Ten injured after knife attack on crowded bus in Germany

A man armed with a kitchen knife attacked passengers today on a crowded city bus in northern Germany before being overpowered and arrested, authorities said. Ten people were injured, three of them seriously.

Authorities had no immediate information on the assailant's motive for the afternoon (local time) attack on a city bus in Luebeck, near the Baltic coast northeast of Hamburg, but said they had no indication that he was politically radicalised or had any terrorist background.

Investigators found a flammable substance in a backpack aboard the bus, but no explosives.

The incident started when the assailant set fire to the backpack, prosecutor Ulla Hingst said at a Friday evening news conference in Luebeck.

The driver told investigators that he stopped the bus and opened all the doors to let passengers out after noticing the fire in his rear-view mirror.

He then walked back to find out what was going on and was hit by the assailant, Hingst said. As the suspect left the bus, he stabbed people around him with a 13 centimetre kitchen knife. The attacker was overpowered by passengers outside the vehicle, then quickly arrested by police nearby.

Five of the victims were still hospitalised yesterday evening.

The suspect is a 34-year-old man who lives locally. Hingst said he is a longtime German citizen who was born in Iran.

"There are no indications that the man was in any way politically radicalised," Hingst said. "For that reason we have, as the investigation currently stands, no indications that there was a terrorist background to this act."

She added the motive is "still open" and "we are investigating in all directions."

Prosecutors will seek to have the man kept in custody pending possible charges of bodily harm and attempted arson, Hingst said.

The bus was traveling from Luebeck to the neighboring seaside resort of Travemuende, where an annual regatta, the Travemuender Woche, was opening later Friday.

Schleswig-Holstein's state interior minister, Hans-Joachim Grote, said there was no reason to believe that there was an increased risk to the regatta but police presence there was stepped up as a precaution.

A bus stands on a street in Luebeck, northern Germany, Friday, July 20, 2018 after a man attacked people inside. (TNN/dpa via AP)
A bus stands on a street in Luebeck, northern Germany after a man attacked people inside. Source: Associated Press

Pope's response awaited after revelations of US cardinal's alleged sex abuse

Revelations that one of the most respected US cardinals repeatedly sexually abused both boys and adult seminarians have raised questions about who in the Catholic Church hierarchy knew - and what Pope Francis is going to do about it.

If the accusations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick bear out - including a new case reported Friday involving an 11-year-old boy - will Francis revoke his title of cardinal? Sanction him to a lifetime of penance and prayer? Or even defrock him, the expected sanction if McCarrick were a mere priest?

And will Francis, who has already denounced a "culture of cover-up" in the church, take the investigation all the way to the top, where it will inevitably lead, given that McCarrick's sexual misdeeds with adults were reportedly brought to the Vatican's attention years ago?

The matter is on the desk of the pope, who has already spent the better part of 2018 dealing with a spiraling child sex abuse, adult gay sex and cover-up scandal in Chile that was so vast the entire bishops' conference offered to resign in May.

And just Friday, Francis accepted the resignation of the Honduran deputy to Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is one of Francis' top advisers.

Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle, 57, was accused of sexual misconduct with seminarians and lavish spending on his lovers that was so obvious to Honduras' poverty-wracked faithful that Maradiaga is now under pressure to reveal what he knew of Pineda's misdeeds and why he tolerated a sexually active gay bishop in his ranks.

The McCarrick scandal, too, poses the same questions, given it was apparently an open secret in some US church circles that "Uncle Ted" invited seminarians to his beach house, and into his bed.

While such an abuse of power may have been quietly tolerated for decades, it doesn't fly in the #MeToo era, even though there has been a deafening silence from McCarrick's brother cardinals about what they might have known and when.

"There is going to be so much clamor for the Holy Father to remove the red hat, to formally un-cardinalise him," said the Rev. Thomas Berg, vice rector and director of admissions at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, the seminary of the archdiocese of New York.

Recounting how the McCarrick scandal has demoralised seminarians and priests alike, Berg said the church needs to ensure that men with same-sex attraction simply don't enter seminaries - a position recently reinforced by Francis in reference to both the Chilean and Italian churches.

And Berg said the church needs to take action when celibacy vows are violated.

"We can't effectively prevent the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by clergy while habitual and widespread failures in celibacy are quietly tolerated," he said.

McCarrick, the 88-year-old retired archbishop of Washington and confidante to three popes, was ultimately undone when the US church announced June 20 that Francis had ordered him removed from public ministry. The sanction was issued pending a full investigation into a "credible" allegation that he fondled a teenager more than 40 years ago in New York City.

The dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, New Jersey, simultaneously revealed that they had received three complaints of misconduct by McCarrick against adults and had settled two of them.

The New York Times on Friday reported details of another alleged victim, the son of a McCarrick family friend identified as James, who reported that he was 11 when McCarrick first exposed himself to him. From there, McCarrick began a sexually abusive relationship that continued for another two decades, the Times quoted James as saying.
McCarrick has denied the initial allegation of abuse against a minor and accepted the pope's decision to remove him from public ministry.

Asked Friday about the latest revelations in the Times, a spokeswoman said McCarrick hadn't received formal notice of any new allegation but would follow the civil and church processes in place to investigate them.

Francis could take immediate action to remove McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, said Kurt Martens, a canon lawyer at the Catholic University of America.

He recalled the case of the late Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who recused himself from the 2013 conclave that elected Francis pope after unidentified priests alleged he engaged in sexual misconduct. In 2015, after a Vatican investigation, Francis accepted O'Brien's resignation after he relinquished the rights and privileges of being a cardinal.

O'Brien was, however, allowed to retain the cardinal's title and he died a member of the college.

"I think that is totally unsatisfactory," Martens said, noting that just as the pope can grant the title of cardinal, he can also take it away. "O'Brien resigned, the pope accepted it. Isn't that the world upside down that someone picks his own penalty?"

O'Brien was never accused of sexually abusing a minor, however, as McCarrick now stands.

The stiffest punishment that an ordinary priest would face if such an accusation is proven would be dismissal from the clerical state, or laicisation.

The Vatican rarely if ever, however, imposes such a penalty on elderly prelates. It also is loath to do so for bishops, because theologically speaking, defrocked bishops can still validly ordain priests and bishops.

Not even the serial rapist Rev. Marcial Maciel was defrocked after the Vatican finally convicted him of abusing Legion of Christ seminarians. Maciel was sentenced to a lifetime of penance and prayer - the likely canonical sanction for McCarrick if he is found guilty of abusing a minor in a church trial.

FILE - In this Nov. 14, 2011 file photo, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick prays during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall assembly in Baltimore. Revelations that the most respected U.S. cardinal repeatedly sexually abused both boys and adult seminarians has raised questions about who in the Catholic Church hierarchy knew, and what Pope Francis is going to do about it. If the accusations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick bear out, will Francis revoke his title of cardinal, sanction him to a lifetime of prayer or even defrock him, the expected sanction if McCarrick were a mere priest? (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
In this November 14, 2011, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick prays during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall assembly in Baltimore. Source: Associated Press



Changes made to Christchurch Men's Prison's intervention support unit after damning report - 'so far out of touch'

Major change is underway in our prisons as corrections overhauls the way it handles the most volatile inmates.

Christchurch Men's Prison's highly-critcised intervention support unit holds inmates with high mental health needs, where pat-down body searches are mandatory.

Christchurch Men's Prison’s chief custodial officer, Neil Beales, says "some of these men are very, very dangerous".

"They will physically damage themselves to the point where they need hospital treatment, opening old wounds, [and] putting things inside those wounds, (things) you and I wouldn't dream of doing," Mr Beales said.

Other inmates are deemed a high suicide risk, and they are constantly watched.

"We want to make them better for when they're released so it needs to be a more therapeutic approach."

The unit was criticised as unacceptable for distressed prisoners, with the ombudsman's report released last year describing a high level of violence, and claims the facilities were anti-therapeutic.

The prison's principal corrections officer, Robert Risdon, says the "areas have changed a lot" following the release of the damning report.

"We didn't have TVs, we didn't have chalk boards - we didn't have any of the sensory equipment we now have," Mr Risdon said.

Some of the inmates' cells breached the Nelson Mandela rules, with no natural light and, at the time of inspection, no fresh air circulating in the cells as black polythene was used to seal off the vent.

"That was a result of prisoners throwing urine and stuff through that grill at the top on staff but we've since taken all that down."

Also included in the changes is more normal mealtimes and inmates are now being taken out for exercise.

"It was a little bit of a shock to think we were so far out of touch with what other people were doing."

The ombudsman’s report made 54 recommendations for Christchurch Men's Prison, 44 of which were accepted by prison management.

However, a review team has yet to visit the prison for a follow-up and the date has yet to be decided.

Twenty-five million dollars is now being invested in mental health provisions in prisons across the country.

The unit was slammed in an ombudsman’s report as being unacceptable for distressed prisoners. Source: 1 NEWS