Pakistan court grants bail to suspect in murder of government minister

A man charged with killing Pakistan’s former Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, in March 2011 has been released on bail of about $10,000 by a Pakistani court.

Umar Abdullah was released July 11 after being arrested in September 2013. He has been accused of having ties with Al-Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, an offshoot of the Afghanistan Taliban.

Bhatti was killed leaving his Islamabad home when gunmen pelted his car with bullets, hitting him several times. Before leaving the scene, the assassins scattered leaflets that called him a ‘Christian infidel,’ and stated he was killed for heading a committee set up to review Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which forbid insulting Islam.

 

 The English translation of the March 2011 leaflet, originally written in Urdu, and signed by the Fidayeen [suicide squad] of Muhammad of the Organization of Al-Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab:
There is only death penalty for blaspheming the Prophet in Islamic sharia
By Allah, now either you will live or we will live in this world. You have become so bold that you in Allah’s contrast legislate in favor of blasphemers of the Prophet [Mohammed]. And you made an accursed kaffir [unbeliever] Christian, Shahbaz Bhatti, to head this committee. This is an exemplary end of this accursed man. And now mujahideen with the help and triumph of Allah will send you one by one to hell. If God be willing!!! O you crusade legions, our war will continue with you until the Prophet’s and Allah’s religion prevail and kaffir [unbeliever] and diabolic system get destroyed or we reach the destiny of martyrdom…

 

 

The Taliban offshoot eventually took responsibility for killing Bhatti. His driver, Gul Sher, survived and told police there were three or four assailants and at least one of them opened fire. Sher sought protection, but when this did not happen, he fled abroad and sought asylum.

 

The time following the murder has been marked by lax investigations, a series of freed suspects and lack of coordination across law enforcement organizations, which have raised suspicions of a possible cover-up.

Zia-ul-Rehman was arrested in connection with Bhatti’s murder, but acquitted in May 2012 due to lack of evidence. In August 2013 Hammad Adil was arrested for an attempted attack on a Shiite mosque and for “planning attacks on some key installations in Islamabad.”

The police also recovered a vehicle from his residence laden with 120 kilograms of explosives. During investigation Adil confessed that he and Muhammad Tanveer, a Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab ringleader in Islamabad, had also killed Bhatti with the help of Umar Abdullah.

One suspect confesses to Bhatti’s assassination

Tanveer and Abdullah were arrested for a short period, during which Abdullah confessed to killing a prosecutor, Chaudhry Zulfiqar, who had handled several sensitive cases, including the assassination of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Zulfiqar’s bodyguard had shot Abdullah in the back and paralysed him in that incident; Abdullah was arrested in a private hospital as he was recovering. He had already been granted bail awaiting trial for Zulfiqar’s murder; this second bail means he was able to leave the prison.

Adil told the police that prior to the Minorities’ Minister’s attack they had studied Bhatti’s movements for a few days. Bhatti died as he left his mother’s home, when his bodyguard was absent.

Rana Abdul Hameed, a lawyer in Bhatti’s case, told World Watch Monitor that Umer Abdullah was not released on bail on legal merit, but on medical grounds because of the paralysis; He is wheeled to his court appearances on a bed. “If Abdullah recovers, then he would again be arrested while Adil is still detained,” Hameed said.

Hammad Adil and Umer Abdullah filed a petition in the trial court to quash the case against them due to lack of evidence, Hameed said. “About two weeks ago the anti-terrorism court rejected their plea so the trial is going on against them,” he added.

Sikandar Bhatti, the younger brother of Shahbaz Bhatti and the complainant in the case, expressed dissatisfaction over the release on bail of Abdullah.

“If one of the men accused of killing my brother has been released on bail, then how to expect justice in the case?” he said. “The problem is that even judges are afraid of terrorists, especially after the killing of a judge in a suicide attack.”

In April a suicide bomber killed 11 people, including a judge, in Rawalpindi Sessions Court. In 1997 the former Lahore High Court justice, Arif Iqbal Bhatti (no relation) was killed after acquitting two Christians in a blasphemy case. Judge Pervez Ali Shah, who convicted Mumtaz Qadri for killing Governor Salmaan Taseer, fled Pakistan in October 2011. Taseer had been killed after calling the blasphemy laws “black laws” and for supporting Aasiya Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy in November 2011.

Lawyer Hameed said terrorists also have threatened him, witnesses and Bhatti’s brothers to deter them from pursuing the case. He said an application was submitted to the trial judge to either transfer the case to Lahore or Faisalabad where they all live so they can arrange for their own security, or to provide security if the trial has to be conducted in Islamabad. The application for security was submitted “after death threats on the phone and by letter, and at best the trial judge ordered the Islamabad Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) to provide security to us…The CCPO has not even bothered to contact us, let alone provide us security. We do want justice, but not at the cost of lives of our family members,” he said.

In February, another brother of Shahbaz, Paul Bhattih, who returned to Pakistan to run political affairs after Shahbaz’ death, received death threats, after which he went back to Italy, where he now lives for his own safety.

SOURCE

RCCG Pastor Butchered In Borno, Whereabout Of Wife & Children Unknown

Boko

A pastor with the Redeem Christian Church of God in Borno state, Pastor Taiwo Dokun was shot dead and butchered by Boko Haram men during the Monday July 14th attack on Dille village in Askira-Uba LGA of Borno state. The late pastor’s wife and three children are feared to have been taken by the sect men who reportedly abducted some people on the day of the attack.

A resident of the village, Jacob Mamza, gave an account of how the pastor was killed to correspondent;
“The pastor was in his house at about 6am when the insurgents attacked the village. His house was surrounded by the hoodlums and while attempting to run he was shot. Pastor Taiwo was running to a neighbour’s house and it was in the course of his fleeing that he was shot in the head and the chest and the insurgent equally came to butcher him to make sure that he was dead.” he said.

Church members say the late pastor’s wife and children’s whereabout is unknown as they have not been seen since the attack on Monday. They have ruled out death as their bodies are not among those they gathered after the attack and suggested they may have been taken away by the sect men who abducted some people on the day of the attack.

 

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Mosul’s two kidnapped Chaldean nuns released

Update

Two kidnapped nuns who managed an orphanage for girls in Mosul, and two women and a boy, who were kidnapped on June 28 have been released.

According to ankawa.com no ransom was paid for the release of the five Assyrian victims who are in good health and are now in the city of Dohuk.

The two Chaldean Catholic nuns Sister Outor Joseph and Sister Meskenta, as well as Hala Salim, Sara Khoshaba and Aram Sabah, were kidnapped while inspecting the monastery late at night.

The nuns relocated the children to Dohuk for safety after the ISIS’ invasion in mid June, but WWM sources quote a man who met one of the nuns at a gas station. He asked her what she was doing and she told him that she was going back to Mosul to look after the monastery. He had begged her not to go, but she’d said she wasn’t afraid.

There is as yet no confirmation of who was behind the disappearance of the nuns and their companions.

Iraqi Christian leaders appeal to Europe as nuns kidnapped

Leaders of Catholic churches in Iraq have flown to Europe to report on the Iraqi crisis, to try to find solutions for the country’s rapidly declining number of Christians. Their visit came amid reports that two nuns in Mosul, accompanied by two women and a boy, have been unaccounted for since Jun. 28.

They are believed to have been kidnapped by militants of the radical jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. More recently, the group has taken to calling itself the Islamic State, or IS.     

On July 9, the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Raphael Sako of Baghdad, Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul, and Bishop Youssif Mirkis of Kirkuk in Kurdish-controlled Iraq, held meetings in Brussels with high-level representatives of EU institutions and NATO. They discussed the situation and prospects for Christians in Iraq since the invasion of Mosul by IS last month and of the Ninevah Plains to the north, where there has been a high concentration of Christians. Many of the Christians had earlier fled Baghdad and other southern cities for the relative safety of the north. The Brussels meetings were organized by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

The IS invasion has triggered a flood of Christians from the south of Iraq into the Kurdish-governed north-east, as well as neighboring countries. Christian leaders are concerned that the 2,000-year presence of Christianity in Iraq will become merely symbolic as the community flees the jihadist militants who continue to bring disorder and instability in Iraq.

A decade ago, around 2003, Iraq was home to 1.5 million Christians. After years of war and sectarian violence only about 400,000 are said to remain, and that number is now dropping rapidly.

“The next days will be very bad. If the situation does not change, Christians will be left with just a symbolic presence in Iraq,” Reuters quoted Sako as saying during the Brussels meetings. “If they leave, their history is finished.”

Mouche said many of those who fled Mosul wanted to return, but when they did, they found no water and hardly any electricity, just fear. In Kirkuk’s safer Kurdish zone, Christians are leaving at a rate of several hundred a day, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

“Our presence was a symbol of peace, but there’s so much panic, and few Christians see their future in Iraq,” Reuters quoted Mirkis.

Meanwhile sources close to World Watch Monitor said there is still no news of two nuns, Sisters Outor and Meskenta, who have been missing from IS-controlled Mosul since June 28. The nuns ran an orphanage for girls and had fled Mosul to Dohuk in the north earlier in June. It is believed that the IS kidnapped them when they returned to check on the situation of their orphanage. They were accompanied by two women, Hala Salim and Sara Khoshaba, and a child named Aram Sabah, who are also missing.

Local church authorities tried to obtain their release immediately after their disappearance, through confidential channels of mediation, but so far have been unsuccessful according to Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical mission societies.

The news service refuted, however, a false report that a priest and nun had also been kidnapped from Mosul. It reported that all priests left at the beginning of the offensive led by the jihadists.

Yesterday, July 10, reports emerged that last week militant members of IS appear to have dug up the grave of the Biblical prophet Jonah (revered by Muslims and Christians alike), in the east of Mosul. An Iraqi official Zuhair al-Chalabi is quoted by Iraqi News as saying “The elements of ISIL controlled the mosque of the Prophet Younis (Jonah) in Mosul since they invaded the city. It is still held by them until now…elements of ISIL engaged in the process of tampering with the contents of the Mosque.”

“There is almost certain information stating the fact that the elements of ISIL dug up the grave of the Prophet Younis” Chalabi added.

The jihadist group has reportedly also destroyed graves and shrines of other prophets in Iraq. The militants believe worshipping relics and tombs is against the teachings of Islam.

The jihadist group has declared Sharia law in Mosul, and in at least one reported case is said to have forced Christians to pay the jizya tax for non-Muslims.

Currently in Mosul all construction work has stopped, leaving many unemployed.  There is an increased demand for black colored clothing including veils and hijabs for women who are not allowed to walk in the streets unless accompanied by a male. All barber shops and women’s salons have closed, Christian Iraqi news source AINA has reported. AINA obtained information from a report prepared by the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, an NGO based in Baghdad which monitors the human rights situation in Iraq, particularly of minorities. 

In the Nineveh plains water and electricity continue to be severely limited. Residents who have dug wells are unable to purify the water for safe drinking. Relief efforts are not adequate, according to the report published on July 8. A handful of relief and church organizations are scrambling to help.

Open Doors International, which works with Christians under pressure for their faith worldwide, is one of them, partnering with local networks to distribute emergency relief. One of the partner workers reported.

“Shortly after the occupation of Mosul, refugees started coming to our church. It was a strange sight for me to see the church halls filled with people, it was so crowded! People aren’t sleeping on beds, but put whatever they can find on the floor and sleep like that. Still they don’t complain, they are relieved that they are out of the threatening situation around Mosul. A woman came to me and said: ‘It’s much better here than were I came from: we have electricity, running water and the church has air-conditioning. This was all destroyed in the place near Mosul I came from and at least we’re safe here.’

…When it was time to distribute the relief packages, the families quickly gathered around us in the garden of the church. It was overwhelming. I saw the desperate faces of the old men and the mothers who came to collect their food and I felt so sorry for them. All were arguing over who should get a food package first. It was difficult for me to see them but at the same time I was happy that I could help them. It was really an honor for me to do that. The priest tried to calm them down. And then we started distributing the packages: rice, tomato sauce and even some canned meat was inside. The next Sunday when I went to church to worship one of the women came to me and told me how happy she was with the help she received: ‘It was exactly what we needed’ she said.”

On Wednesday, July 9, Canon Andrew White, known as the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’, posted on his Facebook page “sadly the crisis here continues.” On July 8 he posted that the IS had destroyed many of the Shia Mosques in Mosul and had taken control of the churches.

“I wondered why I had not heard about churches being destroyed, then this morning I discovered why,” he posted. “They have set up their bases and headquarters in the churches.”

He said that while there are “huge problems” in the north, Baghdad has its own share without the presence of IS.

“Where we are in our compound it is safe, but we can hear the gun battles going on around us. Each day the homicide bombs continue, the murders increase; this month alone over 2,700 people have been killed and over one million people have been forced to leave their homes.”

He continued: “We do not know what each day will bring. The tragedy and despair is all around, but despite all of this we know for sure that the Lord is here and His spirit is with us. This I say so many times and we totally mean it.”

Chris Ade – Were Were

chris Ade2

Chris Ade, one of the finalist of MTN’s Project Fame music reality show (season 5), drops a brand new single titled ‘WERE WERE’ which means ‘Easy Easy’.

Delivered with remarkable vocals, this inspirational song with a strong African and indigenous rhythm/percussion teaches about patience, the law of seed-time, harvest, the power of self determination, faith in God and yourself.

‘Were Were’ is garnished with a beautiful lyrical composition and a catchy hook which makes its evergreen message truly a blessing.

As a Singer, Songwriter, Performer and Entrepreneur, Chris Ade holds a bachelors degree in Computer Science/Statistics from the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi.

He has Consistently grown on all sides breaking boundaries and limits with his Unique style of Music.

SOURCE

Chris Ade (mtn Project Fame season 5 finalist) – Were Were

chris Ade2

Chris Ade, one of the finalist of MTN’s Project Fame music reality show (season 5), drops a brand new single titled ‘WERE WERE’ which means ‘Easy Easy’.

Delivered with remarkable vocals, this inspirational song with a strong African and indigenous rhythm/percussion teaches about patience, the law of seed-time, harvest, the power of self determination, faith in God and yourself.

‘Were Were’ is garnished with a beautiful lyrical composition and a catchy hook which makes its evergreen message truly a blessing.

As a Singer, Songwriter, Performer and Entrepreneur, Chris Ade holds a bachelors degree in Computer Science/Statistics from the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi.

He has Consistently grown on all sides breaking boundaries and limits with his Unique style of Music.

SOURCE

Egyptian convert appeals 5-year sentence for misdemeanor

Mohamed Hegazy, left, with his lawyer, Karam Ghobrial.

 

An Egyptian man who captured video of clashes between Muslims and Christians has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Mohamed Hegazy was convicted June 18 for failing to obtain permission to film demonstrations in the Egypt’s Minya governate, a volatile region in central Egypt that erupted in anti-Christian violence following the July 2013 ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.

The crime is a misdemeanor, and Hegazy already has spent more than 6 months in custody — the maximum for misdemeanors — since his arrest Dec. 4. His laywer said he plans to appeal the verdict.

“Hegazy is accused of filming a demonstration without permission, so according to the law this is a misdemeanor,” the attorney, Karam Ghobrial, told World Watch Monitor. “So this verdict is contradictory to the law because it didn’t include paying the bail to release the accused until the appeal, as in all misdemeanor crimes. “

Hegazy, 31, goes by a different name, Bishoy Armeya, a name he took after he converted from Islam to Christianity in 1999, at age 17. In 2007, he petitioned the government to officially recognize his conversion — an unprecedented request in a country where Islam is the official religion, and where the constitution declares Islamic Sharia law to be “the main source of legislation.” Death threats forced Hegazy into hiding.

And that, his lawyer says, is the real reason he’s going to prison.

“The real reason for keeping Armeya in custody is being a convert,” Ghobrial told Mideast Christian News in April. He said police questioned Hegazy about his religion following his arrest — a subject that he said ought to be irrelevant under Egyptian law. In Egypt, government-issued identity cards include the person’s religion. While the law permits citizens to change their faith, in practice Muslims who convert to Christianity often face intense pressure.

Hegazy is being held in the El Menya Prison during the appeal. He is good condition, Ghobrial told World Watch Monitor. His wife and children are in Germany, and only his lawyer is permitted to visit him.

An appeal hearing is scheduled for July 20.

In an unrelated case, a court in Luxor on June 24 sentenced Kerolos Ghattas, a Christian, to six years in prison for loading his Facebook page with images considered insulting to Islam. Ther verdict can be appealed.

SOURCE

Chibok, 3 months later – Little progress finding kidnapped girls

Parents of daughters abducted in April by Boko Haram, pictured in Chibok in May 2014.

 

Three months to the day after more than 200 teenage girls were kidnapped from their school in northeast Nigeria, headlines have been dominated by the visit of another teenager, 17 year old Pakistani Malala Yusufzai, to some of the missing girls’ families and the Nigerian President.

But there is no real progress in actually securing freedom for the girls, who were abducted in April from the Government Secondary school in Chibok, Borno state.

Western diplomats have said that, despite international publicity, the efforts to find the hostages are little further on than they were in May, when Britain, America and France began to help. With neither a prisoner swap nor a rescue considered likely, there was little real prospect of any “breakthrough” in the foreseeable future, they said.

Said one diplomat: “It is hard to see this being resolved either by a rescue or a prisoner swap deal, although that is also true for a lot of other girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in recent months and years, who are now bush wives. What may happen is that from time to time, some may seize a chance to escape, or a deal may be done with one particular local faction that is holding some of the hostages. Over the course of a few months or years they may begin to reappear.”

 

Q & A with Rev. Samuel Dali, president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria

Rev. Samuel Dali
Rev. Samuel Dali

Read the World Watch Monitor interview here

However, Canon Dr. Stephen Davis, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Envoy to the Nigerian President, was a little more positive.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Canon Davis pointed out that Boko Haram militants have been raiding villages for the sole purpose of getting food.

“We’ve heard from a number of people in their camps that the food drops they were getting from outside have been intercepted by military forces sent by international governments, so they will be feeling the pinch of the restrictions of co-operating nations’ forces.”

He also spoke out about some Nigerian politicians, saying that they are some of the sponsors of Boko Haram.

“It’s no longer a Christian[ity]-versus-Islam issue, it’s much more a power play as we get closer to the election. The recent bombs in (the capital) Abuja was a reaction to a (recent) state election that surprised some of the sponsors. They are determined to show that the present government can’t provide security for Nigeria.

“This violence is not by people seeking to purify Islam,” Davis said. “Politicians and power-brokers are funding the Boko Haram violence – they are buying weapons and military uniforms for them.”

When asked by the BBC ‘Why isn’t President Jonathan doing anything?’ Davis, former Director of the International Centre for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral replied:

“The President’s heading towards an election; he’s faced with a very difficult situation.

“Political Boko Haram (funded by such sponsors) are the main culprits – they are groups that are ruthless. They capture young men who are then forced to dig large trenches and then are forced to kill each other so that they drop into these trenches”.

“Members of [the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) – or the Society for the Support of Islam] say the Boko Haram insurgency is nothing to do with Islam, and that they will have nothing to do with political Boko Haram. They say they are so sickened, and find it so abhorrent.

“People want to believe it’s Islam on Christian, but the Islamic leaders and those who started it a few years ago are saying ‘This is not what was ever intended – it’s inconsistent with the Koran, we wanted to restore Islam, that’s all.’ ”

The head of JNI, the Sultan of Sokoto, backed up everything Davis said.

Speaking to reporters at a Ramadan dinner held in his palace in Sokoto on July 13, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III said the rising wave of violence and killing of innocent citizens was geared toward the 2015 elections.

“Politicians are the main problem of this country. The whole issue of insecurity in this country is geared towards 2015 elections and nothing more. If there is no election in 2015 and they said not ‘til 2030, everything will cool down.

“You see, everybody is trying to take his own position and put himself at a vantage point to gain an extra mile ahead of 2015. The whole thing is all about politics. That is why you see the killings, but what we find painful is that innocent people are being killed every day, especially people who don’t even know what is politics.

“We are shedding too much blood of innocent Nigerians and God will not be pleased with us when we keep on shedding innocent blood because their cries mean a lot,” the sultan said.

”Since the kidnapping of the school girls, these terrorists have intensified their attacks with other kidnappings of women and killings of people.”

–Rev. Samuel Dali, president, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Read the World Watch Monitor Interview here.

Nigeria ranks No. 14 among the 50 countries where life as a Christian is most difficult,according to the World Watch List of Open Doors International, a global charity that supports Christians who live under pressure because of their faith. The main source of pressure, Open Doors says, is “Islamic extremism,” most prominently in the form of Boko Haram violence. Islamic Sharia law governs 12 northern Nigeria states, where Christians are compelled to send their children to Islamic studies in school, and are forbidden to bury their dead in public cemeteries, among other limitations.

The 5-year-old Boko Haram insurgency has killed thousands of Christians, as well as moderate Muslims, in its avowed quest to topple the government of Christian President Goodluck Jonatahn and create a fundamentalist Islamic state. The April kidnapping at Chibok, a Christian enclave in the otherwise Muslim-majority state of Borno, prompted worldwide outrage, and prompted several Western countries to send people and equipment to Nigeria to help the Jonathan government track down the girls.

At his regular press briefing July 14, Nigeria’s National Information Centre coordinator, Mike Omeri, said the government is making progress toward rescuing the Chibok schoolgirls.

“We are moving closer to finding the abducted girls and we have identified a number of leads,” the Osun Defender quoted Omeri as saying. “The arrest of the Boko Haram intelligence operative is assisting us in this regard. I can’t speak much on this because the information is classified.”

Omeri made his remarks only hours after new information emerged of a deadly early-morning attack in Borno state. The Vanguard reported heavily armed men emerged from the Sambisa forest and killed many residents, though a precise death toll was only beginning to emerge. The attackers also burned three churches, including the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, or EYN church, along with homes and businesses, the Vanguard reported.

The families of most of the girls kidnapped from Chibok in April belong to the EYN church.

On Saturday, a bridge on a major northeast Nigeria highway was destroyed in a bomb blast,according to the Associated Press, which cited witnesses and a vigilante group fighting against Boko Haram. The bridge’s destruction further limits access to the forests where the kidnapped Chibok girls are believed to be held.

SOURCE

Have Scientists Found the Mythical ‘Gate to Hell’?

Archaeologists reportedly have uncovered the cave believed to be Pluto’s Gate, the mythological portal to hell, in the ancient city of Hierapolis in southern Turkey.

The site was located among ruins in the area, Italian archaeologists said, according to a report on Discovery.com.

Hierapolis is now known as Pamukkale.

Pluto’s Gate was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology. Pluto was the Greek god of the underworld.

The find was made by a team that was led by Francesco D’Andria, a professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento.

Pamukkale was already considered culturally significant. It’s on the United Nations’ list of World Heritage Sites, alongside the pyramids of Egypt, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, East Africa’s Serengeti and the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, among other international sites identified for preservation and protection.

Ancient Hierapolis was a cosmopolitan city where Anatolians, Graeco-Macedonians, Romans and Jews intermingled, according to UNESCO. The city was located on hot springs that were used for thermal spas and baths.

Ancient scholars wrote about Pluto’s Gate, claiming that the portal was full of vapor and mist and that any animal that tried to enter would perish.

Strabo, an ancient Greek geographer, wrote that he “threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell,” Discovery also reported.

The archaeologists apparently witnessed something of this firsthand.

“We could see the cave’s lethal properties during the excavation,” D’Andria of the University of Salento said, according to the Discovery report. “Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes.”

SOURCE