NY axe attack: Islamist link probed

The attacker approaches the officers in Queens, in a photo released by New York police

Police in New York are investigating whether a man who attacked two officers with an axe before being shot dead was linked to Islamist extremism.

One officer was being treated for a serious head wound after the attack on Thursday in the Queens borough.

Commissioner William Bratton said police were trying to establish a motive but did not rule out terrorism.

US media indentified the attacker as Zale Thompson, 32, but this has not been confirmed by police.

The SITE monitoring group said he had posted statements on YouTube and Facebook that “display a hyper-racial focus in both religious and historical contexts, and ultimately hint at his extremist leanings”.

SITE, which monitors radical Islamist groups, said a post by him in September had described jihad as “a justifiable response to the oppression of the Zionists and the Crusaders”.

After the attack, which took place on Thursday afternoon, Mr Bratton was asked whether it could be terror related.

“This early on, we really cannot say yes or no to that question,” he said.

Witnesses said the man deliberately targeted the foot-patrol officers, charging them and then swinging the axe two-handed,

One officer was hit on the head and the other on the arm.

The officers fired several rounds, killing the attacker and wounding a female bystander, police said.

The 25-year-old officer with the head wound was listed as critical but stable. The woman was recovering after being treated for a gunshot wound to the back.

Canada seized car killer’s passport

The slain soldier, Vincent, was a 28-year veteran of the Canadian military

The passport of a man who struck two Canadian soldiers with his car, killing one of them, had been seized by police investigating suspected terror links.

Authorities say Martin Couture-Rouleau, 25, was one of 90 militants being tracked.

The Muslim convert was killed by officers at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu after hitting the two men.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney labelled the attack a “terrible act of violence against our country”.

On Tuesday, the dead soldier was identified as Warrant Ofc Patrice Vincent, 53, a 28-year veteran of the Canadian armed services. The other soldier suffered minor injuries, police said.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Commissioner Bob Paulson said authorities had been tracking the group – including Couture-Rouleau – because they may have intended to go abroad to join militant groups.

RCMP Supt Martine Fontaine said authorities seized Couture-Rouleau’s passport in July when he tried to travel to Turkey. He was arrested but police lacked evidence to charge him with a crime.

Supt Fontaine said authorities had met him several times, most recently on 9 October, and had met his parents and the imam at his mosque in an effort to get him to change his views.

“Many interventions with him were carried out to try and avoid the tragic events,” Supt Fontaine told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s very difficult when someone is planning an act alone and there is no obvious preparation involved and used a vehicle as a weapon.”

On Monday, Couture-Rouleau ran down Warrant Ofc Vincent and another man in a car park serving a Canadian military office in the Quebec town of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu about 40km (25 miles) south-east of Montreal.

He had been waiting in his car for as long as two hours before the attack, Quebec Police spokesman Guy Lapointe said.

The attack comes as a shock but not a surprise to many Canadians. In recent years this country has, sometimes controversially, shed its image as neutral peacekeeper in foreign conflicts and has also worked ever-closer with US authorities to combat terror threats.

Earlier this month the country’s parliament voted in favour of sending fighter jets and military personnel to join in the US-led combat operation against IS in Iraq.

Although terror attacks in Canada have been rare, a number of plots have been thwarted. The most notorious was the so-called Toronto 18 case in 2006, where a group of al Qaida-inspired extremists were convicted of planning to attack a number of targets, including the parliament buildings.

Nevertheless, critics have accused both the police and the intelligence agencies of being slow to respond to the more recent challenge posed by ever-sophisticated extremist propaganda.

After striking the officers, Couture-Rouleau fled and was chased by police at high speed for about 4km (2.5 miles), until the car drove off the road and rolled over several times.

He then left the car brandishing a knife, and police opened fire. Couture-Rouleau was taken to hospital where he died some hours later.

A neighbour of Couture-Rouleau told the Associated Press news agency he had known the man since he was a child, and that in the past year he had grown a beard and begun wearing loose-fitting Muslim clothing.

Thousands attend pay protest marches

Protests have been held in London (pictured here), Glasgow and Belfast

Thousands took part in protests in London, Belfast and Glasgow

Tens of thousands of people have protested in London, Glasgow and Belfast about pay and austerity.

Dave Prentis, Unison: “Our people are suffering”

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union, said the “best thing” the government could do was “recognise the value of the masses of people here today who have suffered and give them a pay rise”.

“Our members didn’t cause this recession, our members didn’t cause the failures of the banks,” he said.

The TUC says average wages have fallen by £50 a week in real terms since 2008.

The union’s general secretary Ms O’Grady said: “Our message is that after the longest and deepest pay squeeze in recorded history, it’s time to end the lock-out that has kept the vast majority from sharing in the economic recovery.”

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said Labour should support workers by offering a “clear socialist alternative” to the Conservatives at the next election.

“I say to Labour – stop being scared of your own shadow. Don’t shrink what you offer the British people,” he said.

Ms O’Grady said top directors were being awarded 175 times more than the average worker, while five million people were earning less than the living wage.

“If politicians wonder why so many feel excluded from the democratic process, they should start with bread and butter living standards,” she said.

GMB union general secretary Paul Kenny said members’ living standards were still falling.

“People are currently facing the biggest squeeze on their incomes since Victorian times, and wages have fallen in real terms every year since 2010,” he said.

Mick Bowman, 56, is a mental health social worker for Northumberland County Council who lives in Newcastle and is taking part in the march in London.

“I’ve not had a pay rise for four years so with the cost of living rising, that’s a very substantial pay cut,” he said.

“At the same time my workload has increased and my job’s become more stressful.

“At the end of every pay month I have to use my credit card to live on. I last had a holiday three years ago. So my lifestyle is pressured.

“I feel extremely angry about this. The national deficit was manageable and the way to deal with it is not to cut jobs and shrink the public sector.

“It’s time to invest more in the public sector and get people into a position where they are able to spend more and put more money into the tax system.”

For more reaction from the protests click here.

The marches come after industrial action by health workers on Monday – the first strike over pay in the NHS since the 1980s and the first time midwives had ever taken action.

Hospital radiographers and prison officers will strike in the coming week as part of the same dispute.

Cathy Warwick, the chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said the response from members showed the “depth of feeling” over the issue.

A Treasury spokesman said the government had overseen the “largest annual fall in unemployment, more people in work than ever before” and average inequality levels “lower than the average under the previous government”.

He said it proved the government’s “long-term economic plan is working”.

“The only sustainable way to raise living standards is to keep working through the plan that is building a resilient economy and has enabled us to announce the first real terms increase in the minimum wage since the great recession.

“We appreciate that the effects of the great recession are still being felt, which is why we have taken continued action to help hard-working people by cutting income tax, freezing fuel duty, helping local authorities to freeze council tax, cutting energy bills, providing free school meals, and reducing childcare costs.”

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