Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

U.S. journalist's killing spotlights debate on terrorists' ransoms

WASHINGTON — The beheading of freelance journalist James Foley has forced a new debate between the longtime U.S. and British refusal to negotiate with terrorists, and Europe and the Persian Gulf's increasing willingness to pay ransoms in a desperate attempt to free citizens.

The dilemma: How to save the lives of those kidnapped without financing terror groups, and encouraging more kidnappings.

By paying ransoms, governments in the Mideast and Europe have become some of the biggest financiers of terror groups. By refusing to do likewise, the U.S. and Great Britain are in the thankless position of putting their own citizens at risk.

Foley's captors, the Islamic State militants, had for months demanded $132.5 million from his parents and political concessions from Washington. They got neither, and the 40-year-old freelance journalist from New Hampshire was savagely killed within the last week inside Syria, where he had been held since his disappearance in November 2012.

Extremists called his death a revenge killing for the 90 U.S. airstrikes that have been launched against ISIS in northern Iraq since Aug. 8. But the ransom demands began late last year, even before ISIS — one of the world's most financially thriving extremist groups — had begun its brutal march across much of western and northern Iraq.

"They don't need to do this for money," said Matthew Levitt, a counter-terror expert at the Washington Institute think-tank. "When you ask for $132 million, for the release of one person, that suggests that you're either trying to make a point . . . or you don't really need the money."

At the State Department, deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the militancy has collected millions of dollars in ransoms so far this year alone.

"We do not make concessions to terrorists," Harf told reporters. "We do not pay ransoms."

"The United States government believes very strongly that paying ransom to terrorists gives them a tool in the form of financing that helps them propagate what they're doing," she said. "And so we believe very strongly that we don't do that, for that reason."

The issue of payments by American families or U.S. corporations is now under debate within the Obama administration, the Associated Press reported, citing a U.S. official familiar with the conversations who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The USA Patriot Act prohibits any payment or assistance to terror groups that could boost their support.

Diplomats say ransoms paid or arranged by western European governments and the Gulf state of Qatar have provided the bulk of financial support for violent groups. That has spurred the U.S. and Britain — as well as some north African states — to push a campaign discouraging ransom payments.

Rather than pay ransoms, the United States often tries to rescue its hostages with covert military teams trained to raid extremist camps.

At least three Americans are still being held in Syria. Two of them are believed to have been kidnapped by the Islamic State.

Comments
‘Big Hug’ brings out fun-loving  crowd

‘Big Hug’ brings out fun-loving crowd

GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | TimesDaniel Evangelista, 17, dressed as a rooster; Knox Johnson, 16, dressed as Stay Puft Marshmallow Man; Rachel Rowland, dressed as a panda; and Luke Evangelista, 15, dressed as Captain America, joke around before comp...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
At second St. Petersburg Women’s March, 5,000 focus on

At second St. Petersburg Women’s March, 5,000 focus on "what we can do"

ST. PETERSBURGNear Mirror Lake, as protesters posed for pictures, hung signs on their dogs and distributed chant scripts just after noon Sunday, Linda Pair and her friend Beth Gavin arrived to march.Asked why she came out, Pair, 72, of Largo put it b...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Hillsborough diver who died in Eagle’s Nest Cave was adventurous but experienced

Davin Brannon was a pilot, a spearfisherman, an avid cave and open-water diver and an experienced all-around adventurer, said those close to him ."I guess you could say he died doing what he loved," his cousin Pam Kirven said. "But I also know he’d n...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Deputies: 18-year-old speeding on U.S. 19 faces charges of DUI, fleeing scene

PALM HARBOR — A speeding driver on U.S. 19 refused to stop for deputies and took off, later rear-ending a car and injuring three people early Sunday morning, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.A little after 1:30 a.m., Kingzig Montanez...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Factory fire traps in workers, killing at least 17; Kabul siege ends violent 24 hours; more in world news

Factory fire traps in workers, killing at least 17; Kabul siege ends violent 24 hours; more in world news

IndiaFactory fire kills at least 17A fire at an industrial building on the outskirts of New Delhi broke out as workers were stuffing gunpowder into firecrackers, trapping many of them on the factory’s upper floors as it spread, and leaving at least 1...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Up to 1,000 more US troops could be headed to Afghanistan this spring

Up to 1,000 more US troops could be headed to Afghanistan this spring

The U.S. Army is readying plans that could increase the total force in Afghanistan by as many as 1,000 U.S. troops this spring beyond the 14,000 already in the country, senior military officials said.Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has not signed off on...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Fifth-grader thought she brought gummy candies to school, but they were laced with marijuana

Fifth-grader thought she brought gummy candies to school, but they were laced with marijuana

A 9-year-old student in New Mexico gave fellow students gummies - only to realize later they were not ordinary candies.The candies had apparently been laced with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical responsible for how marijuana affects the bra...
Updated: 6 hours ago
The St. Petersburg Women’s March: Here’s what you need to know

The St. Petersburg Women’s March: Here’s what you need to know

ST. PETERSBURG — On Sunday afternoon, people will take part in the Women’s March, part of a series of marches taking place this weekend. Here’s what you need to know:When is the Women’s March?The march begins at noon on Sunday, Jan. 21, and a rally w...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Forecast: Sunny, high of 78 in Tampa Bay

Forecast: Sunny, high of 78 in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Temperatures should reach the upper 70s on a warm, sunny, mild Sunday, kicking off a mild week in Tampa Bay, forecasters predict. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

A woman sailing on a Carnival Cruise Line ship from Jacksonville fell from her cabin’s balcony and died Friday.Doral-based Carnival Cruise Line spokesman Vance Gulliksen confirmed the death Saturday, saying in a statement that the incident occurred e...
Updated: 10 hours ago