Peace, economy top concerns as Colombians head to polls in presidential runoff

iStock/Thinkstock(BOGOTA, Columbia) -- Colombians are heading to the polls for the second time in less than a month — this time in a runoff to elect the country’s next president.

This year’s is the first presidential contest since the 2016 peace accord was signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Marxist guerrilla known as FARC that had been at war with the government for more than half a century -- a conflict left 220,000 dead and 7 million displaced.

Sunday's runoff was triggered after the country’s May election proved inconclusive — none of the six candidates running then managed to get the 50 percent plus one vote required to win outright.

The two candidates on Sunday’s ballot are conservative Ivan Duque and left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro, who have campaigned on radically disparate platforms and propose very different approaches to the controversial peace deal signed with FARC.

Back in May, Duque, an investor-friendly former senator who campaigned against the peace accord, took first place with 39 percent of the vote. Petro, a former guerrilla leader and recent mayor of the capital city Bogota, came in second with 25 percent of the vote.

Petro and Duque represent the two extremes in a deeply polarized Colombia.

On one side, there are those who back Duque because they want heavier policing, economic stability and secure private property. Duque opposes the FARC peace deal, saying it is too lenient on the former guerrilla members and campaigning to modify the clause that gives those members amnesty.

On the other, there are the Petro-leaning voters who blame right-wing politicians for heavy-handed tactics and abuses of power, and who want more action to reduce economic and social inequality.

This is the first time a leftist candidate gets to the second round in a presidential election in Colombia — historically, many Colombians have been wary of left-leaning politicians who they've seen as friendly to the guerrilla groups with whom they spent 50 years at war.

Topping that, the chaotic descent of neighboring country Venezuela under the socialist regimes of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro — which has triggered a refugee crisis spilling into Colombia — adds to the fears of a left-wing government, with Duque supporters accusing Petro of wanting to turn Colombia into Venezuela.

More than 1 million Venezuelans have entered Colombia since the country fell deeper into economic crisis in 2017.

Pedro denounced the Maduro government after the first round of the election, but his approach to the Venezuelan government is expected to be more lenient than Duque's.

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Pakistani terrorist who ordered Malala shooting reportedly killed in drone strike

Ben Stansall/WPA Pool/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- The Pakistani terrorist leader who ordered the assassination of Malala Yousafzai was killed in a drone strike, according to Afghan officials.

Mullah Fazlullah was allegedly killed in a strike on June 13 in the Dangam district of Kunar province in Afghanistan. Fazlullah had been the leader of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), designated by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist group in 2010, since taking over in 2013.

Initial reports in the area suggest that Fazalullah -- along with four accomplices -- were killed in the strike just after fast-breaking time. Taliban sources have not yet confirmed the killing, but local sources confirm that Fazalullah and his followers were based in this area.

While U.S. and Pakistani officials have been quiet on whether Fazlullah was killed, two Afghan officials confirmed the terrorist's death. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish told ABC News the drone attack targeted Fazlullah in Kunar, close to Pakistan border.

"By eliminating Mullah Fazlullah, Afghanistan proved once again as it did with taking out many other TTP leaders in the past that it does not distinguish between terrorists that target Afghanistan or Pakistan," Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr. Omar Zakhilwal tweeted Friday. "I hope we can now expect the same -- not only in words but in proofs."

Fazlullah has been reported dead multiple times in the past.

The U.S. confirmed the June 13 strike targeting Fazlullah, but not that he had been killed.

"U.S. forces conducted a counterterrorism strike, June 13, in Kunar province, close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization," U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell said in a statement.

The U.S. specified in its statement that the drone strike did not go against the ceasefire in the region.

Fazlullah carried a bounty of $5 million by the U.S. government. He was the mastermind behind the Peshawar school massacre, in which 132 schoolchildren were killed in December 2014, and he also ordered the assassination of the then-15-year-old Yousafzai in October 2012 due to her advocacy for women's education. Yousafzai survived and became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2014.

Yousafzai just made her first return to Pakistan since the assassination attempt in late March.

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Pakistani terrorist who ordered Malala shooting reportedly killed in drone strike

State Department 'deeply concerned' over arrest of US citizen during a protest in Vietnam

Courtesy Nguyen Family(HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam) -- The American who was arrested while protesting in Vietnam has been visited by at least one U.S. diplomat since he was taken into custody, the State Department said Friday.

Will Nguyen, a 32-year-old masters degree student at Singapore University, was on vacation in Vietnam when he joined a protest against a land concession proposed by Chinese investors and was seized by several men in civilian clothes and hauled off into a police vehicle, bleeding from a head wound. Nguyen's Airbnb host informed his family that police had searched the apartment where he was staying and had confiscated his U.S. passport, his laptop and credit cards.

The State Department said that it is "deeply concerned" by reports that Nguyen was injured during the June 10 arrest in Ho Chi Minh City.

Consular officers engaged with the Vietnamese government over Nguyen's arrest, and visited with him in a Ho Chi Minh city lockup in Friday.

“His safety and the safety of all U.S. citizens is of the utmost concern to the United States,” the State Department said in its statement. “The Vietnamese government permitted consular access to Mr. Nguyen on June 15. We will continue to push for continued and regular access by consular officers to Mr. Nguyen, in the interest of ensuring due process and fair treatment.”

The Nguyen family was one of the thousands families that left Vietnam to escape the Vietnam war in the 1970s.

While Nguyen and and his sister Victoria were raised in the United States, Vietnam remained in his consciousness.

“He’s very involved with politics of Southeast Asia because it’s the field that he studies,” Victoria Nguyen told ABC News. “That’s what he studied in college. That’s what he went back to school for and earn his masters, so he is very much involved and knowledgeable about the Southeast Asia."

Victoria Nguyen said she did not know of her brother's arrest until she woke up Sunday to numerous miscalls, text messages from friends who were already aware of the arrest.

“It’s not illegal to protest in Vietnam, everybody can protest, but it’s the retribution that everybody is fearful of. I think that how that government works,” she said.

A video clip shared on social media shows the tumultuous protest and Nguyen being dragged down the street with blood on his head and his face surrounded by angry crowds.

According to Victoria, Will just finished up his masters degree program in public policy at the University of Singapore following his bachelors degree in Southeast Asia studies at Yale University.

“It’s our culture; it’s our background and, you know we embrace it; we’re really proud of it,” she said.

The Vietnamese Embassy in the U.S did not respond to several calls and emails seeking comment on the arrest.

Victoria Nguyen has been in contact with the State Department and several members of Congress to seek help to ensure the release of her brother.

“At this point we want him home. There is not reason for them to hold him,” she said. “I’m optimistic that they will do the right thing, and they will see that he meant no harm. He had good intention, when he went over there."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


For some North Korean defectors, Trump-Kim summit offers hope; others don't buy it

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Back in January, Ji Seong-ho was President Trump's special guest at his State of the Union address, where the president told the story of Ji’s harrowing escape from North Korea.

Having lost an arm and a leg after being hit by a train years before, Ji managed to travel hundreds of miles to China – on crutches.

“Seong-ho's story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom,” Trump said.

Ji is one of about 32,000 North Koreans in the past decade who have risked it all to get out from under the Kim regime – and for them the Trump-Kim summit was not just a political meeting, but a personal reckoning as well.

While Ji and other defectors ABC News spoke with agree that life in North Korea can be brutal, they have perhaps surprisingly different opinions on whether the summit was a success, and whether the North Korean people will benefit.

Ji Seong-ho, president, Now Action & Unity for Human Rights

For some defectors like Ji, who defected from North Korea in 2006, the summit was an optimistic occasion.

“The way I see it, it’s just the beginning of this relationship," Ji told ABC. "If it ended with this summit, I would be very disappointed, but the meeting needs to continue. ”

Many have criticized President Trump after the summit for not condemning Kim Jong Un’s brutal treatment of his people, including torture and imprisonment in labor camps, according to the United Nations.

But Ji sees the summit as merely a first step that will lead to more conversation.

“I’m hopeful that North Korean human rights issues will be brought to the table once the summit progresses,” Ji told ABC News. “That doesn’t mean I’m certain that the summit itself will be smooth sailing. The North Korean government has long deceived its people, lied to the international community, and covered up human rights issues. We can’t trust them.”

After the summit, Trump called Kim “very talented” and said he “loves his country,” drawing more criticism for complimenting the ruthless dictator.

But Ji said the flattery is “a diplomatic gesture.” “I don’t think it necessarily means a whole lot to me,” Ji said.

He says living in North Korea with a disability was unbearable and meant certain poverty, so he crossed into China to find food. There, he was introduced to Christianity, and says he prayed in secret for years, keeping his outlawed religious beliefs from his own father and brother.

When Ji’s family attempted to defect, his father was captured and tortured to death. After Ji managed to make it to freedom in China, he kept his crutches as a reminder of how far he has come.

Now, Ji lives in Seoul and is the president of Now Action & Unity for Human Rights, which advocates for North Koreans. He recently visited Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers and receive an award for his work.

“I think the fact that not only the executive branch, but also the Congress and even the American public are very interested in human rights issues in North Korea really gives us a big strength to our cause,” Ji said.

As for his former leader, Ji says it's "really pitiful" that Kim Jung Un's objective in all of this is to protect his status.

"Right now, he doesn't look anything more than a dictator desperately trying to keep his place. But the whole world is embracing democracy and human rights as important values, and I think it's inevitable those values will reach where we are going." Ji hopes that North Korea will eventually dissolve concentration camps and open borders for free business and investment, as well as immigration.

But not every defector is as hopeful about the summit as Ji.

Kang Cheol-Hwan, North Korea Strategy Center, Chairman

“Kim Jong Un is in love with his own power, not his country. He is someone who killed his own brother and uncle to gain political power. You think he loves the country? No way. Kim viciously killed a whole lot of people in order to maintain his power,” said Kang who describes President Trump’s comment about Kim Jong Un as truly caring for the country and his people, ‘obnoxious.’

Trump is being tricked by Kim who wants to keep all attention on denuclearization so that there won’t be any time or opportunity to raise the issue of human rights, Kang tells ABC News.

Kang was sent to a prison camp with his family at the age of 8. He was released ten years later then fled to Seoul in 1992. He is the author of “The Aquariums of Pyongyang (2000),” the first survivors account of North Korea’s concentration camps.

An Chan-il, World Institute for North Korean Studies, Director

An Chan-il diagnosed North Korea as a place where human rights were completely out of question. Although the international community is constantly shouting out loud, how the communist regime is treating its people outside the opulent capital city Pyongyang, inside, there isn’t anyone fighting for their rights. He said no one would fight to achieve their basic rights in North Korea, because they have become numb to the agony around them.

“Witnessing public execution and neighbors starving to death, they just cannot realize they are deprived of basic rights,” An told ABC News.

The defector expressed disappointment in President Trump’s press briefing after the US-North Korea summit.

“I expected Trump to raise his voice on human rights issue, but it seemed like he could only have mentioned a sentence or so,” he said. “Human rights situation in North Korea is not getting any better.”

According to his acquaintances still living in North Korea, there are children who die of food poisoning, after eating grass scraped off from the roads. Dozens of soldiers died from electrocution while trying to keep the construction site running as fast as possible in the town of Wonsan.

An escaped the communist country in late 1970’s, crossing the demilitarized zone. He became the first North Korean defector with a doctorate and now serves as chair-professor at Open Cyber University of Korea.

Song Ji-young, Jiwon Print and Publishing, PR manager

The Trump-Kim summit for Song Ji-young gave a glimpse of hope that someday in the near future she may be able to go back to her hometown in Hamkyungbukdo Province, North Korea. “I miss my home very much,” she says reminiscing her childhood. “We may have lived brainwashed in a controlled state but it was less stressful than here where everything is so competitive.”

“I was quite impressed by Kim Jong Un. He seemed much more prepared than Trump who looked like buttering up to a much younger Kim. I realized Kim is actually a smart man.”

Song says many of her fellow defectors see Kim in a favorable light. “He is different from his father Kim Jong Il who was a womanizer and indulged himself in luxury goods. Kim Jong Il never really talked in public but Kim Jong-un has a real wife, just one wife, and close to the people.”

Song was born after her parents were downgraded to a rural post. Her father, originally from a ‘pure’ enough background to reside in Pyongyang, had been punished for a car accident while driving. She worked at a propaganda arm of her hometown in Hamkyungbukdo as an announcer. Song fled to Seoul in 2004.

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'Gifted' clarinetist whose dreams were sabotaged by ex-girlfriend awarded $266K: Court

iStock/Thinkstock(QUEBEC) -- When some musicians go through a harrowing break up, they write sad love songs.

One Canadian clarinetist got a court-awarded $266,000 payout instead.

A Canadian court determined this week that the alleged deceptions of Eric Abramovitz's ex-girlfriend were worth a hefty sum.

Eric Abramovitz was a student at McGill University in Quebec, Canada, when he applied to attend the Coburn Conservancy of Music in Los Angeles. At the time, Abramovitz was living with his girlfriend, Jennifer Lee, a fellow musician at McGill, according to the courts.

Abramovitz, who wanted to go to the Coburn Conservancy of Music to study under an internationally recognized clarinet teacher, believed he aced his in-person audition in February 2014.

And Abramovitz's dream email acceptance to the Coburn program arrived on March 27, 2014 -- but he never received it.

Lee allegedly intercepted the email and made it look to him as if he was rejected -- at the same time told the school that he would not be attending.

"[Ms.] Lee accessed [Mr.] Abramovitz’s email. She intercepted the acceptance email. She responded to it, in [Mr.] Abramovitz’s name, declining the offer because he would 'be elsewhere.' [Ms.] Lee then deleted the acceptance email," the decision states.

From there, she allegedly used a fake email account that resembled the name of the prestigious clarinet teacher to write an email to Abramovitz that he had not been accepted.

Beyond that, she also told Abramovitz, under the guise of the teacher, that he had been awarded a spot under his tutelage at the University of Southern California, according to the court's decision. The fake email added that he'd only be awarded a $5,000 scholarship, even though tuition at that program would be about $51,000, an amount Abramovitz couldn't afford, the decision said.

"Ms Lee knew about Mr Abramovitz’s financial circumstances and that he would not be able to accept the fake offer she had created for a position at USC," the court decision states.

"This was despicable conduct by [Ms.] Lee," the decision later states.

Ambramovitz, whom the court called a "gifted musician, an accomplished clarinetist" who had won national music awards, lost out on years or earning power and financial opportunity, according to the court.

He finished his music degree at McGill and went on to attend a certificate program at USC, with the famed professor, but "two years later than he had hoped, and not on full scholarship," the decision states.

In the court filing, the judge seems to sympathize with the impact that the deception had on Abramovitz's career.

"Imagining how his life would have been different if he had studied for two years under [Mr.] Gilad, and earned his teacher’s respect and support, requires more speculation than the law permits," the judge wrote in the court decision. "One hears, particularly in the arts, of the 'big breaks' that can launch a promising artist to a stratospheric career. I cannot speculate as too high and how quickly [Mr.] Abramovitz’s career might have soared, but for the interference by [Ms.] Lee. But the law does recognize that the loss of a chance is a very real and compensable loss."

All told, Abramovitz was awarded $350,000 Canadian dollars in damages, which converts to $266,483 in U.S. currency.

Meanwhile, Lee did not respond to contact requests by the court, according to the decision. ABC News could not reach Lee for comment, either.

The court decision states that a defendant “who has been noted in default is deemed to admit the truth of all allegations of fact made in the statement of claim,” meaning that she did not fight or deny the allegations in court.

"Mr Abramovitz was completely taken in by this deception," the decision states.

Abramovitz has been performing as part of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, but told Buzzfeed that he recently accepted a position with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and will be returning to Canada.

"It's very hard to know what my path would have been had this not happened," he told Buzzfeed. "But I am happy and proud of myself because I landed on my feet. I have no regrets. I have always aspired to make a living doing what I love, and I have, so I am very fortunate."

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Stephen Hawking's ashes buried at Westminster Abbey

Ben Stansall - WPA Pool /Getty Images(LONDON) -- Stephen Hawking, a giant of science and celebrated British physicist who died in March, was honored Friday before more than 1,000 people at London’s Westminster Abbey, where his ashes were buried.

Hawking, who died at 76 after a lifelong battle against terminal motor neuron disease, was a groundbreaking physicist and mathematician.

Studying at Oxford and Cambridge University, he was diagnosed with the debilitating illness at age 21.

At the time, doctors expected him to be dead in another two years.

More than 3,000 people have been buried or commemorated at London’s Westminster Abbey, one of the capital’s most historic and recognized landmarks.

In a section of the Abbey lies Poets’ Corner, where a number of distinguished poets and playwrights are buried, and nearby is Scientists’ Corner where some of Britain’s greatest scientists and thinkers are buried.

Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Charles Darwin are buried in Scientists’ Corner, and it is between their graves that Hawking’s ashes were buried beneath a stone seal engraved with his most famous equation describing the entropy of a black hole with the words, “Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018.”

More than 100 nationalities were represented among the congregation for the service, and more than 25,000 applied for the lottery of 1,000 tickets to attend.

The ceremony featured readings from British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Hawking in a 2004 biopic, and the British astronaut Maj. Tim Peake.

As part of the ceremony, a recording of Hawking’s words was set to music by Vangelis, the Greek composer who created the theme music for the 1981 film “Chariots of Fire.”

The broadcast is to be beamed into the nearest black hole, 1A 0620-00, by the European Space Agency via a satellite in Spain.

His daughter Lucy said his words were “a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet.”

Among his work, Hawking was best known for his research on black holes, and his theory that they emitted radiation that came to be known as “Hawking’s radiation.”

His landmark book, “A Brief History of Time,” has sold more than 10 million copies.

Hawking wrote the book in order to help explain the structure and origin of the universe to everyday readers with little background knowledge of physics or cosmology.

Among the guests who attended Friday were volunteers from the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and a number of disability activists, who paid tribute to Hawking’s fortitude, perseverance and unerring dedication to science as the disease slowly claimed all use of his limbs and muscles, eventually leading him to rely on a synthesizer to communicate.

One guest was Rose Brown, a student from the National Star College in England, which is for young people with disabilities.

She, like Hawking, spoke through a synthesizer and paid tribute to the late professor:

“I’m going to be an actress; everybody who puts their mind to something gets to be it. Stephen Hawking proved that more than anyone.”

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China retaliates immediately after US announces tariffs

iStock/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- China said Friday it is retaliating against U.S. tariffs by imposing penalties on the same scale against the United States.

China's commerce ministry announced the tariffs after President Donald Trump said earlier Friday the United will hit $50 billion of goods from China with a 25 percent tariff.

The ministry did not detail specifically what goods China will penalize.

China had warned the White House earlier Friday that it would respond “in the first instance” to protect its economy if Trump moved forward with any tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods.

At the daily briefing here, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “If the U.S. side adopts unilateralism and protectionism and damages China’s interests, we will respond in the first instance and take necessary measures to firmly safeguard our legitimate rights and interests.”

The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal were among the publications reporting overnight that Trump, fresh from his return from the Singapore Summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has decided to enact significant tariffs on Chinese goods.

Friday's salvos mark a significant step toward a full-blown trade war between the United States and China despite months of trade talks and negotiations in an effort to avoid that outcome.

The Trump administration unveiled its tariffs just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned from his first visit to Beijing where he met with his Chinese counterparts and President Xi Jinping.

Although Pompeo was in Beijing to debrief the Chinese on the Singapore summit, the trade friction was never far from the surface.

In a joint news conference Thursday evening in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China and the United States have two options before them: one is “cooperation” and a “win-win” scenario and the other is “lose-lose.”

"China opts for the first one and has made such a decision,” Wang said before warning, “we hope the U.S. will make a wise choice and China on its part is prepared on all fronts.”

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South Korea, US begin discussing end to military drills

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- South Korea and the United States have begun discussions to end joint military displays that have long angered North Korean leadership.

President Donald Trump surprised many with his announcement on Tuesday that the U.S. "will be stopping the war games" because the drills with South Korea were "expensive" and "provocative" to North Korea.

"In accordance with the guidelines, Korea-U.S. discussions have already begun," a senior South Korean official said on Friday. "Though nothing has been decided yet, we're going to announce a decision soon in the near future, through close consultations between the South and the U.S."

The annual military maneuvers are viewed by most South Koreans and Americans as defensive in nature, more of a dress rehearsal for how to respond to aggression from North Korea. Leaders in Pyongyang, on the other hand, have denounced the drills as two allied nations preparing to invade the North.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday said it might be necessary to reconsider the military exercises at a time when conversations among the three nations are underway.

But, in his opening remarks at a national-security meeting, Moon said, "The unwavering Korea-U.S. cooperation and combined defense posture need to be maintained based on the ironclad Korea-U.S. alliance."

Moon also said he was "filled with deep emotion" over the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

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Eiffel Tower installing bulletproof glass walls to protect monument from terror attacks

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- The Eiffel Tower will soon be surrounded with bulletproof glass walls to protect the iconic monument from terrorist threats.

Since the terror attacks that killed 130 people in Paris and Saint-Denis on Nov. 13, 2015, the iconic tower has been under constant surveillance. French soldiers and policemen patrol the site 24 hours a day. But the company that operates the tower, SETE, said the site still needed more security.

"The square of the Eiffel Tower was still, at the time, accessible to anyone very easily," Bernard Gaudillere, SETE's president, told ABC News. "Therefore we decided to build a new perimeter around the Eiffel Tower to increase the security."

The new perimeter will be unveiled to the public next month. But ABC News was given access to the construction site for a preview.

Temporary barriers were set up around the 1063-foot tower in June 2016. They are now being replaced by permanent bulletproof glass walls on the northern and southern ends of the landmark, and by metal fences on the eastern and western sides. Visitors will have access to the Eiffel Tower through these fences.

"The two glass walls are 10 feet high," Gaudillere said of the new, permanent walls. "They are bulletproof and very solid."

He also said 420 blocks will also be installed in front of the glass walls to prevent a vehicle attack like the ones that have occurred in New York and across Europe.

The new security perimeter, which costs $40 million, will be completed and unveiled in July.

But critics, including people living in the neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower, say that the walls will drastically change the appearance of the landmark, making it look like a fortress. Jean-Sébastien Baschet, the president of an organization called Les Amis du Champ-de-Mars, said in a statement last year that the new perimeter would affect local residents' access to the gardens near the tower.

"The privatization of the gardens located right next to the Eiffel Tower is unacceptable and incompatible with the notion of cohabitation, which is very important to our neighborhood," Baschet said in a statement posted to the group's website in May 2017.

Baschet did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Others see the barriers as necessary to protect visitors.

"It will look much better than the temporary barriers that were installed two years ago, but most importantly, the security of our visitors will be increased, and this is our absolute priority," Alain Dumas, technical director for the Eiffel Tower operating company, told ABC News.

Gaudillere said the threat of terrorism at the tower is very real. In August 2017, a man with a knife tried to breach security at the Eiffel Tower. He was quickly surrounded and arrested on the scene by French police. No one was hurt in the incident but the tower was briefly evacuated.

After a difficult year in 2016 in which the numbers of visitors to the Eiffel Tower felt below 6 million people for the first time in 15 years, there has been a rebound.

In 2017, more tourists came back to the monument, Gaudillere said, adding: "We expect the upward trend to continue in 2018."

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'Aquarius' ship carrying hundreds of migrants set to arrive in Spain after international controversy 

iStock/Thinkstock(VALENCIA, Spain) -- For 629 migrants on board a ship in the Mediterranean Sea, this weekend could mark the end of an international controversy over their final destination.

On Saturday, Spain plans to welcome the Aquarius ship, which has been making an 800-mile humanitarian journey with international supervision due to safety concerns.

The ship's final destination was confirmed after Italy, Malta and France stopped fighting and procrastinating over where the ship should be allowed to dock.

On Sunday, Italy's new anti-migrant interior minister, Matteo Salvini, blocked the ship from docking in Sicily, saying Italy had already taken in enough migrants -- 640,000 over the last five years.

But then, after Malta said "no," Spain unexpectedly said "yes."

"It was our duty to accept these migrants," Idoia Oneba of the Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR) told ABC News. "We hope they will arrive safe - as the boat was overcrowded and the journey is exhausting."

There are 11 children and seven pregnant women on board, according to the Spanish Red Cross.

When they arrive in Valencia, Spain, the Red Cross will welcome them with psychological support, medical care and humanitarian aid.

The UN refugee agency in Madrid confirmed that the crew and passengers should reach Valencia on Saturday evening if the weather conditions are good.

For Aquarius passengers, arriving in Spain was not their first choice. They chose the Libyan route because the border between Morocco and Spain is harder to cross with a higher risk to be deported.

"Most of the passengers are Moroccan and Algerians," the UN refugee agency told ABC News.

Spain welcoming the ship was unexpected, but like Italy, the country just swore in a new government.

"What Spain has done is undertake what you could see as a symbolic act," the country's new foreign minister, Josep Borell, said, "because at the end of the day it is only a small number of people that will question Europe about inability when it comes to deal with migration issues."

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