the tournament was hit by near-non-stop rain on Tuesday.

There was no play on the outside courts for most of Tuesday and 75 of the 91 scheduled matches were cancelled, while 12 were carried over to Wednesday.

Only Centre Court and No 1 court have roofs. Heavy rain over the first nine days of the championships has caused a major backlog of matches and forced organisers to make scheduling changes.

On Wednesday, the Met Office confirmed that more than a month’s rain – 52.6mm – had fallen in the first nine days of the championships, including 5.6mm recorded at nearby Kew Gardens on Tuesday.

The wet weather has also been blamed for the drop in visitor numbers, with 34,922 people passing through the gates of SW19 on Tuesday, which was the lowest day nine attendance since 2018.

Wimbledon announced on Tuesday that the mixed doubles final would have to take place after the men’s singles final on Centre Court on Sunday, rather than on Thursday.

The club also said that play on the outside courts would have to start at 10.30am on Wednesday instead of 11am because the event was so far behind schedule.

Wimbledon said on Wednesday that it would refund ticket-holders who bought a Court 2 ticket or a grounds pass before 5pm on Tuesday.

“Ticket-holders … are eligible for a full refund due to the rain delays and the resulting cancellation of matches,” it said on its website. “We thank all ticket-holders affected for their patience and understanding.”

Wimbledon is expected to issue more than 7,000 refunds, which is likely to cost the club in excess of £250,000. Court 2’s capacity is 4,063, with tickets costing £50 each. The refund is expected to include more than 3,000 grounds passes priced at £25 each.

The Met Office has said the weather is due to improve for the rest of the week. “Today [Wednesday] is expected to remain dry with just a small risk of a shower until mid-afternoon,” said Abby Smith, an onsite forecaster at Wimbledon.

“Tomorrow [Thursday] is likely to be dry with some sunny spells. Feeling warm with temperatures reaching highs of 23C with a light westerly breeze. For the rest of the championships, a mix of showers and sunny spells with the chance of more persistent rain at times.”

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