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TSA explains decision to abandon screening

Air service unpredictability and a need for stable passenger loads at the Klamath Falls airport were listed as reasons why the Transportation Security Administration will not return screening services to the airport. Michael Irwin, TSA s federal security director and regional director for Oregon, laid out those factors that led to its decision in a letter to the city Wednesday.

The unpredictability of air service in the region and the inability to maintain consistent passenger loads does not provide a solid foundation for the expenditure of funds required to re-establish FSROR (screening services) at LMT (Klamath Falls), Irwin wrote.

In the future, should your operational tempo increase and your passenger loads stabilize, your request for (screening services) may be considered again. Airport Director John Barsalou told the Herald and News on Thursday he disagreed with the perspective, adding that until 2014, Klamath Falls has offered air service since 1947.

City Manager Nathan Cherpeski shared Barsalou s view, saying, We disagree with TSA’s conclusion on the viability of air service in Klamath Falls. We are continuing to work with our congressional delegation in hopes to have this decision reconsidered.

In the meantime, we are continuing to support PenAir s discussions with the Port of Portland and TSA to see if we can make the forward screening option work. Commercial carrier PenAir has not withdrawn its interest to offer air service to Klamath Falls, according to Cherpeski, and is working with the Port of Portland on an alternative screening system for Klamath Falls passengers traveling to Portland International Airport. The alternative system would mean passengers from Klamath Falls would not be screened by TSA agents locally but would be screened at the Portland air terminal.

Oregon s congressional delegation spoke out against the concept in a letter signed by Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Democrats, and Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore.

We understand TSA and the Port of Portland are exploring options to create a more seamless security environment at Portland for flights arriving from un-screened regional airports, read the statement.

However, we have concerns about both the viability and the timing of these revisions. In addition, the city, PenAir, the Oregon National Guard and others have expressed to our offices serious concerns regarding the added time and cost this service would have on passengers flights, the capability of Portland Airport to facilitate this construction project inside their current buildings, and the yet to be determined security system for a commercial airline flying un-screened passengers into a major metropolitan airport. Additional questions linger for the congressional delegation regarding the TSA decision. The lawmakers asked for a written statement answering their questions from TSA by Nov. 30. Lawmakers called commercial air service in Klamath Falls a vital link to residents and visitors to Klamath, Lake, Siskiyou and Modoc counties, as well as to the 173rd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard.

Local leaders, such as city councilwoman Trish Seiler, agree.

Seiler called on TSA to reverse its decision and to re-federalize the airport, which is located in her council Ward 1.

There s really no reason for the TSA to not have a screening site here, Seiler said, adding that she understands Klamath Falls is not the only area of its size affected.

I hope that they listen to our senators and congressman Walden, and that pressure continues to be brought to set up a screening station, she said.

The Latest: Mali gunmen had assault rifles, explosives

The latest on the attack on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. (All times local):

2:15 p.m. A Malian army commander says the two gunmen who shot up a luxury hotel in the capital on Friday were armed with two Kalashnikov assault rifles, explosives and “a large amount of ammunition.”

Maj. Modibo Nama Traore said Sunday that the gunmen had grenades and other explosives but did not use them in the course of the more than seven-hour siege that killed 19 people. The two attackers also died. On Saturday, Traore said Malian security forces were hunting for “more than three” people who may have been involved in the attack.

He said no new arrests had been made.

1:30 p.m. A coalition of separatist groups in northern Mali says Friday’s assault on a luxury hotel in the capital was a clear attempt to derail the peace talks they are carrying out with the government. The assault on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako that killed 19 people took place as it was preparing to host the latest meeting of a committee working toward implementation of the peace accord signed by northern rebel groups and the government in June.

Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, a representative of the Coordination of Azawad Movements and a signatory to the accord, said Sunday that although Mali’s Islamic extremist groups were divided they all wanted to doom the peace process. He said leaflets threatening parties to the accord were distributed in northern cities on Saturday.

12:30 p.m. Pope Francis has condemned the attack by extremists in a Mali hotel that killed at least 19 people as he prepares to visit three African nations.

The Vatican secretary of state said in a telegram Sunday to the archbishop of Bamoko, Monsignor Jean Zerbo, that the pope “is appalled by this senseless violence,” which he “strongly condemns.”

The pope leaves Wednesday on a six-day trip to Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic. During his weekly Angelus blessing, he asked the faithful in St. Peter’s Square to pray for “peace and prosperity” in these countries. Due to security concerns, the pope’s top bodyguard is doing an unusual last-minute visit to conflict-wrecked Central African Republic.

10 a.m. Guinea President Alpha Conde says he will announce a three-day mourning period for victims of Friday’s attack on a luxury hotel in neighboring Mali’s capital that killed 19 people.

Speaking at the headquarters of his political party Sunday, Conde also urged residents to be vigilant and report anyone who looks suspicious.

“When you see a foreigner in your area and you don’t know his destination, you need to ask him and if he doesn’t give good information call the authorities,” Conde said. Guinea has not been attacked or threatened by Islamic extremists so far. Conde did not specify when the mourning would begin. Mali’s mourning period begins at midnight.

Bangladesh executes 2 opposition leaders for war crimes

Bangladesh executed two opposition leaders Sunday for war crimes during the country’s 1971 independence war, despite concerns that the legal proceedings against them were flawed and threats of violence by their supporters. A reporter was shot and wounded after covering the funeral of one of the men, though it was not clear who was responsible. Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, secretary general of the main Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, were hanged at 12:55 a.m. at Dhaka Central Jail in the nation’s capital, said Senior Jail Superintendent Mohammad Jahangir Kabir. Security was strengthened near the jail and elsewhere to try to avoid any violence. A few hours after the execution, a security detail escorted ambulances carrying the men’s bodies to their ancestral homes where their families were to perform burial rituals.

Rajib Sen, a reporter for the Mohona TV station, was on his way back from Chowdhury’s funeral in Chittagong district when his car was sprayed with bullets, the station said. Three other journalists in the car escaped unhurt, and Sen was rushed to a hospital in Chittagong. Local police would not provide any details, and it was not immediately clear who attacked the car or why. Bangladesh was bracing for upheaval ahead of the executions, with supporters of the two opposition leaders threatening violence if they were hanged.

The Jamaat-e-Islami party, which had already had two other senior leaders executed for war crimes, issued a statement calling for a nationwide general strike on Monday. Chowdhury was convicted on of charges of torture, rape and genocide during Bangladesh’s independence war against Pakistan, while Mujahid was found guilty on charges of genocide, conspiracy in killing intellectuals, torture and abduction. On Wednesday, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court upheld their death sentences, and on Saturday, President Mohammad Abdul Hamid rejected a clemency appeal, clearing the way for the executions. The families of Chowdhury and Mujahid met them for the last time inside Dhaka Central Jail on Saturday evening, authorities said.

Jamaat-e-Islami and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party say the trials were politically motivated. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has denied the allegations. She has acknowledged that she faced international pressure for trying opposition figures for war crimes, but vowed to continue the trials “to ensure justice for the families of the slain people” from the 1971 war. More than 15 people, mostly leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, have been convicted of war crimes. The party had campaigned openly against independence for Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan until the 1971 war. Bangladesh’s government says that Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the war.

Mujahid, 67, was the head of Islami Chhatra Sangha, then the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami . He was accused of being the mastermind behind the killing of intellectuals, including teachers and journalists, days before the Pakistani military surrendered to a joint force of freedom fighters and Indian army units on Dec. 16, 1971, after a bloody nine-month war. Chowdhury, 66, whose father was the speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly and, at times, the acting president of Pakistan, also actively opposed Bangladeshi independence. He was accused of carrying out war crimes, including killing more than 200 civilians, mostly minority Hindus, during the independence war, according to evidence presented at the tribunal. U.S. lawmakers overseeing foreign policy described the war crimes tribunal, set up in 2013, as “very flawed” and a means of political retribution. The State Department said Friday that executions should not take place until it’s clear the trial process meets international standards.

Human Rights Watch said the tribunal allowed the prosecution to call 41 witnesses, while Chowdhury’s defense was limited to four witnesses. The New York-based group said Mujahid was sentenced to death for instigating his subordinates to commit abuses, although no subordinates testified or were identified. Leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a letter sent Tuesday to the top U.S. diplomat for South Asia, voiced concern that “democratic space is shrinking” in Bangladesh amid “a growing climate of violence, fear and self-censorship.”

Since February, four secular bloggers, a publisher, and two foreigners an Italian aid worker and a Japanese agriculture researcher have been killed in attacks linked to Islamic militants. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, but authorities say the Sunni extremist group has no presence in the country. Instead, Hasina has blamed the attacks on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, accusing them of trying to destabilize the country and halt the war crimes trials. Both opposition parties denied the allegation.

Such extremist violence was once rare in Bangladesh, which is mostly Muslim but has a strong secular tradition.