Assange's Ecuador Embassy life: 'discourteous and aggressive' behavior and bad hygiene reports

Jack Taylor/Getty Images(LONDON) -- After seven years within the confines of the Ecuador Embassy in London, the infamous WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 47, was dragged away by police officers looking haggard, tired and clearly aged since he sought asylum there in 2012 on Thursday.

When Assange was interviewed via Skype by the Daily Telegraph newspaper a year into his confinement, the Australian man painted a fairly rosy picture of life inside the embassy.

Although his room was small -- an office converted into a bedroom -- Assange said staff members were "like family" despite the "difficult" situation. He had access to the internet, a treadmill and a small kitchen. He was also granted Ecuadorian citizenship.

"We have lunch together, celebrate people"s birthdays and other details I don't want to go into because of the security situation," he told the newspaper. Assange even claimed to have visits from celebrity supporters such as Maggie Gyllenhaal, John Cusack and Yoko Ono, despite it being "difficult to wake up … and see the same walls" every day.

But something soured. When the president of Ecuador announced Thursday he was withdrawing Assange's asylum status and stripping him of Ecuadorian citizenship, he said in a statement it was not just for "repeated violations to international conventions," but, crucially, for violations of "daily-life protocols."



President Lenin Moreno described Assange's behavior as "discourteous and aggressive" while inside the embassy. Moreno also claimed, contrary to the terms of his confinement, Assange was still playing an active role in WikiLeaks.

"The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behavior of Mr. Assange," Moreno said. "He installed electronic and distortion equipment not allowed… He has confronted and mistreated guards."

On Thursday, Ecuador's interior minister said at a press conference in Quito Assange had apparently smeared feces on the walls and engaged in other behavior she described as below common decency.

He reportedly took over the women's bathroom, per the International Business Times, which quoted sources last January saying Assange had poor hygiene. "It seems he doesn't wash properly," one source told the publication.

A friend and former colleague was quoted saying that "unless the people around him force him into the shower, he might not change his clothes for days."

And another friend said, "Julian ate everything with his hands and he always wiped his fingers on his pants. I have never seen pants as greasy as his in my whole life."

It's not exactly a new, poison pen description of Assange. In 2011, the former executive editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, wrote about the paper's first collaboration with Assange and WikiLeaks, including his first meeting with the whistleblower.

"He was alert but disheveled, like a bag lady walking in off the street, wearing a dingy, light-colored sport coat and cargo pants, dirty white shirt, beat-up sneakers and filthy white socks that collapsed around his ankles," Keller wrote. "He smelled as if he hadn't bathed in days."

While the international pressure to arrest Assange must have been enormous, Assange's behavior apparently didn't win over many friends within the embassy. Now, he is no longer their concern. Assange remains in police custody and will next appear in a U.S. court via video-link May 2.

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Elections begin in India, the world's most populous democracy

PeterHermesFurian/iStock(LONDON) -- Voters in India headed to the ballot box on Thursday as this year's elections got underway, in what promises to be a pivotal political moment for a nation that has increasingly sought out more prominence on the world stage.

The eligible electorate is around 900 million people, according to most estimates -- the largest of any democracy in the world. Thursday is the first day in a mammoth seven-stage democratic process for the nation of 1.3 billion people, which will conclude when results are announced on May 23.

Indian parliament consists of 545 seats, although two of those are reserved for the Anglo-Indian community and appointed by the prime minister.

In terms of sheer numbers, the Indian general election is a marvel.

Over 600 million people cast their vote at the 2014 general election, according to the Election Commission of India. In that election, 8,251 contenders campaigned for 543 parliamentary seats on behalf of 464 different political parties. Only six of those count as “national parties,” which have candidates in more than one state in the country.

Turnout at this year’s general election will likely be no different, as huge queues lined up on Thursday at the polling areas in the northern Indian states that vote in this round of the election.

In 2019, however, all eyes are on one man -- the current prime minister and leader of the Hindu nationalist BJP party, Narendra Modi.

The future of India: secular or Hindu?

Modi’s BJP party was victorious in the 2014 elections, winning 282 seats compared to the opposition Indian National Congress Party’s (INC) 44.

BJP is not expected to perform so well this year.

“Just a couple of years ago, many commentators were certain that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi would enjoy a second term in office. But slow job growth and farmer discontent have taken the shine off the administration,” Elizabeth Chaterjee, a political scientist at Queen Mary University of London, told ABC News. “In December, the BJP lost regional elections in three big states, and suddenly the 2019 race looked open again.”

However, the recent escalation of tensions with Pakistan – a Muslim majority country -- may play into Modi’s hands, as he looks to appease his base.

“Coming only a month after a heated standoff with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, the BJP hopes these patriotic appeals will mobilize its base of Hindu nationalist voters,” Chatterjee said.

Some have argued that politics under Modi has become targeted at the country’s Hindus rather than aiming for the secular vision that the INC championed. This year’s election is as much about who wins as it is about “the meaning of secularism” in India, according Dr. Gareth Price, senior research fellow in the Asia-Pacific program at Chatham House, an international affairs think tank in London.

“Pakistan has been seen as a kind of euphemism for Muslims in general,” he told ABC News. “Now there is even less focus on the economy and a revers[ion] to India’s strength and India’s involvement with Pakistan.”


Prime Minister Modi’s recent attempts to promote his own political image have caused controversy.

He has long-courted Bollywood, India’s movie industry, to talk more about patriotism and Indian culture. But now, he has a movie all to himself.

A big-budget biopic about Modi, "PM Narendra Modi: Story of a Billion People," charts the politician’s rise from humble tea seller to one of the world’s most powerful leaders, and stars Bollywood actor Vivek Anad Oberoi as Modi, according to Reuters.

The film was scheduled to be released on Thursday, the first day of the general election, but the Indian Electoral Commission intervened, saying it posed a “serious threat” to the integrity of the election, and "may create an impression of truthfulness of content", according to the BBC.

Courting the vote

Ultimately, however, some believe the performance of the BJP and INC in elections this year will depend on how many votes they secure from the country’s poorer voters.

“In the run-up to the election, India's two main parties have been competing to promise poor voters increasingly generous benefits, from farmer payouts to basic income schemes,” Chatterjee said. “Most projections now predict that the BJP will remain the single largest party, but will fall short of a clear majority.” She added that such forecasts should be taken with a “pinch of salt.”

This year’s election might also have potentially more impact abroad, as India looks to secure its position as a major international player. But the reality could be more pragmatic.

“India’s priorities are domestic and they are going to remain so for quite some time,” Price said.

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Feds unseal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hours after arrest in London

Jack Taylor/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Federal prosecutors in the United States unsealed a computer hacking indictment against Julian Assange on Thursday just hours after authorities in the United Kingdom arrested the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has lived for the past seven years.

The newly unsealed indictment, filed last year in the Eastern District of Virginia, targets Assange in an alleged conspiracy with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst turned whistleblower Chelsea Manning to hack into U.S. Department of Defense computers in March 2010, in "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States."

"During the conspiracy, Manning and Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning’s transmission of classified records to Assange," prosecutors said in a press release."The discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.” To which Assange replied, “curious eyes never run dry in my experience,” the release said.

Prosecutors wrote that Assange was arrested pursuant to a U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty, but when or even if that would happen was unclear.

The dramatic arrest of Assange played out Thursday morning in London, when Metropolitan Police executed a warrant for Assange's arrest on behalf of Westminster Magistrates' Court. Police said they were invited into the Ecuadorian Embassy by Ambassador Carlos Abad Ortiz after the Ecuadorian government withdrew the WikiLeaks founder's asylum status.

During his initial court appearance on Thursday, Assange offered no evidence and was found guilty of breaching his bail. The judge described Assange as “a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.”

He now faces up to 12 months in jail and will be sentenced at a later date. Until then, Assange will remain in custody.

The warrant for his "failure to appear” dates back to a now-closed rape inquiry in Sweden that has been active for the past seven years. The rape investigation was dropped by Swedish prosecutors in 2017 as they could not gain access to Assange while he was inside the Ecuadorean Embassy, but an investigation could still be resumed as the allegation is not subject to a statute of limitation until mid-August 2020.

Police had been unable to arrest him while he held the status of asylum seeker in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had been confined since 2012.

WikiLeaks advocates and Assange’s legal team leapt to his defense on Thursday morning, decrying his arrest and prospective extradition to the U.S.

Carlos Poveda, Assange's lawyer in Ecuador, claimed the arrest contravened international conventions on human rights. Barry Pollack, Assange's U.S.-based attorney, described the news as "bitterly disappointing."

In a tweet, WikiLeaks wrote that “Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanise, delegitimize and imprison [Assange].”

Assange, an Australian native, founded the website WikiLeaks in 2006 and drew attention over the next decade for releasing sensitive, and often classified, information.

Government officials in the U.K. and Ecuador applauded Assange’s arrest.

Sir Alan Duncan, the British government's Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, said in a statement that it was "absolutely right that Assange will face justice."

The U.K.'s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, wrote in a tweet that "Julian Assange is no hero and no one is above the law.”

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno announced on Thursday that Assange's diplomatic asylum and immunity had been withdrawn for "repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocol.”

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Prince Harry, Meghan's plan to keep baby news private likely puts an end to the traditional postpartum hospital pose

Karwai Tang/WireImage(LONDON) -- Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, is taking yet another step in redefining the role of the wife of a member of Britain’s royal family.

Meghan, 37, does not appear to have any plans to pose for the traditional newborn-holding photo-op outside the hospital after she gives birth to her first child.

Instead, Meghan and Prince Harry plan to make an announcement about their child’s birth only after they've celebrated "privately as a new family," Buckingham Palace said in a statement Thursday.

Buckingham Palace has also not revealed where Meghan plans to give birth.

The privacy around the delivery is in contrast to Meghan’s sister-in-law Duchess Kate and her mother-in-law, the late Princess Diana.

Kate and Diana, who both gave birth to heirs to the British throne, delivered all their children at the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital in London.

Throngs of press and well-wishers, and their cameras, camped out before the deliveries and were also there to greet Kate and Diana when they stepped outside – with makeup and heels on -- to pose with their newborns just hours after giving birth.

Meghan, in contrast, whose baby will be the seventh in line to throne, is making a different decision about where, when and how the public will first see her child. And she is keeping those plans between herself and Harry and their closest aides.

"It’s great that she’s making right off the bat what feels like the best decision for herself and her child," said Lauren Smith Brody, author of "The Fifth Trimester," the bestselling book about returning to work as a mother. "She's saying, 'I’m in charge. I’ll be the one to design my motherhood and public role and no one else.'"

Brody, a mother of two, now works with companies to help them support and retain new moms in the workplace. She said Meghan is making a smart move in defining expectations right off the bat about her maternity leave, for which the royal family does not have any policy or guidelines.

"In a sense her public role is a job, so she’s saying, 'I’m not working when my kid is one day old. I’m on maternity leave,'" Brody said. "Very often the first parent who needs something [like maternity leave] is the one who helps design what is going to be offered as a benefit to everybody. You’re actually helping to modernize the workplace and make it more fair for everybody."

"I think Meghan is embracing that and I really applaud her," Brody said.

 Buckingham Palace's announcement that Meghan and Harry "have taken a personal decision to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private" comes a few weeks after a baby products company, Fridababy, placed an open letter to Meghan in The New York Times.

The letter, addressed to "the royal mom-to-be," asked Meghan to skip the post-birth photo op outside the hospital in hopes of creating a dialogue around what women really go through after giving birth.

“Sure your blowout will be perfect for your hospital step photo-op, but people will be opining on all the wrong things—like how soon you will fit into your pre-baby wardrobe—instead of having an honest conversation about what women go through during birth or immediately thereafter,” read the March 26 letter, written by Fridababy CEO Chelsea Hirschhorn.

"Skip the pomp and circumstance of the baby parade. Let the headlines instead read: “Prince Brings Royal Baby Out Because Mom Is in Bed Sitting on a Pack of Ice," Hirschhorn also wrote in the letter.

Mothers weighed in with mixed reactions to the letter, with the majority applauding the notion behind the letter, that women should not have to live up to expectations after a major medical feat like childbirth.

"Thank you so much for sharing this and keeping it real for us new mamas out there ... it’s so important!!," wrote one commenter on Fridababy's Instagram. "I had no idea what to expect and my birth was very hard!! I appreciate this so much!!"

"I was 39 when I had my first of 2, and even though what u say is true and sitting WAS painful for some days, I also felt SO euphoric about my baby that wild horses could not have kept me down!!," wrote another commenter. "I was proud to be up and focus on this wonder and NOT on my own discomfort, which absolutely paled by comparison!! had I had a hairdresser come to my room I would have done what Kate did!!"

Kate, 37, posed with her third child, Prince Louis, just seven hours after his birth at the Lindo Wing last April. The wife of Prince William wore a red Jenny Packham dress, nylons, heels and fully done makeup and hair when she met photographers outside the hospital holding her third child.

In the United States, where Meghan is from, new moms are more likely to stay in the hospital for at least 48 hours after a vaginal birth and 96 hours after a cesarean birth, with some stays being even longer depending on the delivery.

The world may never know how long Meghan stayed in the hospital after giving birth, and fellow moms like Brody say that is all for the better.

"She’s sending so many good images by not doing what is expected of her," the author said. "Even if she had posed with huge circles under her eyes and was carrying absorbent underpants and waving them in the air, she’d be taken to task for making it a stunt."

While Kate and Diana may have faced more pressure, or expectations, because of the time in which they gave birth and their husbands' and children's spots in the line of succession, Meghan appears to have taken the option of "opting out," as Brody calls it, and doing what is best for herself -- both mentally and physically - and her family.

The message that should send to all women -- most of whom do not have to decide whether to pose for photos in front of the press after childbirth -- is that they can do the same, no matter the scale.

"Meghan's choice sends a message even to a mom who has just had a baby, who is flooded with requests to come and visit, who feels like she has to entertain and has to be looking good and has to have food in the fridge and has to leave the room to nurse the baby if the baby cries," Brody said. "It says, 'No, actually let's let mom and dad decide what is best and what they want in order to be able to succeed in this really, really challenging position.'"

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Sudan military ousts President Omar al-Bashir, takes over

200mm/iStock(CAIRO) -- The Sudanese armed forces announced Thursday the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir and the beginning of a two-year interim period ruled by the High Council of the Armed Forces.

Minister of Defense Awad bin Auf made the announcement in a televised statement. Auf, a military intelligence chief and vice president to al-Bashir, will lead the military council.

"The security council apologises to the Sudanese people for the killing and violence that took place," Auf said in his statement.

He added that al-Bashir was removed from power and is currently "held in a safe place".

The military statement also announced the annulment of the current constitution and the dissolving of the cabinet. A three-month state of emergency was announced in addition to a curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Earlier Thursday, amid reports of the stepping down of al-Bashir, the Sudanese Professional Association (SPA), which has been spearheading the protests, stressed its commitment to demanding a civilian transitional government.

"Everyone will be tried by law, peacefulness is our method in revolution and change," the SPA said in a statement, adding the only way forward is through "the handing over the authority to a civilian national transitional government formed on prioritizing freedom and change as the people agreed."

Sudanese people have been celebrating in anticipation of the news Thursday, with thousands flocking to the presidential palace and military headquarters in Khartoum, where protesters have been holding a sit-in for days.

Authorities announced earlier the release of all political prisoners who were arrested in the anti-government protests, according to the Sudan News Agency (SUNA).

The demonstrations in Sudan started in December to protest the rising cost of living and quickly escalated to calls to end the 30-year rule of President al-Bashir.

Last Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters marched to army headquarters to mark the 34th anniversary of the overthrow of former President Jaafar Nimeiri, who was removed in a bloodless coup after a popular uprising. A few years later, al-Bashir allied with Islamist hardliners and rose to power in a 1989 coup.

Al-Bashir has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide against Darfur since 2009. Al-Bashir also hosted Osama bin Laden in Sudan in the '90s.

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Prince Harry, Meghan Markle to keep baby plans private

Karwai Tang/WireImage(LONDON) -- The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be keeping plans for the birth of their baby private.

The royal couple, expecting their first child this month, won't make any announcements about the birth until they've celebrated "privately as a new family," Buckingham Palace said in a statement Thursday.

"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very grateful for the goodwill they have received from people throughout the United Kingdom and around the world as they prepare to welcome their baby," the palace said. "Their Royal Highnesses have taken a personal decision to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private. The Duke and Duchess look forward to sharing the exciting news with everyone once they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family."

Prince Harry, 34, married Meghan Markle, 37, last May. Five months later, they announced the pregnancy as they embarked on their 16-day tour of Australia, New Zealand Fiji and Tonga. The baby will be seventh in line to the throne.

Meghan, a California native, traveled to New York City in February for a private, star-studded baby shower.

The couple recently moved to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, some 30 miles from London. They had been racing to finish renovations at the house on the grounds of Windsor Castle before Meghan gives birth to their first child

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How Prince Harry and Meghan's baby may make history in Britain's royal family

Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage(LONDON) -- Meghan Markle made history when she wed Prince Harry last May.

Now, Meghan, 37, is due to give birth to the couple's first child. The baby will be seventh in line to the British throne.

The child of Meghan and Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, could hold dual American and British nationality, a first for a royal baby.

Meghan, a California native, will reportedly still be waiting for her British citizenship application to be approved by the time she gives birth.

Kensington Palace announced that Meghan would become a naturalized citizen of the U.K. after her engagement to Harry was made public in November 2017.

Kensington Palace said in November that Meghan would retain her U.S. citizenship as she undergoes the process of becoming a British citizen, which can take several years.

"From what I understand, Harry and Meghan will have to acquire documentation for their child to prove U.S. citizenship and it’s not clear if they will do that but of course the option is there," said ABC News royal contributor Victoria Murphy.

Baby Sussex could also be the first mixed race child born into the royal family, although historians are divided.

Some royal historians have pointed out that when Queen Charlotte married King George III in the 1700s, he was believed to have descended from the black branch of the Portuguese royal family. The couple had 15 children, according to the British royal family's website.

Meghan was born to a white father and a black mother and grew up as a biracial child in Los Angeles.

"There is no doubt that the British royal family has been, for centuries, made up predominantly of white Europeans and this baby’s arrival is a milestone in making the modern royal family more diverse," Murphy said. "Modern Britain is multicultural but our royal family has not really reflected that themselves until now."

When Harry and Meghan's engagement was announced last year, black women celebrated having Meghan on the world's stage.

"Black women miss Michelle Obama and I think we’ve been looking for somebody, something to be excited about," Tykeia Robinson, co-host of the adulting podcast "Gettin' Grown," told ABC News in November. "We’ve not had someone to represent us in the media recently, and it’s just good to see something good happening to a woman, a black woman specifically, amidst all of the challenging news that we’ve been faced with this last few weeks."

The diversity Meghan brings to the royal family was also noted at her wedding to Harry, which included a gospel choir and a sermon by Rev. Michael Curry, the first black leader of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the first American to preach at a British royal wedding.

"The love between those two people, between that loyal couple, was so powerful, not only did we all show up, but it brought all these different worlds together," Curry told ABC News' Good Morning America last May. "It brought different nationalities, different ethnicities, different religious traditions, people of all stripes and types, people of different political persuasions."

He continued, "Their love was a sign of God’s love and what that love can do in our lives. It brought together our African heritage, our British heritage, our American heritage."

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Trump administration preparing to roll out Kushner’s Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace plan’: Sources

Gelia/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection victory now secured, the Trump administration is preparing to roll out Jared Kushner’s "peace plan" as early as this month, sources familiar with the plan tell ABC News.

President Donald Trump has been briefed on the plan, which Kushner and a small "peace team" have been quietly working on for months. The text itself remains a closely guarded secret -- even within the White House -- and has only been seen in its entirety by four people within the administration, the sources said.

Its text has not even been shared with any allies, including the Israeli government, according to the U.S. officials.

Those officials familiar with the peace plan said it aims to bring a non-traditional approach to addressing the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict by including a robust economic development package for the Palestinian people and seeks to address the political elements of the conflict.

Kushner and his team traveled to several Arab countries in February to brief diplomats on the economic aspects of the peace plan. An official said some of the broad concepts of the economic aspects of the plan were warmly received, in principle, during that trip.

Though the plan's release could come this month, sources cautioned that a release date has not been finalized and that the administration is weighing a variety of factors. Potential causes for delay could include the upcoming holidays of Passover and Ramadan.

Early on in his presidency, Trump tasked his son-in-law with working on the Israeli-Palestinian issue as one of his high-profile assignments in the White House. In describing his hopes of achieving peace, Trump has referred to a prospect as "the ultimate deal."

Trump expressed optimism Wednesday for peace plan's prospects now that Netanyahu has been reelected.

"The fact that Bibi won, I think we’ll see some pretty good action in terms of peace," Trump said at the White House when asked by a reporter if Netanyahu’s victory meant he would soon release the administration’s peace plan.

Two weeks ago, the president received Netanyahu at the White House in an effort to shore up support for his friend in the final stretch of a tough reelection bid.

"Everybody said you can’t have peace in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians," Trump said Wednesday. "I think we have a chance. And I think we have, now, a better chance with Bibi having won."

Netanyahu has said he welcomes the opportunity to review the plan.

"I look forward to receiving the plan, and we will look at it once it’s presented," Netanyahu said during a meeting attended by Vice President Mike Pence and Kushner in Poland in February. "I have to say that I know the Trump administration seeks to ensure the security of Israel for generations."

The White House declined to comment when asked for any details of the plan.

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Fight against ISIS continues in Iraq and Syria, despite declaration of victory

U.S. Army(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S.-led coalition's fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is not over, despite a declaration of victory against the group's last remaining stronghold in eastern Syria last month.

In the week following the March 23 victory declaration by Syrian and Kurdish partner forces, the coalition conducted 52 strikes in Iraq and Syria, according to a statement released by the coalition on Wednesday.

Between March 24 and April 6, the coalition struck 28 ISIS tactical units and destroyed 72 vehicles, 17 fighting positions, 15 supply routes and three vehicles borne improvised explosive devices in Syria. During that same time period, the coalition struck three ISIS tactical units and destroyed seven tunnels, four supply routes, two buildings, two caves, one command and control center and one compound in Iraq.

"While the completion of territorial liberation is a major milestone, we will continue to work by, with, and through our partners in Iraq and Syria to deny ISIS the opportunity to re-emerge," Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Sean Robertson told ABC News.

He said Syrian and Kurdish partner forces continue to conduct back clearance operations -- or double checking areas already believed to be swept of militants -- and eliminating any remaining ISIS weapons caches.

"This back-clearance operation will be deliberate and thorough and help ensure the long-term security for the area," Robertson said.

Despite the territorial defeat of a terror group that once controlled about 34,000 square miles of land, U.S. officials estimate there could be tens of thousands of ISIS fighters still in the region.

Last month, the then-head of U.S. forces in the Middle East warned against the "calculated" retreat of ISIS fighters from their last stronghold in Baghouz, saying the exodus of thousands is not a surrender, but a decision to retreat to camps and remote areas in the region until they can reconstitute as a violent extremist organization once again.

"We will see low-level attacks, we'll see assassinations, we'll see IED attacks, we'll see ambush type things as they begin to emerge from this. What our focus has to be is working with our partners," Gen. Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee on March 7. "We're going to have to keep pressure on this."

In Iraq, where the military declared liberation from ISIS in December 2017, the terror group has already established sanctuaries, according to a report released last month by the Institute for the Study of War, "setting the conditions for future offensive operations against the Government of Iraq."

"The U.S. and its partners should not view the current relative security in Baghdad as confirmation of the defeat of ISIS," the Institute for the Study of War wrote. "The U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition's strategy to enable Iraq to 'independently manage' an insurgency through intelligence support and other building partner capacity efforts will likely fail to prevent ISIS from regaining momentum based on its current trajectory in Iraq."

The U.S. is still planning to withdraw the majority of its troops from Syria, but will leave about 400 forces there to maintain stability as cities and towns work to recover from the ISIS fight that destroyed entire communities and left thousands dead. There about 5,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, mainly working to train, advise, and assist the local Iraqi Security Forces.

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The first photo of a black hole is finally here

National Science Foundation(WASHINGTON) -- We finally know what a black hole looks like.

After decades of conjecture and simulations, an international consortium of scientists released the first ever photos of a black hole on Wednesday.

"We have seen what we thought was unseeable. We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole," Shep Doeleman, Event Horizon Telescope project (EHT) director, said as he revealed the photos at a press conference in conjunction with the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The never-before seen black hole is in a galaxy far, far away, called Messier 87 (M87). It's at about the center of that galaxy, and about 53 million light years from Earth. (One light year is 5.9 trillion miles, or 9.5 trillion kilometers, away). It's also massive -- about six billion times the mass of our sun.

The EHT is a global network of radio dishes that effectively turn Earth into a virtual telescope. In addition to the briefing in Washington, there were simultaneous announcements in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo.

Black holes are so massive they warp space and time and allow no light to escape. Even though a black hole itself is not visible directly, the photos confirmed expectations it would be surrounded by dust and gas swirling around it at velocities near the speed of light, which causes the detectable emission of radiation. The event horizon is the boundary of a black hole.

"This has been our first chance to see the inner workings of black holes and to test a fundamental prediction of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Not only the existence of a shadow that indicates a point of no return -- or an event horizon -- but also the size and shape of that shadow," Feryal Ozel, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona who was the modeling and analysis lead on the project, told ABC News.

"It's a dream come true, on many levels," Ozel said. "Something I've been working on for many, many years, trying to build a physical model of a black hole environment and predictions, and the opportunity to study the hearts of black holes is amazing. This kind of resolution in astronomy is unprecedented. This is up to a million times better than some other telescopes."

It wasn't until late summer 2018 that "we knew we had an image that looked like what we hoped it would look like. Just collecting data, just getting the data from the South Pole -- just that took six months. It was close to a year and half we just worked on it," Ozel said.

Doeleman added that the photo was consistent with the simulations and predictions based on Albert Einstein's calculations.

The EHT project embarked on a 10-day mission in April 2017 to "capture the image of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy," according to an NSF press release at the time.

"Obtaining an image of a black hole is not as easy as snapping a photo with an ordinary camera," the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a U.S. research center, wrote on its website. "The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, called Sagittarius A*, has a mass of approximately four million times that of the Sun, but it only looks like a tiny dot from Earth, 26,000 light-years away."

There's more discovery to come: the EHT team hopes to reveal a photos of the black hole in our own galaxy, Sagittarius A*, at a later date.

"The black hole at the center of the Milky Way, our own galaxy, we're still analyzing that. We are hoping to have images and perhaps changing images. We want to do further tests of general relativity with what we have," Ozel said.

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