World News

Weather Causes Course Change for Record-Seeking Balloon Pilots


Tsuyoshi Ogushi/Two Eagles Balloon Team(NEW YORK) -- On Thursday afternoon, the pilots aboard a gas balloon seeking to set records for distance and duration traveled while crossing the Pacific changed their strategy and their course by deciding to fly over Baja, Mexico, instead of Vancouver, Canada.Pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev and Troy Bradley remain on pace to set both of the records they targeted, but shifted course due to "changes in the weather pattern," a release said. The new course had been an option earlier, but was rejected due to concerns about storms in the area. The release says that had they taken the southern route initially, they would have run into difficult weather. Now, however, after having taken a "detour" north, they anticipate good weather coming along the Mexican coast.The two pilots are in "good shape" but are "understandably getting tired after nearly five days in the air," the release noted. The pair initially set out to surpass the current records of 5,208 miles traveled and 137 hours and five minutes in the air.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

On Camera: Man Armed with Fake Gun Takes Over TV Studio, Surrenders to Police


Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images(AMSTERDAM) --  A Dutch TV camera kept rolling as an armed man who had apparently stormed a television station paced back and forth, with what looked like a silenced pistol in hand, before surrendering to police.The video, posted online by the Dutch outlet NOS shortly after the incident, shows the young man in a suit speaking to someone off camera for several minutes before police can be heard entering the room and yelling at the man. He calmly drops his weapon and police take him into custody.Police in the Netherlands later said that the gun was fake.Earlier NOS had reported that its newsroom had been evacuated. The man had demanded airtime, the station said. No shots were reportedly fired.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

British Fighter Jets Scrambled After Russian Planes Identified Near UK Airspace


Andy_Oxley/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- British fighter jets were scrambled on Wednesday after Russian aircraft were identified flying near United Kingdom airspace.Long-range search radar detected two unidentified jets flying in international airspace near the U.K. on Wednesday. The Royal Air Force says it scrambled Typhoon fighter jets from bases in Lossiemouth and Coningsby to intercept the Russian aircraft. The British aircraft were directed into position to identify and escort  the Russian planes through the region. At no point did the Russian jets cross into U.K. sovereign airspace. The Russian Embassy in London said Thursday that Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko was summoned to the British Foreign and Commonwealth office to discuss the incident. The embassy says that the U.K. expressed concerns over the disruption to civil aviation caused by the incident, while the Russian side said their crafts were on "routine air patrol duty."Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Three American Contractors Killed in Shooting at Afghanistan Airport


MatthewBrosseau/iStock/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Three American contractors were killed in a shooting incident at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday that may have involved an Afghan security officer at the airport, U.S. military officials said.“We can confirm that there was a shooting incident at North Kabul International Airport complex 29 January at approximately 6:40 p.m. [local time]," according to the U.S. military in Afghanistan. "Three coalition contractors were killed as was an Afghan local national."The three contractors were Americans, a U.S. official said, noting that the shooter was wearing the uniform of an Afghan national policeman, but it was unclear if he was actually a member of the Afghan security forces or not.The incident is under investigation, the official said, adding that it is also unclear if the Afghan listed as a fatality is someone other than the shooter who was shot dead by the security team at the airport.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

US Military Classifies Information About Afghanistan's Troops


Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Citing security concerns, the U.S. military in Afghanistan has now deemed as classified specific statistics about Afghanistan’s security forces that for years it routinely provided for public release to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan says providing that kind of information could help the Taliban in planning attacks and creates security risks for the 10,600 U.S. troops serving as trainers in Afghanistan.For six years, the SIGAR has produced regular reports that track the progress of the $65 billion the United States has spent to build Afghanistan’s infrastructure, development and security forces. Those reports have included information about the Afghan security forces such as troop numbers, attrition rates, salaries, training and equipment.The latest quarterly report released on Thursday includes that information in a classified appendix available only to government officials with a high enough security clearance."I am deeply concerned with the implications of this sudden classification decision and have raised it with the appropriate officials," said John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, explained his decision to classify the information in a letter to Sopko.He wrote that while he could not comment “upon the precise reason why certain information was considered unclassified in the past, I can advise that given the risks that continue to exist to our forces and those of Afghanistan, I have directed that sensitive operational information or related materials, that could be used by those who threaten the force, or Afghan forces, be classified at an appropriate level.”He added, “With lives literally on the line, I am sure that you can join me in recognizing that we must be careful to avoid providing sensitive information to those that threaten our forces and Afghan forces, particularly information that can be used by such opposing forces to sharpen their attacks.”The 10,600 American troops remain in Afghanistan as part of a two-year training mission known as Resolute Support. U.S. troops will remain on their bases to continue training Afghan security forces though a portion of them are Special Operations forces able to conduct counter terrorism missions when needed.Campbell wrote that he fully supports SIGAR’s role, “However, I am compelled to also protect the lives of those individuals who could be put at risk by the release of sensitive information."According to SIGAR, Campbell’s command provided classified or restricted responses to 140 questions including some seeking definitions for the terms “unavailable” and “present for duty.”Among other things it also sought the total amount of funding the U.S. has spent on food for the Afghan Army and on the salaries for Afghan National Police that came from a specially created fund.Beginning in 2009, the Pentagon began providing twice a year reports mandated by Congress that tracked the overall security situation in Afghanistan as well as the progress of Afghan security forces. Those publicly available reports included similar information that had been provided publicly to SIGAR in the past.However, the last of those reports was released in October with the pending end of the combat mission in Afghanistan in December.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mayor Lowers Death Toll to 2 in Mexico City Gas Explosion at Children's Hospital


iStock/Thinkstoc(MEXICO CITY) — A gas tank truck explosion collapsed large parts of a Mexico City children's hospital Thursday, leaving at least two reported dead and dozens more injured or believed trapped.Earlier, officials including Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera and Fausto Lugo, the head of Mexico City Civil Protection, reported that seven people had been killed. They later revised the number down to two dead in the explosion and aftermath.The explosion led to the collapse of 30 percent of the hospital building, according to Mayor Mancera.Borough chief Adrian Rubalcava posted dramatic photographs of the scene on Twitter just after the explosion and called for more ambulances to help transport the injured to other hospitals. La situación está grave! Los servicios de emergencia locales y federales continúan trabajando en el punto! pic.twitter.com/MIKgXZS6En— Adrián Rubalcava (@AdrianRubalcava) January 29, 2015Rubalcava also posted pictures that appeared to show rescue teams with dogs arriving at the site of the explosion. El equipo de venteo, bomberos, personal militar, policía federal, Gobierno seguimos trabajando en el punto! pic.twitter.com/5gibtuIjgt— Adrián Rubalcava (@AdrianRubalcava) January 29, 2015Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Russian 'Spy' Arrested in NYC Denies Charges, Report Says


fotokon/iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- A Manhattan banker who the U.S. says was really a secret agent for the Russian government “vehemently denies” the charges against him, according to a Russian report.Evgeny Buryakov, who worked at the Russian bank Vnesheconombank, was arrested Monday and accused of being a “non-official cover” agent of the Russian foreign intelligence outfit SVR.The Russian outlet TASS reported Thursday that Russian officials had been granted a consular visit to Buryakov in detention in New York.A spokesperson for the Russian consulate general quoted by TASS said Buryakov “hopes that the lawyers, being currently selected by Vnesheconombank, will rebut unfounded and false accusations against him.” One of Buryakov’s lawyers confirmed the visit to ABC News.Buryakov was arrested as part of an alleged spy ring that involved two other individuals, identified as Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnny, who had worked in the U.S. with a Russian trade delegation and with Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, respectively. The U.S. Department of Justice said those men were also undercover SVR agents, though they were not arrested because they were protected by diplomatic immunity and no longer live in the U.S.Unlike Sporyshev and Podobnny, who had “official” covers,” as a “non-official cover” agent, or NOC, Buryakov operated in the U.S. under the guise of a private citizen.“[I]n many cases, [NOCs] are never identified as intelligence agents by the host government,” court documents say. “As a result, a NOC is an extremely valuable intelligence asset for the SVR.”The trio allegedly worked for Directorate ER and were tasked with stealing economic information from the U.S., including information about potential U.S.-led sanctions against Russia.TASS itself was also embroiled in the spy scandal after court documents revealed that the Russian agents had been ordered to feed questions to an unidentified news organization for an upcoming interview. An official with knowledge of the case told ABC News the outlet was TASS, which a former CIA analyst said was long-known during the Cold War for working closely with Soviet intelligence.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Victims Likely Trapped After Deadly Mexico City Gas Explosion at Children's Hosp


iStock/Thinkstoc(MEXICO CITY) — A gas tank truck explosion collapsed large parts of a Mexico City children's hospital Thursday, leaving at least seven reported dead, including four children, and others injured or believed trapped.Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera and the city’s head of Civil Protection said that more casualties are to be expected. The explosion led to the collapse of 30 percent of the hospital building, according to Mayor Mancera.Borough chief Adrian Rubalcava posted dramatic photographs of the scene on Twitter just after the explosion and called for more ambulances to help transport the injured to other hospitals.La situación está grave! Los servicios de emergencia locales y federales continúan trabajando en el punto! pic.twitter.com/MIKgXZS6En— Adrián Rubalcava (@AdrianRubalcava) January 29, 2015Rubalcava also posted pictures that appeared to show rescue teams with dogs arriving at the site of the explosion.El equipo de venteo, bomberos, personal militar, policía federal, Gobierno seguimos trabajando en el punto! pic.twitter.com/5gibtuIjgt— Adrián Rubalcava (@AdrianRubalcava) January 29, 2015Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

One Reported Dead, Kids Trapped at Mexico City Children's Hospital


iStock/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) — A gas tank truck explosion collapsed large parts of a Mexico City children's hospital Thursday, leaving at least one reported dead and others reportedly trapped and injured.The Mexico City mayor said 30 percent of the hospital collapsed as a result of the explosion.A Mexican official said children were believed to be trapped beneath the rubble.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

'Sunset' Deadline Looms for ISIS Prisoner Swap


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As the shadows grow longer in the Middle East, the deadline for a prisoner swap that could save the life of a Japanese journalist in the hands of the terror group ISIS is fast approaching Thursday.In an audio message uploaded online late Wednesday, allegedly made by captive Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, Goto says that if al Qaeda convict Sajida al-Rishawi “is not ready for exchange for my life at the Turkish border by Thursday sunset” then another hostage, Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, “will be killed immediately.” The recording refers to sunset in Mosul, Iraq, meaning mid-morning east coast time.Earlier Wednesday Jordan’s government had said it would go through with a prisoner swap with the terror group ISIS in order to get its captured pilot back, but Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said then that the government has not received proof that al-Kaseasbeh is still alive. Goto’s message did not say the Jordanian pilot would be freed in the newly-proposed arrangement. Al-Kaseasbeh was captured by ISIS last December after his aircraft was shot down.Al-Rishawi, the Iraqi woman ISIS is bent on freeing, has been on death row in Jordan since she confessed to her role as a would-be suicide bomber in a string of al Qaeda attacks in Jordan in 2005 that killed dozens.Prior to reports of Jordan’s willingness to accept the trade, Middle East expert Jon Alterman told ABC News that by asking for, and potentially gaining al-Rishawi’s release, ISIS is attempting to bolster its long-held goal of being seen as a proper nation-state on a geopolitical scale.“What it represents is ISIS again trying to act like a real country. It’s a small group of outlaws trying to engage in governments,” Alterman, head of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Tuesday.ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has publicly beheaded dozens of captives, including a handful of Western journalists and aid workers, sometimes after making demands of their governments.The Japanese hostage Goto was not mentioned in statements made by Jordanian officials about a potential deal Wednesday, despite comments overnight from top Japanese officials that they are working closely with Jordan to find ways to free both hostages.“Please save Kenji’s life,” Goto’s mother said in her own video, released Tuesday. “Kenji has only a little time left.”World News Videos | ABC World NewsFollow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

AirAsia Flight 8501: Co-Pilot Was Flying Plane at Time of Crash, Officials Say


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(JAKARTA, Indonesia) — The AirAsia jet that crashed into the Java Sea in December, killing all 162 people on board, was being piloted by the plane’s co-pilot, not its captain, Indonesian officials said at a Thursday press briefing.According to the National Transportation Committee chief investigator, Mardjono SiswoSumarno, French national Remi Emmanuel Plesel was in control of the plane while Capt. Iriyanto, who uses one name monitored the flight, as suggested on the cockpit’s voice recording.Siswosuwarno said the plane was struggling to recover as stall warnings sounded until the end of the recording.Radar data showed the plane was climbing at an abnormally high rate -- 3,000 feet in 30 seconds -- prior to the crash, before stalling and plunging into the Java Sea, authorities have said.More than 70 victims’ bodies have been recovered from the wreckage of AirAsia Flight 8501. Earlier this week, Indonesia’s military halted its recovery efforts, including attempts to locate more bodies and raise the fuselage from the sea.The Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency, however, is continuing to look for victims with its own ships and helicopters.World News Videos | ABC World NewsFollow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Malaysia Officially Declares MH370 Disappearance an Accident


(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — Malaysia has officially declared the disappearance of MH370 an accident, with the plane’s passengers and crew presumed dead, the country’s Department of Civil Aviation director-general said in a recorded statement carried on Malaysian television Thursday.The declaration fulfills a legal obligation that will allow efforts to proceed with compensation claims -- but also marks a somber development for relatives of the plane’s passengers and crew, who’ve waited nearly 11 months for answers into the plane’s fate.Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the underwater search for the plane, which went missing 327 days ago, is ongoing, covering more than 7,000 square miles so far.“With the heaviest heart and the deepest sorrow…we officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident,” he said.“It is nonetheless important that families try to resume normal lives, or as normal a life as may be possible after this sudden loss,” he said. “Without in any way intending to diminish the feelings of the families, it is hoped that this declaration will enable the families to obtain the assistance they need, in particular through the compensation process.”Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was carrying 239 people, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, when it disappeared off radar after midnight on March 8. Authorities believe that the plane turned west and crossed Malaysia and then headed south, flying until its fuel was exhausted and crashing somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.Search crews have scoured the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and southern Indian Ocean, but no physical evidence from the plane has emerged.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Skull May Solve Mystery of First Humans in Europe


binagel/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A 55,000-year-old human skull discovered in Israel is offering new clues about when the first humans may have migrated to Europe.The partial skull fragment, which is believed to be female, was excavated from a cave in western Galilea in the Middle East. Using shape analysis, scientists said the skull is similar to both recent African skulls from the time period and some European upper paleolithic fossils.The finding sheds new light on when early humans left Africa and migrated through the Middle East before colonizing Europe.It is believed to be the first proof of humans living in the Levant region during that time, according to findings published in the journal Nature. The Levant region is the area in the Middle East that encompasses modern-day countries including Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.While the skull fragment does not include facial features, scientists wrote that it is "unequivocally modern." The discovery supports the belief that modern humans (Homo sapiens) and Neanderthals may have lived side by side in the Levant around the time interbreeding is believed to have occurred.Neanderthal remains have previously been excavated from areas near the cave also dating back to around the same time period.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thailand Tourists Get 'Massaged' by Three-Ton Elephants


MattiaATH/iStock/Thinkstock(CHIANG MAI, Thailand) -- Intense fear isn't an emotion typically associated with a massage. But then again, the masseuse isn't typically a three-ton elephant.Tourists in Thailand -- a destination perhaps better known for illicit massages than animal ones -- can get the kinks worked out at an elephant camp in Chiang Mai. A mahout -- or elephant handler -- leads the elephant to the tourist and stands by.The masseurs weigh thousands of pounds and use their feet and trunks to administer the pampering to visitors who lie on the ground, face down, with a towel on their backs.The towel is not likely to offer much protection in the event the elephant decides to crush the guest; presumably it's there to keep clothes clean.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ISIS Appears to Arrange Prisoner Swap in New Hostage Recording


Oleg Zabielin/iStock/Thinkstock(AMMAN, Jordan) -- In a new message uploaded online Wednesday, a Japanese hostage of the terror group ISIS purportedly arranges a prisoner swap in which he would go free in exchange for a convicted terrorist held by Jordan -– or a Jordanian pilot held by ISIS will be killed.In an audio recording, allegedly made by captive Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, Goto says that if al Qaeda convict Sajida al-Rishawi “is not ready for exchange for my life at the Turkish border by Thursday sunset” then Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh “will be killed immediately.” The recording refers to sunset in Mosul, Iraq, meaning mid-morning east coast time.Earlier Wednesday Jordan’s government said it would go through with a prisoner swap with the terror group ISIS in order to get its captured pilot back, but a top official of the Middle Eastern nation says the government has not received proof that he’s still alive. Goto’s message did not say the Jordanian pilot would be freed in the newly-proposed arrangement.Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh posted a message on Twitter saying the government asked for, but has not received, “evidence of health and safety of the hero, Muath.” Al-Kaseasbeh was captured by ISIS last December after his aircraft was shot down.Al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman, has been on death row in Jordan since she confessed to her role as a would-be suicide bomber in a string of al Qaeda attacks in Jordan in 2005 that killed dozens.Prior to reports of Jordan’s willingness to accept the trade, Middle East expert Jon Alterman told ABC News that by asking for, and potentially gaining al-Rishawi’s release, ISIS is attempting to bolster its long-held goal of being seen as a proper nation-state on a geopolitical scale.“What it represents is ISIS again trying to act like a real country. It’s a small group of outlaws trying to engage in governments,” Alterman, head of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Tuesday.ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has publicly beheaded dozens of captives, including a handful of Western journalists and aid workers, sometimes after making demands of their governments.The Japanese hostage Goto was not mentioned in statements made by Jordanian officials about a potential deal Wednesday, despite reports that Japanese officials have been working closely with Jordan to find ways to free both hostages.“Please save Kenji’s life,” Goto’s mother said in her own video, released Tuesday. “Kenji has only a little time left.”Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Amnesty International Claims Nigerian Authorities Failed to Act to Protect Civil


Pawel Gaul/iStock/Thinkstock(BAGA, Nigeria) -- Amnesty International claims that Nigerian authorities were warned of impending attacks by militant group Boko Haram and failed to take action to protect civilians.Amnesty's Africa Director Netsanet Belay said in a statement on Wednesday that "Nigeria's military leadership woefully and repeatedly failed in their duty to protect civilians of Baga and Monguno despite repeated warnings about an impending threat posed by Boko Haram." He further called the attacks "an urgent wake-up call for the Nigerian leadership, the African Union and the international community."According to Amnesty, Nigerian authorities "have a responsibility to take all feasible measures to protect the civilian population, including by assisting with an evacuation of those who wished to flee and transporting them to safer areas." The organization also claims the authorities "have a responsibility to inform civilians of risks and dangers."Earlier this month, Boko Haram captured the town of Monguno and attack Maiduguri and Konduga, Amnesty says.Amnesty has previously released satellite images showing thousands of structures damaged or destroyed in Baga following a Boko Haram attack.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Cuban President Raul Castro Warns Normalization of Relations with US Not Possibl


RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Cuban President Raul Castro spoke at a meeting of the Community of Latin American & Caribbean States in Costa Rica on Wednesday.Castro warned that normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States will not be possible while the U.S. blockade on Cuba remains in effect. Calling the blockade a violation of international law, Castro said that it causes large-scale damage to Cuba and must be ended.The Cuban president said in his speech that President Obama could use his executive powers to modify the blockade without the approval of Congress. Earlier this week, Raul's brother and former Cuban President Fidel Castro wrote a letter to communist newspaper Granma saying that he did not trust U.S. politics, and that while he supported his brother's actions in approaching the U.S. for a warming of the relations between the two nations, he had not spoken a word to U.S. officials.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pilots Attempting Record-Breaking Balloon Trip Across Pacific Ocean Projected to


Tsuyoshi Ogushi/Two Eagles Balloon Team(NEW YORK) -- The two pilots attempting to break world ballooning records in a trip across the Pacific Ocean are now projected to cross over Vancouver Island on Thursday night and land in the United States on Saturday.American Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev took off from Japan on Sunday morning and hoped to break a pair of long-held records -- the distance record for gas balloons (5,208 miles) and the duration record (137 hours and five minutes). As of Wednesday afternoon, the ballon was about a thousand miles west of San Jose, Calif.The pilots will swing northward to avoid a weather system, bringing it through British Columbia and down through Alberta before an expected landing in either North or South Dakota or Minnesota.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Videos Capture US Nuclear Physicist Offering 'Venezuelan Spy' Nuke Info


Department of Justice(WASHINGTON) -- New videos released by the Department of Justice Wednesday show a former American nuclear physicist covertly meeting with a man who he believed to be a Venezuelan intelligence officer in order to sell his expertise, as well as classified information, to the South American nation.“This is very dangerous and I am doing it for money…I am, I told you, I’m not an American anymore,” Pedro Mascheroni says in one of the videos, which was actually recorded as part of a government sting.Mascheroni, who once worked in the X-Division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1980s, was arrested in 2010 and accused of conspiracy to transmit restricted and classified data and attempting to “participate in the development of an atomic weapon.”In 2013, he pleaded guilty to several of the counts involving transmitting restricted information and making false statements to federal agents. Mascheroni attempted to withdraw his guilty plea last summer, but the court denied the motion.“[The] defendant’s aims were never noble, or part of some selfless journey that he had undertaken for the greater good of his fellow citizens,” the U.S. government wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Rather, his actions were criminal to their core.”The Department of Justice on Wednesday released several video clips of Mascheroni’s meetings with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Venezuelan intelligence officer. In one from 2008, Mascheroni says Venezuela could test a nuclear bomb in the Pacific.“Everybody sees it. You don’t kill anybody. Now you tell the United States, ‘Not only do we have this, but we have [these] other designs…You have to come up and say to the other nations, ‘We are going to be, we’re going to have an umbrella for everybody. If any nation outside Latin America attacks any nation inside Latin America, we are going to retaliate with a nuclear bomb,” he says, according to court documents.Mascherino is a naturalized American citizen from Argentina, according to court documents.In response to the government’s stinging sentencing memorandum, Mascheroni’s defense argued that he was something of a mad scientist “entrapped” by the government.“Anyone who has spent time with Dr. Mascheroni knows that he is completely and hopelessly obsessed with correcting the errors he perceives in the National Laboratories’ pursuit of nuclear fusion energy. This obsession has controlled his life since he lost his security clearance in 1988. Providing Dr. Mascheroni with a willing, receptive, well-funded, and non-critical audience for his scientific theories was the functional equivalent of providing crack to a cocaine addict,” the defense said in a motion last week.Mascheroni’s wife, who also worked at LANL, pleaded guilty in 2013 to conspiracy and false statements.Neither the Venezuelan government, nor any Venezuelan officials, were accused of any wrongdoing in the case.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Adult ISIS Fighter in Child Executioner Video Killed, Official Says


Oleg Zabielin/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A notorious ISIS fighter featured in the shocking video this month of a boy appearing to execute two prisoners with a handgun has been killed in battle, a counter-terrorism official said on Wednesday.Abu Saad al-Dagestani was the nom de guerre of an ISIS terrorist shown in the gruesome Jan. 13 tape overseeing what ISIS claimed was the execution of two alleged "Russian spies" by a boy under 11. Al-Dagestani was first reported killed in jihadi tweets on Jan. 15, which claimed he was "martyred" near the embattled Kurdish town of Kobani on Syria's border with Turkey."We do think he was killed," a counter-terrorism official familiar with military operations around Kobani by the U.S.-led coalition told ABC News Wednesday.The video, apparently produced by an ISIS media outlet and shared on Twitter, was seven minutes long and featured “confessions” by the two men. In a heavily-edited section, the boy, called a “lion’s cub,” was shown firing a pistol at the heads of the men, who each fall, apparently lifeless.The boy appeared to have long hair and was dressed in black next to the adult overseeing him, al-Dagestani -- whose true identity is not known but was believed to be among many foreign fighters from Dagestan or Chechnya -- who wore a long beard, winter cap and carried both a pistol and a shoulder-slung rifle.Officials declined to comment on the video's authenticity, but military sources and others said they suspected the executions were staged, noting the absence of bullet impacts and blood splatter. Another former counter-terrorism official, however, previously told ABC News the murders look fairly real to him.ISIS is well known for its sophisticated disinformation program, which is part of a highly-sophisticated media messaging committee that specializes in shocking western audiences with cinematic scenes of mass-decapitations and executions.ISIS releases through its local affiliates in Syria and Iraq often multiple videos a day they produce depicting executions for a variety of alleged violations of religious Shariah law or their own rules. Most involve beheadings or amputating limbs in graphic bloodlettings.Tweets announcing the death of al-Dagestani appeared on both ISIS-linked accounts as well as anti-ISIS Peshmerga accounts.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Kim Jong-un to Meet with Vladimir Putin


Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has RSVP'd to a May celebration in Russia commemorating the Soviet victory over Germany in World War II.The historic trip would be the North Korean leader's first visit outside his country since he took power and succeeded his father in 2011. It would also be his first time meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in person.North Korea and Russia have been strengthening their relationship in recent months.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Jordan: ISIS Hasn't Given Proof of Life for Hostage Pilot


Oleg Zabielin/iStock/Thinkstock(AMMAN, Jordan) -- Jordan has said it would go through with a prisoner swap with the terror group ISIS in order to get its captured pilot back, but now a top official of the Middle Eastern nation says the government has not received proof that he’s still alive.Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh posted a message on Twitter saying the government asked for, but has not received, “evidence of health and safety of the hero, Muath,” referring to Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, a pilot who was captured by ISIS last December after his aircraft was shot down.Earlier on Wednesday, Jordanian officials said the government was prepared to meet ISIS’ demand to free a convicted terrorist in prison there, Sajida al-Rishawi, in return for al-Kaseasbeh.In an ISIS video uploaded online Tuesday, ISIS repeated the demand for al-Rishawi’s release through another hostage, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, saying that if she was not freed within 24 hours, Goto and al-Kaseasbeh would be killed. At the time, Jordanian military officials noted that ISIS’ message did not specifically say al-Kaseasbeh would be freed in an exchange.In the ISIS video, al-Kaseasbeh is only seen in a photograph held by Goto. Al-Kaseasbeh was also not present for a previous video that featured Goto and another Japanese hostage earlier this month.Al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman, has been on death row in Jordan since she confessed to her role as a would-be suicide bomber in a string of al Qaeda attacks in Jordan in 2005 that killed dozens.Prior to reports of Jordan’s willingness to accept the trade, Middle East expert Jon Alterman told ABC News that by asking for, and potentially gaining al-Rishawi’s release, ISIS is attempting to bolster its long-held goal of being seen as a proper nation-state on a geopolitical scale.“What it represents is ISIS again trying to act like a real country. It’s a small group of outlaws trying to engage in governments,” Alterman, head of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Tuesday.ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has publicly beheaded dozens of captives, including a handful of Western journalists and aid workers, sometimes after making demands of their governments.The Japanese hostage Goto was not mentioned in statements made by Jordanian officials about a potential deal on Wednesday, despite reports that Japanese officials have been working closely with Jordan to find ways to free both hostages.“Please save Kenji’s life,” Goto’s mother said in her own video, released Tuesday. “Kenji has only a little time left.”Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Three Dead After Hezbollah Strikes Israeli Convoy with Anti-Tank Missile


goralikus/iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- An Israeli military convoy was struck by an antitank missile along the Lebanese border Wednesday, killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding at least seven, according to statements by Israel's military. A Spanish soldier serving with the United Nations along the border inside Lebanese territory was also killed.It’s the most serious escalation on this border in years. The attack took place in the contested area called Shebaa Farms, or Mount Dov, as it’s called in Israel in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Both Syria and Lebanon lay claim to that portion of land along the border.Shortly after the attack Wednesday morning, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah officially claimed responsibility, saying it was carried out by the “heroic martyrs of Quneitra” brigade, a reference to the six Hezbollah fighters and Iranian general killed by a suspected Israeli strike in Quneitra, Syria, on Jan. 18.Israel was expecting a response by Hezbollah, but as with any conflict in the region, there are fears that it could escalate into an all-out conflict.Speaking on a conference call with international journalists on Wednesday, Israel Ziv, an Israeli reserve major general and former head of the army’s operations, described the situation in the north as a "very tricky and, I would say, flammable situation.”“Israel has to contain it, to defend our interests, but not get drawn in” to those northern battlefields, Ziv said.Roughly an hour after Wednesday's initial attack, mortar shells landed near Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) evacuated civilians from the area.In a statement, the IDF confirmed that it retaliated by air and land against “Hezbollah operational positions."“We have responded to Hezbollah’s escalation,” IDF spokesman Peter Lerner tweeted. He added later, “we reserve the right to respond further against Hezbollah.”The United Nations and the Spanish embassy in Beirut confirmed to ABC News that a Spanish soldier for the U.N.'s monitoring body UNIFIL was killed during the shelling while at his post along the border. A Spanish medical team that rushed to the post from a nearby base was unable to save him, an embassy official said.The prime minister of Spain tweeted his condolences.Mi más profundo pesar por el fallecimiento del militar español en #Líbano. Mi afecto y condolencias a su familia y compañeros. MR— Mariano Rajoy Brey (@marianorajoy) January 28, 2015Wednesday's fighting came after two rockets fired from Syria landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday. They landed in open areas and didn't hurt anyone but Israel quickly responded by firing artillery into Syria. Just before midnight, Israel struck again, hitting Syrian Army artillery positions, the IDF said.After Wednesday's attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushed to Tel Aviv from southern Israel for an emergency security meeting.“We will not allow terror elements to disrupt the lives of our citizens and threaten their security," he tweeted. "We will know how to respond with force to whoever challenges us.”Speaking earlier Wednesday at an event in the southern city of Sderot, Israel, Netanyahu struck a similar tone."To anyone who is trying to challenge us on the northern border, I suggest looking at what happened here, not far from the city of Sderot, in the Gaza Strip,” he said. "Hamas was dealt its heaviest blow ever since its founding, and the Israel Defense Forces is prepared to act forcefully in all areas.”Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Angelina Jolie Makes Impassioned Plea to Help to Iraqi and Syrian Refugees


ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua(NEW YORK) — Angelina Jolie followed up her visit to Northern Iraq this past Sunday with an op-ed piece in The New York Times Tuesday that describes the devastation she witnessed in the refugee camps and pleas for help for the millions of displaced Syrians and Iraqis who are homeless."I have visited Iraq five times since 2007, and I have seen nothing like the suffering I'm witnessing now," she writes. "For many years I have visited camps, and every time, I sit in a tent and hear stories I try my best to give support. To say something that will show solidarity and give some kind of thoughtful guidance. On this trip I was speechless."The 39-year-old actor/director goes on to detail conversations she had with ISIS victims, and the helplessness she felt."What do you say to the 13-year-old girl who describes the warehouses where she and the others lived and would be pulled out, three at a time, to be raped by the men?" writes Jolie, who is also the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.Jolie continues, "How can you speak when a woman your own age looks you in the eye and tells you that her whole family was killed in front of her, and that she now lives alone in a tent and has minimal food rations?"She goes on to describe the dire situation, with neighboring countries running out of room for the refugees and her frustration over the international community's inaction.  "What does it say about our commitment to human rights and accountability that we seem to tolerate crimes against humanity happening in Syria and Iraq on a daily basis?" Jolie asks."It is not enough to defend our values at home, in our newspapers and in our institutions. We also have to defend them in the refugee camps of the Middle East, and the ruined ghost towns of Syria," she adds.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Various Factions Vie for Control of Yemen


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — There were indications Tuesday that Yemen is closer to splitting into a country run by numerous factions as the head of the Houthi rebel group in control of the capital city of Sanaa denounced a separatist movement in the south that wants to act autonomously, The New York Times reports.With the resignation last week of Yemen's president and cabinet, it is unclear who's exactly in charge as Washington ponders how to continue counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in the country.The majority party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh still runs parliament and is seeking approval from the Houthis to appoint a transitional president.Houthi leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi suggested in a televised speech there is room for compromise with supporters of the old government, citing the release of a presidential aide who was kidnapped during the midst of a violent uprising by rebel forces against Yemen's military.However, al-Houthi, who opposes relations with the U.S., also warned that the southern separatist movement, Heraq, is the biggest threat to unification. Heraq, meanwhile, has seized control of territories and government buildings in the southern region as it tries to assert its independence.Caught between a rock and a hard place, the U.S. nonetheless is trying to conduct operations against AQAP, launching a CIA drone strike Monday that killed three suspected terrorists.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

UN Says 3,000 Child Soldiers in South Sudan to Be Released


PeterHermesFurian/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations says that 3,000 child soldiers in South Sudan are to be freed thanks to the United Nations Children's Fund.According to a U.N. statement, the first group of 280 children were released on Tuesday at the village of Gumuruk. Ranging from 11 to 17 years old, the children were recruited by the South Sudan Democratic Army Cobra Faction and have been fighting for up to four years. Many of them have never attended school, the U.N. says.The U.N. further claims that 12,000 children have been recruited and used as soldiers by armed groups in South Sudan in the last year."These children have been forced to do and see things no child should ever experience," UNICEF South Sudan Representative Jonathan Veitch said. "The release of thousands of children requires a massive response to provide the support and protection these children need to begin rebuilding their lives."The children being released by Cobra Faction will be supported with basic health care, protection, food, water and clothing.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.