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Man charged with shooting 3 Palestinian college students accused of harassing ex-girlfriend in 2019

Man charged with shooting 3 Palestinian college students accused of harassing ex-girlfriend in 2019

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Man charged with shooting 3 Palestinian college students accused of harassing ex-girlfriend in 2019

The man charged with shooting three college students of Palestinian descent in Vermont last weekend was accused several years ago of harassing an ex-girlfriend in New York state, but no charges were ever filed, according to a police report.

Jason J. Eaton’s ex called police in Dewitt, New York, a town near Syracuse, in 2019 saying she had received numerous text messages, emails and phone calls that were sexual in nature but not threatening from Eaton, and wanted him to stop contacting her, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press. NBC News first reported on the complaint.

The woman said Eaton had driven his pickup truck by her home that evening and a second time while she was talking to the police officer. She said she didn’t want to press charges against him but just wanted police to tell him to stop contacting her, the report states.

Police pulled over Eaton’s vehicle and he told them that he was under the impression that the woman still wanted to see him, according to the report. The officer told Eaton that the woman wanted absolutely no contact with him and he said he understood, according to police.

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Eaton, 48, is currently being held without bail after his arrest Sunday in the city of Burlington on three counts of attempted murder. Authorities say he shot and seriously wounded Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad in Burlington on Saturday evening as they were walking near the University of Vermont. The 20-year-old students had been spending Thanksgiving break with Abdalhamid’s uncle Rich Price, who lives nearby.

In this Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023 photo provided by family attorney Abed Ayoub, three college students, from the left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Hisham Awartani, stand together for a photograph. The three young men were shot and seriously injured Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, while walking near the University of Vermont campus in Burlington. Jason Eaton, 48, was arrested Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, and has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder. (Rich Price via AP)

In this Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023 photo provided by family attorney Abed Ayoub, three college students, from the left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Hisham Awartani, stand together for a photograph. The three young men were shot and seriously injured Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, while walking near the University of Vermont campus in Burlington. Jason Eaton, 48, was arrested Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, and has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder. (Rich Price via AP)

Eaton had moved to Vermont this summer from the Syracuse, New York, area, according to Burlington police. He pleaded not guilty on Monday. Eaton’s name appeared in 37 Syracuse police reports from 2007 until 2021, but never as a suspect, said police spokesperson Lt. Matthew Malinowski. The cases ranged from domestic violence to larceny, and Eaton was listed as either a victim or the person filing the complaint in 21 of the reports, Malinowski said.

Authorities are investigating Saturday’s shooting to determine whether it constitutes a hate crime. Threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities have increased across the U.S. since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

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The students were conversing in a mix of English and Arabic and two of them were also wearing black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarves when they were shot, police said.

Abdalhamid has been released from the hospital, his family said in a written statement Tuesday. Awartani, who faces a long recovery because of a spinal injury, was undergoing surgery on Wednesday, Price said in a text message to the AP. The AP left a phone message with the University of Vermont Medical Center on Wednesday seeking information on Ali Ahmad’s condition.

Awartani and Abdalhamid’s mothers arrived in Vermont on Wednesday, according to Abed Ayoub, the national executive director of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

In their statement Tuesday, Abdelhamid’s family said they are extremely relieved that he’s been released from the hospital but that he is still in pain and recovering.

“Kinnan told us that he was afraid to leave the hospital,” the statement reads. “Our child may be physically well enough to be out of the hospital, but he is still shaken from this horrific attack. We know that this tragedy will shape the rest of our lives.”

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Eaton had recently lost his job. He worked for less than a year for California-based CUSO Financial and his employment ended on Nov. 8, said company spokesperson Jeff Eller.

He legally purchased the gun used in the shooting, police said. On Sunday, Eaton came to the door of his apartment holding his hands up, and told the officers he’d been waiting for them. Federal agents found the gun in his apartment later that day.

The shooting victims had been friends since first grade at Ramallah Friends School, a private school in the West Bank. Rania Ma’ayeh, who leads the school, called them “remarkable, distinguished students.”

Awartani is studying mathematics and archaeology at Brown University; Abdalhamid is a pre-med student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Ali Ahmad is studying mathematics and IT at Trinity College in Connecticut. Awartani and Abdalhamid are U.S. citizens while Ali Ahmad is studying on a student visa, Ma’ayeh said. 

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

The US Coast Guard and Kiribati police boarded two Chinese fishing boats during a patrol against illegal fishing in the Pacific Islands nation’s vast exclusive economic zone this month but found no issues aboard, a coast guard official said.

The United States is seeking a bigger role for its coast guard in helping remote Pacific Islands nations monitor millions of kilometres of ocean – a rich tuna fishing ground – a move that also boosts surveillance as a rivalry with China over security ties in the region intensifies.

Reuters reported on Friday that Chinese police are working in Kiribati, with uniformed officers involved in community policing and a crime database program.

Kiribati, a nation of 115,000 residents, is considered strategic despite being small, as it is relatively close to Hawaii and controls a 3.5 million square kilometre (1.35 million square mile) exclusive economic zone. It is also host to a Japanese satellite tracking station.

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Washington has flagged plans to build an embassy in Kiribati to compete with China, but has not yet done so.

Kiribati police officers were on patrol with the US Coast Guard as “ship riders” for the first time in almost a decade, between Feb. 11-16, a US Coast Guard Guam spokeswoman said.

“The two People’s Republic of China (PRC) flagged fishing vessels were boarded as part of routine maritime law enforcement activities to ensure compliance with regulations within the Kiribati Exclusive Economic Zone,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed comments.

No concerns were reported during the boardings, she said.

“Both Kiribati officers from the Kiribati Police Maritime Unit and US Coast Guard officers were involved in the boarding operations. This collaboration underscores the partnership between the two nations in upholding maritime law and good governance,” she added.

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The Kiribati president’s office and Chinese embassy did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Kiribati’s acting police commissioner, Eeri Aritiera, told Reuters last week that Chinese police on the island work with local police.

China built a large embassy on the main island, Tarawa, after Kiribati switched ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019. 

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Russia launched 14 attack drones and a barrage of missiles at Ukraine overnight, with air defence systems destroying nine drones as well as three guided missiles over the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, Ukraine’s air force said on Monday.

Russia also launched two S-300 missiles from anti-aircraft missile systems and one air-to-surface Kh-31P missile, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

It was not clear what happened to the missiles and drones that were not downed. 

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Tuvalu on Monday announced former attorney general and fisheries official Feleti Teo as its new prime minister, after he was elected unopposed by lawmakers in the Pacific Islands nation, officials said.

Former Prime Minister Kausea Natano lost his seat in a general election on Jan. 26 closely watched by Taiwan, China, the US and Australia, amid a geopolitical tussle for influence in the South Pacific.

Tuvalu, with a population of about 11,200 spread across nine islands, is one of three remaining Pacific allies of Taiwan, after Nauru cut ties last month and switched to Beijing, which had promised more development help.

Teo received unanimous support from the 16 lawmakers, two lawmakers told Reuters on Monday.

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Teo, who was educated in New Zealand and Australia, was Tuvalu’s first attorney general. He has decades of experience as a senior official in the regional fisheries organisation and has worked with the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s major political and economic group. Fishing is a major source of revenue in the Pacific islands.

“Feleti Teo was declared by the Governor General as Prime Minister for Tuvalu,” Tuvalu’s government secretary, Tufoua Panapa, said in an emailed statement.

Tuvalu lawmaker Simon Kofe congratulated Teo in a social media post.

“It is the first time in our history that a Prime Minister has been nominated unopposed,” he said.

The election result in Tuvalu had been delayed by a month as dangerous weather stopped boats from bringing new lawmakers to the capital to vote for prime minister, highlighting why climate change is the top political issue in the Pacific Islands nation.

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Taiwan’s foreign ministry said its ambassador to Tuvalu, Andrew Lin, expressed Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s congratulations to Teo, adding that deputy foreign minister Tien Chung-kwang will visit Tuvalu in the near future.

Teo is a friend of Taiwan’s and has visited many times, and has said relations are stable and that maintaining ties is the widespread consensus in Tuvalu, the ministry added.

Taiwan previously said it was paying close attention to the election after Tuvalu’s finance minister in the previous government, Seve Paeniu, said the issue of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan or China should be debated by the new government.

There had also been calls by some lawmakers to review a wide-ranging deal signed with Australia in November, that allows Canberra to vet Tuvalu’s police, port and telecommunication cooperation with other nations, in return for a defence guarantee and allowing citizens threatened by rising seas to migrate.

The deal was seen as an effort to curb China’s rising influence as an infrastructure provider in the Pacific Islands.

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Teo’s position on Taiwan ties, and the Australian security and migration pact, have not been made public.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on social media he looked forward to working with Teo.

“Australia deeply values our relationship with Tuvalu, in the spirit of the Falepili Union,” he wrote, referring to the migration pact.

Tuvalu’s ministry would be announced at an oath taking ceremony for the new government later this week, Panapa said.

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