World News
Prince George Squeals With Delight Upon Meeting Bilby Named After Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

South Korea Ferry Captain in Custody as Divers Search for Survivors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Pakistani Journalist Targeted, Shot by Militants

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

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

Mir has been hospitalized and is expected to survive.

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Four French Journalists Freed After 10 Months of Captivity in Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Ukraine Suspends 'Anti-Terrorist Operation'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

US Assists in South Korean Ferry Search and Rescue Efforts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

After Secret Conviction, Marine Vet Sends Letter from Iranian Prison

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A former U.S. Marine accused by Iran of being a CIA spy pleaded his case to the Iranian leadership in a letter written from detention, a few days after he was sentenced in a secret court to 10 years in prison.

Arizona-born Amir Hekmati, who holds dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship, wrote directly to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, asking that his “judicial file not to be entangled with the historic diplomatic problems between two countries,” according to a translation by IranWire. “What I ask of you as an Iranian citizen, a compatriot, as someone who has been separated from his family for 30 months, is freedom from prison.”

In the letter Hekmati rejected all the charges against him and swore he did not collaborate with the U.S. government against Iran. A representative for the Hekmati family authenticated the letter and confirmed IranWire’s translation.

Hekmati disappeared in Iran in August 2011 while he was on a trip to visit his grandmother, his family said. Weeks later, Hekmati, then 28 years old, appeared on Iranian state television in December where he seemed to calmly “confess” to being a spy sent by the CIA to infiltrate Iranian intelligence.

Days after the Iranian broadcast, Amir Hekmati’s father, Ali, told ABC News that the accusations against his son were a “bunch of lies.”

“My son is no spy. He is innocent. He’s a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man,” the elder Hekmati said.

Service records provided to ABC News in December 2011 show Hekmati enlisted in the Marines after graduating high school in Flint, Mich., in 2001 and joined the infantry, completing basic training at Camp Pendleton in California. He briefly attended the Defense Language Institute for the Marines in Monterey, Calif., and his father told ABC News he worked as a translator, but records show Hekmati was officially a rifleman only. A Marine spokesperson said it was possible he could have served as a translator for his Marine unit in a more informal capacity.

Hekmati said in his letter to Zarif that he worked as an Arabic translator with the U.S. military and it had nothing to do with Iran. He never had any military intelligence training, records show.

In his letter, Hekmati said he had then planned to pursue a graduate degree in economics in the U.S. – plans interrupted by his arrest.

In early January 2012, the Iranian government sentenced Hekmati to death. At the time, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said it ‘strongly condemn[ed] this verdict” and said allegations the Hekmati worked for the CIA or was sent to Iran by the agency were “simply untrue.”

“The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said then.

Iran later overturned the sentence. The case was then in limbo for months until last week when Hekmati’s lawyer said his client had been convicted again after deliberations in a secret court and given 10 years in prison.

The Hekmati family said they took the news with a “very heavy heart” and said the conviction is “unsettling specifically because Amir was born and raised in the United States and committed no crime, choosing only to visit Iran to spend time with his ailing grandmother.”

“The Hekmati family respectfully asks senior Iranian officials to review Amir’s conviction, and to resolve this grave misunderstanding by granting Amir his freedom and a safe return home,” a family statement posted online says. “Despite these afflictions, Amir’s family continues to show faith in God that after this hardship will come ease… Our family’s love and resolve is emboldened by a diverse and growing global community of support that believes in justice, freedom and humanity.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

World’s Tallest Building Set for Construction in Saudi Arabia

iStock/Thinkstock(JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia) -- Construction for the world’s tallest skyscraper is set to start next week in Saudi Arabia, according to local media.

The Kingdom tower will measure 3,280 feet when completed, which stretches 568 feet taller than the current Guinness World Record holder for tallest man-made construction, the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, The Saudi Gazette reported.

The finished structure will reportedly be 200 floors high and requires around 5.7 million square feet of concrete and 80,000 tonnes of steel to build, at a cost of roughly $1.23 billion.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Powerful Earthquake Shakes Central Mexico

iStock/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) -- A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on Friday morning, sending people streaming out of high-rise buildings and into the streets for safety.

The earthquake was felt strongly in the resort city of Acapulco where many Mexicans are on Easter vacation.

It was also felt in the capital, Mexico City, but local reports indicated there was no major damage.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Prosecutors Seek Arrest Warrant for Ferry Captain

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Divers entered the doomed Sewol ferry in waters off South Korea’s coast Friday, hoping to find additional survivors as prosecutors seek an arrest warrant for the ship’s captain and two crew members.

West Maritime Police told ABC News that the captain -- identified as Lee Joon-seok, 68 -- left the bridge before the vessel sank on Wednesday, leaving the steering and command to the ship’s third mate, someone with just over a year’s worth of experience.

Transcripts of a ship-to-shore exchange and crew member accounts show that the captain delayed the evacuation for half an hour after a South Korean transportation official told the ship it might have to evacuate.

As the ferry tilted before its watery descent, the passengers were told to put on life jackets and stay where they were. Some of them huddled together. That’s how search crews found several bodies on Friday, some of the 28 confirmed dead. The death toll is expected to rise much higher.

Coast Guard officials say 268 of the ferry’s 475 passengers remain missing. Most of the missing -- 239 -- were students on a class trip from Danwon High School.

The school, located in Ansan, near Seoul, has become a place of grieving. Relatives waited inside the school’s gym as authorities arrived, sharing dreadful updates -- another body discovered, another young life cut short.

A vice principal at the school was found dead on Friday, hanging from a pine tree near the gym, authorities told ABC News. He was a passenger on the ship, one of the survivors.

Strong currents and rain hampered Friday’s rescue efforts. Rescue crews pumped compressed oxygen into the ship Friday, in the desperate hope that someone needs it.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Avalanche Strikes Mount Everest, Killing 12 Sherpa Guides

Vividus/Thinkstock(KATMANDU, Nepal) -- At least 12 Sherpa guides were killed after an avalanche struck Mount Everest Friday morning. The incident is being billed as the deadliest day ever on the world's highest mountain.

Australian climber Gavin Turner, who witnessed the avalanche, said the snowslide "came out of nowhere," comparing the fallout to a war zone.

“Without warning, a large chunk of ice broke loose,” Turner told ABC News. “There were a few seconds of panic where I thought this is going to collect us.”

Turner was on his first climb through the Khumbu Icefall, southwest of the summit in the Himalayas in Nepal, when the avalanche occurred. A cloud of snow and dust enveloped the area, followed by a huge thud, he said.

He was OK, but people located higher -- identified as Nepalese Sherpa guides -- were covered by mounds of ice and snow. Four of the guides remain missing.

“These expeditions wouldn’t happen without them. They’re the backbone of all the organizations up here,” he said. “Without the Sherpas, it just wouldn’t happen.”

Search and rescue efforts are currently underway and three helicopters have been dispatched to the area, Mohan Krishna Sapkota, a spokesman for Nepal's tourism ministry, told the BBC.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Huge Orangutan Mellows Out in Surgery

SUTANTA ADITYA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- They might need a bigger operating table.

An Indonesian vet removed gun pellet shrapnel from a 14-year-old male orangutan reportedly rescued in Sumatra this week after it was shot by poachers.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry works with orangutan rescue groups in the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, the only two locations where the endangered primates still live in the wild.

The species’ biggest threats are habitat loss and the illegal pet trade, according to the Sumatran Orangutan Society.

Indonesia is rapidly losing forest space as palm oil plantations expand, and illegal trade of orangutans, particularly babies, continues to thrive, according to the group.

Orangutans are also hunted for their meat or to prevent damage to crops.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dies at 87

YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a pioneering author who popularized the genre "magical realism" through such novels as 100 Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, has died. He was 87.

The Nobel Prize winner, known affectionately to fans and admirers as "Gabo," died Thursday in his Mexico City home, after recently being hospitalized for lung and urinary tract infections.

A Colombia native, Marquez gained worldwide fame and recognition for his work that blended elements of the fantastical and real to create works of literature that sold millions of copies in numerous languages across the globe.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Earth Meet Earth II?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Earth, welcome to your sort of doppelganger.

Kepler-186f is the latest discovery to excite astronomers since it seems to have the same characteristics of our world. And it's only 500 light years away with each light year being the equivalent of six trillion miles.

Spotted by the Kepler space telescope, scientists are calling Kepler-186f a "Goldilocks" planet, that is, it's neither too hot nor too cold and thus might actually be able to sustain life.

Lead researcher Elisa Quintana of NASA’s Ames Research Center said at a news conference Thursday that Kepler-186f "is special because we already know that a planet of this size and in the habitable zone is capable of supporting life as we know it."

About 10 percent larger than Earth, Quintana says it's more like a cousin than twin because it revolves around a smaller star, meaning a year lasts only 130 days.

Also, there's probably a lot more carbon dioxide than Earth so breathing without a helmet might pose a bit of a problem should we ever wind up there.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Anti-Semitic Leaflets in Ukraine Raise Suspicions

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The reports circulated like wildfire: fliers surfacing in the eastern Ukrainian town of Donetsk ordering Jews there to register with the local government or face deportation.

U.S. officials quickly condemned the leaflets, with Secretary of State John Kerry mentioning it at the beginning of his remarks in Geneva, Switzerland, after emerging from an eight-hour meeting on the situation in Ukraine.

There is a concerted disinformation campaign going on, with all sides of the conflict trying to paint the other as extreme. But it’s not clear where the leaflets came from and how many were distributed. Still, the reports raised an outcry.

“This is not just intolerable, it’s grotesque. It’s beyond unacceptable. And any of the people who engaged in these kinds of activities, from whatever party or ideology or whatever place they crawled out of, there is no place for that,” Kerry said.

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, added on CNN, “It’s chilling. I was disgusted by these leaflets.”

“Reports of Jews being forced to register by pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine are chilling, outrageous and must be universally condemned,” Ben Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser, tweeted.

The Russian government has previously floated the specter of anti-Semitism in eastern Ukraine and Crimea as one of the reasons why its intervention in the region was necessary. And there have also been isolated incidents of various types of religious intolerance throughout Ukraine.

“I don’t have more details on where the leaflets are coming from, but I know we’re looking into it,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said shortly after Kerry spoke, adding that the United States would take any instance of anti-Semitism in Ukraine seriously even if, as one reporter put it, “it turned out that it’s just some dude running around with a mimeograph machine throwing these leaflets around.”

Representatives of three separate Jewish organizations in Donetsk told ABC News that they didn’t even know whether the flyers existed beyond images that appeared on news sites.

"Just let us live normally, we live normally, we have a normal life," an exasperated member of one of the Jewish groups said.

Reporters from the Daily Beast visited the room in the government building where Jews were told by the pamphlet to go to register, and found it empty.

Even still, rumors of the leaflets were enough to elicit responses from members of Congress, like Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

“I urge you to do everything possible to ensure that Jewish and other minority communities throughout the country are protected from any form of prejudice,” Lowey wrote in a letter to Kerry.

And the word “Jews” quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.

But even if the flyers do not represent the official policy of what pro-Russian activists now call the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” U.S. government officials and Jewish groups remained vocal in their condemnation of anti-Semitism in any form, organized or otherwise.

“The ADL today condemned the appearance of anti-Semitic fliers in Donetsk, Ukraine, and called on all parties involved in the political conflicts in Ukraine to refrain from ‘cynical and politically manipulative’ exploitation of anti-Semitism,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, in a statement to Mashable.

“We are skeptical about the flier’s authenticity, but the instructions clearly recall the Nazi era and have the effect of intimidating the local Jewish community,” he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio