SEARCH

Tuesday
Feb142017

Duchess Kate tests flight simulator on Valentine’s Day

Eddie Mulholland-WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Duchess Kate took over the controls as she tested a flight simulator Tuesday with Royal Air Force cadets at RAF Whittering in Cambridgeshire, England.

Kate, 35, was introduced to the new recruits at a training session after taking over as honorary air commandant of the Royal Air Force from Prince Philip.

Kate, who wore red for Valentine's Day, also participated in a team building exercise which included jumping.

Taking the controls and gripping the joystick, Kate got a taste of what it's like in the cockpit. She followed in the footsteps of her husband, Prince William, and brother-in-law, Prince Harry, who both are helicopter pilots.

"She was extremely good. She was a natural," flight instructor Lt. Michael Salter remarked of Kate. "She was very gentle on the controls. Very often people are too rough. If you feel it, it's extremely sensitive."

Salter continued, "She said she hasn't flown before and wanted to understand what the feeling was like in the air."

Kate brought her son, Prince George, 3, to the Royal International Air Tattoo in RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, last July when she last visited the cadets. The show bills itself online as "the world's greatest air show."

Kate, also the mother of 21-month-old Princess Charlotte, will travel to Paris next month with William, Kensington Palace announced Monday.

"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will undertake an official two-day visit to Paris on 17th and 18th March," Kensington Palace said in a statement. "Their Royal Highness' visit is at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Full details of the visit will be announced in due course."

The timing of William and Kate's visit is significant given the U.K.'s recent Brexit vote to separate the U.K. from the European Union. The trip will also be a poignant reminder of William's mother, Princess Diana, who tragically died nearly 20 years ago in the Pont de l'alma tunnel in Paris.

Both William, 34, and Harry, 32, are making arrangements to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. Earlier this month, Kensington Palace announced a statue has been commissioned of Diana. Several exhibitions to honor the "People's Princess," including a white sunken blooming garden at Kensington Palace and a fashion exhibition chronicling Diana's iconic style, are also being planned.

William’s and Kate's Paris visit will also include a reception with young French leaders, a dinner with the British ambassador to France and a less formal outing to a Wales vs. France rugby match.

William stood in solidarity with the French in November 2015 by attending a soccer match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in London shortly after the Paris terror attacks.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Feb142017

A timeline of Michael Flynn's interactions with Russia that cost him his job

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Michael Flynn resigned as White House national security adviser late Monday night after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the pre-inauguration conversations he had with Russia’s U.S. ambassador about the U.S. sanctions imposed on that country.

In his resignation letter, Flynn wrote that he apologized to President Trump and Pence for "inadvertently brief[ing] the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador."

In the weeks before Trump was sworn in as president, Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak discussed sanctions the same day they were imposed, current and former U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News last week.

In an interview with the Washington Post last week, Flynn denied this. Pence also denied the reports in a January interview, based on information Flynn had given him.

Here’s what we know about Flynn’s communications with Kislyak and the Trump administration’s handling of the situation:

Friday, Nov. 18, 2016

Trump names Flynn as his national security adviser.

Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016

Flynn and Kislyak exchanged holiday greetings over texts, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

Spicer told reporters in a transition team phone call Jan. 13 that Flynn had texted Kislyak, wishing the Russian ambassador Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Flynn also said he looked forward to touching base and working with Kislyak, Spicer said.

Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016

Firing back at alleged Russian efforts to influence the election, the Obama administration announced it was expelling 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and placing sanctions on five Russia entities.

“I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber-operations aimed at the U.S. election,” Obama wrote in a statement. “These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.”

The Russian ambassador sent Flynn a text message asking whether they could talk over the phone. Flynn accepted the invitation and the two spoke by phone that day, according to Spicer.

Flynn and Kislyak’s call "centered around the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in,” Spicer said, adding, "They exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call. That was it. Plain and simple."

Spicer later told ABC News the two discussed a number of topics on the phone, including the crash of a Russian military plane carrying an army choir on Christmas Day and an invitation from the Russian government to the incoming Trump administration to attend upcoming Syrian peace talks.

Spicer stressed to ABC News that Flynn and Kislyak did not discuss the sanctions.

Friday, Jan. 13, 2017


In a phone call briefing reporters on the transition period when Trump was president-elect, then-incoming press secretary Sean Spicer provided a tick-tock of Flynn’s communications with Kislyak. Spicer detailed Flynn’s text messages on Dec. 15 and Flynn’s phone call on Dec. 29.

Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017


In an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pence said that Flynn told him that conversation centered around “Christmas wishes” and “sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place” Dec. 25.

“It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation,” Pence said. “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

A senior administration official told ABC News earlier this month that Pence's information had come from speaking with Flynn directly.

Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017

A follow-up phone call occurred between Flynn and Kislyak to discuss setting up a call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Spicer clarified in a press briefing on Jan. 23.

Monday, Jan. 23, 2017

During the White House press briefing, Spicer reiterated that the only topics Flynn and Kislyak discussed were holiday greetings, the deadly December plane crash carrying the Russia military choir, the conference in Syria on ISIS and to set up a call between Putin and Trump.

Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017

The Justice Department's then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed White House counsel Don McGahn that they were misled and expressed concerns that Russia might try to blackmail Flynn. ABC News confirmed through a source close to Yates that U.S. authorities had captured a phone call between Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the United States discussing sanctions. Spicer confirmed the date the DOJ informed the White House in a Feb. 14 White House press briefing.

After he had been informed by the DOJ, McGahn briefed the president and a small group of aides on Flynn, Spicer said at his Feb. 14 press conference. The president asked McGahn to conduct a review to determine whether there was a legal situation. McGahn determined “within several days” there was not a legal issue, Spicer said, without providing further details.

Spicer stressed Flynn’s resignation did not derive from a legal issue nor did Flynn do anything “that was a violation of any sort,” but that Trump concluded that he no longer trusted his national security adviser.

“The issue here was that the president got to the point that Gen. Flynn’s relationship misleading the vice president and others or the possibility that he had forgotten critical details of this important conversation had created a critical mass and unsustainable situation,” Spicer said. “That’s why the president decided to ask for his resignation and he got it.”

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017


The Washington Post reported that Flynn discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the United States before Donald Trump took office. The Post reported that on Feb. 8 Flynn denied twice that he discussed sanctions with Kislyak.

Current and former U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News that Flynn and Kislyak spoke about Russia sanctions, but were unable to say that explicit promises were made to lift the sanctions. Officials said the discussion was under the context that the incoming Trump administration would have a chance to review the sanctions put in place by Obama administration.

Friday, Feb. 10, 2017


Flynn’s story begins to change. A senior administration official told ABC News that Flynn didn’t recall the issue of sanctions ever coming up in his conversations with Kislyak, but “isn’t completely certain.”

The Kremlin confirmed that Flynn spoke by phone with Kislyak, but said reports that the two discussed sanctions were "wrong."

Flynn traveled to Florida with Trump aboard Air Force One. During the flight, reporters asked Trump about the Washington Post story while on the way to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend. "I don't know about that. I haven't seen it,” Trump said. “What report is that?”

He added, “I haven't seen that. I'll look into that.”

A White House official later said Trump’s “full day” contributed to his lack of knowledge of the story.

Two top Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee -- Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. and Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. -- released statements calling for Flynn to be removed or suspended from his position. The allegations raise “serious questions of legality and fitness for office," Schiff said in a statement. If the allegations are true, Flynn "should no longer serve in this administration or any other," he said. Swalwell said in a statement: "The White House should immediately SUSPEND National Security Advisor Flynn & REVOKE access to classified information until investigated.”

Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017

Pence spoke twice with Flynn on Friday Feb. 10, which a senior administration official confirmed to ABC News Saturday. Flynn spoke met with Pence Friday morning and then over phone in the evening.

The White House official would not discuss the content of their discussions.

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017

White House policy adviser Stephen Miller faced questions about Flynn as he did several TV interviews Sunday morning.

“I don’t have any information to change anything that has previously already been said by the White House on this matter,” Miller said. “General Flynn has served this country admirably and with distinction.”

When asked by NBC whether the president still has confidence in Flynn, Miller demurred, saying, “That's the question that I think you should ask the president, the question you should ask Reince [Priebus], the chief of staff.”

Monday, Feb. 13, 2017

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released a statement calling on Flynn to be “fired immediately.” “We have a national security adviser who cannot be trusted not to put Putin before America,” the statement read.

A senior White House official told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that Flynn called Pence Feb. 10 to apologize for misleading him about his conversation with the Russian ambassador.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told MSNBC that Flynn “enjoy[s] the full confidence of the president.” An hour later, however, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus released a statement that said, “the president is evaluating the situation.”

Late Monday night, Mike Flynn resigned from his position as national security adviser. The retired lieutenant general released a letter of resignation in which he apologized to Trump and Pence.

"Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Flynn's letter read. “I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.”

Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said in an interview on “Good Morning America” that she “did not know” whether Trump and Pence were aware three weeks ago that Flynn had misled them about the phone calls initially after the Justice Department relayed its warning about Flynn to the White House counsel.

“I’m not here to say who knew what when because first of all that would be divulging information that is highly sensitive,” she said. “And, secondly, I don’t know all the details.”

Sean Spicer, in a White House press briefing, confirmed that the president asked for Flynn's resignation.

Spicer also said the White House counsel briefed the president on the DOJ's finding the same day the White House counsel was informed.

"The President was informed of this, he asked the White House counsel to review the situation. The first matter was whether there was a legal issue. We had to review that, whether there was a legal issue, which the White House counsel concluded there was not. As I stated in my comments, this was an act of trust. Whether or not he actually misled the Vice President was the issue."

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated when the DOJ told the White House counsel that Michael Flynn had misled them. It was Jan. 26, not Jan. 23.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Feb142017

Russian lawmakers cry foul over resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — Russian lawmakers have been reacting with outrage to the resignation of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn, calling it the result of American paranoia towards Moscow and a campaign by Trump’s opponents to damage relations between Russia and the United States.

Flynn resigned on Monday after it emerged that he misled White House officials about his discussions with Russia’s ambassador to Washington ahead of Trump’s inauguration.

In his resignation letter, Flynn said he had “inadvertently” briefed Vice President Mike Pence and others with “incomplete information” on calls with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Flynn came under fire for discussing U.S. sanctions on Russia with the ambassador back in December.

The Kremlin has confirmed the calls but denied the sanctions were mentioned.

A series of senior lawmakers in Moscow came to Flynn’s defense on Tuesday, saying he had been forced out for seeking dialogue with Russia.

“Even a readiness for dialogue is perceived by the hawks in Washington as thought-crime,” Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of Russia’s senate foreign affairs committee wrote in a post on his Facebook account.

“To force a national security adviser to resign for contacts with the Russian ambassador (a usual diplomatic practice) -— it’s not even paranoia but something immeasurably worse,” Kosachev wrote.

Flynn has garnered favor in Russia for his efforts to cooperate on terrorism, suggesting that the U.S. should seek to work together militarily with Moscow against the Islamic State in Syria.

Before joining Trump’s team, he traveled to Moscow in 2015 as a private citizen to speak at a conference hosted by RT, the Russian government-backed English language news channel, where he promoted closer cooperation.

Flynn’s attendance at the conference, where he was seated next to Putin, prompted critics to question his independence.

On Tuesday, president Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov called Flynn’s resignation “an internal affair” for America.

The controversy around Flynn came against a backdrop of confusion and suspicion around Trump’s relationship to Russia, even as the president has suggested he hopes to improve relations with Moscow.

A U.S. intelligence assessment released in January accused Putin of meddling in the U.S. election to undermine the democratic process. The report said the Russian interference showed a "clear preference," for Trump.

Prominent Russian government officials have celebrated Trump's election victory as a chance to rebuild relations and have derided the accusations of interference as a “red scare” effort to weaken Trump.

On Wednesday, several well-known Russian government figures derided Flynn’s resignation as more of the same anti-Russia provocations.

“Paranoia and a witch-hunt,” Aleksei Pushkov, a prominent Russian senator and television host, wrote on his Twitter account.

Kosachev, the Russian senate committee chairman, said Flynn’s resignation dampened hopes that Trump’s administration would be able to seek warmer relations with Moscow.

"Either Trump has not acquired the sought-for independence,” Kosachev wrote. “Or Russophobia has already permeated the new administration from top to bottom”.

Pushkov, known for his bombastic statements, went further, echoing a state media propaganda line. “The expulsion of Flynn was Act 1. The marked man now is Trump himself.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Feb142017

UK PM Theresa May rejects petition that would bar Trump from official state visit

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — British Prime Minister Theresa May formally rejected on Tuesday an online petition that called for President Donald Trump to be barred from making an official state visit to the U.K.

In its official response to the petition, the U.K.'s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it "recognizes the strong views" of the people who signed the petition, but added that Trump "should be extended the full courtesy of a state visit."

The petition amassed more than 1.8 million signatures as of Tuesday morning, arguing that a state visit by Trump "would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen."

The petition was launched before Trump announced his controversial executive order on immigration but it went viral and garnered the bulk of the signatures after news of the order emerged.

It is scheduled to be debated in the U.K.'s parliament on Feb. 20. As a part of British law, the parliament must consider debating an issue once it gains the support of at least 100,000 people.

May extended the invitation for a state visit to Trump during a Jan. 27 meeting at the White House.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb132017

UN Security Council condemns North Korea missile launch

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.N. Security Council "condemned" the recent ballistic missile launch by North Korea, calling it a "grave violation" of Pyongyang’s obligations, a statement said Monday.

The Council also called on member states to "redouble their efforts" to fully implement the measures imposed on North Korea in those resolutions.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley echoed those sentiments, calling on the Security Council to "hold North Korea accountable."

“We call on all members of the Security Council to use every available resource to make it clear to the North Korean regime – and its enablers – that these launches are unacceptable," Haley said in a statement. "It is time to hold North Korea accountable – not with our words, but with our actions.”

The statement did not elaborate as to what those actions entail.

In a statement, the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general condemned the missile launch, saying North Korea's action "is a further troubling violation of Security Council resolutions."

"The DPRK leadership must return to full compliance with its international obligations and to the path of denuclearization," the statement read. "The Secretary-General appeals to the international community to continue to address this situation in a united manner."

During a joint press conference Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Donald Trump spoke about North Korea briefly, calling the country "a big, big problem, and we will deal with that very strongly."

A U.S. official said the missile was a KN-11 sub-based missile. It has a maximum range of 1,400 nautical miles, but only traveled 310. Sunday marked the first time North Korea fired a solid-booster missile from land, the official said.

North Korea launched this type of missile last August from a water location, leading the government to claim a successful sub-launched missile test.

South Korea's acting president and prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, said his country will punish North Korea for the provocation.

The launch came only two days after Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and not to take any further provocative actions.

In a brief joint statement with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Saturday night, Abe called the missile launch "absolutely intolerable."

"North Korea must fully comply with the relevant UN security council resolutions," he said.

Abe, who spent the weekend with Trump in south Florida, said that he and the president were dedicated to working together and strengthening their alliance.

Trump echoed the Japanese prime minister, saying, "The United States of America stands behind Japan a great ally 100 percent, thank you." He gave no further remarks, and neither leaders answered questions from reporters.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb132017

US sanctions Venezuelan vice president over drug trafficking

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Venezuela's newly-appointed Vice President Tareck el-Aissami, accusing him of drug trafficking and money laundering and designating him as a "kingpin."

Companies in the U.S. will be unable to do business with Aissami under the new sanctions, according to a release from the Treasury Department, and his frontman Samark Lopez Bello. Both the vice president and Bello's U.S. assets were frozen, which included five companies based in Florida.

The release said the sanctions came after a multi-year investigation from the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

"This case highlights our continued focus on narcotics traffickers and those who help launder their illicit proceeds through the United States," OFAC Acting Director John Smith said. "Denying a safe haven for illicit assets in the United States and protecting the U.S. financial system from abuse remain top priorities of the Treasury Department.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb132017

A look at North Korea's missile launches and technology

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of North Korea's most recent ballistic missile test, the Pentagon is strongly condemning the North Korean program as "a clear grave threat to our national security."

North Korea has continued to test a variety of mid-range and long range ballistic missiles in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions barring the development of such technologies.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency described the missile launched Sunday as a Pukguksong-2 missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. While that claim cannot be proven, the test indicated that North Korea is making progress in using solid booster rockets to launch its newer missiles.

Though the missile was never determined to be a threat to the United States, Davis said the U.S. military has the means of defending itself and its allies from a North Korean missile threat.

Here is a look at North Korea's ballistic missile technologies and the progress they've made in recent years:

What was launched this weekend?

A U.S. official told ABC News that, this weekend, North Korea launched a solid rocket fueled KN-11 missile that is described as an intermediate range missile than can travel 1,400 nautical miles.

It was the first land-based test of a missile designed to be launched from a submarine. It was successfully tested in an underwater launch last year on Aug. 23, though not from a submarine.

According to the official, the KN-11 missile was airborne for 14 minutes on a vertical trajectory and a distance of 310 miles into the Sea of Japan.

The two successful launches indicate North Korea is making progress in developing solid rocket fuel technology, a more stable propellant than the liquid rocket fuel North Korea has used in its other medium and long-range missiles.

The use of solid rocket fuels means North Korea will need less time to prepare making it difficult for American satellites to track potential launches.

Improving Missile Technology

Early this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced that his country was close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). No such test has occurred yet, but the announcement marks North Korea's growing confidence in its missile programs. North Korea has stated publicly that its goal is to develop a miniaturized nuclear warhead small enough to be placed atop a ballistic missile capable of striking South Korea, Japan or the United States.

North Korea conducted 21 missile tests in 2016, the most significant being launch tests of the mobile launched Musudan mid-range missile and the KN-11 submarine launched missile.

The liquid fueled Mususdan was tested for the first time in 2016, but only one of eight launches was a success with the rest ending as spectacular failures.

The solid rocket fueled KN-11 is a missile designed to be launched from a submarine, but this weekend's test now shows the missile can also be launched from land. The success of the rocket fueled system advances North Korea's capabilities and could make future launches harder to detect.

The KN-08 and KN-14 missiles are larger mobile launched ICBM's potentially capable of reaching the continental United States, but North Korea has yet to test the missiles that have only been seen on parade in Pyongyang.

But North Korea has already demonstrated success in developing long-range rocket technology. Last February, the launch of an Unha 3 successful placed a satellite in orbit. American officials have said the satellite tests are used by North Korea to develop its long range ballistic capabilities.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb132017

Officials doubt claim ISIS leader wounded in strike but say hunt continues

Al-Furqan Media/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. officials and some of their Iraqi comrades in arms were skeptical of an official Iraqi military claim Monday that it had wounded ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an airstrike west of the capital Baghdad, but said that his days may yet be numbered.

American and Iraqi officials contacted by ABC News were in dispute over the strike Monday, with one Iraqi official claiming al-Baghdadi was in the targeted city of al-Qa'im, while most of the others voiced strong skepticism.

Numerous senior American counterterrorism officials made it clear they aren't uncorking champagne in celebration just yet, though some reiterated that al-Baghdadi is being aggressively hunted amid a stepped-up U.S.-led campaign in Mosul and may not survive for long.

"We don't have any information to corroborate it. Baghdadi is somebody we'd like to see meet his end but we've not had any info to corroborate," said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson. "It was their strike, they announced it."

ABC News reported on Jan. 20 that senior American military analysts believe the reclusive terrorist leader has been hunkered down in ISIS-occupied Mosul in northern Iraq since Iraqi government forces moved on the country's second-largest city last fall, and he has not visited the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria in months.

Raqqa itself is increasingly under pressure by the American-directed coalition of Kurdish and Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi government has claimed in the past that al-Baghdadi had been wounded or killed and the latest report centered on a weekend airstrike the Iraqi military said it had launched against ISIS leadership in al-Qa'im, a town in the western Iraqi governate of Anbar.

“The Falcons Intelligence Cell carried out an operation to target ISIS leaders in al-Qa’im, after the cell was able to track, through its sources, a convoy which was carrying the terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and some other leaders from Syrian territory into Iraqi territory in the Qa’im district," the Iraqi Army statement said.

The title of the official statement said al-Baghdadi was injured but the statement itself did not provide details beyond claiming that "13 terrorist leaders from ISIS were killed."

One Iraqi intelligence official, who requested anonymity, claimed the Saturday bombing wounded al-Baghdadi while he met with other ISIS commanders in a one-story house.

But other Iraqi intelligence officials told ABC News that al-Qa'im is far outside of areas he is known to have visited in the past year and another said the reports of his being wounded were "lies, part of psychological warfare. Over the past 72 hours there haven’t been any such operations by the Iraqi Air Force.”

Several U.S. intelligence agencies declined to make any official comment about the Iraqi military claims.

The Mosul offensive, in which the eastern half of the city has been liberated this year, is directed by the U.S. military. The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, and sometimes CIA, track targets and direct airstrikes in northern Syria and Iraq aimed at ISIS leadership and al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate.

Iraqi officials have claimed al-Baghdadi was wounded or killed in airstrikes numerous times over the past two years, only to have the self-proclaimed "Caliph," or leader of all Muslims, issue a statement or audio recording as he did last fall rallying followers to defend Mosul, which has been under a U.S.-led siege for months.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb132017

Israeli Prime Minister says he and President Trump see 'eye to eye'

GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Before boarding his plane to Washington D.C., Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on the tarmac in Tel Aviv that he and the new U.S. president see "eye to eye."

After three weeks of sending mixed messages, Netanyahu and President Trump will finally meet Wednesday.

"Trump and I see eye to eye on the dangers emanating from the region but also on the opportunities," Netanyahu said Monday. "And we'll talk about both.”

At first emboldened by the perceived friendlier tone from Washington after eight years of clashing with the Obama administration, Netanyahu may discover that the past three weeks are not necessarily representative of the next four years.

Since Trump took office on Jan. 20, Netanyahu has cranked settlement expansion into high gear, initially suggesting that the White House had given Israel the green light to build in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu announced the approval of more than 6,000 housing units in the first two weeks of Trump’s presidency, all of which the United Nations considers illegal.

But over the weekend, Trump spoke with right-wing Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, which is supported by Trump donor and Netanyahu patron Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas, appearing to soften his previously stated positions in support of settlements.

"No, I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace," Trump told the paper.

Still, Netanyahu struck an optimistic tone this week.

"We have known each other for years," he said of Trump Sunday before his weekly cabinet meeting. "I have navigated Israeli-U.S. relations in a prudent manner and I will continue to do so now."

Sensing opportunity, Netanyahu's right-wing coalition members have ramped up pressure in recent days to convince the prime minister to take a harder line with Trump, specifically on settlements and peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu's chief political rival and leader of the far right, pro-settlement Jewish Home Party, Neftali Bennett, has strongly advocated for annexation of the West Bank and publicly argued for Netanyahu to reverse his established support for the two-state solution when he meets with Trump Wednesday.

“If in their statements after the meeting they mention, for the first time in Trump’s term, their obligation to forming Palestine or two states in one way or another, we will all feel it in our flesh for years to come," Bennett posted on Facebook. "The earth will shake.”

Trump has voiced support for a peace deal, putting forth his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as the man for the job, but has offered few specifics.

Back on the tarmac Monday, Netanyahu reiterated that "the alliance between Israel and America has always been extremely strong and it's about to get even stronger."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb132017

Report suggests Russia tried to conceal airstrikes on Syrian hospitals

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new report released Monday provides fresh evidence that Russian and Syrian government forces repeatedly targeted hospitals in rebel-held areas of the Syrian city of Aleppo and shows Russian efforts to conceal the attacks.

Russian officials, from military officers up to the Kremlin's chief spokesman, have regularly denied the country's air force has ever targeted hospitals or bombed indiscriminately since Moscow entered Syria's civil war in earnest in 2015.

But the new analysis, which includes satellite images, eye-witness reports, CCTV footage, video and photographs from the ground and even some from Russia's own state media, undercuts those claims and weakens Moscow's arguments that its air campaign was conducted with restraint.

The 70-page report by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research center, represents one of the more comprehensive efforts to record the bombing visited on Aleppo as Syrian government forces, backed by Moscow, sought to retake it. It provides evidence that, alongside indiscriminate bombing, pro-government forces also used incendiary, cluster and chemical weapons.

Aleppo, now Syria's second largest city, became a byword for brutality last fall, as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an offensive against its rebel-held eastern half. Western governments accused Assad and Russia of committing war crimes there with indiscriminate bombing and siege tactics.

The last of the rebel fighters were evacuated from Aleppo in December of last year under a deal brokered with Russia, after pro-government forces re-took the city following months of constant bombardment. Tens of thousands fled the devastated rebel areas of the city as it fell. Reports have estimated that as many as 3,000 civilians were killed during the months of fighting.

Aid organizations and opposition groups on the ground at the time said Russia and Syria were deliberately targeting medical facilities in an effort to break rebels' resistance -- a practice outlawed by the Geneva Convention that, if proven, would constitute war crimes.

Russian and Syrian government officials have denied ever targeting hospitals. Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has said there is no truth to the claim.

"Those who make such statements are not capable of backing them up with proof," Peskov told reporters last February.

However, the Atlantic Council report states there is evidence that hospitals were repeatedly hit by powerful munitions over several months, most likely dropped from the air. The report matches closed-caption television footage from inside the hospitals with geo-located photos of damage outside, reconstructing the different strikes and allowing the investigators, the report says, to confirm the timeline of the bombings.

Syrian-American Medical Association figures in the reports show Aleppo's 15 clinics were struck repeatedly -- 73 times between June and October of 2016.

Assad also denied targeting hospitals, telling the BBC "as a government, we don't have a policy to destroy hospitals or schools or any such facility."

But the new report suggests the scale and indiscriminate nature of the attacks on hospitals indicates they were deliberately targeted. An analysis by a U.N. satellite research program shows more than 33,000 buildings were damaged in Aleppo, with the destruction mostly focused on the rebel-held eastern part of the city.

A Human Rights Watch comparison of satellite imagery of eastern Aleppo at the height of the siege between September and October of 2016 shows at least 950 new impact sites -- indicating enough strikes to suggest one blast every hour for a month. The report notes that the aerial campaign intensified once Russia entered the fight in 2015.

The report adds another layer of analysis from multiple sources familiar with the attacks on hospitals, building on previously available information from rights agencies. Much of the report was produced by Elliot Higgins, a senior researcher at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, who has become known for his work using open source materials, including video and commentary published on social media, to show up Russian efforts to conceal its involvement in eastern Ukraine.

His new report appears to catch the Russian military misrepresenting its own satellite imagery of a hospital bombing in Aleppo.

In October, Lt.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, presented satellite imagery at a news conference that he said showed an alleged series of attacks on Aleppo's al-Sakhur hospital between Sept. 28 and Oct. 3 had never taken place. Rudskoi showed images he said were taken between Sept. 24 and Oct. 11 showing "no change" to the hospital's exterior.

But satellite images covering Sept. 25 to Oct. 13, included in the Atlantic Council report and provided by the firm Digital Globe, show a large bomb-crater appearing next to the hospital, as well as damage to the hospital building, which appeared to confirm it had suffered attack. CCTV footage from Oct. 3 also showed a huge blast striking by the building.

The report also highlights at least two instances where Russia's own media efforts unintentionally revealed the use of illegal incendiary and cluster munitions. In one instance, the Russian state broadcaster, RT, inadvertently published a video of Russian warplanes appearing to be loaded with bombs marked as cluster weapons. The channel later published a new version of the video with those images edited out.

On another occasion, Russia's defense ministry released a photo of its troops entering an opposition area after Aleppo fell, supposedly to clear it of explosives left by rebels. The photo showed the Russian soldiers encountering a Russian cluster bomb, the Atlantic Council report notes.

Russian state media and pro-Kremlin commentators have aggressively sought to discredit such reports in the past, drawing attention to the fact that much of Western media reporting on the conflict has relied on information provided by groups inside opposition-held areas. That criticism has been acknowledged by some journalists from Western outlets, who have admitted discomfort at not being able to report directly from the city while receiving polarized information from both sides.

The Atlantic Council report acknowledged that the violence was far from limited to the government side, noting rebels also fired indiscriminately into civilian areas. But, the report notes, "there is little equivalence between the two sides when considering the scale and resources employed in the conflict."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 1786 Next 10 Entries »






ABC News Radio