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Prisoners Need COVID-19 Protection, Too

These days, we are all worried about those most susceptible to the ravages of the COVID-19 virus — not only the elderly and already sick but also those on the daily line of fire, like medical first responders and the countless essential workers still on the job.

But my inbox is filling up with letters beseeching Americans not to forget the incarcerated locked up in jails and prisons. These places are notoriously overcrowded and oftentimes operated in dilapidated and unsanitary conditions. There is no possibility for inmates to practice social distancing, to wash their hands at will or to possess a face mask. They are trapped in places that are notorious breeding grounds for germs.

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New York Escaped Convict Shot Dead By Police: Reports

New York (AFP) – One of two convicts who escaped from a maximum-security New York prison was shot dead by police Friday after three weeks on the run, according to media reports.

Richard Matt, 49, was killed by law enforcement and his fellow escapee David Sweat, 35, was still being pursued by police, CNN reported.

The shooting took place in Franklin County in upstate New York, where police had focused search efforts after several reports the men had been spotted in the area.

The inmates used power tools to cut their way out of their cells at the Clinton Correctional Facility before dawn on June 6 in a spectacular prison break, triggering an intense weeks-long manhunt in the state.

Authorities said earlier Friday the pair might have been heading toward Canada, and warned border guards to be on alert.

The hunt was centered in an area about 50 miles from the prison and roughly 30 miles from the border with Canada.

Screenshot via

This story is breaking and is being updated.

Chile Weighs Taking Guantanamo Detainees At U.S. Request

Santiago (AFP) — The Chilean government is considering taking in detainees from the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, officials said Monday.

The United States made the request back in 2010 but the idea has run up against opposition from some lawmakers, said Foreign Ministry legal adviser Claudio Troncoso.

“Our country is carrying out an evaluation of that U.S. request,” he told reporters. “There has been absolutely no final decision made on this issue.”

The United States has told Santiago that they are detainees who do not face formal charges or present any danger, he added.

But opposition lawmakers voiced concern.

“There could be collateral damage from taking in prisoners linked to terrorist acts,” said Ivan Moreira, a senator with the ultra-conservative Independent Democratic Union party.

“Our country should not get involved in a sensitive issue that could bring upon us unwanted consequences when we are being looked at by international terror groups,” added Jorge Tarud, a lawmaker with the ruling coalition-backing Party for Democracy.

Uruguay plans to take in six detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, but says that no date for the transfer has been set yet.

There are 149 inmates still at the prison on the eastern tip of Cuba that was set up under former president George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

AFP Photo/Chantal Valery

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Nigeria Kidnap Families Want ‘Unconditional’ Release

Abuja (AFP) – Relatives of more than 200 schoolgirls held hostage by Boko Haram on Thursday called for their unconditional release, after Nigeria’s government ruled out a prisoner swap with the extremists.

An on-the-run Boko Haram suspect wanted in connection with a bomb attack that killed 75 in Abuja was meanwhile arrested in Sudan, while the UN pledged to do all it could to help end the crisis.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau indicated in a video this week that he could release the 223 girls now held for more than a month in exchange for militant fighters in custody in Nigerian jails.

But Britain’s Africa minister Mark Simmonds said after meeting President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday that the head of state was adamant there “will be no negotiation that involves a swap.”

Ayuba Chibok, whose niece is among the hostages, said the girls’ detention was taking its toll on parents and families in their remote town from where the teenagers were abducted on April 14.

“For me, I want these girls released without any negotiations. Even if Boko Haram wants to request something from the government, let them request something else,” he told AFP by telephone from Chibok.

“Let (Shekau) release these girls unconditionally,” he added.

The mass abduction — and Boko Haram claims that the girls would be sold as slaves — has led to global outrage and galvanized the international community to help Nigeria end the crisis.

U.S. drones and manned surveillance aircraft have been deployed, the Pentagon said, while Britain was sending a spy plane and a military team to Abuja to work alongside French and Israeli experts.

The United Nations special envoy for West Africa, Said Djinnit, met Jonathan and said a package of measures were in place to help the girls after their release, including psychological counselling.

“The U.N. is committed to do its utmost within its capacity to assist the authorities of Nigeria in their efforts towards the release of the schoolgirls,” he said in Abuja.

Nigeria’s capital was hit by its worst ever bombing on April 14, when a car bomb ripped through a crowded bus station in the Nyanya suburb. Boko Haram were blamed.

The country’s secret police the Department of State Services (DSS) said this week that five men had been arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack but the two alleged masterminds were at large.

One of them, British-born Nigerian Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, was held on Tuesday as he tried to get a visa from the Turkish embassy in central Khartoum, where he had been studying Arabic, a source close to the case told AFP.

The DSS said Ogwuche, an army deserter who served in an intelligence unit, had previously been arrested on suspicion of terror offences in November 2011 at Abuja international airport but bailed the following October.

In parliament, senators were quizzing security and military commanders before voting on a request by Jonathan for a six-month extension to a state of emergency in three northeast states.

Jonathan has called the security situation in the region “daunting” and said he was concerned by the mounting loss of life among civilians.

More than 2,000 have been killed this year alone, most of them ordinary people, in the five-year insurgency across Muslim-majority northern Nigeria that has seen churches, schools and entire villages attacked.

Members of the lower House of Representatives were also expected to vote, with a two-thirds majority from members of both chambers required for an extension to be approved.

The state of emergency was first imposed on Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states on May 14 last year and extended in November, as attacks continued, particularly in hard-to-reach rural areas.

Yobe’s governor has already rejected extending the special powers. Borno and Adamawa, which are also run by the main political opposition, are expected to follow suit.

Initial gains in forcing Boko Haram out of urban centers appeared to have been lost because of the continued strife, with questions raised about the military’s tactics and ability to curb the threat.

Analysts have said conventional means are ineffective against an enemy fighting a guerrilla war while more was needed to boost intelligence and even equip demoralized soldiers on the front line.

Disgruntled troops on Tuesday fired shots into the air when the local commander paid a visit to the state capital of Borno, Maiduguri to sympathize with them after a Boko Haram ambush killed some of their comrades.

Six soldiers, including one officer, were killed as they returned from patrol duties in Chibok, the defense ministry said, adding that the commander was not injured by the firing.

©afp.com / Tony Karumba