US Embassy Moscow: FS Employee Hurt in Apartment Building Gas Explosion Dies

— Domani Spero
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On May 22, the AP reported that an explosion in a nine-story apartment building on Kutuzovsky Prospektin central Moscow believed to have been caused by natural gas has injured four people including a U.S. Embassy Moscow diplomat.

On the same day, the US Embassy in Moscow released the following brief statement:

The U.S. Embassy confirms that a U.S. diplomat was injured in a reported gas explosion at an apartment building on Kutuzovskiy Prospect today. While few details are currently available, we are closely monitoring the situation and appreciate the support shown for our employee’s quick recovery.

The State Department spokesperson also made the following statement:

A U.S. Embassy employee in Moscow was injured in a reported gas explosion at an apartment building in Moscow earlier today. The employee has been hospitalized and is receiving medical treatment. Other employees who lived in the building have been evacuated. Our thoughts, of course, are with the Embassy employee and her family. We appreciate the support we have received from Russian authorities, including first responders. And beyond that, of course, there are just few details available about the cause.

ITAR-TASS reported that a female U.S.citizen injured in the explosion was brought to a hospital in a helicopter of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry (EMERCOM).

The Moscow Times, citing law enforcement authorities also  reported that the embassy worker received burns on up to 80 percent of her body. Investigators have reportedly opened a criminal case into the explosion on charges of violating construction safety regulations, which is punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years.

Two State Department sources confirmed that the employee, an OMS on official orders working at the embassy had died. After the embassy employee was heloed to a local Russian hospital, she was reportedly airlifted by the State Department soon thereafter to a special burn hospital in Linkoping, outside of Stockholm where she died a few days later.

A former co-worker at another post was concerned that there has been no public  statement about the employee’s death. “I would think the death of a diplomat would get something from AFSA or State, even if it was from an accident.”  We sent out several inquiries but no one would speak on the record.  Since the name has not been officially released, and no obit has yet been published, we will refrain from identifying the victim at this time.

What about that gas explosion?

We were told that the victim lived in an apartment building that housed over a dozen other US embassy staffers. The explosion happened in the morning and most of the other diplomats were out of the building.  She was supposedly waiting for the repair crew to come and take care of a reported gas leak.  All other mission employees have been relocated elsewhere and are awaiting to either get permission to return to their apts or get a new housing assignment.  The State Department fire inspector arrived this week.

This is not the first gas explosion involving embassy housing.  There was another gas explosion late last year in an embassy owned house.  We were told that the family reportedly escaped in time in that incident. Unconfirmed rumors at this time that the residents had complained about the smell of gas prior to this incident. Perhaps the current investigation would help shed light whether this happened or not. But wait, how are we going to learn about it when there’s …

An information blackout?

The Russian press  continued covering this incident following the blast, but there apparently was radio silence inside the mission for almost three days following this accident. And now there’s very little talk about this incident or the death of the employee, why?  Blame that to the cable that went out to all diplomatic and consular posts with “fairly strict instructions” not to share information about this with the “public.” We understand that the CDA also told personnel that they will be informed of the results of the investigation, regardless of the outcome.  Let’s watch out for that. Our email inquiry to US Embassy Moscow got lost in a  sink hole and from the looks of it, is still lost.

As an aside — we really do think the State Department should be compelled to report deaths of official Americans overseas. Why? Because they went overseas on USG orders. DOD identifies its casualties, why not State? At a minimum there ought to be  a reporting of all deaths from unnatural causes of USG personnel under chief of mission authority.

Sec. 204(c) of P.L. 107-228, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, mandates that, to the maximum extent practicable, the Department of State collect and make available on the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site certain information with respect to each United States citizen who dies in a foreign country from a non-natural cause. Unfortunately, the numbers available do not appear to include deaths of embassy personnel and family members on official orders.   For instance, George Anikow, a US Marine and spouse of US Embassy diplomat was murdered in the Philippines in November 2012. CA Bureau’s death records for the Philippines indicate zero death for November 2012.

The AFSA memorial plaque only includes Americans “who lost their lives under heroic, other inspirational circumstances, or otherwise in the line of duty.” As far as we can tell, the plaque excludes certain deaths and it is not an exhaustive list of all personnel lost year to year.

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FBI Adds Ex-Diplomat Bradford Bishop, Jr. to Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List (Video + Photos)

— Domani Spero

On April 10, the FBI named William Bradford Bishop, Jr. to the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Bishop is wanted for allegedly bludgeoning to death his wife Annette, mother Lobelia, and three sons, William Bradford III (14), Brenton (10), and Geoffrey (5) at their home in Bethesda, Maryland, on March 1, 1976.  He was a Foreign Service officer with postings in Italy, Ethiopia, Botswana and was posted in Foggy Bottom in 1974. He has been a fugitive since 1976.

 

bishop1

Photo taken circa 1970-1975 Source: FBI |              More images here.

Have you seen this man?
1-800-CALL-FBI

Photograph enhanced to age 77 Source: FBI

Photograph enhanced to age 77
Source: FBI | More images here.

Via FBI:

Investigators believe Bishop then drove to rural North Carolina, buried the bodies in a shallow grave, and lit them on fire. The United States Attorney’s Office in Maryland has charged Bishop with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in the murders.

Adding Bishop to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list creates the national and international attention needed to bring closure to a case that has remained unsolved for decades. Bishop has not been seen since he bought a pair of sneakers in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in 1976. A witness said Bishop was with a woman who was walking a dog described as an Irish Setter but is believed to have been the family’s golden retriever Leo.

Investigators with the FBI’s Baltimore and Washington Field Offices, Montgomery County Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and United States Department of State formed a task force in May 2013 to review the case as part of a cold case initiative. The task force is now asking the public for help in finding Bishop. The task force worked with top forensic artist Karen T. Taylor to create an age-progressed bust of what Bishop may look like now at the age of 77.

“Media wasn’t the same in 1976 as it is now. You didn’t have 24-hour news stations that many people watch in the gym or sitting in airports. You also didn’t have social media, like Facebook or Twitter back then,” said Steve Vogt, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Division. “All that has changed with the Bishop case is the passage of time. Bishop broke with his life and assumed a new identity. Because of that fact, most traditional fugitive investigative techniques are worthless. We’re hoping media and people who are active on social media pay attention to this; they’ll be the ones to solve this case.”

Bishop is a white man and 6’1” tall and 180 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes when he was last seen in 1976. He has a six-inch vertical surgical scar on his lower back that would still be visible.

“This was a horrific case that involved five innocent members of one family, including three young children, who were all brutally murdered in a place in which they felt safe and by a person whom they trusted. It is unthinkable that a man who is a son, a husband, and a father could commit such a terrible crime,” said Chief Thomas Manger with the Montgomery County Police Department.

Bishop loved the outdoors and was an avid hiker, runner, swimmer, and fisherman who also enjoyed riding motorcycles. He was also a licensed amateur pilot who learned to fly in Botswana, Africa. Bishop was well-read and learned to speak many languages while working in the United States Foreign Service. Bishop earned a degree in American Studies from Yale University and a master’s degree in Italian from Middlebury College in Vermont. He kept detailed journals and may continue to do so now. Bishop was a longtime insomniac and was being treated with medication for depression. Bishop drank scotch and wine, and he enjoyed eating peanuts and spicy food. He was also prone to violent outbursts and preferred a neat and orderly environment.

“Bishop wrote many times in his journal that he wanted a freer life, one where he didn’t have to answer to anyone but himself. He doesn’t deserve the freedom he’s enjoyed for the last three decades,” said Sheriff Darren Popkin with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. “We have a warrant for his arrest, and regardless of how old it is, we know the only way we’re going to bring Bishop to justice is for a neighbor, co-worker, or possible family member to come forward to say they know Bishop now.”

Bishop is believed to have taken with him a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver he inherited from his father with the serial number C981967. He had been seen in many photos wearing his class ring from Yale, something that meant a lot to him andthat he still may have or wear.

William Bradford Bishop, Jr. is the 502nd person to be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, which was established in March 1950. Since then, 471 fugitives have been caught or located, 156 of them as a result of citizen cooperation.

If you have any information about William Bradford Bishop, Jr. that may help lead to locating him or help investigators, you are asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI. You could receive a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to his arrest. Go to www.fbi.gov to see more detailed information about the Bishop case, study the age-progressed photos in-depth, and view his dental records and other important images that may help you identify Bishop. You can also leave any tips at https://tips.fbi.gov/. If you are overseas, you are asked to go to the nearest embassy or consulate.


Related FBI.gov Top Story: William Bradford Bishop Added to FBI Top Ten List

Bethesda Magazine – The Man Who Got Away

Also read An Open Letter to William Bradford Bishop, Jr. by former FSO James Bruno of DiploDenizen.

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US Consulate Ciudad Juárez Murder Trial Now On Going in El Paso

— Domani Spero

We’ve blogged previously about the US Consulate -related slayings in Ciudad Juarez in 2010.  The victims of that tragic incident were El Paso County sheriff’s detention officer Arthur Redelfs, his wife Lesley Ann Enriquez Redelfs, who worked at the U.S. Consulate in Juárez, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, husband of Hilda Salcido who also worked at the consulate.

El Paso Times’ Diana Washington Valdez has covered this case from the beginning. According to EPT, the jury was selected on January 31, 2014:

Jury selection gets underway today in the trial of an alleged drug cartel enforcer accused of taking part in the slayings of three people associated with the U.S. Consulate in Juárez in 2010.

Arturo “Benny” Gallegos Castrellon, who pleaded not guilty, claims in court filings that he confessed to the crime because he was tortured and his wife raped by Mexican police before he was extradited to the United States in 2012.
[…]
U.S. officials have not offered a clear motive for the three slayings in 2010, except to suggest that the killers might have confused the victims for rivals. Evidence from the trial may shed light on why the trio was attacked.

The three victims had left a children’s party in Juárez attended by consulate employees and their families, and were in two separate vehicles, Redelfs and his wife in one, and Salcido in the second vehicle. Both vehicles were white in color.

Shooters, who were also in separate vehicles, followed the two white cars and shot them up in Juárez near the Stanton Street bridge.

Read more here.

Catch up on the trial below — see links to the El Paso Times coverage:

Juarez consulate killings: Opening statements begin
02/03/2014 – The government presented opening statements this morning in the trial of Arturo “Benny” Gallegos Castrellon, an alleged drug cartel enforcer accused of taking part in the slayings of three people associated with the U.S. Consulate in Juarez in 2010.

US Consulate trial: Barrio Azteca gang member recounts killings during Juarez cartel war
02/04/2014 – A Barrio Azteca gang member gave bone-chilling testimony Monday about his role in the violence that ignited Juarez during the drug cartel wars and left among its victims a U.S.

Juarez consulate trial: FBI agent says the accused never told him he was tortured in Mexico
02/05/2014 – The defendant in a federal trial accused of conspiring to kill three people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez in 2010 did not tell FBI agents that Mexican police tortured him…

Juarez consulate killings: Witness says Barrio Aztecas were trained by Zetas cartel
02/05/2014 – A Barrio Azteca gang member turned government witness testified Tuesday that his gang had received training on how to become better killers from the notorious Zetas drug cartel.

Juarez consulate trial: Relative of kingpin Vicente Carrillo Fuentes testifies
02/07/2014 – A relative of Mexican drug kingpin Vicente Carrillo Fuentes testified Thursday as a government witness in the federal trial of Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, an alleged Barrio Azteca leader accused of conspiring to kill three people with links to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez.

El Paso Barrio Azteca gang helped arm counterparts in Juarez
02/08/2014 – Barrio Azteca gang members in El Paso provided firearms and ammunition to counterparts in Juarez and used women as drug mules to smuggle heroin into the United States, said former gang members

US Consulate trial: DEA source set up secure network for Juarez cartel
02/11/2014 – A telecommunications specialist from Mexico testified Monday that he helped set up a secure radio network for the Barrio Azteca and La Linea members in 2010 that was used to relay orders to kill …

US Consulate killings trial: Witness says defendant ordered the slayings
02/12/2014 – A Barrio Azteca member who admitted taking part in the March 2010 slaying of three people with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez testified Tuesday that Arturo Gallegos Castrellon gave the order…

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