News Pages


Pope Francis Prays for Peace on Easter Sunday

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Thousands packed St. Peter's Square Sunday morning to celebrate Easter Sunday with Pope Francis.

Wishing onlookers Happy Easter from his balcony, the pope presided over Holy Mass and gave his "urbi et orbi" message and blessing, calling for an end to violent conflicts around the world.

The pope focused the theme of his Easter Sunday message on the crises in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, and Nigeria, praying for peace in those countries that have been wracked with political tension, violence, and bloodshed.

Pope Francis urged humanity to overcome the scourge of hunger, made worse, he said, by conflict and wastefulness.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Prince George Squeals With Delight Upon Meeting Bilby Named After Him

Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage(SYDNEY) -- Call it a meeting of the adorable minds.

Prince George met a bilby named after him while visiting the Taronga Zoo in Sydney with his parents, Prince William and Kate Middleton. He squealed with delight upon seeing the marsupial, known as Australia's Easter Bunny.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge helped officially open the new enclosure at the zoo, which was named the Prince George Bilby Exhibit.

Prince William held his son - who turns 9-months-old Tuesday - against the enclosure as he peeked over the glass to get a closer look at the bilby. The marsupial was originally named Boy but was renamed George to celebrate the Prince's birth.

Prince George also received a road sign that he promptly chewed on and a stuffed bilby, which he flung to the floor when his mother handed it to him.

The royal family has been touring New Zealand and Australia since late last month.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Russia 'Outraged' by Deadly Ukraine Shootout

GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The Russian government says it is "outraged" by a shootout overnight near Slovyansk that left at least three dead, saying the attack was carried out by a Ukrainian right-wing nationalist group.

The attack took place before just before 2:30 a.m. on the outskirts of Slovyansk, a town under the control of pro-Russian forces. Four vehicles reportedly approached a checkpoint and opened fire, and video of the aftermath showed spent bullet casings and two burned out vehicles.

According to Ukraine's Interior Ministry, three people were killed and three wounded in clashes between armed groups, but it denied Ukrainian forces played any role. The Sloviansk hospital declined ABC News' request for comment, but Slovyansk's pro-Russia mayor confirmed the three dead to reporters.

"The Russian side is outraged with the provocation, which indicates that Kiev is unwilling to put in check and disarm nationalists and extremists," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted by the state-run Russia Today channel.

Moscow "insists on the strict implementation by the Ukrainian side of its commitments to de-escalate the situation in southeastern Ukraine," the ministry statement said.

Ukraine's Security Service called the incident a "cynical provocation" by "armed offenders and saboteurs who are terrorizing the local population in Slovyansk."

A pro-Kremlin website posted video of what it said was evidence of the nationalist group Right Sector's involvement in the attack, including crisp $100 bills, Google Maps satellite images of the area, bullets and the business card of the group's leader.

Sloviansk's new mayor quickly calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to send Russian "peacekeepers" to defend the region's citizens from "fascists and imperialists."

On Thursday, foreign ministers from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union signed an agreement that "all illegal armed groups must be disarmed" and that "all illegally seized buildings" in Ukraine must be vacated. But the armed groups occupying those buildings in eastern Ukraine haven't moved, arguing that the "criminal" government in Kiev has to first step down.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Robbers Wielding Guns, Machetes and Tasers Target Cell Phone Stores

iStock/Thinkstock(SURREY, Canada) -- Employees and business owners in British Columbia have been left terrified for their lives after armed robbers targeting cell phone stores threatened staff with machetes, handguns, and tasers.

Surveillance video captured the series of three broad-daylight robberies in a matter of weeks at different Wireless World stores in Surrey, B.C. An employee of one of the stores said the robbers tied him up before stealing away with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.

"The gun never left their hand," Jaswal told CTV News in Canada. "It was always on the back of my head. He told me, 'Hey, don't make any sudden moves or you're going to get popped in the head.'"

Rob Riah, the owner of the three stores, which are among two dozen Wireless World locations in British Columbia and Alberta, said $70,000 worth of merchandise has been stolen so far from his Surrey stores.

"We've been robbed three times in two weeks," Riah said. "I'm worried for my staff, I'm worried for my customers. Something needs to be done."

The robbers have since been selling the cell phones on Craigslist and Ebay, where unsuspecting buyers could be purchasing stolen items, Riah said, adding that the store generally blocks the IMEIs (equipment identity number) within a few days so that the phone is unusable.

By then, the thieves are usually far away and the victims are left out of pocket, Riah said.

The Surrey Royal Canadian Mounted Police could not immediately be reached on Sunday, but told CTV they had received several tips in their investigations and that the robberies were a "top priority."

Meanwhile, Riah offered a $5,000 reward for anyone able to identify the suspects in the footage, while his employees said they are seeking greater support from government and police in fighting violent crime.

"I don't think anybody's going to do anything until someone does get killed," Jaswal said. "They're not using little toy guns. They're using Tasers, they're using real guns. We don't know what they're going to do."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Loch Ness Monster Reportings on the Rise After Sighting on Apple Maps

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images(LOCH NESS, Scotland) -- Images of what is reportedly the infamous monster of Scotland's Loch Ness has spawned a spate of copycat sightings since the mythical creature was supposedly captured on Apple Maps by amateur Loch Ness Monster spotters last year.

Photos of what appears to be a creature roughly 100 feet in length floating under the surface of the North End of Loch Ness, a large freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands, has recently gone viral in media reports and online forums.

Glen Campbell, 49, the founder and president of The Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, which has been studying the images for months, told ABC News he's received at least two more reports of similar sightings of the elusive plesiosaur known as "Nessie," since they went public.

The pictures taken on satellite imagery by Apple for its smartphone maps were first flagged by two people late last year. Andrew Dixon and Peter Thain both separately sent images in to the Nessie Fan Club, which contains a register for every Loch Ness Monster sighting since 565 A.D., according to Campbell.

After much debate and speculation, the group decided to take the pictures to Scottish Canals, a government entity responsible for managing Scotland's waterways, where authorities also "had no idea what it was," he said.

ABC News could not immediately reach Scottish Canals for comment.

"The interesting thing is that nobody has been able to explain what it is," Campbell said. "It's pretty large, so it's not a seal or an otter. It's also not a whale or basking shark as some people claim, because they wouldn't go in fresh water."

Campbell is also convinced the unidentified object is not a boat.

"When you look at it, it looks like it could be a boat, but on the right-hand side, if you look at the various images taken from Apple maps, you can see the other boats moored on the shore, which do not look similar at all," he said.

Campbell, who is a professional chartered accountant in Inverness, Scotland, said he had spotted Nessie with his own eyes once before. He was sitting in his car near the loch in March 1996 when he saw what he described as a "mini whale" duck out and back into the water twice.

"I went to report it and there was nobody keeping a list of all the sightings and the last logging had been done in 1985," Campbell said. "We also realized Nessie didn't have a fan club."

The incident motivated Campbell and his artist wife, Kathleen Campbell, 46, to form the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, which now boasts 353 members. The pair claim they run the hobby site "for fun" and do not profit from it. Campbell also said he hasn't seen Nessie since the first time.

"If you see the Loch Ness more than twice, people think you've been drinking," he said.

The most recent supposed sighting ended an 18-month drought during which time no one reported seeing the Loch Ness Monster, Campbell said, adding that hasn't happened since 1925.

"We really have got a mystery, which is great," he said. "It keeps us all going here and it's elicited another couple of sightings, which is great as well because it's brought [Nessie] back into the forefront of the public imagination."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


South Korea Ferry Captain in Custody as Divers Search for Survivors

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The captain of the ferry that sunk near South Korea Wednesday is in custody as divers continue to search for survivors.

Captain Lee Joon-Seok was arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

South Korean prosecutors claim the third mate, who is in his 20's, was at the ship's helm for the very first time when the accident happened, trying to steer the doomed vessel in the treacherous waters.

Joon-Seok said he was in his bedroom when the ferry crashed.

Joon-Seok and two crew members are now behind bars.

Thirty-six deaths have been confirmed. About 270 people are still missing.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Pakistani Journalist Targeted, Shot by Militants

ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images(KARACHI, Pakistan) -- For the second time, Pakistani militants have targeted a prominent journalist critical of the Taliban.

Hamid Mir-- a top-rated Pakistani talk show host and outspoken critic of the Taliban-- was shot several times by gunmen in Karachi.

Mir has been hospitalized and is expected to survive.

ABC's Muhammad Lila reports that the attack happened as the talk show host was traveling from the airport to an office in Karachi.

According to Lila, Mir reportedly, "called a friend of his on his cell phone to say that he had been followed by armed gunmen. He was followed for quite some time until the gunmen eventually reached him and opened fire."

The gunmen-- who were riding on motorcycles-- escaped.

This is the second time Mir has been targeted; in 2012, explosives were found under his car in Islamabad.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Four French Journalists Freed After 10 Months of Captivity in Syria

Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(SANLIURFA, Turkey) -- Four French journalists are free after being held captive in Syria for 10 months.

The journalists had gone missing in two separate incidents last June, and now President Francois Hollande says it's an "immense relief" that all four have been released.

The journalists were reportedly dropped off near the Turkish border where soldiers on patrol found them blindfolded and handcuffed.

One of those released, Didier Francois, said he is "really happy" to be freed. "It's very nice to see the sky, to be able to walk, to be able to be to speak freely," Francois said.

The Elysee Palace says the journalists will return to France this weekend.

While their conditions have not been disclosed, all are said to be in good health despite being held under what are described as "very trying conditions."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Ukraine Suspends 'Anti-Terrorist Operation'

iStock/Thinkstock(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Ukraine suspended the "active stage" of its "anti-terrorist operation" in the eastern part of its country Saturday, citing the Easter holidays and Geneva Agreement as the reason, according to its Ministry of Defense.

Last Sunday, Ukraine's acting president announced the military operation to take back areas seized by pro-Russian forces. So far, the only success the operation has seen was taking back an airfield.

Ukrainian troops have defected to the pro-Russian side along with their tanks and armored personnel carriers, while near the town of Kramatorsk a column of APCs was blocked by local civilians.

Maryna Ostapenko, a press secretary for Ukraine's Ministry of Defense, said in a statement that the anti-terrorist operation would continue but it would no longer be active.

"The efforts are currently focused on securing the safety perimeter around armed separatists in order to avoid having victims amongst peaceful population," she said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped Russia will not have to use force in eastern Ukraine. He also denied Western claims that Russian troops are already operating inside Ukraine and that the unrest there has been orchestrated by the Kremlin, warning that if the situation continued, Russia will not recognize the results of next month’s Ukrainian presidential election.

Secretary of State John Kerry struck a deal in Geneva with his Russian, Ukrainian and European counterparts on Thursday, agreeing that "illegal armed groups" would put down their weapons and leave occupied buildings. But it has changed little to nothing on the ground; pro-Russia protestors in eastern Ukraine have refused to vacate the seized buildings until, they say, the government in Kiev - which they view as "criminal" - does the same.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


US Assists in South Korean Ferry Search and Rescue Efforts 

Shannon Jensen/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The United States Navy is assisting in search and rescue efforts related to the sunken South Korean ferry, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki announced Friday.

The Seventh Fleet will aid in the mission, with the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard assigned to a search area 15 nautical miles from the shipwreck site. The capsized vessel, Sewol, plunged into the waters off South Korea's coast on Wednesday, with more than 400 people on board.

Rescue teams are on the lookout for more than 250 people who are still missing, many of whom were high school students headed on a class trip. In addition to the Navy ship, two MH-60 Seahawk helicopters are conducting operations within the search area.

"We're ready to provide further assistance as needed," Psaki said.

Capt. Joey 'JT' Tynch, commanding officer of the Bonhomme Richard, said South Korean responders have been efficient with their efforts. Psaki also noted the U.S. and South Korea will exchange liaison officers to facilitate communications during the mission.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with the passengers and crew of Sewol and their families," Tynch said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio