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pawel.gaul/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A new report finds that a small number of U.S. airstrikes in Somalia killed 14 civilians and injured eight, despite assurances from the U.S. military that its strikes have caused no civilian casualties and only targeted the al-Shabaab militant group that controls territory in that country.

The report by Amnesty International said the incidents investigated "may have violated international humanitarian law and could, in some cases, constitute war crimes."

Amnesty International chose to investigate four U.S. incidents in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region and a fifth incident the organization claims was "most plausibly caused by a U.S. airstrike" that took place between 2017 and 2019. The strikes represent only a small fraction of the more than 100 American airstrikes that have taken place in that country in the last several years.

In its review of the five incidents, Amnesty International alleges 14 civilians were killed either because they were near a U.S. target, like a vehicle, or mistakenly identified as al-Shabaab. The organization interviewed 65 witnesses and survivors from the five incidents, as well as 77 additional individuals connected to other alleged U.S. strikes not detailed in the report.

"In addition to this first-hand testimony, the report draws on several types of evidence, including analysis of satellite imagery and data, photographic material, interviews with government officials, medical personnel and other experts, and an open-source investigation including analysis of traditional and social media, academic articles, and reports from NGOs and international bodies," Amnesty International said.

Still, the group acknowledged that "security concerns and access restrictions" limited their investigation.

In a statement provided to ABC News, U.S. Africa Command said the report "does not accurately reflect AFRICOM's record in mitigating civilian casualties," adding that assessments of civilian casualty allegations submitted by Amnesty International found "no AFRICOM airstrike resulted in any civilian casualty or injury."

"Our assessments are based on post-strike analysis using intelligence methods not available to non-military organizations," AFRICOM said.

Beyond these five incidents, Amnesty International's report highlights that the pace of the U.S. air war in Somalia has escalated under the Trump administration -- a sharp contrast to the president's vocal desire to pull back America's military commitment from places like Syria and Afghanistan.

The number of strikes increased from 35 in 2017 to 47 in 2018 and stands at 28 over the first three months of 2019. In its releases, AFRICOM said strikes this year have killed about 241 al-Shabaab militants, with no civilian casualties.

The U.S. has been using drones to strike "high-value targets" in Somalia since 2011, but when Trump entered office in 2017 he issued a directive that allowed for offensive capabilities and designated parts of Somalia an "area of active hostilities," which Amnesty International said weakened protections afforded to Somali civilians.

Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, who served as the commander of Special Operations Command Africa from April 2015 until June 2017, told Amnesty International that Trump's directive allowed for "all military-aged males observed with known al-Shabaab members in specific areas" to be considered legitimate military targets -- possibly a violation of international humanitarian and U.S. law, the group said.

AFRICOM disputed Bolduc's assertion, telling Amnesty International it did "not accurately reflect the targeting standards of AFRICOM or [the Department of Defense]." In the statement to ABC News, AFRICOM added that it "complies with the law of armed conflict and takes all feasible precautions to minimize civilian casualties and other collateral damage."

There are currently about 6,000 American troops throughout Africa who mainly help to train local forces or partner in exercises, with about 4,000 of them stationed in Djibouti, a strategic country in the Horn of Africa.

The Pentagon is planning a 10 percent reduction of U.S. troops across the African continent, but those cuts likely won't impact counterterrorism operations in Somalia, where the U.S. has about 500 troops.

AFRICOM's Commander Gen. Thomas Waldhauser conceded last month in testimony before Congress that U.S. strikes would ultimately not defeat al-Shabaab.

"... At the end of the day, these strikes are not going to defeat al-Shabab, but they are going to provide the opportunity for the federal government and the Somalian National Army to grow and assume the security of the country," Waldhauser told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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MicroStockHub/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump Jr. has weighed into the political battle over the United Kingdom's looming departure from the European Union, writing that Prime Minister Theresa May "should have followed my father's advice."

In an op-ed piece published Wednesday in the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph newspaper, the president's eldest son warned that "democracy in the U.K. is all but dead," and criticized "elites" whom he argued were trying to frustrate the will of British voters.

"In a way, you could say that Brexit and my father's election are one and the same -- the people of both the U.K. and the U.S. voted to uproot the establishment for the sake of individual freedom and independence, only to see the establishment try to silence their voices and overturn their mandates," Trump Jr. wrote.

Trump Jr. also rebuked May, saying her failure to heed his father's counsel resulted in "a process that should have taken only a few short months [becoming] a years-long stalemate, leaving the British people in limbo."

President Donald Trump has made comments supporting Brexit since before the 2016 referendum and has since criticized May's negotiating tactics.

"I'm surprised at how badly it's all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation," Trump told reporters at the White House on March 14. "But I gave the prime minister my ideas on how to negotiate it. And I think you would've been successful. She didn't listen to that."

Trump Jr. was a member of his father's 2016 campaign staff, but he holds no position in the administration. However, a public rebuke of a key ally from a member of a president's family is uncommon.

Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, but after two years of negotiations, the draft deal to govern the divorce process has twice been rejected by Parliament, causing a political crisis and economic uncertainty in the country.

The prime minister's office said on Wednesday she would ask EU leaders for a "short extension" to delay the U.K.'s departure from the bloc.

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the_guitar_mann/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The fallout from the deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash continues to be felt as the European Union announced Tuesday that they will not allow any Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to fly in their airspace until they approve any changes made.

The announcement stipulates that the planes will not be allowed into European airspace until the EU approves any software fixes that are required, making it clear that they will not rely on the Federal Aviation Authority for approval.

Patrick Ky, the executive director of the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), addressed the European Parliament transport committee Monday, and said that EASA will look at Boeing's upcoming software updates "very deeply, very closely," as well as look at the plane's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

"We will even go back to the architecture of MCAS to look at all the modes and how they are treated onboard the Boeing," Ky said Tuesday.

It was also reported Tuesday that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has asked the U.S. Inspector General to conduct a formal audit of the certification process that allowed the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft to be put into circulation.

This comes a day after the Canadian Transport Minister made a similar announcement, saying that Canada will conduct its own review of the software enhancement that is expected to be used to fix the fault in the plane's system.

The caution surrounding Boeing's new model of plane comes after similarities were found between the two planes that were involved in the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes, months apart.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg released a statement Monday, saying that the company is "taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX."

"The tragic losses of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 affect us all, uniting people and nations in shared grief for all those in mourning," he wrote in the letter.

In the letter, Muilenburg noted that "soon we'll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident."

"Work is progressing thoroughly and rapidly to learn more about the Ethiopian Airlines accident and understand the information from the airplane's cockpit voice and flight data recorders," he wrote in the letter.

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Onfokus/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Stargazers will soon be treated to a rare super moon that hasn't occurred in nearly two decades.

The super worm moon will be visible to those located in the Northern Hemisphere on Wednesday night, according to National Geographic. The moon will reach its full phase around 9:43 p.m. EDT and coincides with the spring equinox, which will occur just before 6 p.m. EDT.

The best time to catch a glimpse will be after sunset on Wednesday and Thursday.

It will be the first super moon to occur during the March equinox in 19 years, National Geographic reported. The super moon is expected to appear up to 14 percent larger than a regular full moon, CNET reported.

Super moons that occur in March are nicknamed the "worm moon" because that's the time of year when earth worms tend to emerge from the ground as it begins to thaw from the departing cold of winter.

A super moon occurs when a full moon or new moon coincides with the moon's position at its closest to earth. Wednesday's super moon will be the third and last of 2019, according to NASA.

The next super moon will not occur until February 2020, according to CNET.

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PIPA(NEW YORK) -- Armando is not your ordinary pigeon.

He's been called the Lewis Hamilton of pigeon racing. He's mean, lean and one of pigeon racing's top stars.

Joel Verschoot, who raised and trained Armando to be a champion racer, recently sold his prized pigeon at a Belgium auction. A Chinese real-estate mogul paid $1.4 million for the little guy, a historic amount for a pigeon sale.

Pigeon racing has gained in popularity in Asia recent years, becoming a big-money glamour sport.

“Nobody in the pigeon world thought this would happen," Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, the CEO of Pigeon Paradise (Pipa), which organized the online auction, told ABC News. "We were hoping for $400,000 or $500,000.”

To put things in perspective, an average racing pigeon usually goes for around $2,800.

But Armando is in no way average. Even though he is 5 years old and reaching the end of his racing career, his superb sense of direction and unbelievable wing strength make this champion pigeon a million dollar breeder.

“In 2017 and 2018 Armando was the best racing pigeon in Belgium," said Verschoot, adding, "In 2018 he was the best in Europe and an Olympic champion.”

Verschoot's been with Armando ever since that egg cracked five years ago. The longtime pigeon breeder used Armando to develop unique training techniques and was very hands-on with the future pigeon celebrity.

All together, Verschoot owns 300 pigeons, spending 12 hours a day with them. And yes, he knows each of them by name.

Armando, however, is the "crowning glory of all those years in the pigeon sport. The icing on the cake," Verschoot said.

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Karwai Tang/WireImage(LONDON) -- Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, made a somber visit Tuesday to pay their respects after Friday's mosque shooting in New Zealand that left at least 50 people dead.

Harry and Meghan visited New Zealand House in London, where they signed a book of condolences for the victims of the attack in two mosques in Christchurch.

"Our deepest condolences. We are with you," Meghan wrote above the couple's signatures. Harry added the word "Arohanui," a Maori word that means much love.

Harry and Meghan, who are expecting their first child next month, learned about the Maori culture during their visit to New Zealand last year.

The couple each greeted officials at New Zealand House Tuesday with a hongi, a traditional Maori greeting performed by two people pressing their noses together.

Meghan and Harry spent time in the New Zealand cities of Rotorua and Auckland during their 16-day tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga.

The couple joined with Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to issue a statement Friday decrying the attack as "senseless."

"Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the people who lost their lives in the devastating attack in Christchurch," the two couples wrote. "We have all been fortunate to spend time in Christchurch and have felt the warm, open-hearted and generous spirit that is core to its remarkable people."

Meghan's appearance with Harry Tuesday came after she was believed to have started her maternity leave. She has told well-wishers that she is due in April.

Meghan is expected to still hold private meetings before the baby's birth but does not have any upcoming official engagements scheduled.

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Mark Tantrum/Getty Images(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- The prime minister of New Zealand is working to prevent the Christchurch mosque shooter from gaining the infamy that follows so many mass shooters after their carnage.

In an emotional ministerial statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed never to publicly speak the name of the shooter who killed 50 people in two Christchurch mosques.

"He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety, and that is why you will never hear me mention his name," Ardern said Tuesday. "He is a terrorist, he is a criminal, he is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless."

"And to others I implore you: speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name," she said.

Many elements of the Friday shooting -- including the shooter's decision to livestream the attacks on social media and his purported release of a document espousing his alleged beliefs, which included white supremacist ideas -- suggest that he sought national and international attention for the shooting or wanted to spread his message.

The idea of not using a shooter's name is not a new one, but it has been hard to implement.

In 2012, in the aftermath of the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, then-President Barack Obama told victims' relatives he would not use the shooter's name in an effort to avoid giving him more attention, according to Politico reporting at the time.

On Friday, shortly after the New Zealand attack, Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, urged his 3.4 million Twitter followers to not give the shooter "what he wants."

"Don't speak his name don't show the footage. Seems that most agree on that. The questions is can the media do what's right and pass up the ratings they'll get by doing the opposite? I fear we all know the answer unfortunately," he tweeted.

The call from Ardern to not use the shooter's name is being hailed by many online as the right approach.

She received a great deal of praise on Twitter, with the hashtag #NoNotoriety spreading overnight.

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PytyCzech/iStock(LONDON) -- London's mysterious "Jack the Ripper" serial killer, who was active over 100 years ago, might finally be identified through mitochondrial DNA left behind at the scene of one of the crimes, according to a case report published in the Journal of Forensic Scientists.

"To our knowledge, this is the most advanced study to date regarding this case," the authors wrote.

In 1888, five women in London were killed within three months by a still-unidentified murderer known as Jack the Ripper.

A silk shawl, recovered from victim Catherine Eddowes, is the only known remaining physical evidence from the crimes, according to the report, published March 12. In a disturbing attack, Eddowes' uterus and left kidney were cut out.

The report's authors, Jari Louhelainen of Liverpool John Moores University and David Miller of the University of Leeds, examined the shawl for mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, which is passed down from a mother to her children.

Louhelainen and Miller said the data shows the shawl has biological material from Eddowes "and that the mtDNA sequences obtained from semen stains match the sequences of one of the main police suspects, Aaron Kosminski."

The DNA found at the scene were compared to maternal descendants of the victim and of Kosminski.

Kosminski was a Polish-Jewish immigrant who lived about 200 yards from where one of the victims was murdered, according to Yahoo News UK. Kosminski has been named as a possible suspect before, Yahoo reported.

Louhelainen and Miller also looked at phenotype analysis, analyzing the DNA for possible physical characteristics of the suspect. They said the results match with the only eyewitness account of Jack the Ripper -- that the suspect was a man with brown eyes and brown hair.

"Although these characteristics are surely not unique, they fully support our hypothesis," the authors wrote. "We have no reliable information on how common these phenotypic features were with males in London in 1888, but at the moment, blue eyes are more common than brown in England."

Though Jack the Ripper remains a mystery, Louhelainen and Miller called their report "the most systematic and most advanced genetic analysis to date regarding the Jack the Ripper murders."

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omersukrugoksu/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria have captured five ISIS fighters believed to have been involved in the deadly suicide bomb blast in Manbij last January that killed four Americans, according to a U.S. official.

U.S. officials have interrogated the fighters since they were first detained weeks ago, the official said.

The five were captured in the Manbij area by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) several weeks ago, according to the U.S. official.

On Jan. 16, an ISIS suicide bomber exploded a bomb at a restaurant in Manbij that was frequented by U.S. personnel stationed in the town.

The attack was the deadliest incident for American forces in Syria since they arrived in late 2015.

An SDF spokesman confirmed on Twitter that “a group of suspects” linked to the attack had been captured “following technical surveillance by our forces.”

The spokesman, Mustafa Bali, added that “the outcome of the ongoing investigation will be shared at a later time.”

Their capture was said to have been facilitated by the Manbij Military Council and other partners and the ISIS fighters have been under SDF detention since then.

Killed in the attack were Army Green Beret Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Farmer, Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent, Ghadir Taher a contractor working as an interpreter, and Scott Wirtz, a civilian working for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Three other Americans were injured in the blast.

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State Department by Michael Gross/ Public Domain(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is returning to the Middle East to again push for action against Iran, his chief foreign policy foe. But the message of this trip, his second to the region this year, will find three very different audiences, likely with varying degrees of acceptance.

In Israel, Pompeo will embrace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally in the Trump administration's campaign to push back on Iranian influence. In Kuwait, he will press the Amir and other leaders for unity among Gulf Arab countries against Iran. And in Lebanon, he will urge leaders, including those with close ties to Hezbollah, to "disconnect" from the group and its supporter Iran -- a tall order as the group now controls cabinet posts in the country's government.


The stop in Israel has raised some eyebrows not because of the message but for its proximity to the nation's upcoming elections. With just three weeks to go, critics say the trip is all but an endorsement of an embattled Netanyahu, facing a tough re-election fight amid possible criminal charges of bribery and fraud.

While Netanyahu has even used sound bites from President Donald Trump in his campaign videos, the State Department has repeatedly pushed back, saying Pompeo's visit is strictly for the sake of the U.S.-Israeli alliance.

"There's always an election. We've got an election a year away, and they've got one that's less than a month away," Pompeo said Monday, en route to the region. "I'm going to Israel because of the important relationship we have."

Still, there are rumors that Pompeo may make an announcement, with opposition figures expressing concern the administration could recognize Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights.

That's been fueled by a State Department decision last week to remove the term "occupied" when referring to the Golan Heights and West Bank in its annual human rights report. While a senior official said last week it did not convey a change in position and downplayed the change in language, Pompeo said Monday that it "reflects the facts as we understand them."

"This was a factual statement about how we observe the situation, and we think it's very accurate, and we stand behind it," he added.

Pompeo will not be meeting with any Palestinian leadership during his visit. It's unclear if the U.S. reached out, but Pompeo indicated the Palestinians did not "want to talk to us."

Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has led the development of the administration's secretive Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which Pompeo said will begin to be rolled out at the "right time."


Iran's presence is strong in Lebanon, where Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist movement that the U.S. has designated a foreign terrorist organization, is a bona fide political party and now controls three cabinet positions, including the Health Ministry with its enormous budget.

Pompeo will not meet with any Hezbollah-affiliated officials, according to a senior State Department official, but he will meet with President Michel Aoun and Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil, both of whom helped broker Hezbollah's power-sharing roles in the government.

There, the task Pompeo has laid out is difficult at best -- to "disconnect" the government from its Hezbollah ties. When asked by reporters how he would do so, he said only, "In my business we talk to a lot of people that we're hoping to change their way."

One way the U.S. may ramp up the pressure on Lebanon to do that could be through economic pressure. The U.S. has warned of sanctions against Lebanese government agencies if funds from the U.S. or international community make their way into Hezbollah hands. Pompeo will also push Lebanon to keep its financial institutions and banking system free of Hezbollah funds, according to the State Department, which declined to preview any sanctions or other announcements.


Pompeo's first stop will be in Kuwait, the small, oil-rich U.S. partner on the tip of the Persian Gulf, where he will co-host a strategic dialogue meant to signify the importance of American-Kuwaiti relations.

But he'll also have tough work cut out for him there, in particular trying to bolster Kuwait's drive to reunify the other Gulf Cooperation Council countries that have been divided for nearly two years between Qatar and the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates-led bloc that split with it and imposed a blockade.

The U.S. has said for months that the two sides need to repair relations, with the rift dangerous for security and ripe to give Iran an opening. But instead, each side has doubled down, and the problem has become so intractable that earlier this year the Trump administration's special envoy for the crisis quit.

It's unclear how optimistic Pompeo is about making headway there, but he will also be advocating for the new Middle East Security Alliance, a U.S.-backed alliance of Gulf countries with Egypt and Jordan meant by the Trump administration to be a united front against Iran. While it's made some headway in getting off the ground, it's still marked by internal disputes and an vague, broad mission.

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Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images(LONDON) -- Queen Elizabeth II and Duchess Kate stepped out together Tuesday for their first solo outing in seven years.

The queen, 92, and Kate, 37, visited King’s College London for the opening of Bush House, the former home of the BBC World Service that has been converted into a campus building.

Queen Elizabeth paired a rose-colored hat with a rose cashmere coat by Stewart Parvin, while Kate paired a gray pleated dress with black heels and a black hat for their appearance together.

The last time Queen Elizabeth and Kate publicly joined forces was in March 2012, nearly one year after Kate married Prince William.

That year she traveled with Queen Elizabeth to Leicester to kick off the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee tour in celebration of 60 years on the throne.

Seven years later, Kate is now the mother of three: Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

The queen and Kate have appeared frequently over the years at royal events together, including last week when Kate joined Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family for the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey. Kate was also recently by the queen's side at a reception at Buckingham Palace to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of Prince Charles’ investiture as the Prince of Wales.

Queen Elizabeth made her first solo engagement with Kate's sister-in-law, Duchess Meghan, last June, around one month after her wedding to Prince Harry last May. The pair traveled from London to Cheshire in the royal train for a day of engagements.

King's College London is the same location where Meghan, who is expecting her first child next month, joined a panel discussion marking International Women's Day.

Queen Elizabeth is patron of King’s College London. She previously visited the college in 2012 and 2002.

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iStock/artas(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- New Zealand residents have been told to prepare for something that Americans rarely see: legislative action in the wake of a mass shooting.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed there will be changes to the country's gun laws following the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s history.

"What we're looking here is for an effective gun law that will make a difference," Ardern said Monday at news conference before a cabinet meeting. Ardern said they would be discussing "what we have a responsibility to pursue in the aftermath of this terrorist attack, so that will include work around gun laws."

The shooting that left 50 people dead after a self-proclaimed white supremacist opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday has led to a number of questions about how it could have happened in a country in which the last deadliest mass shooting took place nearly 30 years ago.

"While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the handling of this gun license and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change," Ardern said Monday. The alleged shooter possessed one of the country’s required gun licenses.

The prime minister even put a timeline on the changes that she planned to discuss with the cabinet, saying that "within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer."

New Zealand has a far lower rate of gun homicides than the U.S., but the deadly mass shooting last week exponentially increased its number of gun fatalities.

There were a total of 69 murders with a firearm in the entire country from 2008 to 2017, according to New Zealand police.

From December 1998 to December 2018, there were a total of 15 murders committed by someone who had a firearms license, according to police.

By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2017, there were 39,773 gun deaths in the U.S., the majority of which were suicides. Of that total number, 37 percent were homicides with guns, meaning that in one year alone there were more than 14,700 gun homicides in the U.S.

The two countries are dramatically different in size, and the population of the U.S. is more than 68 times larger than New Zealand.

But gun control advocacy groups in the U.S. are applauding New Zealand's promise of swift action after the mass shooting.

David Hogg, a former Parkland student-turned-activist who survived a mass shooting at his school during which 17 people were killed, tweeted his reaction to Ardern's vow, writing "Imagine."

Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords, a gun violence-prevention advocacy group, told ABC News that he thought Ardern’s actions were "refreshing."

"Americans should absolutely look to other countries as to what's possible," Ambler told ABC News.

In 2019, the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan background check bill, one of the most far-reaching gun laws passed in recent memory. However, it is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

"The politics of this issue are changing in this country," Ambler said, noting that the shift in the U.S. has happened incrementally "over the past six years," as opposed to after a single incident, like in New Zealand.

Ambler said that Ardern's comments can inspire not just her constituents but also the U.S, saying that her actions give "Americans an example of the type of courage they should expect form their leaders."

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iStock/JANIFEST(MOSCOW) -- A court in Chechnya has sentenced a prominent human rights worker to four years prison in a case that has been widely condemned by international rights organizations as fabricated, and which some fear may unleash a new wave of repression in the troubled Russian province.

Oyub Titiev, the director of the local branch of Memorial, one of Russia’s most respected human rights organizations, was convicted of marijuana possession, a charge his lawyers said was manufactured in order to punish Titiev for his work investigating and exposing human rights abuses in Chechnya, including extrajudicial killings.

Memorial has long worked to record such crimes in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous republic in southern Russia that is ruled by strongman president Ramzan Kadyrov. Human rights abuses and violent attacks on Kadyrov's opponents have been reported in Chechnya, and human rights campaigners fear that Titiev’s trial could mark the beginning of a renewed crackdown after Kadyrov said that he would no longer allow rights activists to operate in the region.

“I officially declare to human rights activists: after the end of the trial, Chechnya will be forbidden territory for them, like it is for terrorists and extremists,” Kadyrov said in late August of 2018, referring to Titiev’s trial in a speech to local law enforcement that aired on Chechen television.

The guilty verdict against Titiev was expected by his colleagues and human right organizations, which have slammed the case as a show trial, filled with inconsistencies and fabricated evidence.

“The guilty verdict against Oyub Titiev is gross injustice to him, a disgrace to Russian criminal justice system, and a further sign that Ramzan Kadyrov, the governor of Chechnya, will be emboldened to silence reporting on human rights abuses,” Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Titiev was arrested in January of 2018 by Chechen police, who claimed to have found 200 grams of marijuana in his car. Titiev's lawyers have accused police of planting the drug in Titiev's vehicle after they arrested him.

Director of Memorial's Chechnya office since 2009, Titiev had been working for the organization since 2001. His case has become one of Russia's most prominent political trials. In October, the European Union awarded Titiev a prestigious human rights prize, giving it to him in absentia.

Human rights workers and journalists have for years been frequent targets for attacks in Chechnya, where dissent is heavily suppressed.

Natalia Estemirova, Titiev's predecessor as director of Memorial’s Chechnya office, was kidnapped in Grozny and shot dead outside the city in 2009. In 2016, masked men attacked a group of journalists trying to enter Chechnya on a tour organized by the Committee to Prevent Torture, beating the reporters and setting their bus on fire. The same month, the head of the organization, Ilya Kalyapin was attacked in Grozny.

In 2017 and again this January, reports emerged that dozens of people suspected of being gay were rounded up and tortured by Chechen security forces. Some have linked the renewed surge in repression and pressure against rights activists to the international outcry that followed those round ups, after which Kadyrov and some of his top lieutenants sanctioned by the European Union and the U.S.

Memorial has long been a target of Kadyrov, and repeatedly suffered attacks, and. Around the time of Titiev’s arrest, the organization’s office in a neighboring region was burnt down by masked men. One of Titiev’s colleague in Dagestan was beaten outside his home last March.

It’s unclear why Titiev, who has been documenting crimes for years, was arrested now. His colleagues have said that in the months before he was detained, he had been investigating alleged extrajudicial killings by security forces linked to Kadyrov.

Some rights researchers have attributed the case to a growing intolerance in Chechnya for human rights organizations in any form.

“Memorial was the last human rights organization that still maintained a presence in Chechnya and exposed enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and other egregious abuses,” Human Rights Watch wrote ahead of Monday’s verdict. Titiev’s trial, the organization wrote, was aimed at “forcing Memorial completely out of Chechnya.”

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ABC News(CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand) -- The alleged gunman who authorities said killed 50 worshippers and wounded dozens more at two mosques in New Zealand apparently took target practice at a gun range that a military veteran claimed he reported to police after overhearing members speaking of "zombie apocalypses" and "homicidal fantasies."

Police confirmed Monday that they are investigating Brenton Tarrant's connection to the Bruce Rifle Club and gun range in Milton, New Zealand, more than 400 miles south of Christchurch, where he allegedly went on a shooting rampage on Friday.

Investigators believe Tarrant took target practice at the club in the days leading up to the attack.

Pete Breidahl, a former New Zealand military machine gunner, posted a video on Facebook in the aftermath of the shootings claiming he asked police in the nearby town of Dunedin to investigate the rifle club based on troubling things he witnessed and overheard.

He said he saw members taking target practice using guns with 30-bullet magazines, talking about "zombie apocalypses, rifles for combat when they're overweight and ... useless" and discussing "homicidal fantasies."

Breidahl told the New York Times that he reported the club to police in 2017, shortly after visiting the club for the first time. He told the newspaper he was concerned about the mental stability of the club's members and the way they handled guns.

"They wore cammo around the range, like they were living some military base fantasy," Breidahl said.

He told The Times that he contacted police following the Christchurch massacre and says he is scheduled to meet with investigators on Tuesday.

"I went there for one shoot and was so ... horrified by what I saw. That was it for me," Breidhal said in his video.

"That ... made me concerned enough about the safety of people to go to a ... police officer, the arms officer, and say, 'You've got to do something about the Bruce Rifle Club, those people are not ... right," Breidahl said.

Bruce Rifle Club's vice president Scott Williams would only confirm to the RNZ Radio Network, New Zealand's public-service radio broadcaster, that Tarrant became a member of the club last year. He said Tarrant never did anything at the club that raised suspicions.

Williams told RNZ Radio that club members were shocked and stunned by the killing rampage and are cooperating with police.

Even as the police continued to probe what authorities called the deadliest terrorist attack in New Zealand history, three people were shot to death on a public tram in the Netherlands Monday in what police said had the hallmarks of a terrorist attack. A manhunt was underway for a suspect or suspects in the attack that occurred about 30 miles southeast of Amsterdam.

Alleged killer's live stream

Alleged mass killer Brenton Tarrant, an Australian living in New Zealand, carried out the ambush attacks on Friday afternoon, livestreaming the bloodshed on Facebook as he unleashed a torrent of gunfire inside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, killing 42 Muslim worshipers and wounding scores of others, police said.

Tarrant -- dressed in military tactical gear, including a helmet and camouflage gloves -- then drove three miles across Christchurch to the Linwood mosque, where he allegedly opened fire, killing another eight people engaged in afternoon prayers, police said.

At least 50 people were wounded in the twin attacks. David Meates, chief executive of the Canterbury District Health Board, said Monday that 31 victims remained hospitalized, nine in critical condition, including a 4-year-old girl.

Law enforcement officers swarmed both mosques and captured Tarrant as he attempted to flee the Linwood mosque.

Tarrant has, so far, been charged with one count of murder, but more murder charges are expected to be filed against the 28-year-old suspect, who in online writings, expressed hatred for immigrants and espoused white supremacist views against minorities, authorities said.

Tarrant, who appeared briefly in court on Saturday, has told authorities he plans to represent himself in the case.

Gunman acted alone

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police are certain that Tarrant was the only gunman but aren't ruling out that he had support.

"I would like to state that we believe absolutely there was only one attacker responsible for this," Bush said at a news conference on Monday. "That doesn't mean there weren't possibly other people in support and that continues to form a very, very important part of our investigation."

New Zealand officials and Facebook workers have worked feverishly to scrub the internet of Tarrant's alleged livestream video of the attack, 17 minutes of which made it online before authorities were able stop it.

A 22-year-old New Zealand citizen has been arrested in connection with distribution of the video and Facebook officials said they removed 1.5 million videos of the attack from the global social media platform within the first 24 hours that followed the rampage.

Despite those efforts, the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, used an edited version of the attack at an election rally on Sunday in an apparent attempt to galvanize support from Islamist followers.

Gun store owner speaks out

The alleged killer obtained a New Zealand gun license in November 2017 and bought his first firearm at Gun City in Christchurch in March 2018, the owner of the gun store said during a news conference Monday.

Gun City owner David Tipple said Tarrant purchased four guns from the store but denied selling him a semi-automatic rifle used in the mosque attacks.

"We detected nothing extraordinary about the license holder. The military style semi-auto used by the alleged gunman was not purchased from Gun City," Tipple said. "All Gun City sales to this individual followed a police verified online mail order process."

As protesters gathered outside his store condemning the attack, Tipple said that he and his staff "are dismayed and disgusted" by the mass killings at the mosques.

"We can't comprehend how the despicable actions could take place at a place of prayer and worship," Tipple said.

'Zombie apocalypses'

Police are also investigating Tarrant's connection to the Bruce Rifle Club and gun range in Milton, New Zealand, more than 400 miles south of Christchurch. Investigators believe Tarrant took target practice at the club in the days leading up to the attack.

Pete Breidhal, a former New Zealand military machine gunner, posted a video on Facebook in the aftermath of the shootings, claiming he asked police to investigate the rifle club years ago after hearing members discussing "zombie apocalypses" and mass shootings.

"I went there for one shoot and was so ... horrified by what I saw. That was it for me," Breidhal said in his video.

The investigation of the rampage has spread to Tarrant's homeland of Australia, more than 2,500 miles from New Zealand. The New South Wales Joint counter-terrorism team in Australia said Monday that they executed search warrants on two homes as part of the New Zealand investigation.

The law enforcement agency said they searched homes believed connected to Tarrant in Sandy Beach and in Lawrence, both near the coast of New South Wales.

"The family of the Australian man arrested in Christchurch continues to assist police with their inquiries," the joint counter-terrorism team said in a statement. "The community can be assured that there is no information to suggest a current or impending threat related to this search warrants."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ardern said authorities hope to release all of the murdered victims to their loved ones by Wednesday. Ardern said the New Zealand government will cover the costs of the funerals.

"Everyone is grieving and I'm grieving with them, but I also have a very important job to do," Ardern said. "I need to ensure that we are looking after those affected, that they have ongoing care and support not just in the coming days but the coming months and years. So that's why I'm incredibly focused. I have a job to do."

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ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images(UTRECHT, Netherlands) -- At least three people are dead and five others are wounded after a suspect opened fire on a tram Monday morning, local authorities said.

Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen confirmed the fatalities in a video posted to Twitter in Dutch.

The shooting occurred near the 24 Oktoberplein station in Utrecht, located about 30 miles southeast of Amsterdam in central Netherlands.

The main suspect, a 37-year-old Turkish-born man, was apprehended, the mayor and Rob van Bree of the Utrecht police said in an early evening press conference. At this time, a motive remains unknown.

A second person was also arrested they said, although that person's identity and connection to the incident is unclear.

Earlier in the day, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, the national coordinator for counterterrorism and security, said at a press conference that it was unclear whether other perpetrators were involved in the shooting.

Utrecht police had asked for the public's help in finding Gokman Tanis, the 37-year-old believed to be connected to the shooting.

The public had also been urged to stay indoors and away from the area.

On Monday morning, Utrecht police said on Twitter they were investigating a shooting, adding that a "possible terrorist motif is part of the investigation." The shooting happened around 10:50 a.m. local time.

The Dutch counterterror office raised Utrecht's threat level to maximum, according to The Associated Press.

The police is investigating the shooting at the #24oktoberplein in Utrecht this morning. An possible terrorist motif is part of the investigation.

— Politie Utrecht (@PolitieUtrecht) March 18, 2019

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