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Thursday
May252017

President Trump to meet leaders of NATO, which he once called 'obsolete', in Brussels

THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) — President Trump will meet with the leaders of NATO Thursday, despite his past criticism of the alliance as "obsolete."

The president's Brussels meeting with the leaders will be the fourth stop on his inaugural overseas trip. Monday night's deadly terrorist attack in Manchester brings new urgency to the summit, where the fight against terror was already a key item on the agenda.

Ahead of the meeting, White House officials stressed that the president would continue pressing members of NATO to adjust their defense spending to meet the Wales pledge — at least two percent of their GDP.

During the campaign, the president cited cost-sharing and what he believed as NATO's lack of focus on terrorism as reason for calling it "obsolete."

"What I'm saying is NATO is obsolete," Trump told ABC in an interview in March of 2016, "and it's extremely expensive for the United States, disproportionately so. And we should readjust NATO. And it's going to have to be either readjusted to take care of terrorism or we're going to have to set up ... a new coalition."

Trump backtracked on his campaign rhetoric following his inauguration, declaring in an April 11 press conference alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that his mind had changed about the alliance.

"I said it was obsolete," Trump said. "It's no longer obsolete."

Unity will surely be the focus in President Trump's marathon of meetings. In addition to his first meeting with newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump will also co-host the unveiling of a memorial at the entrance to NATO with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The memorial will include a section of the steel wreckage of the World Trade Center towers, which recognizing the Article 5 collective defense treaty which was activated following the 9/11 attacks.


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Thursday
May252017

Brother of Manchester bombing suspect knew an attack was coming, Libyan official says

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(MANCHESTER, England) — The brother of Salman Abedi, the suspect accused of carrying out a bombing in Manchester, England, that killed 22 people, allegedly said he knew his brother was going to carry out an attack, but did not know where or when, according to a spokesman for Libya's counterterror forces.

Abedi, 22, the suspected suicide bomber, died at the scene of Monday night's attack at an Ariana Grande concert.

Authorities found what was described to ABC News as a bomb-making workshop in Abedi's home in Manchester, with enough chemicals to build several additional bombs.

Libyan authorities had been following Hashem Abedi, the suspect's brother who was born 1997, for a month and a half because of suspected links to ISIS, said Ahmed Dagdoug, the spokesman for Libya's counterterror forces. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

The two brothers were close, and Dagdoug said that Salman placed a call to Hashem, as well as their mother, 30 minutes before carrying out the attack.

On Tuesday, that brother was detained in Libya. During interrogation, Hashem Abedi revealed that he knew his brother was going to carry out an attack, but he did not know where or when, Dagdoug said.

Dagdoug said Hashem Abedi also revealed that he knew exactly how the bomb was made, and that he believes that Salman created the device by himself. He said that he provided some assistance to his brother, but added no specific details as to what that was.

Dagdoug said a network was involved in planning the attack.

The brothers came to Libya on April 18 and Salman Abedi departed on May 17, Dagdoug said.

It's not clear at this time if Salman went to Syria, Dagdoug said.

Salman Abedi's father, Ramadan Abedi, was also arrested in Libya.

Ramadan Abedi was interviewed by Reuters from Libya while in detention, and he denied that his son was a follower of ISIS, who claimed responsibility for the attack on Tuesday.

"Salman doesn't belong to any organization," he told the news agency. "The family is a bit confused because Salman doesn't have this ideology, he doesn't hold these beliefs."

Dagdoug told ABC News that the two brothers do consider themselves to be members of ISIS and said that they had been studying ISIS videos online, including instructional videos that teach the viewer how to make a bomb.

Another one of the suspect's brothers, 23-year-old Ismail Abedi, was arrested in Manchester, a security official confirmed to ABC News.

A total of eight men have been taken into custody in the U.K. in connection with the attack. A woman who was arrested earlier was released without charge, police said.

Under British law, a person can be taken into custody in a terrorism investigation and held up to 14 days without being charged.

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Greater Manchester Police said on Wednesday, "This is clearly a network that we are investigating, and extensive activity is taking place across Greater Manchester as we speak."

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday raised the country's threat level to critical — the highest of the U.K.'s five threat levels — indicating that another attack may be imminent.

The U.K. Metropolitan Police said 1,000 additional armed officers have been freed up to carry out patrols across the U.K.

"The extra officers add to a wider policing plan which sees increased patrolling at crowded places, iconic sites and transport hubs as police and partners do everything they can to protect the public," the police said.

Witness Joseph Harries told ABC News' Good Morning America that "people were just trying to get out of the arena as fast as they possibly could after the blast. I was directly in front of the stage at the heart of the arena. I had exactly the same distance to get out of any of the doors."

"I had my best friend with me, and I grabbed hold of her wrist and told her never let go of me," he said. "We just ran. We jumped over chairs, railings to get out of the doors. We had to force open doors that wouldn't open because people were trying to get to — the entire capacity of the 20,000-person arena were trying to get out of one exit.

"It felt like an eternity," Harries added, but it "couldn't have been more than two, three minutes from in our seats to outside of the arena."

Officials said that 119 people went to hospitals after the bombing, 64 of them are being treated and 20 of those are in critical condition.

Saffie Rose Roussos, 8, is the youngest known person who died from the attack. She was separated from her mother and sister, who were among the wounded, police said.

Fifteen-year-old Olivia Campbell was also among those killed, Campbell's mother wrote on Facebook.

Runshaw College in Lancashire confirmed on its Facebook page that 18-year-old student Georgina Bethany Callander died in the attack.

Lisa Lees, a 43-year-old mother and grandmother, was confirmed to be among the dead by her daughter, Lauren Ashleigh Lees.

"My mum was an amazing lady and wife," her daughter said in a statement. "We will pull together as a family and help each other through the darkness."

Another victim was Nell Jones, who was in Year 9 at the Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School & Sixth Form College in Holmes Chapel, England.

"Nell’s family have been searching for her since the incident in the hope that they would find her being cared for in hospital. Unfortunately, the police have now confirmed that Nell died at the scene," the school headmaster, Denis Oliver, said in a statement. "We are all devastated by the loss and as a school community we must now come to terms with what has happened."

A sixth victim was identified as Martyn Hett, according to his employer at Rumpus PR.

“We are all distraught at the tragic loss of our much-loved, larger than life, colourful and charismatic colleague Martyn Hett," Rumpus PR Managing Director Paul Evans said in a statement. "Martyn was an upbeat and positive soul who saw the good, the joy, the fun in everything.

"At work, he was the consummate professional. A master of his subject — he was a talented writer, creative thinker and social media expert," Evans added. "Martyn loved life and I hope his lasting legacy is that people — in these dreadful times — choose to live their lives with joy not hate, just like he did.”

Two more victims were identified as Chloe Rutherford, 17, and Liam Curry, 19. "On the night our daughter Chloe died and our son Liam died, their wings were ready but our hearts were not," the families said in a statement posted on the Greater Manchester Police Twitter account.

A school receptionist, Jane Tweddle, was also killed in the attack. "Jane was a well-loved member of staff and our thoughts are with her friends and family at this terrible time," Jane Bailey, principal of South Shore Academy, said in a statement. "We have received numerous messages of condolences from parents, students, community members and colleagues across Blackpool for which we are very grateful. All of them say the same things about our lovely Jane ... bubbly, kind, welcoming, funny, generous ... the list goes on."

And Allerton High School in Leeds confirmed that student Sorrell Leczkowski was killed, as well. "Sorrell was a delightful member of the school community," read a statement from the school. "She enjoyed her studies, had a lovely group of friends and was a real asset to Allerton High School."

On Tuesday, May said, "We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage."

A moment of silence was observed Wednesday before Manchester United's Europa League final soccer game against Ajax Amsterdam. Manchester beat Amsterdam 2-0 to win the Europa League.

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Thursday
May252017

US Navy ship sails within 12 miles of disputed Chinese manmade island

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Daniel P. Jackson Norgart/Released(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed within 12 miles of a disputed Chinese manmade island in the South China Sea on Wednesday, the first such challenge to a Chinese maritime claim to take place under the Trump administration.

According to a U.S. official, the destroyer USS Dewey sailed within 12 miles of Mischief Reef on Wednesday conducting a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP), said a U.S. official. The reef is one of seven artificial islands in the Spratly Islands that China has claimed as its territory after building up reefs that at times had previously been under water.

In recent years, China dredged massive amounts of sand and earth to build up the reefs into artificial islands that now include airfields and other facilities that could be used by China's military.

The U.S. military's freedom of navigation operations challenge excessive maritime claims made by countries worldwide by sailing within the 12-mile territorial limits that extend from shore.

Wednesday's freedom of navigation operation near Mischief Reef was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The move is sure to antagonize China, which has reacted negatively to previous freedom of navigation operations in the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands, two island chains in the South China Sea. The last time the U.S. military conducted such an operation near a disputed island in the South China Sea was in October under the Trump administration.

Without confirming Wednesday's freedom of navigation operation, Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman said, "We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. We operate in accordance with international law."

"We fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows," added Davis. "We have a comprehensive Freedom of Navigation Operations program that seeks to challenge excessive maritime claims in order to preserve the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law."

He added that the operations are not directed at any one country or specific bodies of water. In 2016, the United States conducted challenged the excessive maritime claims of 22 countries including allies and partners.

"We are continuing regular FONOPS, as we have routinely done in the past and will continue to do in the future," said Davis.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May252017

What to know about NATO as Trump meets alliance leaders in Brussels

Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) -- President Donald Trump will attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on Thursday with heads of state from all 28 members, despite his past criticism of the alliance.

On the campaign trail and as president-elect, Trump repeatedly called NATO "obsolete," raising doubts about whether the United States, under his leadership, would help defend its NATO allies in Europe if Russia attacked them.

But during a press conference at the White House with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in April, he reversed course and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the organization.

"The Secretary General and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism," Trump said. "I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete; it's no longer obsolete."

Trump has advocated that the alliance take on an increased role in the fight against ISIS. Stoltenberg said last week that NATO members were discussing that decision, though no combat troops would be deployed, he said.

So, what exactly is NATO? ABC News breaks down the organization’s history, importance and criticisms.

What is NATO?

NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a security alliance established in 1949 during the early days of the Cold War to counter Soviet aggression in Europe.

Now numbering 28 countries in Europe and North America, the alliance’s goal is to “safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means,” according to its website.

The organization promotes “democratic values” and encourages member nations to work together on issues of defense and security to prevent long-term conflict.

When security disputes occur, NATO advocates peaceful resolutions. There are guidelines for the use of military force, outlined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the founding treaty of NATO.

NATO adheres to a policy of collective defense, meaning an attack on one member is considered "an attack against all." The policy is outlined in Article 5 and has only been invoked once, after the Twin Towers in New York City were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and NATO members sent troops to Afghanistan.

After the Taliban fell, a United Nations Security Council resolution established the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), under NATO’s control, to stabilize the country. There were 1,044 non-U.S. NATO service members killed fighting in Afghanistan.

How does NATO work?

Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, each member nation is represented by an ambassador that sits on the North Atlantic Council (NAC), the alliance’s political decision-making body. The NAC meets at least once a week and is chaired by Secretary General Stoltenberg, the former prime minister of Norway.

When political decisions require military involvement, NATO’s Military Committee helps plan the military elements needed for an operation. While NATO has few permanent military forces, member nations can voluntarily contribute forces when the need arises.

The Military Committee is made up of the Chiefs of Defense of NATO member countries; the International Military Staff, the Military Committee’s executive body; and the military command structure, composed of Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformation.

Where is NATO operating right now?

Currently, NATO’s website lists five active operations and missions: Afghanistan, Kosovo, securing the Mediterranean Sea, supporting the African Union, and policing airspace.

Who pays for NATO?

NATO recommends that member countries spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense.

Only five members meet that goal: the United States, Great Britain, Greece, Estonia and Poland.

Trump has brought that shortfall front and center in his comments about the alliance. In a January interview with The Times of London, Trump mentioned the five, saying, "There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much."

It's an issue that Secretary General Stoltenberg has embraced, saying in April's press conference that fair burden-sharing has been his "top priority" since taking office.

"We have now turned a corner," Stoltenberg said. "In 2016, for the first time in many years, we saw an increase in defense spending across European allies and Canada -- a real increase of 3.8 percent or $10 billion more for our defense."

"We know that we all need to contribute our fair share because we need to keep our nations safe in a more dangerous world," he added.

What is the history behind its origin?

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed April 4, 1949, in the aftermath of World War II and rising geopolitical tension with the Soviet Union.

NATO’s website lists three purposes for its creation: “deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration.”

As the Cold War settled in, NATO stood in opposition to the Soviet bloc, communist nations allied with the Soviet Union.

In 1991, after the Soviet Union dissolved, NATO developed partnerships with former adversaries.

NATO had its first major crisis response operation in 1995, after the Bosnian civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

More recently, NATO responded to the Libyan crisis in 2011 by carrying out airstrikes to protect civilians under attack by the Gaddafi regime.

Who are the critics of NATO?

Trump isn’t the first U.S. official to criticize other NATO members for contributing less than the United States.

In 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the future of NATO “dim” if other nations didn’t increase their participation in allied activities.

“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress -- and in the American body politic writ large -- to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” he said.

Gates made the comments prior to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and escalating regional tension there.

NATO’s history is fraught with waves of other criticism, often in moments of relative peace. After the fall of the Soviet Union, critics alleged that a European alliance was no longer necessary to counter communist governments. But militant nationalism was still occurring and soon NATO was put to the test with the Balkan Wars. Indeed, changing security threats have consistently pushed NATO to evolve over the past 60 years.

Even Trump acknowledged the importance of the alliance in April, saying, "NATO allies defeated communism and liberated the captive nations of the Cold War. They secured the longest period of unbroken peace that Europe has ever known."

"This enduring partnership rooted out of so many different things, but our common security is always number one," Trump said, "and our common devotion to human dignity and freedom."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May242017

Manchester attack victims include 8-year-old girl 'loved by everyone'

ABC News(MANCHESTER, England) -- In the wake of a devastating bombing in Manchester that killed at least 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert, officials and parents alike were grappling with the news that many of the injured and killed were young adolescents or children.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called the bombing a "sickening attack" that targeted children and young people "who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives."

"We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherished but as an opportunity for carnage," May said Tuesday.

According to the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care, a total of 119 people were taken by ambulance or went to a hospital following Monday night's attack at Manchester Arena. Officials said 64 were being treated as of Wednesday and 20 of them remained in critical condition across Greater Manchester.

At least 12 children under the age of 16 were seriously injured, officials said. An 8-year-old girl who died from her injuries is the youngest known victim in the attack.

Saffie Rose Roussos

Among the dead is Saffie Rose Roussos, described by her teacher as a "beautiful little girl."

Saffie had become separated from her mother and sister during the attack.

Chris Upton, the headteacher at the Tarleton Community Primary School, where Saffie was a student, released a statement calling the girl's death a "tremendous shock."

"I would like to send our deepest condolences to all of her family and friends," Upton said. "The thought that anyone could go out to a concert and not come home is heartbreaking. Saffie was simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word. She was loved by everyone and her warmth and kindness will be remembered fondly. Saffie was quiet and unassuming with a creative flair."

Upton said the school will be calling in specialists to help students and staff cope with Saffie's death.

Georgina Callander

Runshaw College confirmed that the 18-year-old college student was among the victims.

"It is with enormous sadness that it appears that one of the people who lost their lives in Monday’s Manchester attack was one of our students here at Runshaw College," school officials said in a statement posted on Facebook. "Georgina Callander was a former Bishop Rawstorne pupil studying with us on the second year of her Health and Social Care course. Our deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to all of Georgina’s friends, family, and all of those affected by this loss."

Olivia Campbell

"RIP my darling precious gorgeous girl Olivia Campbell taken far far to soon go sing with the angels and keep smiling mummy loves you so much," Olivia's mother, Charlotte Campbell, wrote on Facebook.

 Prior to learning that her 15-year-old daughter had been killed in the attack, the teen's mother pleaded for the public to help her locate her daughter, telling the BBC, "I’m worried sick. If anybody has seen her please contact the police. Contact somebody let her know you’ve seen her. Even if you think you’ve seen her just let the police know ... We’ve not slept. We’ve got family out looking for her. Please, please somebody must have seen her at some point. Just let me know you’ve seen her. Let the police know, let anybody know you’ve seen her please."

Lisa Lees

The 43-year-old mother and grandmother was also among those killed. One of her daughters, Lauren Ashleigh Lees, described her as "a very elegant person" and "an amazing" mother, grandmother and wife who was "absolutely adored" by everyone around her.

"She cared so much for everybody and did anything for them," Lauren Ashleigh Lees said in a statement. "We will pull together as a family and help each other through the darkness."

Nell Jones

The ninth-grader was confirmed to have died in the attacks by her school, Holmes Chapel Comprehensive and Sixth Form. The girl's family had searched for her after she attended the concert, but the teen died at the scene, according to her school's headteacher Denis Oliver.

"We are all devastated by the loss and as a school community we must now come to terms with what has happened," Oliver said in a statement.

The school plans on bringing in professional support to help teachers and students grieve.

 Nell's form tutor David Wheeler called the teen "always smiling."

“Nell was a very popular girl, always smiling, always positive," Wheeler said in the statement. "Her tutor group have been together since the transition from primary school. It feels like they have lost a sister not a classmate”

Another student at the school, Freya Lewis, was hospitalized after the attack. Her father told the school that the teen is recovering after having been in surgery for over 10 hours.

Martyn Hett

Hett's employer, Rumpus PR, confirmed his death in a statement, calling Hett "larger than life, colourful and charismatic."

Paul Evans, managing director of Rumpus PR, said Hett was a "talented writer, creative thinker and social media expert."

"Words really can’t express how much he will be missed by colleagues and clients alike," Evans said in a statement. "Martyn loved life and I hope his lasting legacy is that people -- in these dreadful times -- choose to live their lives with joy not hate, just like he did."

Chloe Rutherford and Liam Curry

In a statement, the teens' families said, "They were perfect in every way for each other and were meant to be."

"They wanted to be together forever and now they are."


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Wednesday
May242017

Melania Trump visits children's hospital in Rome

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(ROME) -- First lady Melania Trump paid a visit to Bambino Gesù children's hospital in Rome on Wednesday, spending her time coloring with patients, snapping selfies, signing bandages and even speaking to them in Italian.

“My visit to Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital today was very moving," the first lady said in a statement. "To spend time speaking to and coloring with children who have such a positive spirit despite illness was an amazing gift. The time I spent with the little ones in the Intensive Care Unit is something I will never forget, and I will pray for each of them daily. I want to thank the doctors, nurses and staff of the hospital, who all do such beautiful and critical work.”

Trump also shared a moving story about a young boy who was just informed he received a heart transplant, adding that she visited with the boy just hours prior.

“Upon landing in Belgium, I learned a young boy and his family who had been waiting for a heart transplant was informed that the hospital has found a donor," she said. "I read a book and held hands with this special little one just a few hours ago, and now my own heart is filled with joy over this news.”


The hospital, owned by the Catholic Church and founded in 1869, is the largest pediatric hospital and research center in Europe. The first lady personally wrote a letter to Pope Francis asking to visit the hospital, a spokesperson said.

Princess Diana and Mother Teresa are among those who have visited Bambino Gesù hospital.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May242017

US Embassy in Egypt warns of 'potential threat' from terrorist organization

iStock/Thinkstock(CAIRO) -- The U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a security warning about a potential threat posed by a group it referred to as a "terrorist organization."

"The embassy is aware of a potential threat posted on a website by the Hassm group, a known terrorist organization, suggesting some kind of unspecified action this evening," the embassy said in a security message. "The embassy has no further information about this potential threat but is in contact with Egyptian authorities."

Hassm is described as "a non-Salafi revolutionary jihadist group" that uses "violent insurgency tactics against Egyptian security forces, which they refer to as occupiers," according to the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, a digital database of research and analysis focused on terrorism.

Hasam is a splinter group of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist organization and political party, according to TRAC.

The message urges Americans living in Egypt to follow security guidelines provided by the State Department for dealing with possible threats.

"U.S. citizens should continue to follow sound security practices and adhere to the security guidelines provided in the travel warning for Egypt issued by the State Department on Dec. 23, 2016," according to the message.

Additional information will be provided if it becomes available, the message said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May242017

Authorities find bomb-making workshop in Abedi's home, officials say

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Authorities tell ABC News that they found a kind of bomb-making workshop in Salman Abedi’s home and he had apparently stockpiled enough chemicals to make additional bombs.

The hunt is intensifying for what British authorities suspect is a possible “network” behind the deadly suicide blast outside an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on Monday, officials say.

The search stretched from the U.K. to Libya, where officials made multiple arrests in a country seen by American officials as a burgeoning new base of operations for ISIS, which has claimed Salman Abedi was a "soldier of the Caliphate."

Counterterrorism officials fear whoever built the bomb that killed 22 people and injured more than 50 others may have built other improvised-explosive devices which could be used in further attacks.

“I think it’s very clear that this is a network that we are investigating,” Ian Hopkins, chief constable of the Greater Manchester Police, said in a press briefing.

According to a terrorism expert who has been briefed on the investigation, the bomb featured a sophisticated design similar to the bombs used in the attacks in Brussels in 2016.

The expert confirmed that Abedi traveled to Manchester Arena by train, likely carrying the bomb in a backpack. The device, a metal container stuffed with bolts and nails, was apparently hooked to a powerful battery and featured a remote, cell-phone detonator with built-in redundancies to ensure a blast even if a first attempt failed.

The design was sophisticated enough to bolster the theory that Abedi didn’t act alone, suggesting, according to the expert, “there’s a bomb maker on the loose.”

"It's really suggesting that he probably did not act alone, that he probably had some help, that he certainly had some advice on how to create the bomb," said Matt Olsen, former director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center and an ABC News contributor.

 A western counterterrorism official told ABC News hours after the attack that British-born Abedi had only days earlier returned from an extended trip to his ancestral Libya, which has seen large towns under ISIS control in the past two years.

Libyan authorities Wednesday arrested both the bomber’s father, Ramadan, and the bomber's younger brother Hashim. Ramadan told Reuters that Salman was not a member of any terror group, but a spokesperson for Libyan special forces told ABC News that, following his arrest, Hashim admitted his involvement in the plot and told authorities that he and Salman consider themselves members of ISIS.

Hashim knew his brother was planning a suicide attack, the spokesperson said, but he didn’t know the time or place or target. According to the spokesperson, Hashim said he and Salman had been studying ISIS videos online since 2015, including videos offering instruction on how to make a bomb.

British officials expressed anger at American security officials over the leak to U.S. news media of Abedi's name hours after the attack, when they already realized he might have accomplices they needed to locate as fast as possible to prevent more lives being lost in a followup attack, one senior western official told ABC News.

Past plots to successfully attack Paris and Brussels were hatched by core-ISIS in its Syria stronghold Raqqa, but counterterrorism investigators believe Abedi dropped out of university in Manchester this year and visited Tripoli "to get some skills" from the terror group's operatives there. If true, it would be the first core-ISIS plot hatched from outside Syria and possibly signals a significant shift.

The U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command has gradually increased its operations in Libya, killing the top ISIS leader last year in an airstrike and other senior leaders there.

The U.K. has raised its threat level and deployed troops including elite anti-terrorism commandos of the Special Air Service.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May242017

Gifts Trump and Pope Francis exchanged, including the pope's letter on the environment

Vatican Pool/Getty Images(ROME) — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis exchanged gifts Wednesday following their cordial, private meeting at the Vatican that lasted about 30 minutes.

In standard practice, the pope gave rosaries to the president's visiting U.S. delegation, including first lady Melania Trump and the president's son-in-law and daughter, White House advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

The pope gave the president a large medal by a Roman artist, inscribed with an olive branch — a symbol of peace.

Pope Francis also gave Trump this year's "message of peace" with a personalized inscription he had written.

"We can use peace," Trump said. "That's so beautiful. Thank you."

Other gifts from the pope include his three writings on the topics of family, the joy of the gospel and "care of our common home, the environment," which the pope said he gives to all Catholics.

Included in these three writings is Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si," in which he calls for global action to combat climate change.

"Well I'll be reading them," Trump said after receiving the gifts.

In return, President Trump gave Pope Francis a set of books by civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. presented in a custom, hand-made display case.

"I think you will enjoy them," Trump told the pope.

The first-edition collection includes Stride Toward Freedom, The Measure of a Man, Why We Can’t Wait, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? and The Strength to Love, which has Dr. King's signature.

According to the White House, each book is "custom-bound and accented with gold hand-tooling."

In addition to the books, Trump gave the pope a piece of the Dr. King monument, the Stone of Hope, engraved with a quote, and a hand-made bronze sculpture of a floating lotus by a Florida artist titled "Rising Above." The sculpture represents "hope for a peaceful tomorrow" the White House said.

Before parting ways, President Trump thanked the pontiff and said, "I won't forget what you said."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May242017

President Trump talks terrorism with Pope Francis, climate change with the Vatican

Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(ROME) — President Donald Trump discussed terrorism with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday, in a highly anticipated first meeting between the two leaders that went longer than scheduled.

According to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the pope and Trump had "pretty extensive conversations around extreme terrorist threats and extremism and radicalization of young people."

"That's one of the reasons the meeting apparently went long," Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One flying to Brussels, the next leg of Trump's foreign trip. "They got into quite a good conversation about it."

Tillerson said, "We did have a good exchange on the climate change issue" with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's secretary of state, but added that he didn't know if Trump and Francis discussed the topic.

Parolin encouraged "continued participation" in the Paris Climate Agreement, according to Tillerson.

Tillerson said Trump still has not made up his mind whether he'll withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 deal.

"The president indicated we're still thinking about that, that he hasn't made a final decision. He, I think, told both Cardinal Parolin and also told Prime Minister [Paolo] Gentiloni that this is something that he would be taking up for a decision when we return from this trip," Tillerson said.

According to a statement from the Vatican, the pope and the president held "cordial discussions" that included "an exchange of views on various themes relating to international affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities."

"It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of health care, education and assistance to immigrants," the statement reads.

Later in the day, during his meeting with the Italian prime minister, Trump said his meeting with Francis was "great."

"He is something," Trump said of the pontiff. "We had a fantastic meeting."

He added, "We're liking Italy very, very much, and it was an honor to be with the pope."

After their private one-on-one meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes, Trump and Francis exchanged gifts in front of reporters and the president's visiting delegation, which included his wife, Melania Trump; his daughter Ivanka Trump; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; Tillerson and other White House advisers.

The president gave the pope a case of books by Martin Luther King Jr., and the pope gave Donald Trump a medal by a Roman artist, inscribed with an olive branch.

Francis explained that the branch is a symbol of peace, and Trump replied, "We can use peace."

The pope also presented Trump with three books that he said he sends to all Catholics: one on family, one on the Gospels and one on "care of our common home, the environment."

"Well, I'll be reading them," Trump said.

The visit to the Vatican was the third stop of Trump's tour of sites representing three major religions. Over the weekend, he stopped in Saudi Arabia, where he delivered an address to Muslim leaders, and Monday through Tuesday he visited Israel and the West Bank and met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Trump and Francis certainly had differences to iron out during their meeting. In February 2016, the pontiff remarked on then-candidate Trump's key proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying it was not Christian.

"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges is not Christian," Pope Francis said.

Trump responded with a statement calling Francis' remarks "disgraceful."

"No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man's religion or faith," Trump said. "They're using the pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves — that's the Mexican government — they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant and so dangerous and so bad for the United States."

Asked recently what he expected from his meeting with Trump, given their differing views, Francis replied, "I will tell him what I think. He will tell me what he thinks. But I never wanted to judge someone before I listen to the person first."


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