Police investigate shooting of British ExxonMobil executive in Belgium

Reuters

British oil executive Nicholas Mockford is seen in an undated photo.

Police in Belgium are investigating the murder of a British oil executive who was shot and killed in front of his wife in Brussels in mid-October.

Nicholas Mockford, a 59-year-old executive for ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, was shot dead on Oct. 14 as he left a restaurant in Neder-over-Heembeek in northern Brussels. He died on the way to the hospital, police said.

In the immediate aftermath of Mockford’s murder, a judge imposed an order on police preventing them from releasing any details on the case or their investigation. But on Thursday, authorities decided to enlist the public’s help and released a brief description of the crime.

Mockford and his wife left the restaurant at about 10 p.m., the report said. They crossed the street toward a car when an assailant approached and hit Mockford’s wife several times in the face and tried to yank her bag away, police said.


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A second assailant then fired three shots at Mockford who later died at the scene, police said.

Authorities were initially investigating the case as a botched carjacking, Reuters reported, but in the days following Mockford’s murder, family members said they believed he may have been the victim of a professional hit by an assassin.

A police spokesperson said officers were approaching the “difficult investigation” from several angles, after Mockford’s relatives reportedly raised fears that he had been targeted for assassination, the Independent reported.

“He was shot so calmly and so quickly, it smacks horribly of a professional hit, but we can’t fathom why,” the relative told the Independent. “He isn’t’ the type to cave in to blackmail and it just doesn’t compute.”

Prosecutors declined to say if they were investigating the case as a possible contract killing and declined to comment further on the details or circumstances of the case until the perpetrators were caught.  

Mockford was a manager within the chemicals unit at ExxonMobil and had worked over a period of 38 years in Britain, Belgium and Singapore, Reuters reported.

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Oil giant ExxonMobil said Friday it did not believe the murder, was linked to Mockford’s work.

“We were shocked by the tragic death of Nick Mockford, one of our employees, a fortnight ago in Burssels,” the Texas-based company said in a statement. “Mr. Mockford was a department manager at our office close to Brussels but we have no indication that the incident was work related.”

Brussels police said their “difficult” investigation remains open. 

“We are investigating all different angles, and it depends on how quickly we can find elements of information,” Genevieve Seressia, a spokesperson for the Brussels prosecutor’s office said. “It’s impossible to predict how long this can take – it might be handled quickly, but could take a long time, even years.” 

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Sudan says Israeli jets bombed arms factory

EPA

A picture made available on Oct. 24, 2012 shows a fire following an explosion at Yarmouk military factory in Khartoum, Sudan. The fire has been contained, but it is still unclear what triggered the explosion.

Sudan on Wednesday blamed Israel for a huge explosion and fire at an arms factory in Khartoum that killed two people. Israel’s defense minister declined to comment.

“Four military planes attacked the Yarmouk plant. … We believe that Israel is behind it,” Sudan Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman told reporters, adding that the planes appeared to approach the site from the east.

Asked by Israel’s Channel Two News about Sudan’s accusations, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: “There is nothing I can say about this subject.”

Similarly, U.S. officials who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity, said, “We have no comment. We can’t help you on this.”

Some Pentagon officials suggested that the explosion could have been accidental and said there were “conflicting reports” about its cause.


Sudan, which analysts say is used as an arms-smuggling route to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip via neighboring Egypt, has blamed Israel for similar blasts in the past, but Israel either has refused to comment or said it neither admitted or denied involvement.

The powerful explosion at the Yarmouk Military Industrial Complex in southern Khartoum rocked Sudan’s capital before dawn Wednesday, sending detonating ammunition flying through the air and causing panic, Sudan’s official news agency and local media reports said. Nearby buildings were damaged by the blast, their roofs blown off and their windows shattered, according to the reports.

New fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region, several killed

“Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel,” Osman said, saying two citizens had been killed and that the plant had been partially destroyed. Another person was seriously injured, he added.

Officials said earlier there were no reports of deaths, although some residents had suffered from smoke inhalation.

Around 300 people gathered in the evening at the courtyard of a government building where the Sudanese Cabinet was meeting in an emergency session, shouting “Death to Israel” and “Remove Israel from the map.”

Conflict displaces 900,000 in Sudan border areas

“Israel is a country of injustice that needs to be deterred,” Vice President Ali Osman Taha, standing next to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, told the crowd. “This attack only strengthens our firmness.”

The governor of Khartoum state initially had ruled out any “external” cause for the blast, but officials later showed journalists a video from the vast site showing a huge crater next to two destroyed buildings and what appeared to be a rocket lying on the ground.

Sudan forces burned, looted remote border village: activists

Osman said an analysis of rocket debris and other material had shown that the attack had been engineered by Israel, which Sudan views as an enemy.

Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Mohamed Hussein and senior officials visited the site of the explosion and held an emergency meeting with top army generals while security forces sealed off the area surrounding the complex and halted traffic.

Israel kills 3 Hamas militants after Qatari emir leaves Gaza

In 2009, a convoy carrying weapons in northeastern Sudan was targeted from the air, killing dozens. It was widely believed that Israel carried out the attack on weapons shipment headed for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Israel never confirmed or denied that. Sudanese parliamentarians denied that weapons were transported in the area.

In 1998, the United States used cruise missiles to knock out a Khartoum pharmaceutical factory suspected of links to al-Qaida in the aftermath of the terror group’s bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

Sudan has long been a major hub for al-Qaida militants and a transit for weapon smugglers and African migrant traffickers.

NBC News’ Senior Investigative Producer Robert Windrem, the Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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Pussy Riot members sent to far-flung prisons, lawyer says

Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP – Getty Images

Members of the all-girl punk band Pussy Riot: Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sit in a glass-walled cage in a court in Moscow, on Oct. 10, 2012.

Two members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot convicted of protesting against President Vladimir Putin in a cathedral have been sent to prisons far from Moscow despite requesting to serve out their terms in the capital, a lawyer said on Monday.

Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in August and sentenced to two years in jail, a punishment that many in the West said was too harsh.
Their stunt — bursting into Moscow’s main Russian Orthodox Cathedral to urge the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin — infuriated the church and many Russians. But Kremlin critics said their trial was part of a crackdown on dissent orchestrated by Putin, who began a six-year presidential term in May.

The two women lost their appeals on Oct. 10.

The women’s lawyers said they had tried to argue they should be allowed to remain in jail in Moscow, saying it would have permitted them to be closer to their small children. They had also cited health and safety concerns at far-flung penal colonies.

“They have been sent away,” one of their lawyers, Mark Feigin, told Reuters, saying he did not know where the women had been taken. By law, relatives must be informed once a convict arrives at a prison, but the trip can take days.

‘We are not finished,’ says freed Pussy Riot member

There is a women’s prison about 60 miles from Moscow, but most are much farther away.


Former collaborators in a street-art group said on Twitter that Tolokonnikova had been sent to Mordovia, about 300 miles east of Moscow, and Alyokhina to the Perm region, near the Ural Mountains, about 700 miles east of the capital. That was not confirmed.

 

The duo had been held in a Moscow detention center since their arrests in March. Western governments and musicians such as Madonna had said their sentences were disproportionate, but Putin voiced support for the terms, saying the state must protect the feelings of the faithful.

Russian court sentences Pussy Riot rockers to 2 years in prison

The dominant Russian Orthodox Church has cast the punk group’s protest as part of a concerted attack against the church and Russian traditions.

Russian Orthodox Church to Pussy Riot punk band: Repent before appeal

A third convicted member of Pussy Riot, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on appeal when a court suspended her sentence after her lawyer argued that she had been pulled away from the cathedral’s altar before the protest song began.

According to The Moscow Times, Samutsevich has taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights, accusing Russia of violating her right to freedom of speech and detaining her illegally.

“The violations were very serious and very evident,” Samutsevich said in an interview Friday, according to The Moscow Times. “I don’t like the fact that they did not acquit me and the other girls … and I want to challenge that before the European court. Sadly, the Russian courts have not shown objectivity or fairness.” Samutsevich described the conditions of her detention, saying she was deprived of food and sleep for hours, The Moscow Times reported.

 

Gadhafi’s youngest son reported killed amid Libya clashes

Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters, file

Khamis Gaddafi is shown in a photograph found at Fatih University in June 2011.

Khamis Gadhafi, youngest son of slain Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, was reported dead Saturday, exactly a year after his father died.

There were conflicting reports about whether Khamis Gadhafi was captured alive but gravely wounded after a gunbattle in Bani Walid, a pro-Gadhafi stronghold where fighting has raged for three days. And Khamis Gadhafi has been reported killed several times, including in an August 2011 NATO airstrike.


Al Arabiya news agency reported that sources told it Khamis Gadhafi was severely wounded and arrested but that he later died. However, Al Arabiya also said, Mohamed al-Magarief, the head of Libya’s democratically elected General National Congress, told the agency the late dictator’s son was killed during the clashes.

A Libyan journalist told NBC News that Khamis Gadhafi was captured while fleeing in a convoy. His right leg had been amputated, but it was not clear if that was a result of recent fighting or a previous injury.

Dr. Mustafa Abushagur, sacked as Libya’s prime minister last week, tweeted Saturday that Khamis Gadhafi’s body was taken to a Misrata hospital, the Russian Times reported.

The Guardian of London reported that a statement by the Libyan national congress spokesman, Omar Hamdan, said the 28-year-old was killed “in battle” but gave no further details.

The reports came after heavy fighting between the pro-Gadhafi garrison in Bani Walid and militias allied to the Libyan government.

The seventh son of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Khamis Gadhafi is known as one of the most hardline of Gadhafi’s sons. 

His reported death prompted wild celebrations in Misrata, Libya’s third city, where fireworks and car horns filled the night, the Russian Times reported. He was reviled there for atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the 32nd Brigade, a special unit he formed after studying in a Russian military academy, the Russian Times said.

Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS

An uprising in Libya ousts dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

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Related: US slaps sanctions on woman accused of helping Saadi Gadhafi

The reports came the same day of reports that Moammar Gadhafi’s chief spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, had been captured.

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On Saturday, Magarief said not all areas of Libya had been liberated, Al Jazeera news agency reported.

“The campaign to liberate the country has not been fully completed,” Magarief said on state television.

“Bani Walid’s misfortune is that it has become a sanctuary for a large number of outlaws and anti-revolutionaries and mercenaries,” Magarief said.

Patrick Kovarik / AFP – Getty Images

A look at the life and times of Libya’s mercurial and flamboyant leader

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World News Instant Index: Michael Phelps: Fittest Man of All Time

instant index blog 640x100 World News Instant Index: Michael Phelps: Fittest Man of All Time

From the unconventional and awe-inspiring to the hilarious and heartwarming, here’s a look at some of the most interesting photos, videos and stories that have our newsroom talking today. What’s capturing your attention, filling your inbox and cluttering your Facebook/Twitter feed? Comment below with the stories you’re talking about, tweet them using #InstantIndex or email us at ABC.WorldNews@abc.com and they could appear on World News. 

Michael Phelps: Fittest Man of All Time
Men’s Health selected 22-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps as the “fittest man of all time.” The magazine said it picked Phelps over Bruce Lee, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Muhammad Ali and many others  not only because of the body he’d built, but also because of what he’d been able to do with it — inspire people around the globe.

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Image credit: Louis Vuitton

 

Quote: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
“I can’t stand whining,” Clinton told Marie Claire Magazine during a conversation about “Catcher in the Rye.” “I can’t stand the kind of paralysis that some people fall into because they’re not happy with the choices they’ve made. You live in a time when there are endless choices … Money certainly helps, and having that kind of financial privilege goes a long way, but you don’t even have to have money for it. But you have to work on yourself … Do something!”

ap clinton global cc 120924 wblog World News Instant Index: Michael Phelps: Fittest Man of All Time

Image credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

 

Number: $50,000
The Federal Trade Commission is offering a reward of $50,000 to anyone who can find a way to stop robocalls.

 

Ready for Their Close-Up
Photographer David C. Schultz tweeted us these photos from a trip he took to Antarctica — “Thought this might make you smile.” The emperor penguins were more interested in the camera gear than Schultz.

ht emperor penguins camera 1 ll 121018 wblog World News Instant Index: Michael Phelps: Fittest Man of All Time

Image credit: David C. Schultz/www.westlightimages.com

ht emperor penguins camera 2 ll 121018 wblog World News Instant Index: Michael Phelps: Fittest Man of All Time

Image credit: David C. Schultz/www.westlightimages.com

 

Negative Punt
Bizarre weather created a strange play during a recent high school football game in Texas. A punt from the 27-yard line last weekend ended up going backward because of strong winds and found its way into the end zone where it was recovered by the kicking team for a safety.

 

Daring Baby Elephant Rescue
The Ambsoeli Trust for Elephants recently uploaded this video of a rescue the group took part in a few weeks ago. An 8-month-old elephant was stuck in a pit and the wildlife activists had to drive off the distraught mother in order to save the baby. The calf was immediately reunited with its mother.

 

Flying Championship
The first wingsuit flying championship has begun in Zhangjiajie, China. The world’s 15 best flyers will jump from more than 4,500 feet and follow a course that takes them close to a cableway before landing at the finish line. The flyer who completes the course the quickest wins.

 

No More Newsweek
Newsweek announced today that it will be ending its print edition after 80 years of publishing. The magazine is transitioning to a digital-only format that will launch in 2013. The last print edition will be the Dec. 31 issue.

ht newsweek cover thg 121018 wblog World News Instant Index: Michael Phelps: Fittest Man of All Time

Image credit: Newsweek

Canadian border agent shot, assailant dead

Cpl. Bert Paquet of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police provides the latest details of a shooting at the U.S.-Canadian border between Surrey, B.C. and Blaine, Wash.

Updated at 9:49 p.m. ET: A Canadian border agent has been shot and her assailant killed at the main border crossing from Washington state to Canada, according to law enforcement officials. The crossing was closed to traffic on Tuesday afternoon.

The Canadian Border Services Agency guard, who was shot in the neck area, was airlifted around 2:30 p.m. to a Vancouver-area hospital, The Province newspaper reported, citing emergency services. She was still breathing after the shooting, officials said Tuesday afternoon.

The shooter shot himself in the head after the incident, according to The Province. He has yet to be identified by police.


The Washington State Department of Transportation announced that all northbound lanes of Interstate 5, which leads to the Peace Arch crossing, were closed to traffic because of police activity. Southbound lanes from Canada into the United States were also closed. Drivers were being diverted to other border crossings.

The suspect in the shooting, the Province reported, was driving a white Ford van with Washington state license plates. It is unclear whether the van belonged to him.

Elizabeth Southam told the Global News that she was returning from Halloween shopping and was about three cars behind the border booth when she heard two loud gunshots.

She spoke with the Global News by phone as she was stuck at the border. She said the shooter’s van remained at the scene.

“Everybody started freaking out,” she said. “Border guards ran out of the little booths here and locked everything up. Everyone just went crazy.”

She saw border guards pull their service weapons on the van.

“I didn’t actually see the guns go off but they were all screaming and yelling at the guy and then he shot himself,” Southam told the News.

Dave Noble, who commutes from Washington state to White Rock in Canada several times a week, spoke with reporters at the scene about what he saw and heard.

“There were shots fired in quick succession, and then I heard some screams,” Noble said, according to the Vancouver Sun.

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Pakistani girl shot by Taliban en route to UK

The Pakistani schoolgirl shot and critically wounded by the Taliban for promoting education for girls and criticizing the militant group is en route to the UK for further medical treatment, Pakistan military officials told NBC News on Monday.

As doctors debated whether to send Malala Yousafzai abroad for care, thousands rallied in her name, including hundreds of schoolgirls who gathered in Afghanistan. NBC’s Amna Nawaz reports.

“The plane has left this morning for UK,” the spokesman told NBC’s Fakhar Rehman.

Earlier, a medical team from the United Arab Emirates was sent to facilitate the transfer of 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai to a hospital outside Pakistan, a UAE news agency reported on Sunday.

“The panel of doctors recommended that Malala be shifted abroad to a UK center which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injury,” a statement from the Pakistani military said Monday.

It was agreed by a panel of Pakistani doctors and international experts that Yousufzai will require prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological trauma, the military statement said.

Yousufzai’s family was consulted and their wishes were taken into consideration, the military said.

Yousufzai was leaving school in her hometown in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan when she was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban for speaking out against the militants and promoting education for girls.

On Sunday, tens of thousands rallied in Pakistan’s largest city in support of Yousufzai

Shakil Adil / AP

Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai was shot by the Taliban on Tuesday for speaking out against the militants and promoting education for girls. Doctors reported Saturday Yousufzai moved her hands and feet.

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The demonstration in the southern city of Karachi was by far the largest since Yousufzai and two of her classmates were shot on Oct. 9 while returning home.

The attack horrified people inside and outside Pakistan and sparked hope among some that it would prompt the government to intensify its fight against the Taliban and their allies.

But protests against the shooting have been relatively small until now, usually attracting no more than a few hundred people. That response pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of people who held violent protests in Pakistan last month against a film produced in the United States that denigrated Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. 

NBC News’ Fakhar Rehman and Reuters contributed to this report.

Clinton reaffirms support for Libya, emerging democracies

Yuri Gripas / REUTERS

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a keynote address on “U.S. Strategic Engagement with North Africa in an Era of Change” at the Center for Strategic International Studies in Washington on Friday.

A month after the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed the United States’ support for the new governments emerging from the Arab Spring.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday, Clinton said the attack in Benghazi and the burning of the American School in Tunis have led some to question the promise and hope of the Arab Spring. She said she has always been clear-eyed about the challenges that were ahead.  

“Let me start by stating the obvious: Nobody should have ever thought this would be an easy road. I certainly didn’t,” Clinton said. 

Romney: Biden ‘doubling down on denial’ in explanation of Libya response

She went on to say that the United States “will not pull back our support for emerging democracies when the going gets rough. That would be a costly strategic mistake that would, I believe, undermine both our interests and our values.”   


Clinton described what occurred on Sept. 11 in Benghazi as a “terrorist attack” and said she appointed a review board to examine the security procedures in Benghazi. The U.S. government is “sparing no effort” to track down the terrorists responsible for the attack, Clinton said.

The terrorists who attacked the mission do not represent the Libyan people, she added, citing the protests against the militias there.

“The United States will not retreat,” Clinton said. “We will keep leading and we will stay engaged in the Maghreb and everywhere in the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake.”

The United States is “stepping up” its counterterrorism efforts in northern Mali, Clinton said, where al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is trying to expand its reach. 

“For some time, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other terrorist groups have launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries. Now, with the chaos and ethnic conflict there allowing these groups to carve out a larger safe haven, they are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions,” she said.

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‘We are not finished,’ says freed Pussy Riot member

Sergey Ponomarev / AP

Freed feminist punk group Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich, center, speaks outside a court in Moscow Wednesday.

MOSCOW — Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich said Wednesday the punk band would continue its political protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We are not finished, nor are we going to end our political protest,” she said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “The situation in the country has deteriorated since our performance and the trial itself is a testimony to that.”

A Russian appeals court on Wednesday upheld the two-year jail sentences handed down to two members of punk band Pussy Riot for a protest against Vladimir Putin in a cathedral, but freed a third member by suspending her sentence.

A Moscow City Court judge said the court was leaving the sentences in place for Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, and issuing a suspended sentence for Samutsevich, 30.

Samutsevich told CNN that Pussy Riot still exists, but added that the band will be more “cautious” in the future when staging anti-Putin events.

“We have to act in such a way that [the Russian authorities] do not learn about concerts ahead of time … and arrest us,” she said.

The three women were convicted in August of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for belting out a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral imploring the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

“Of course I am very happy to be out and to be free,” Samutsevich told CNN, “but I’m very upset that Nadezhda and Maria are still incarcerated.”

Russian Orthodox Church to Pussy Riot punk band: Repent before appeal

The case sparked an international outcry, with Western governments and pop star Madonna condemning the sentences as disproportionate, a view not widely shared in Russia where public opinion was shocked by the protest.

Members of the all-girl punk band “Pussy Riot” (from left) Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sit in a glass-walled cage in the Moscow court Wednesday.

The three band members said their performance was a political protest and that they have no animus toward Russian Orthodox faithful.

Before the ruling Wednesday, relatives and lawyers for the trio complained of political interference in the original trial and said that Putin’s weekend comments on the case in an interview marking his 60th birthday had compromised the appeal. 

Members of the band Pussy Riot, arrested in February after storming a Moscow cathedral, were sentenced to two years in jail Friday. Critics say the arrest was Putin’s personal revenge, raising questions about justice in Russia. NBC’s Duncan Golestani reports.

 

Samutsevich told CNN the cathedral protest was intended as a criticism of the support given by the Russian Orthodox Church for Putin’s re-election, and not as an expression of hatred aimed at believers.

“We believe that we live in a secular society and in this state, the principles of the secular society should be respected,” she said. “The representatives of the church should not interfere with the politics of the country, and we wanted to highlight this problem through our action.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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