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Tuesday
Jul262016

Russia Says DNC Hack Accusations 'Absurd'

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- The Kremlin said Tuesday that accusations from U.S. officials and cyber security firms that the Russians were responsible for a massive hack into Democratic National Committee emails are “absurd.”

“Overall, we still see attempts to use – manically use – the Russian issue during the U.S. electoral campaign,” Russian government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russia’s state-run news outlet Sputnik. “The absurd claims were immediately refuted directly by a presidential candidate’s family.”

Peskov may have been referring to Donald Trump, Jr., who told CNN Sunday that claims from Democrats that the Russians hacked the DNC to help his father in his presidential bid were “disgusting” and “phony.”

Russian hacking groups tied to two separate Russian intelligence agencies were fingered for the DNC hack by the cyber security firm Crowdstrike in June. Crowdstrike said it appeared one of the groups had been rummaging around the infected systems for a year.

Since, other major cyber firms who studied the code also concluded Russian hackers are the likely culprits. An executive at one of those firms, Fidelis, told ABC News Monday that Russians were to blame “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Late Monday, national security officials told ABC News that federal officials also believe operatives affiliated with the Russian government were responsible for the hack and for providing the material to WikiLeaks, which published 20,000 of the leaked emails Friday. The officials said they suspect it was a blatant attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election, or at the very least, make mischief.

On Tuesday, White House homeland security and counterterrorism advisor Lisa Monaco said she did not want to get ahead of the FBI’s investigation into the hack, but said that in general terms, the U.S. uses “all tools” for responding to cyberattacks.

“Nobody’s immune from cyberattacks, [and] nobody’s immune from the responses,” she said.

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Tuesday
Jul262016

Attackers Who Killed Priest at Church in France 'Claimed Allegiance to ISIS,' Hollande Says

iStock/Thinkstock(ROUEN, France) — The attackers who killed a priest at a church in France Tuesday morning were "terrorists who claimed allegiance to ISIS," French President Francois Hollande said.

ISIS’s “news agency” Amaq said the attack in Normandy was carried about by "soldiers of the Islamic State" and that the attack was "in response to calls for attacks on the Crusader alliance.”

Hollande said the terrorists want to “divide us” and said the attack targeted not just Catholics but all of France. Hollande said the terrorists will stop at nothing, adding, "We must rage war against Daesh (ISIS)."

One person was detained for questioning in connection with the attack, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office said. An investigation into the incident has been opened.

The attack began when two men armed with knives entered a church in the city of Rouen -- about 80 miles outside of Paris -- during morning mass and took five people hostage, including a nun and parishioners.

A priest was killed and one person was seriously injured, said the Ministry of Interior.

Both attackers were killed outside the church, said a spokesperson for the French interior minister.

The priest was identified by the archbishop as Jacques Hamel.

People took to Twitter to mourn the slain priest. One woman said she was baptized by him, while another Twitter user said the priest recently christened her young cousin.

The mayor’s office in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray said the church had not received specific threats.

Hollande said he spoke to the family of the priest who was killed. He also praised the police for their quick response, which he said saved lives.

The mayor’s office in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray said in a statement: “A barbaric act was committed in our town this morning. Our priest was assassinated, and a hostage was severely injured. We are devastated. This emotion goes beyond our town. It plunges our entire country in a deep pain, only days after the attack in Nice.

"The mayor and the entire municipality calls upon you all that are attached to the values of our republic to come and express your emotion, pain and indignation," the mayor's office added.

A registry of condolences has been set up and residents can leave flowers or candles on the steps of City Hall, the mayor's office said. Town officials are also expected to meet tonight to discuss a public ceremony for the victims, the mayor's office said.

Flags will be flown at half-mast throughout the municipality, the mayor’s office added.

The Vatican called the situation an act of "absurd violence" and said that Pope Francis strongly condemned "every form of hate" and "prayed" for the victims affected.

NSC spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. offers condolences "to the family and friends of the murdered priest, Father Jacques Hamel."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the other victims of the attack as well as the parishioners and community members," Price said.

"France and the United States share a commitment to protecting religious liberty for those of all faiths, and today's violence will not shake that commitment. We commend French law enforcement for their quick and decisive response and stand ready to assist the French authorities in their investigation going forward," Price said.


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Monday
Jul252016

'Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,' Russians Hacked DNC, Analyst Says

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- It was the keyboards that gave them away. Russian hackers, typing on keyboards configured in Cyrillic and doing it in a time zone consistent with Moscow, created the “eloquent” code that breached the computers of the Democratic National Committee, according to a top analyst who investigated the hack.

“This was absolutely not an amateur operation … When you look at the totality of all those pieces and you put them together, it kind of paints a really good picture of who the actor was,” Michael Buratowski, the senior vice president of cybersecurity services at Fidelis Cybersecurity, told ABC News Monday. “I come from a law enforcement background, and it’s [about being] beyond a reasonable doubt. And I would say it’s beyond a reasonable doubt … I’m very confident that the malware that we looked at [was from] Russian actors.”

“When we looked at the malware, we found that it was very, very eloquent in its design as well as its functionality — very advanced, not something that script user or lower level hacker would be able to really generate or customize,” he said.

Buratowski said IP addresses linked to the attack were associated with Russian servers. A U.S. official said that it appeared that the hackers never worked on Russian holidays.

And not least to consider, Buratowski said, was the target and timing of the WikiLeaks posting on Friday — which made public 20,000 emails from the pilfered computers.

“We know for a fact that the malicious actors were in there and had access to this data for some time,” he said. “The timing of the release of information from WikiLeaks is very suspect. When you look at it — it was released right before the [Democratic] convention — you have to question what the motivation was behind that.”

Buratowski’s firm was one of three independent cybersecurity firms brought in by another firm, Crowdstrike, to analyze parts of malware that infected computers belonging to the Democratic National Committee. Last month Crowdstrike, which was first to analyze the attack, fingered two Russian hacker groups that the firm said were working for two rival Russian intelligence agencies.

Crowdstrike has already tied one of the hacking teams to a series of attacks on unclassified U.S. government networks last year.

“This shows you espionage has now moved off the just physical realm of recruiting spies and getting information. It’s now through cyber means,” Dmitri Alperovitch, a co-founder of Crowdstrike, told ABC News in June.

Presidential candidates and campaigns have been “a traditional target of Russian intelligence for 100 years, but now [Russia is] doing it for cyber," he said.

Fidelis and another firm, Mandiant, said last month they agreed that Russia state actors appeared to be to blame for the DNC hack. Buratowski said his firm was given only a portion of the code and therefore could not say if other actors were involved.

Monday, the FBI confirmed it was investigating the breach. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the committee was briefed by the intelligence community on the hack. He said the committee will “continue to seek further information from the [intelligence community] as to the origin of any attack and a potential connection to Russia or another state sponsor.”

Despite the confident reports from the several respected cybersecurity firms, cybersecurity expert Kenneth Geers said he's cautious about blaming the Russians so squarely. Attribution in the case of cyber attacks is notoriously difficult to nail down.

“I think that the world’s three-letter agencies are involved in more information operations than the public would assume. So that’s not to say that this isn’t from Russia. It could be other actors with more obscure intentions,” said Geers, a former Pentagon cybersecurity analyst who recently wrote a book about Russia’s cyber operations in Ukraine. “I’m not discounting it … You can have a preponderance of evidence, and in nation-state cases, that’s likely what you’ll have, but that’s all you’ll have.”

Buratowski doubts it was a setup.

“In the sense it was so complex, it would have taken a lot — it would have had to have been a very elaborate scheme to try and pin it on somebody else,” he said.

A spokesman for the Russian government, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on the hacking allegations, according to a Russian news report.

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Monday
Jul252016

15 Killed in Stabbing Attack Near Tokyo

iStock/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- Some 19 people were killed and about 20 others were injured in a stabbing attack at a disabled living facility near Tokyo, according to the Sagamihara City Fire Department.

An employee of the facility told police a man carrying a knife broke into the building, Japan's broadcasting company NHK reported.

A man later turned himself into police and told authorities he was a former employee of the center, NHK reported.

The facility is located in Sagamihara, about 35 miles outside Tokyo.

This story is developing. Check back for more updates.

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Monday
Jul252016

Syrian Denied Asylum Injures 12, Kills Self in Explosion, German Official Says

iStock/Thinkstock(ANSBACH, Germany) -- A suicide bomber is dead and 12 people are injured after an explosion outside a music festival in Germany Sunday.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said the suspect, a 27-year-old Syrian asylum-seeker who came to Germany two years ago, detonated a device after he was denied entry to the festival and the contents of his backpack could have killed more people.

Officials said Monday the suicide bomber had a video on his phone pledging allegiance to ISIS in which he described it as a “revenge” attack on Germany.

ISIS’ official media arm, Amaq, issued a statement Monday claiming the attack was carried out by an ISIS “soldier” based on their “inside source.” Amaq’s wording suggests the bombing was an ISIS-inspired attack rather than a directed attack.

German police said they had been keeping track of the suspect for crimes in the past and he previously attempted to commit suicide. The suspect was living in an asylum shelter in Ansbach, but his asylum application had been rejected, according to Herrmann. Herrmann also said he had been in treatment for depression.

Germany has experienced several deadly incidents over the past week including a shooting rampage at a Munich mall on Friday and an axe attack last weekend on a train near Würzburg. Sunday's attack was the third in Bavaria in a week.

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Monday
Jul252016

UN Report Shows Sharp Increase in Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan, Especially Among Children

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Afghanistan has sustained a record number of civilian casualties during the first six months of this year, according to a United Nations report published Monday.

In addition, almost one-third of the 5,166 civilians killed or maimed in the first half of the year were children, according to the UN report.

The Human Rights team of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recorded 1,601 civilian deaths and 3,565 civilians injured between January and June of this year, the highest number of casualties within a six month period since record-keeping began in 2009, according to UNAMA. More than 1,500 of these civilian casualties were children, according to UNAMA.

This figure is "conservative" and "almost certainly underestimates" the actual number of civilians harmed, UNAMA said.

Nearly 64,000 civilians have died in Afghanistan since 2009.

“Every single casualty documented in this report – people killed while praying, working, studying, fetching water, recovering in hospitals – every civilian casualty represents a failure of commitment and should be a call to action for parties to the conflict to take meaningful, concrete steps to reduce civilians’ suffering and increase protection,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, said in a statement. “Platitudes not backed by meaningful action ring hollow over time. History and the collective memory of the Afghan people will judge leaders of all parties to this conflict by their actual conduct.”

The report also breaks down the responsible parties for the record number of civilian casualties.

UNAMA wrote that 60 percent of all civilian casualties could be attributed to "Anti-Government Elements (AGE)" which includes "all individuals and armed groups" fighting in opposition with the government of Afghanistan and/or international military forces. This includes "those who identify as 'Taliban,'" according to the report. Twenty-three percent of civilian casualties were a result of "Pro-Government Forces (PGE)." Thirteen percent of casualties were jointly attributed to AGE and PGF and the remaining 4 percent were caused by "unattributed explosive remnants of war," according to the report.

In addition, the report reveals the deliberate targeting of women, as well as the use of children in armed conflict, among other human rights violations.

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Monday
Jul252016

Woman Killed by Tiger After Exiting Her Vehicle at Beijing Animal Park

iStock/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- One woman died and another was severely injured after a tiger attacked them when they exited their vehicle while at the Beijing Badaling Wildlife World this weekend, according to Yanqing County government.

The incident, caught in part on surveillance video, took place on Saturday at an outdoor, drive-through animal park in China, where visitors can drive around in their cars and view exotic animals as if on a safari. The tragedy occurred when one woman exited her vehicle while in the Siberian tiger enclosure part of the animal park.

Surveillance footage shows a woman exiting the passenger side of the vehicle, walking over to the driver's side, and then standing outside of the vehicle while she seems to speak with someone inside the car. Suddenly a tiger pounces on her, dragging the woman away from the vehicle and off camera.

Two more people then jump out of the car, running after the woman and tiger, disappearing off camera.

The woman who died was a 57-year-old mother who was trying to save her daughter from the tiger, according to the South China Morning Post. The daughter, in her 30s, who is reportedly the one seen being dragged away by the tiger in the surveillance video, was severely injured, the paper reported.

Badaling Wildlife World was immediately closed following the incident, and an investigation is underway, according to the Yanqing County government's official blog.

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Monday
Jul252016

Prince Harry 'Regrets' Not Speaking About Princess Diana's Death

Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince Harry said he regrets not discussing the death of his mother, Diana, the Princess of Wales, earlier in his life.

"You know, I really regret not ever talking about it," Harry, 31, told soccer player Rio Ferdinand at a barbecue he hosted at Kensington Palace for his "Heads Together" mental health initiative.

Prince Harry was just 12 years old in 1997 when he lost his mom, who died in a tragic car accident at the age of 36. Diana also left behind Harry's older brother Prince William, who was 15 at the time.

Ferdinand lost his wife to cancer last year and spoke to Harry about the challenges of her death and how it might affect his kids.

"He's gone through different stages in his life that my kids are going to be going towards," Ferdinand said of Prince Harry. "So to get some of his experiences is very rewarding for me and very educational in many ways."

Harry admitted it was only in the last three years that he has been comfortable opening up about his mother's death. He told the BBC Monday that it is critical for people to discuss life's challenges to help them get past life's adversities.

"It is OK to suffer, but as long as you talk about it. It is not a weakness," Harry said. "Weakness is having a problem and not recognizing it and not solving that problem."

Harry's comments came on the same day the fifth-in-line to the British throne released a new video for "Heads Together," the mental health campaign he formed and spearheads with his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The campaign brings leading mental health charities together to tackle often unspoken and taboo subjects that people are afraid to discuss, and encourages people to speak up about mental health.

Harry reminded people that anyone can suffer from mental health issues, even sports stars and members of the royal family.

"It is very easy for someone to look at someone like Rio Ferdinand and say, 'You get paid all the money in the world, you are a successful footballer, you have fast cars,'" Harry told the BBC. "But at the end of the day his wife was snatched from him at an early stage of his life with her. So of course he is going to suffer, it doesn't matter if he has an amazing job."

Harry's charitable focus over the next year centers on mental health awareness as well as raising awareness for HIV/AIDS, a cause also championed by his mother.

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Monday
Jul252016

Massive 'Man Engine' Puppet Embarks on Tour of Southwest England

Matt Cardy/Getty Images(TAVISTOCK, England) — A massive mechanical puppet called the "Man Engine" was unveiled Monday at Tavistock, England where he will begin his tour of the Southwest part of the country to celebrate the area's mining history.

The "Man Engine" is the largest mechanical puppet ever constructed in Britain, according to the website of Balweyth Corninsh Mining, which built the giant "metal Cornish miner" that it describes as "part man, part machine."

The project celebrates the 10th anniversary of the recognition of the Cornish mining landscape as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Man Engine will embark on a 130-mile pilgrimage over the the next two weeks and visit the areas of all 10 Cornish mining World Heritage sites, which include "engine houses, miners’ cottages, grand gardens and miles of labyrinthine underground tunnels."

The puppet crawls at 4.5 meter high (nearly 15 feet) but "transforms" to stand at over 10 meters (nearly 33 feet) high, according to its website.

Social media posts show crowds gathering to witness the Man Engine as it made the first few stops of its journey.

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Monday
Jul252016

Munich Shooter Was Planning Crime for Over a Year

(MUNICH) -- The 18-year-old gunman who officials say fatally shot nine people before killing himself at a busy shopping mall in Munich on Friday had been planning his crime for over a year and suffered from a range of mental health issues, according to officials.

The attacker, whom authorities have yet to identify, suffered from "social phobia," anxiety, was taking medication for these illnesses, and had been treated in a psychiatric clinic for two months in 2015, according to the Munich State Prosecutor's office.

In addition to the nine killed, 35 people were injured in the attack, of whom 10 are in critical condition.

The Bavarian Federal Criminal Office examined potential motives for the attack, but found nothing tangible to link the shooting to the massacre perpetrated by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik in 2011, who killed eight people with a van bomb and 69 others in a shooting spree in Norway five years ago. Initial speculations about the shooting spree was that it related to the Breivik attack, due to it falling on the fifth anniversary of the murders in Norway.

"We didn't find the Breivik manifesto on his computer," the Bavarian Federal Criminal Office said. "He wrote his own manifesto, describing how he was going to do the crime."

The gunman, who was born in Germany and was of Iranian descent, did, however, harbor an interest in the subject of mass shootings: He kept a book that included case studies of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the high school students who murdered 12 classmates and one teacher at Columbine High School in 1999, and Cho Seung-hui, a student who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007.

On Sunday, the Bavarian Federal Criminal Office revealed that the shooter visited Winnenden, a small town where a school shooting took place, resulting in 16 deaths, including the suicide of the perpetrator, and took pictures there.

The killer also played first-person shooter games and obtained the murder weapon over the dark web, the Bavarian Federal Criminal Office said.

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