Thursday, 18 Apr, 2024


US airman dies after setting himself on fire at Israeli embassy 

International Desk |
Update: 2024-02-27 10:14:30
US airman dies after setting himself on fire at Israeli embassy  [photo collected]

A US airman has died after setting himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington DC.

The man was identified by police as Aaron Bushnell, 25.

Officers from the US Secret Service extinguished the flames before the man was taken to hospital on Sunday afternoon.

Before setting himself on fire, he said he would "no longer be complicit in genocide".

In a video aired live on streaming site Twitch, the man identified himself and said he was a serving member of the Air Force.

Dressed in military uniform, he said he was "about to engage in an extreme act of protest." After setting himself on fire, he repeatedly shouted "free Palestine".

No embassy staff members were injured in the incident, said a spokeswoman for the embassy.

The incident happened at 13:00 local time (18:00 GMT) on Sunday. A bomb disposal unit was sent to the site over concerns about a suspicious vehicle that could have been connected to the individual.

This was later declared safe after no hazardous materials were found.

Mr Bushnell was taken to the hospital in a critical condition.

Washington police said officers were working with the Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate the incident.

Mr Bushnell, of San Antonio, Texas, was raised in Massachusetts and attended public schools on the Cape Cod peninsula, according to a statement from a local school district.

The Air Force would not confirm details of Mr Bushnell's service, citing family notification policies. A Pentagon spokesman called the incident a "tragic event" during a news conference Monday.

Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper, reported that Mr Bushnell held the rank of senior airman.

Before setting himself alight, Mr Bushnell emailed a number of reporters and left-wing and anarchist news websites. The Atlanta Community Press Collective, one of the groups that received the email, provided a copy to the BBC.

"Today, I am planning to engage in an extreme act of protest against the genocide of the Palestinian people," the email reads, warning it would be "highly disturbing."

In his Linkedin profile, Mr Bushnell stated that he graduated from Air Force basic training "top of class" in November 2020 and that he was seeking "to transition out of the US Air Force into software engineering".

The Israel-Gaza war erupted on 7 October last year when Hamas gunmen infiltrated southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking 253 others hostage.

Israel responded by launching a military campaign in Gaza, during which 29,300 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

As of mid-January, 1.9 million civilians in Gaza have been displaced amid Israel's military operations, according to the United Nations, accounting for 85% of its population.

In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the offensive in the face of international criticism, saying America would be "doing a hell of a lot more" if it had suffered such an attack.

It is not the first time someone has set themselves on fire in front of an Israeli diplomatic mission in the US since the intensification of the conflict.

In December, a protester self-immolated in front of the Israeli consulate in the US state of Georgia.

A Palestinian flag found at the scene was part of the protest, police said.

Source: BBC

BDST: 1013 HRS, FEB 27, 2024

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