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Obama seeks to calm US following shootings

Barack Obama is returning to the US from a diplomatic trip to Europe to help comfort an America rattled by a series of shocking shootings and racial unrest.

Mr Obama will fly to Dallas, the scene of the massacre of five police officers which, added to two shootings of black men by white police officers, has emerged as a tipping point in a national debate about race and justice.

The US president is due to deliver remarks at an interfaith memorial service and is expected to meet victims' families and local law enforcement officials mourning their own.

Former president George W Bush, his wife, Laura, and vice president Joe Biden will also attend, and the ex-president will deliver brief remarks.

In choosing to the deliver a high-profile speech, Mr Obama has tasked himself with ministering to Americans as they make sense of a frustrating cloud of issues swirling around the shootings.

As he travelled to Poland and Spain last week for meetings with European leaders, the president was publicly working through his thoughts. At times, he acknowledged "anger" and "confusion" in the public, and at other times he seemed to downplay the enormity of events.

On the shootings by police of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, Mr Obama called for more activism and reforms. And he sought to impress upon white Americans what he said he and other African Americans already know: the problem is real.

On the shooting in Dallas, Mr Obama cast Micah Johnson, the sniper killed in a stand-off with police, as "demented" and his motives as unknowable. People should not believe that "the act of a troubled individual speaks to some larger political statement across the country," he said. "It doesn't."

Mr Obama also pointed to other forces driving discontent at home and in Europe - lone-wolf terrorism or economic instability wrought by globalisation - and tried to sell his policies aimed at tackling each.

On Sunday, a few hours before returning home, Mr Obama issued a plea for better understanding between police and demonstrators taking part in the protests across the country.

"I'd like all sides to listen to each other," he said.

Meanwhile, the Dallas police chief said the suspect in the deadly attack on officers taunted authorities during two hours of negotiations, laughing at them and at one point asking how many officers he had shot.

The chief and the county's most senior elected official also said that Micah Johnson had larger attack plans and possessed enough explosive material to inflict far greater harm.

Dallas police chief David Brown said Johnson, a black Army veteran, insisted on speaking with a black negotiator. The chief said he also wrote in blood on the wall of a parking garage where police cornered and later killed him.

The shootings marked the deadliest day for US law enforcement since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The five officers were fatally shot just a few blocks from where president John F Kennedy was slain in 1963.


From Belfast Telegraph