File photo. Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images(IRBIL, Iraq) -- A car bomb exploded Friday just outside the U.S. consulate in Irbil, Iraq.
It's unclear how many people may have been injured or killed, but local reports from northern Iraq say some foreigners were injured.
The State Department says all American personnel have been accounted for.
"A vehicle-born improvised explosive device (VBIED) was detonated directly outside an entry point on the perimeter of the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, Iraq on April 17," a senior State Department said in a statement provided to ABC News. "All Chief of Mission personnel have been accounted for and there are no reports of injuries to Chief of Mission personnel or local guards."
The official said local security forces have responded to the scene and are securing the area.
OLIVER BERG/AFP/Getty Images(COLOGNE, Germany) -- Hundreds gathered Friday in an emotional memorial service for those who perished in the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash last month.
Most of those who died on Flight 9525 were Germans or Spaniards, and in their honor, candles were lit to honor each victim in the cathedral.
The tearful service, which included German politicians and family members, was carried live on German television.
Lufthansa, the parent airline of Germanwings, took out full-page ads in many of Germany's leading newspapers on Friday expressing sympathy. Flags were also ordered flown at half-staff around the country.
Prosecutors have said co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps on the way from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, killing all 150 aboard. Authorities continue to investigate Lubitz’s actions.
Getty Images(ROME) -- Pope Francis may soon give a further boost to U.S.-Cuban relations.
Citing a person familiar with the situation, The Wall Street Journal reports the pope is considering making a stop in in Cuba in September as part of his trip to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. The Vatican says nothing is confirmed yet.
Pope Francis played a major role in helping to broker a deal to renew relations between the two countries last December, with a groundbreaking meeting taking place at the Vatican just weeks before the deal was announced.
If the pope does make it Cuba, it will be a third papal visit to the country.
Best Buddies(BOSTON) -- Alosha O'Brien was born perfectly healthy, but after living through the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster when he was nearly 2, his body didn't grow properly, and he developed disabilities.
Now 30 and living with his adoptive family in the United States since leaving Ukraine, O'Brien mostly gets around with the help of crutches or a wheel chair. He never could have guessed that he would be preparing for his second Boston Marathon, where he'll be pushed in a specially designed wheelchair by Craig Welton, the Massachusetts director of Best Buddies International, a nonprofit working to give opportunities to people with disabilities.
"Your dreams can be true," O'Brien told ABC News. "You have to believe instead of always thinking negatively. There are people around the world, so many, that are nice."
O'Brien's chair was specially designed for him by Team Hoyt, the father-son team that became a fixture at the Boston Marathon after running it more than 30 times, including last year. Dick Hoyt pushed his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy, for the first time in 1977.
To O'Brien, the Hoyts are celebrities, he said.
"They are just inspiring at what they do," O'Brien said, adding that he met them last year. "To me, they're amazing."
O'Brien, who is often approached by strangers who know his name, has become a celebrity in his own right, but he said Welton is the real hero.
"It's not the easiest to run 26.2 miles, especially pushing a chair," he said. "He’s a great guy because... he can make things happen and believes that yes, you can do it. And there's no answer that you can't."
Welton told ABC News the two of them have run three marathons together so far because they needed to qualify for each Boston Marathon. They talk the whole time, and O'Brien plays music from his iPod on speakers attached to the chair. The first time they approached a big hill, Welton said he'll never forget when O'Brien changed the song to "Eye of the Tiger."
"It was hysterical," he said. "Everyone running around us is just laughing. It made it easier for all the other runners."
Welton said the race is a great opportunity for O'Brian to show the world that being different isn't a bad thing. "He's a great example of what people with disabilities are capable of doing if given the opportunity," he said.
ABC News/Rob Wallace(ISTANBUL) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned Friday that the conflict in his country is not limited to its borders and Europe should prepare for potential terror attacks.
Speaking with Swedish television from the Syrian capital Damascus, al-Assad issued an ominous prediction.
"As long as the backyard of Europe, especially the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, is in chaos and full of terrorists, Europe cannot be safe," he said.
Al-Assad also criticized European officials for their supposed admiration of Saudi Arabia and Qatar "just for their money."
His remarks follow a report that the death toll from fighting in Syria has exceeded 220,000.
The violence there began shortly after March 2011 demonstrations that evolved into armed revolt against Syrian regime forces. Since then, the emergence of hardline extremist groups like the Islamic State and Al Nusra Front have taken over large portions of the country.
ABC News(LONDON) -- For three decades, the world has been transfixed by little royal boys in line for the British throne -- beginning with the duo of Princes Wiliam and Harry and most recently continuing to William’s first-born, Prince George.
As Prince William, 32, and his wife, Duchess Kate, 33, prepare to welcome their second child, there is a resounding question: Could this little royal at last be a girl?
“People love George but let’s face it, there’s nothing like a princess in a dress,” said ABC News’ royal contributor Victoria Murphy. "I think if it’s a girl it’s a much bigger story.”
In London, the great Kate wait is in full swing.
The barriers have been put up at the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital, where the Duchess of Cambridge is expected to soon welcome her second child and the fourth-in-line to the British throne. Media pens were installed Thursday outside the hospital and the Palace has marked off the spots for major media organizations.
Royal insiders insist William and Kate do not know if the baby is a girl or a boy.
Bookies in London taking bets on royal baby names have posted odds that the new royal sibling will be a girl called Alice at 5-4. Elizabeth and Charlotte are second at 6-1. Victoria and the sentimental favorite Diana, in memory of the baby’s late grandmother, come in at 14-1. The name Alexandra has dropped to 16-1
Among the name favorites for a boy, Arthur and James now topping the betting lists at U.K-based betting company Ladbrokes at 20-1. Phillip and Henry, the proper name of the baby’s uncle, Prince Harry, are not far behind at 25-1.
Even more exciting are the 7-1 odds from the William Hill betting agency that the royal baby bundle of joy will be born this weekend. Duchess Kate has said only that she is due sometime between now and the end of April.
If the royal baby comes later this month, he or she could share a birthday with the Queen -- who turns 89 on April 21 -- or arrive on its parents’ fourth wedding anniversary, April 29.
@AstroTerry/Twitter/NASA(NEW YORK) -- How appropriate that the SpaceX Dragon would arrive Friday morning, with the first-ever espresso machine in space.
Now, the astronauts just have to unpack the cargo to find it.
More than 4,000 pounds of groceries, supplies and science experiments are on board the capsule, which blasted off Tuesday for the International Space Station.
The capsule was captured with the International Space Station's robotic arm at 6:55 a.m. EDT as the station orbited 257 miles over the Pacific Ocean, just east of Japan. Astronauts live on Greenwich Mean Time, meaning Dragon arrived just before noon.
After the cargo is unloaded, Dragon will remain berthed at the International Space Station until around May 21, at which point it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean and will be recovered for use in future runs to the International Space Station.
File photo. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images(BAGHDAD) — An Iraqi official says more than 2,000 families have fled the city of Ramadi to escape Islamic State militants who are advancing on the provincial capital of western Anbar province.
Those families are now settling on the outskirts of nearby Baghdad.
ISIS fighters have seized several villages around Ramadi in recent days, but Iraqi military officials say their forces still control the center of the city.
The extremist group has controlled the nearby city of Fallujah for more than a year.
Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey said Thursday that Iraq “has made gains” against the militant group.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday defended his decision to sell a long-range missile defense system to Iran and continued to insist there are no Russian troops in Ukraine.
During his annual marathon phone-in, where ordinary Russians have the chance to ask their president to help solve their problems, Putin explained his decision to allow the delivery of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, saying there was no reason for Russia to not complete the sale of the S300 missiles now that a framework for a nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers was agreed to last week.
On the subject of Ukraine, Putin blamed the Ukrainian government for failing to find a peaceful way out of the conflict and accused it of installing an economic blockade on the regions occupied by pro-Russian rebels.
Putin also flatly denied there were Russian troops in Eastern Ukraine, despite strong evidence to the contrary.
State Department spokesperson Marie Harf says the U.S. knows that is simply not true. “I think we know as of early April that Russian military forces continue to operate in Eastern Ukraine. This isn't just our word for it. There are pictures. There is evidence out there,” Harf said.
Obtained by ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday perpetrators of human rights abuses among his security forces and Shi'a militia allies will be “held accountable,” but he offered no evidence that any of Baghdad's fighters guilty of ISIS-like atrocities have yet been brought to justice.
"We must continue to crack down on the abuses and excesses of a small minority of fighters that stand in dire opposition to the government's clear policies. We are investigating all of these allegations of criminal conduct," Abadi said in a speech before an audience that included many from Washington's national security braintrust.
Appearing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Iraqi leader -- himself a Shi'a Muslim -- insisted that he will strive to end sectarian fighting between Shi'as and Sunnis, in part by arresting those accused of war crimes, but he offered no examples.
"Once corroborated, people involved are held accountable and prosecuted with the fullest weight of the law. Let me be clear. Let me be as clear as I can on this. Our government's priority on this is reducing ethnic, secretariat tensions and divisions in Iraq," Abadi said.
Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, spokesman for the Iraqi military, said in February that Baghdad would investigate dozens of photos and videos found on social media sites by ABC News in a six-month investigation. The horrifying imagery depicted men who appeared to be from the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces, Special Forces and Interior Ministry counter-terrorism units committing what many experts called war crimes, such as beheadings, torturing detainees and summarily executing prisoners -- including, in one case, a young boy gunned down in cold blood.
In response to requests by ABC News about the results or status of the Iraqi investigation, Gen. Maan this week again promised an "update" without offering any details or timelines.
Asked on Thursday if he'd be willing to refer any war crimes cases involving militias to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Abadi replied, "Well, I think we have a good Iraqi justice system and I'm already referring some of these to the Iraqi justice system."
The Iraqi leader also appeared dismissive of the exit from Baghdad of Reuters bureau chief Ned Parker, a veteran of 12 years of Iraq war coverage who left after Shi'a paramilitaries threatened to kill correspondents from the news agency who reported this month witnessing the mob execution of an ISIS prisoner by national police in Tikrit.
"Now I'm not sure if Mr. Parker -- why he has left, to be honest with you," Abadi said. "I cannot see why he left. Was he really threatened? Or, he felt he was threatened?"
Among those in the audience was Parker's wife, Erin Evers, who has been the lead war crimes investigator inside Iraq for Human Rights Watch.
Abadi is in Washington to request further military support from President Obama and Congress in the fight against ISIS.
The issue of increased military aid to Iraq has been thorny because the Pentagon disclosed to ABC News in March that "certain units" of the Iraqi Security Forces had been barred since last summer from receiving aid such as weapons and training because a federal law, known as the Leahy Law, prevented it on the grounds of "credible information" of gross human rights violations "in the past."
Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters on Thursday that the U.S. is “continuing to watch” reports of abuse, specifically emerging from Tikrit, but said so far, “there is no evidence of widespread activity.”
Speaking of the Leahy Law, Dempsey said that should the Iraqi investigations “reveal that a particular part of either the Iraqi security forces or the popular mobilization force [militias] did not behave appro[priately], we would not support it.”
iStock/Thinkstock(DJIBOUTI) -- Fifty-nine American citizens docked at the Djibouti Port Thursday -- the largest group yet of American evacuees from Yemen to arrive there, according to the U.S. Embassy.
The Indian Navy Vessel carrying 403 people, was sturdier than most boats that arrive from Yemen, but those disembarking recall a harrowing 16-hour trip.
“It was terrible!” says Rashad, an American citizen traveling with his wife, Summer, and their two young children.
Men were crammed on the upper deck and women below, passengers say.
Americans, who made their way down the gang plank first, were handed a bottle of water as they turned in their passports to immigration and U.S. Ambassador Tom Kelly and his staff greeted each and every American citizen off the boat.
Assuming the visa process goes smoothly, families told ABC News they’re planning to head stateside, from McLean, Virginia, to Fresno, California.
Taronga Zoo(SYDNEY) -- A baby echidna, after being seriously injured when a bulldozer dug up its burrow, is making an impressive recovery, according to the Taronga Zoo in Australia.
Zookeepers believe the echidna, also known as a puggle, was two months old at the time of its rescue. It needed weeks of antibiotic treatment and a temperature-controlled artificial burrow to sleep in, the zoo said in a statement.
Taronga Keeper Samantha Elton has had to feed the puggle from the palm of her hand so it can lap up the food as it would do in the wild. Echidnas don’t have teats like most mammals but patches on their abdomen that excrete milk.
The puggle has been named Newman after the Seinfeld character.
Elton, who has been serving as the surrogate mother for Newman, said in the statement that “it is still quite small for its age, but it has almost doubled in size since February and the wound has healed perfectly.”
OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW)— Three million Russians tried to call Vladimir Putin Thursday for his annual marathon phone-in, where ordinary Russians have the chance to ask their president to help solve their problems.
This year was maybe more remarkable for the odd questions and favors Russians asked him than for his bullish comments on international politics. While some of the questions dealt with big issues like Russia’s isolation in the world over the Ukraine crisis most callers were concerned with problems closer to home -- in particular the economy, which has been battered by Western sanctions and falling oil prices.
After a solid 20 minutes of mostly statistics, in which Putin reeled off lists of stats for Russian oil production, agricultural production and then life-expectancy -- all of which were up, he said -- the mic was thrown to the audience and the questioning began.
Why hasn’t the government kept the price of apples down?
Would you like to be the head of the UN?
A 4-year old girl asked Putin, “Is it hard being president? How many hours do you sleep a night? Because actually I do love to sleep.”
As is usual, many ordinary callers had favors to ask. Elena wanted to buy her friend a dog for her birthday but her friend’s husband, Boris, was against it. Elena asked that Putin intervene to persuade Boris, a former police colonel, to let her friend have the dog.
Putin laughed and said it put him in a difficult position but suggested perhaps he could help arrange a meeting where Boris could be convinced.
One of the stranger exchanges came early when the mic was given to John, an English man who had run his own dairy farm in Russia for the past 25 years. Wearing a Russian Orthodox beard and a green ‘70s shirt, John pressed Putin on why there was so little state support for small farmers.
Before getting into it, Putin asked how John had ended up in Russia? “Cherchez la femme,” Putin inquired using the proverbial French phrase meaning “to chase women.” John replied, “I don’t speak French.” It turned out John was married to a Russian woman. John appears to have been the first foreigner ever to ask a question in the phone-ins.
The call-in is in large part a way for Putin to show his interest in the life of the ordinary man. He takes notes throughout, asking people’s names, assuring them their problems will be solved. It’s a uniquely Russian event, recalling when poor Russians would write letters to the Tsar asking for him to personally intervene to help them.
At one point, the anchor showed Putin the picture of a squalid house where an 85 year-old veteran was living. Putin took the picture with the woman’s details and said he would deal with it.
There was still time for Putin to make some typically pugnacious comments on foreign policy, with some sharp words reserved for the U.S.
“The U.S. doesn’t need allies, but vassals,” Putin said. “Russia cannot exist in this system of relations.” He accused the U.S. of acting like the Soviet Union by imposing its social model on Eastern Europe.
But he held back from declaring the United States or other Western countries to be Russia’s enemies, avoiding the question when one of the anchors bluntly asked who Russia’s enemies were.
“We don’t consider anyone to be our enemy,” Putin said. “And we don’t recommend that anyone consider us to be.”
Putin also talked at length about Ukraine, blaming the Ukrainian government for failing to find a peaceful way out of the conflict and accusing them of installing an economic blockade on the regions occupied by pro-Russian rebels. He also flatly denied there were Russian troops in Eastern Ukraine, despite strong evidence to the contrary.
The Russian leader also explained his decision to allow the delivery of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, which has angered the U.S. and Israel, saying that there was no reason for Russia to not complete the sale of the S300 missiles following the deal struck two weeks ago between the U.S. and Iran in Switzerland.
The phone-in lasted for four hours in the end, short of the record four and a half Putin has done previously. But the three million callers were by far the most the show has ever received, reflecting how many Russians believe their president can solve their problems if only he knew of them.
One caller asked Putin whether he would like to be cloned, because he was the only official people trusted. Putin said "no."