US diplomat expelled from New Zealand amid police inquiry

iStock/Thinkstock(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- A United States diplomat has been expelled from New Zealand. This after the embassy refused to waive his immunity during a police investigation.  

The staffer was allegedly involved in an incident on March 12. Police were unable to question him after the embassy decline their request, and have refused to give further details of the allegations.

New Zealand asked the US to remove the man, and American officials confirmed he left Saturday. Police are continuing to investigate the incident that took place just out side of Wellington, where the United States embassy is located.

The embassy did not comment on the specifics of the investigation, but did say in a statement "We take seriously any suggestion that our staff have fallen short of the high standards of conduct expected of US government personnel."

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Fighting near Damascus after rebel attack

iStock/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- War is intesifying near the Syrian capital of Damascus, as Syrian security forces are engaged in fierce clashes with rebels on the easern outskirks of the capital city.

Security forces say a surprise attack by the rebels had artilley shells and rockets landing inside the heart of the city, and they responded with airstrikes.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels had initiated the attack to relieve pressure on fighters under attack from government forces in the districts of Barzeh, Tishreen and Qabun.

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3 U.S. soldiers wounded by Afghan soldier

iStock/Thinkstock(HELMAND, Afghanistan) -- Three U.S. Soldiers were wounded this afternoon when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in Helmand province, in Afghanistan, a military spokesman said.

Coalition security forces on the base killed the soldier to end the attack, and the U.S. soldiers are receiving medical treatment, U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesman Capt. Bill Salvin said.

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Russia orders check of American media in the country in retaliation for U.S. bill

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) – The Russian parliament has ordered a check of U.S. media outlets operating in the country, in retaliation for what it said was an attack on Russian media in the United States.

The parliament's lower house, the State Duma, called for its information and telecoms committee to examine whether the activity of CNN, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other U.S. outlets is "in accordance with Russian legislation," a press release published on the body's website read.

The announcement didn't specify which other outlets could be targeted. Voice of America is a federal government broadcaster, while Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a private non-profit, funded by a Congressional grant. Both were set up to combat Soviet propaganda during the Cold War.

The lawmaker who instigated the order, Konstantin Zatulin, from the country's ruling party, United Russia, said the check was a response to calls from American politicians for a probe into Russian state outlets accused of interfering in the U.S. presidential elections, in particular the Kremlin-funded broadcaster, RT.

Zatulin pointed specifically to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, who this week introduced a bill to Congress that would grant the Department of Justice new authority to investigate RT, for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

RT, previously known as Russia Today, is Russia’s main international broadcaster and has been accused of being at the center of Kremlin propaganda efforts in the U.S. and Europe.

A declassified U.S. intelligence report on Russian efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election released in December described RT as playing a key role in a disinformation campaign meant to harm Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and to sow doubts about the election's fairness. During the elections, RT focused heavily on negative stories around Clinton, often pushing reports that had been repeatedly discredited.

"We have good reason to believe that RT News is coordinating with the Russian government to spread misinformation and undermine our democratic process," Shaheen said in a statement unveiling the bill.

The Foreign Agents Registrations Act that Shaheen suggested RT may be violating requires individuals or entities hired to act in a "political or quasi-political capacity" on behalf of foreign governments to register.

The Kremlin makes no attempt to conceal that RT's funding is from Russia's state budget, which is published openly, but RT argues it is not directly funded because the money come through a separate company.

"RT News has made public statements boasting that it can dodge our laws with shell corporations, and it's time for the Department of Justice to investigate," Shaheen said. 

Zatulin, the Russian lawmaker, called the move "repressive." Russia's foreign ministry has accused the U.S. of succumbing to anti-Russian hysteria, resembling the McCarthy era.

"Times are being reborn in the U.S. when Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse are considered agents of the Kremlin," Zatulin said.

The U.S. intelligence report was criticized by many U.S. observers for disproportionately focusing on RT: The largest part of the report was taken up with an annex describing the broadcaster's work.

RT's actual influence in the U.S. is debatable. An RT spokesperson claimed to the Washington Post in January, the channel had 8 million viewers weekly in America. But documents allegedly leaked from Russia’s state-media holding, Ria Novosti, said RT's daily programming in 2015 did not get more than 30,000 viewers. RT is not in the top 100 cable networks.

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Frenchman who allegedly grabbed soldier's gun at Paris airport shouted 'I’m here to die for Allah:' officials

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) – A man who was shot dead after grabbing an assault rifle from a military member patrolling a Paris airport held a pistol to the soldier's head, using her as a shield, Paris Prosecutor François Molins said.

The suspect, a French-born man identified as 39-year-old Ziyed Ben Belgacem, was killed by French security forces during the Saturday morning incident at Orly Airport.

Belgacem allegedly shouted, “I’m here to die for Allah,” and, "Whatever happens, there will be deaths,' the prosecutor said, adding that the suspect apparently aimed to shoot people in the airport.

Molins said Belgacem was carrying a container of gasoline that he tossed to the ground.

The attack on soldiers at the airport began at around 8:22 a.m. After the suspect allegedly tried to take an assault weapon from the soldier, she took it back, authorities said. Belgacem then grabbed the weapon and put it over himself, and then held a revolver to the soldier's head, authorities said. When the attacker detached himself from the soldier to try to escape, two other officers shot him. The suspect was killed at 8:25 a.m., authorities said.

After the incident, authorities searched the attacker's home and found machetes, foreign currencies and cocaine, officials said.

Belgacem had a lengthy criminal record including convictions for armed robbery and drug trafficking. Authorities said he was previously flagged for possible radicalism and that it's believed he may have been radicalized while in prison.

The suspect was not on the government's list of people considered a national security threat, the Paris prosecutor's office said earlier.

In the course of the investigation, the suspect's brother, father and a cousin have been taken into custody.

Orly Airport was partially shut down and evacuated following the incident.

Air traffic at the airport's two commercial passenger terminals was temporarily suspended, and flights were diverted to Paris' other international airport, Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Later Saturday, the airport's operations were gradually resuming.

Minister of the Interior Bruno Le Roux said the assailant was involved in a carjacking earlier in the day and had also shot at a police officer at a traffic stop.

"We can also link his identity to a police check that occurred this morning at 6:50 in the northern suburbs of Paris. During this police check, the individual shot with a gun at a police officer who was slightly injured," Le Roux said.

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William and Kate continued Paris tour undeterred by airport shooting incident

Getty/Pool/Samir Hussein (PARIS) -- Under heavy security, Prince William and Princess Kate started the second day of their Paris visit with the French capital on edge after an early-morning shooting at the city’s Orly Airport.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stuck to their planned schedule on Saturday as events unfolded around the city

A man was shot dead at the airport after he allegedly tried to take a soldier’s assault weapon. The man then carjacked a woman’s car that was later found near Orly, Paris police said.

William and Kate, who flew to Paris by private jet and used a different airport, are to return to the UK later this afternoon. A Kensington Palace spokesman said their plans remain unchanged so far.

The royal couple’s first stop Saturday was a visit to Les Invalides, a Paris landmark, to honor both World War II veterans and survivors of the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015 and in Nice in July 2016. One of the attack victims who met with William and Kate had been shot seven times. The Cambridges also met with emergency service teams and first responders who helped the injured in the Nice and Paris attacks.

Prince William and Kate then made their way to the Musee D'Orsay where they viewed iconic paintings in the museum’s famed Impressionist Gallery. Several of the works will be shown at the Tate Britain Gallery in London later this year for a special exhibition showcasing ties between the French and British museums.

Kate, who received her degree in art history, is an advocate for the arts and a patron of the National Portrait Gallery.

In a nod to the French, Kate was dressed in a belted Chanel coat and matching handbag pleasing her hosts in France.

The Musee d'Orsay houses among the finest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings in the world by masters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir Cezanne and Van Gogh.

William and Kate requested to see some of Monet's famous paintings of water lilies. They also stopped to admire Monet's depiction of London's Houses of Parliament and fog along the River Thames. The museum remained opened during their visit with tourists appearing both delighted and shocked to see the couple and with some taking snapshots on their phones of the famous visitors.

Prince William and Princess Kate continued their tour, undeterred by the police activity around Paris, greeting children at the city's Trocadero and stopping to pose for a photo with the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop. They also observed a children's rugby exercise with young fans outside the Eiffel Tower.

William and Kate concluded their visit by joining fans at a Wales versus France rugby match at the Stade de France. William joked with French President Francois Hollande on Friday that he will be "cheering the Welsh."

William is royal patron of the Welsh Rugby Union, a position he took over from his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, in December 2016.

William famously showed his solidarity with the French people just days after the November 2015 terror attack in Paris which targeted Stade de France. In the aftermath of the attack, William attended an England versus France soccer match at London's Wembley Stadium and sang the French national anthem.

Prince William and Princess Kate touched down in Paris on Friday, kicking off a two-day charm offensive ahead of England’s planned exit from the European Union, known as Brexit. The couple met with Hollande at the Elysee Palace and attended a black-tie reception and dinner at the British Embassy.

William, 34, reassured the French in his speech at the British Embassy that the partnership between Great Britain and France will remain strong.

"This partnership will continue despite the United Kingdom's recent decision to leave the European Union," William said.

William and Kate attended a series of events to honor and celebrate the French for their resilience in the wake of the Paris and Nice terrorist attacks and to celebrate French arts and culture.

"I have been reminded over the last few years, as Catherine and I have attended commemorations of the two world wars, how much [our two countries] have experienced together and have stood together in moments of great crisis. Our relationship is just as strong and enduring today. Our hearts went out to the people of France when you responded so bravely to the awful terrorist attacks of the last two years," William said.

The couple's visit to Paris has enormous political significance in the wake of the United Kingdom’s decision to withdraw from the European Union.

The Paris trip is among a series of scheduled visits by the royal family to European countries in the months ahead -- including William's and Kate's July visit to Germany and Poland. The trips are intended to remind European neighbors that Britain will remain their ally and partner.

Kate wore a black, tea-length Alexander McQueen dress accessorized with a pearl-drop necklace and pearl cocktail ring to a reception and later slipped into a glamorous Jenny Packham gown for a black-tie dinner hosted by Britain's ambassador to France, Edward Llewellyn. Guests for the evening included actresses Kristen Scott Thomas, who played Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience" on Broadway, and Audrey Tatou and actor Jean Reno.

William and Kate left their two young children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, at home during their Paris visit.

The couple are staying at the British ambassador's residence during their visit among heightened security around the capitol. The residence, built in the 18th century, is one of the best known buildings in Paris and is located close to Elysee Palace.

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Investigation underway after man is killed at Paris airport when he tried to grab soldier's rifle

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- France's anti-terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation after a man who tried to grab an assault weapon from a soldier at Orly Airport in Paris was shot dead, an official at the prosecutor's office told ABC News.

Investigators are now searching for “clues, stories, and images” pertaining to the suspect and incident, France's interior minister said.

The brother and father of the suspect are being questioned, but have not been detained.

The suspect, whom authorities have not identified, was not on the government's list of people considered a threat to national security, the prosecutor’s office told ABC News.

The airport was partially shut down and evacuated following the incident early Saturday morning. Later Saturday, the airport's operations were gradually resuming, although one of its terminals remained closed.

France's anti-terrorism prosecutor has Paris' Orly Airport was partially evacuated Saturday morning after a man was fatally shot by French security forces after he tried to seize a rifle from a soldier guarding the airport, France's Ministry of the Interior has confirmed.

"This morning at 8:30 at Orly Airport, an individual tried to attack French soldiers in order to take the weapon of one of the soldiers -- he was not able to do it and was shot and killed by soldiers," Minister of the Interior Bruno Le Roux said early Saturday.

France's Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said, the suspect attacked three soldiers patrolling the airport. He tried to take the weapon of one of the soldiers, a woman.

"She was able to hold to her weapon. Two other soldiers shot at [the] individual to protect her. I congratulate them," Le Drian said.



Le Roux said the assailant was involved in a carjacking earlier in the day and had also shot at a police officer at a traffic stop.

"We can also link his identity to a police check that occurred this morning at 6:50 in the northern suburbs of Paris. During this police check, the individual shot with a gun at a police officer who was slightly injured," Le Roux said.



After the shooting incident at Orly Airport, about 3,000 people were evacuated.

Air traffic at the airport's two commercial passenger terminals was suspended, and flights were diverted to Paris' other international airport, Charles de Gaulle Airport.




Evacuation de l'aéroport

A post shared by Jordan Herry (@joxcorp) on Mar 18, 2017 at 1:53am PDT


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Israel's Arrow anti-missile system successful on Syrian missiles

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- BBC News reports Israel intercepted a Syrian surface-to-air (SAM) missile using a long-range ballistic missile defense mechanism called the Arrow system.

Israeli jets raided sites in Syria, and shortly after SAMs were fired at them. Two of the SAMs reportedly landed in Israel after they were shot down, while some debris landed in Jordan according to BBC News.

Israeli military announced that they had attacked sites in Syria before Syria launched missiles at their jets. BBC reports that Syria claims they shot down one of the four planes that attacked, while Israel's military says none were "compromised."

Tensions between Syria and Israel have existed since the start of the Syrian war according to BBC News, with supposed Israeli air strikes hitting Syrian sites and Syria firing anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli fighter planes.

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Mid-air plane collision over Canadian shopping mall kills one, injures multiple

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One person is dead after two small planes collided over the Promenades St-Bruno shopping mall south of Montreal according to a BBC News report.

Three people were injured in the accident. There was reportedly one pilot in each plane, neither of which were carrying passengers.

Police say one plane crashed into the mall's roof, the other, a parking lot.

Quebec Public Safety Minister Martin Coiteux thanked first responders while offering his condolences to family members of the victims.

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Death toll rises after US airstrike in Syrian village, observer groups say

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. warplanes struck a mosque compound in northwestern Syria Thursday, killing dozens of people, observer groups and eyewitnesses said today.

At least 49 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the attack in the rebel-held village of al-Jina in Aleppo’s countryside, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The airstrike happened at 7 p.m. local time and was carried out by manned and unmanned aircrafts targeting an al-Qaeda meeting, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said at a press briefing today. He denied that the targeted building was a mosque, but said he had no information on whether the building was affiliated with a mosque.

The targeted building was a center for Islam lectures that belongs to the mosque and is part of the same compound, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and eyewitnesses said.

“If fighters were among those killed, they were attending a religious lecture, not fighting or preparing to fight,” Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told ABC News.

Ahmad Qawwaf, a resident of al-Jina and an English teacher, said he was having dinner at a friend’s house when he heard the sound of planes and then a loud explosion Thursday evening. When he left, he said, he saw that the building for religious lectures affiliated with the mosque was hit.

“I saw ambulances and people covered in dust. And there were four bodies lying in the street,” Qawwaf told ABC News via a messaging app in Arabic. “The bodies were maimed … burns on the faces and the limbs.”

He said he visited the site again today and that rescue workers were still on the scene, trying to pull more people from the rubble. The White Helmets in Aleppo, a volunteer civil defense organization, has released videos of rescues after the airstrike.

"It was the mosque that was hit," media activist Darwish el-Saleh told ABC News.

He is from a neighboring village and visited the mosque in al-Jina after the attack. "The damage was overwhelming. There was a hole in the ground and bodies were filling the streets," he said, adding that he counted about 30 bodies Thursday.

Even if the mosque wasn't the target, it could still have suffered damage because the buildings are so close to each other, said Chris Woods, director of Airwars, a nonprofit that tracks international airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

“We are certainly not saying that the coalition deliberately targeted the mosque,” Woods told ABC News. “But based on all the evidence we’re seeing from the ground, videos, photographs and White Helmets testimony, the mosque was very heavily damaged last night and a significant number of people died.”

Thursday’s attack comes as the number of civilian casualties from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS is growing, according to Airwars.

Since President Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20 through March 15, Airwars tracked 173 separate alleged incidents attributed to the coalition in which more than 1,000 civilians allegedly have died in Iraq and Syria.

“We’re seeing a fresh rise in civilian casualties,” Woods said. “Alleged and likely civilian deaths were already going up under the last time of Obama, but since Trump has come in we’ve seen a new jump.”

For the second month in a row, U.S. airstrikes have reportedly killed more civilians than Russian strikes, Airwars’ data for the month of February shows.

The battle against ISIS is at a fierce stage, but that alone does not explain the rise in alleged civilian casualties, Woods said.

“President Trump has very specifically instructed the Pentagon to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS that really restricts protection for civilians,” he said.

U.S. Central Command (Centcom) did not say how many civilians, if any, were killed in Thursday's attack. In an email to ABC News, command officials said they “take all reports of civilian casualties and are looking into them.”

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