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Western Governments Step Up Efforts to Block ISIS Recruits


Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Alarmed by the attempt by a 16-year-old French girl to travel to Turkey this weekend allegedly to join the Islamic militant army of ISIS, the French government is urging parents to call a toll-free hotline if they know of anyone they believe may be considering joining the terror group.

It was the latest attempt by Western governments to prevent their citizens from joining the jihadist group where they could be trained in terror tactics and bring those lethal strategies back home.

The French teenager was arrested Saturday in the Nice airport in the south of France as she tried to board a plane to Turkey with the alleged intention of joining ISIS in Syria. Authorities announced that several hours later, they caught a 20-year-old man who had allegedly recruited her and paid for her plane ticket. The girl's parents reportedly had no idea about their daughter's plans and the statement said that airport police were responsible for her arrest.

In a statement released Sunday, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on the parents of young people to use the hotline if their children exhibit "a disturbing trend of violent radicalization."

The hotline was established just over four months ago -- well before the threat posed by ISIS was fully understood by the American public -- and the Interior Ministry reports they have received almost 300 calls. A quarter of those calls were about children who were suspected of getting involved with the terrorist group and 45% were about suspicious women and girls. It is unclear how many of those calls led to arrests.

France is the Western country with the most citizens who have joined ISIS and militant fighters in Syria and Iraq. An estimated 700 French citizens have joined the cause, followed by 500 citizens of the United Kingdom who have come under similar suspicion.

Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at Parliament Monday calling for greater anti-terror legislation, including giving police the ability to seize passports at airports. He said that the measures will help address "specific gaps in our armory."

The proposed changes come three days after the British government increased their national terror threat level from "substantial" to "severe" for the first time in three years. The "severe" threat level is the second highest in the U.K.'s threat level system, topped only by "critical" which is used to indicate that an attack is "expected imminently."

U.S. security forces took a different approach when they realized there was a 19-year-old woman in Denver who was planning on traveling to Turkey to join a jihadist group after connecting with a 32-year-old Tunisian man.

The woman, Shannon Maureen Conley, had eight interviews with police and FBI agents over the course of the six months leading up to her arrest at Denver’s international airport on April 8 – and the charging document reveals that she repeatedly spoke about her support of jihad and how she wanted to associate with terrorists in the hope of helping them. The Justice Department confirmed on Aug. 11 that a plea deal had been reached in the case but they did not release any information about what the deal entailed.

The British push to have police take passports away from suspected jihadist fighters comes nearly two months after the Australian government began doing so.

"I've canceled a number of passports on the advice of intelligence agencies," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said June 16.

An estimated 150 Australians are believed to have joined the fighting in Syria.

"We are concerned that Australians are working with them [ISIS], becoming radicalized, learning the terrorist trade, and if they come back to Australia, of course it poses a security threat," Bishop said.

American authorities have not announced specific steps they have taken to prevent citizens from joining ISIS or other Islamic groups, though they have reported an estimated 100 or so cases of U.S. citizens leaving the country to train and fight with ISIS. Special attention is being paid to Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota as nearly a dozen of the suspects have ties to the city.

The White House confirmed the death in Syria of Minnesotan Douglas McAuthur McCain, who records show was born in Chicago but was schooled in Minneapolis. An opposition group in Syria, the Free Syrian Army, claimed McCain was fighting with ISIS. The FSA also claimed another American ISIS member had been killed in recent fighting.

FBI officers have been aware of disaffected Muslim youths traveling abroad to join radical groups for years, as many Minnesotans went to fight in Somalia starting in 2007.

"In Somalia, it started as a nationalistic call… [but] we've now seen where some individuals perhaps are not interested or not inclined to travel to Somalia, [they] start to branch out to other hot spots around the globe, obviously Syria being among them," Kyle Loven, the FBI's Chief Division Counsel in Minneapolis, told ABC News.

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Prince William and Kate Spotted in London Train Station


Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge appeared just like any other young parents returning home after a quick country trip away as they rushed through one of London's busiest train stations Friday.

William and Kate, both 32, caused a few double-takes as fellow travelers spotted them beneath the baseball caps they each paired with casual clothes while carrying their own bags through the rush-hour crowd at London’s Kings Cross station.

The Duke and Duchess were spotted traveling with their beloved dog, Lupo, but without their 1-year-old son, Prince George.

"It doesn't surprise me at all," said ABC News' royal contributor, Victoria Murphy, of the high-profile couple's low-profile means of travel. "I think that they are very keen to do things in the most efficient way and also in the most cost-effective way and I think that they want as little fuss as possible."

"They think like other people: What's the best way to get from A to B," Murphy said.

The royal couple was believed to be traveling home from Norfolk, the site of their country home, Anmer Hall, where they will be living when Prince William begins his new job as an ambulance helicopter pilot.

William and Kate were also spotted out together on a date night during their time away. The royals were reportedly seen walking hand-in-hand into a local pub that Prince William had driven his wife to himself.

Kate has reportedly been busy decorating Anmer Hall, a gift from the queen for William's 30th birthday, to make it a home fit for two future kings. The 10-bedroom mansion is based on the queen's 20,000-acre private Sandringham estate in Norfolk, close to the East Anglian Air Ambulance service, where Prince William will work.

The home is in the final stages of a two-year renovation, including a large conservatory for the family. It already includes a pool and tennis court and renovations are said to have reportedly added accommodations for protection officers and Prince George's nanny.

Prince William will begin a five-month training period for his Air Transport Pilot's license this month, the palace has said.


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Monday Marks Dark Anniversary in Russia


Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Monday marks one of the darkest anniversaries in Russia's recent history.

Ten years ago, on Sept. 1, 2004, a group of 32 pro-Chechen gunmen burst into School Number 1 in Beslan in the southern Russian republic of North Ossetia. They stormed the school during the "first bell" celebration marking the beginning of the school year.

More than 1,000 people – children and adults – were held hostage for three days: 334 of them were killed, most dying in a bloody gun battle when Russian special forces stormed the school gymnasium where the hostages were being kept, which the militants had littered with mines and bombs. More than 800 hostages were injured.

The hostage crisis in Beslan and the bungled rescue was a defining moment in Putin's war in southern Russia. The sole gunman who survived was jailed but spared the death penalty.

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US Launches Air Strikes, Drops Humanitarian Aid in Iraq


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States launched more airstrikes Saturday targeting ISIS militants.

Reportedly Australia, France, and the United Kingdom assisted the U.S. in delivering the international aid by dropping food and water to thousands who've been cut off by ISIS in the beleaguered Iraqi town of Amirli.

The Pentagon is saying that these strikes are specifically in support of the humanitarian mission and they will be limited in both there scope and duration.

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Sunday Marks 17 Years Since Princess Diana's Death


Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Sunday marks 17 years since Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris.

Princess Diana initially survived the Aug. 31, 1997, limousine crash, but later died from her injuries. Egyptian film producer Dodi Al-Fayed and the driver were also killed. A bodyguard was seriously injured.

French authorities investigating the crash found the driver had a high level of alcohol in his system when the crash happened. The paparazzi trailing Princess Diana was also scrutinized.

Thousands turned up for her funeral, held at Westminster Abbey.

Born Lady Diana Spencer, she became the Princess of Wales when she married Prince Charles in 1981. They had two children - Princes William and Harry - before they divorced in 1996.

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Locust Swarm Descends Upon Madagascar's Capital


iStock/Thinkstock(ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar) -- A swarm of millions of locusts descended upon Madagascar's capital of Antananarivo on Thursday, slowing traffic and blotting out the skies over the city.

Fully-formed clouds of the insects, which have plagued the African nation for more than two years, whizzed through the city's streets after an urban heat wave attracted the bugs away from their usual rural surroundings.

"It reminds us of the 10 plagues of Egypt," said Ronald Miller, a missionary working in Madagascar with his family.

The current plague began in April 2012, leading to a national disaster declaration in Madagascar in November of that year, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The island nation's government announced a three-year emergency plan in September 2013, when the locusts threatened food security of more than 13 million people, almost 60 percent of Madagascar's population.

FAO officer Annie Monard told Voice of America that the locust swarms in the city were caused by unusually high temperatures, not a new surge in the pest population. So far, the FAO and Madagascar's government have succeeded in controlling the pests in over 4,600 square miles of agricultural land. Madagascar's emergency plan will continue until 2016 and is expected to cost more than $41 million.

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Space Shuttle Discovery First Launched 30 Years Ago


Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Saturday marks 30 years since Space Shuttle Discovery's first launch.

Discovery, the third space shuttle to join NASA's fleet, left for its first mission on Aug. 30, 1984, to deploy three communication satellites.

Discovery finished more than 30 missions afterwards, including one to launch the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit in 1990 and a trip to the International Space Station in 2005. According to NASA, it received its name from several exploration ships, including one used to search for a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Discovery completed its final mission in 2011. It now resides at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

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UN Received Reassurance that Kidnapped Peacekeepers Are 'Safe and in Good Health'


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GOLAN HEIGHTS, Syria) -- The United Nations said on Friday that it had received assurances that the 44 peacekeepers kidnapped from their positions on Thursday are safe and in good health.

According to a statement from the U.N. spokesperson, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force has not had direct contact with the peacekeepers. They were informed, however, that the intention behind the holding of the peacekeepers was to remove them from an active battlefield for their own protection.

The UNDOF has been in contact with the other groups of peacekeepers who are being confined to their current positions and confirm that they have not been harmed.

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Sanctions Imposed on Six Companies Accused of Supporting Proliferation of Iran WMDs


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and his administration imposed new sanctions on six companies, including four based in Iran on Friday, citing their having engaged in activities that support Iranian weapons of mass destruction.

A statement from Caitlin Hayden, National Security Council spokesperson, noted that the companies and individuals sanctioned on Friday have supported terrorism or aided Iran's evasion of existing sanctions. The U.S. and its P5 1 partners will continue to work towards a solution, Hayden said, to ensure the Iranian nuclear program is "exclusively peaceful."

Among the companies sanctioned was the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which was started by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, considered the father of Iran's nuclear research program. He has been on the United Nations sanctions list for about six years. The company was created in 2011, and was not subject to sanctions until Friday.

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State Department Issues Updated Travel Warning for Ukraine


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. State Department issued an updated travel warning on Ukraine on Friday, citing the latest clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian military.

The memo from the State Department warns U.S. citizens that travel to eastern Ukraine is dangerous and that all travel to the area should be deferred. The warning covers both Crimea, which was annexed by Russia earlier this year, as well as the area near the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Americans who opt to remain in those regions are urged to keep a low profile and avoid large crowds and gatherings. because the situation in Ukraine is unpredictable, Americans should be prepared to remain indoors and sheltered for extended periods of time if clashes occur in their region.

Additionally, the State Department notes that U.S. government personnel have had their travel to the regions in question restricted, making it more difficult to respond to emergencies involving U.S. citizens.

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Four More Airstrikes Conducted by US Military Near Mosul Dam


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSUL, Iraq) -- U.S. fighter and attack aircraft were involved in four more airstrikes in the area of the Mosul Dam, the U.S. Central Command said on Friday.

The latest strikes bring the total since Aug. 8 to 110 within Iraq. The most recent strikes destroyed four armed vehicles and three support vehicles, while severely damaging another armed vehicle, all controlled by militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

As with other strikes conducted in Iraq in recent weeks, the U.S. military says it has acted to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces, as well as in the interest of protecting key infrastructure and U.S. interests in the region.

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Britain Raises Terror Threat Level to 'Severe'


Bethany Clarke - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The British government Friday raised the threat level for international terrorism to “severe,” indicating a terrorist attack is “highly likely” but based on intelligence not necessarily “imminent.”

U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May released a statement Friday saying the increased threat is “related to events in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West, and that some of those attacks are likely to involve fighters who have travelled from the U.K.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was the first time in three years the threat has been raised to such a level in the U.K.

“What we’re facing in Iraq now with ISIL is a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before,” Cameron said in an address to the nation, noting that the terrorist group, also known as ISIS for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has recruited hundreds of British citizens to its ranks.

Western security officials have been concerned for months that ISIS recruits with Western passports could travel to Syria and Iraq and then return home with deadly skills to wreak havoc.


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3 Million Refugees Have Fled Syria, UN Agency Says


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- More than 3 million people have sought refuge from the fighting in Syria, the United Nations’ refugee agency announced Friday.

That means the Syrian crisis, which has persisted since a civilian uprising began in 2011, is the biggest refugee operation in the UNHCR’s 64-year history, the agency said.

Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said the international effort to help Syrian refugees was insufficient to meet their growing needs and number.

“The world is failing to meet the needs of [Syrian] refugees and the countries hosting them,” Guterres said, adding that, while the response to the crisis has been generous, “the bitter truth is that it falls far short of what’s needed.”

In addition to the 3 million people who have sought shelter in neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, another 6.5 million refugees have been displaced within Syria, the agency said, adding that half of those people were children. The UNHCR concluded that almost half of the Syrian civilian population has had to leave its homes.

Not only are the refugees fleeing violence, but because they frequently bounce from village to village before finally leaving their home country, they arrive in neighboring countries in increasingly “shocking states[s],” according to a UNHCR statement.

“There are worrying signs too that the journey out of Syria is becoming tougher, with many people forced to pay bribes at armed checkpoints proliferating along the borders,” the statement said.

Long-term medical conditions, steep food and commodity prices and unemployment are also problems that Syrians are plagued with once they escape the areas of greatest danger, the UNHCR added.

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Whiskey Particles Stored on ISS Headed for Earth


NASA(NEW YORK) -- A Scottish distillery that enlisted the help of astronauts to develop whiskey particles on the International Space Station is now preparing for touchdown.

Ardbeg, a whiskey distillery in Scotland, partnered with a Houston-based space research company to launch some micro-compounds of their liquor into outer space in 2011.

According to the distillery's website, 20 vials of the unmatured whiskey particles were sent along with pieces of charred oak that they were treated with when they arrived at the International Space Station. The vials only contained microbes that will later be used to brew whiskey, rather than the liquor itself.

"This is indeed a research program to help us understand terpenes, which are the building blocks for flavorings, paints and yes, whiskey -- so to us, this is a very solid research project for a consumer-based company," Jeffrey Manber, the CEO of Houston-based company NanoRocks, told ABC News. "NASA approved the project since terpenes have never been grown in zero-gravity conditions."

If a difference is noted between the vials kept in zero gravity as compared to those in "control" vials in Scotland, the implications could lead well out of the liquor cabinet.

"The absence of gravity may well create a new generation of consumer products and help us understand materials, biologicals and products that are right here on Earth," Manber said.

Once the out-of-this-world particles return to Earth -- they are expected to land in Kazakhstan on Sept. 12 -- the vials will be shipped to Texas, where they will be compared to similar vials made in Scotland in 2011 to test what effect gravity had on the maturation process.

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Fort Hood Gunman Wants to Join ISIS


Bell County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people in a 2009 Fort Hood shooting, wrote a letter expressing interest in becoming a citizen of the Islamic State, his attorney told ABC News.

Hasan, a former major, wrote a two-page letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.

Hasan, a Muslim-American whose Palestinian-immigrant parents raised him in Virginia, has described himself as a “mujahedeen,” or Muslim holy warrior in carrying out his attack.

Hasan, 43, was sentenced to death after the Texas shooting and is on the military’s death row at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

News of Hasan’s letter comes days after Minnesota native Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, was said to have died while fighting with the brutal al Qaeda breakaway organization.

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