Cruz, Melissa Mcneil, Somalia discussed on Morning Edition


Shooting students and staff members. When he was done, 17 people were dead and 17 others were wounded. The murders were captured on surveillance video. In court students and teachers who survived the shooting described the horrific events. In our opening statement yesterday, defense attorney Melissa McNeil acknowledged cruises responsibility and tried to turn the page. Everyone here agrees that Nicholas deserves to be punished. Without a doubt. But life without the possibility of parole is a severe nationality. Under Florida law, a unanimous verdict is required for the joy to deliver a sense of death. That means they must convince at least one juror that Cruz deserves a sentence of life in prison. Jurors must decide if aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors. Prosecutors have laid out a host of reasons they're asking for the death penalty. Among them, the fact that multiple murders were committed, and that it was in legal parlance, horrendous atrocious or cruel. Yesterday, the defense began telling cruise's history in hopes that it may sway some jurors from a death sentence. Among the witnesses was Carolyn deacons, who described herself as a recovering addict, we used to abuse alcohol and crack cocaine with cruise's birth mother, Brenda woodard. Dickens says both women worked as prostitutes to support their drug habit. She says she was angry when woodard told her she was pregnant. A little bit. She said, don't worry about it. It's all took care of. I have a lawyer and the baby's growing up for adoption. And so I'm not going to have to worry about it. And that's how she failed. She didn't want it. And then she addressed Cruz directly. Nicholas, I'm sorry, that's how it was. The jury also heard from Cruz's older sister, who spoke about her mother's rapid drug and alcohol abuse. Another witness was one of cruise's first teachers when he was just three years old. She noted at the time that he was developmentally delayed, and had significant behavioral problems. Defense attorney Melissa McNeil said, she'll present evidence and testimony from experts that Cruz suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. She also talked about disturbing drawings and threats of violence, cruise continues to produce now, while he's in jail. But his brain is complete. He's a damaged human being. And that's why these things happen. McNeil plays some of the blame for Cruz's problems on his adoptive mother, Linda Cruz, now deceased. Cruz at first ignored her son's problems in need for help McNeil says. Later over the objections of counselors and Friends, she brought him first a BB gun, and then when he turned 18, helped him buy a rifle. McNeil says she isn't trying to justify it or explain the attack in the 17 deaths. She told the jury, they should have a full picture of cruise's troubled history before they decide on his sentence. The defense will continue making its case in court today. Greg Allen and PR news Fort Lauderdale. Al shabaab, the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group stormed a popular hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia the other day. Somali forces pushed back and ended a 30 hour siege, but the attack left 21 people dead and dozens wounded. Let's talk about this with Omar Mahmoud, who is a senior analyst with the international crisis group, his focus is East Africa, welcome to the program. Thank you very much for having me, Steve. I feel that Americans may need a reorientation on Al shabaab. They haven't been in the news very much here lately. Who are they and what do they want? Well, ultra mob is a militant Islamist group that's been present in Somalia, fighting against the government there for about the past 15 years. They were born out of an Ethiopian invasion to Somalia and started out as resisting that, but over time have become really the dominant governing actor in rural areas of Somalia while the government's hunkered down in sort of the urban centers. But they're pushing for their version of Islamic Sharia law to be implemented across Somalia and that's where they've continued this fight against the Somali government. If their strength is in the rural areas, is it surprising they would get into Mogadishu and assault a hotel on this scale? Well, their strength is in the rural areas, but they maintain the ability to penetrate urban centers and urban centers controlled by the government as well. So we've seen attacks like this quite frequently, honestly. You know, the past year or two, they tapered off, but before that, this type of incident, unfortunately, was a regular occurrence. As you talk about this rural urban divide, I immediately think of Afghanistan, where the Taliban controlled rural areas long before they could control the cities, it was thought the cities could hold out and that turned out not to be true. Are there any parallels here? Yeah, I mean, I think there's always many contextual differences between two different circumstances, but I think, of course, you know, we can't fail to see some of the parallels as well. And Al shabab strength is really being able to hold those rural areas because that allows them access to populations in order to supplement their recruitment. It allows them to tax and have extortion practices along some of the trade routes. And so that's really kind of their center of gravity. And that's what helps them conduct the penetration into urban areas as well. What kind of strength does the government have to push back? Well, the government does have a number of advantages with it. You know, it has international backing. For example, there is an African Union peacekeeping mission, which helps protect government and urban centers. There's, of course, the U.S. Military presence, president Trump, and the Wayne Dave had announced he was repositioning some of those troops out of Somalia, but President Biden has brought them back in. There's a little bit of air power with that as well. We have to remember, though, this is a government that's still being formed, you know, 15 years ago, it didn't exist at all. So it's still slowly coming into its own, but it does have significant outside support. You mentioned the U.S. presence. In your judgment has the U.S. presence been constructive, helpful there. I think it's been helpful, but insufficient. And by that, I mean the U.S. presence has focused very much from a counter terrorism perspective very much from a military perspective. And there have been some successes there. There is an elite part of the somalian national army that's been trained by the U.S. that's done quite well. And some of the drone strikes do keep pressure on shabab. But the problem is that the military is only part of the solution. There's not as much focus on the political work in terms of the reconciliation in terms of getting the Somali government to function politically and in a manner that can also match the coherence of an organization like shabab. So I think it's part of the puzzle, but it hasn't been the full part. Omar Mahmoud is

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