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USGS(ROME) — Tremors were felt as far away as Rome, more than 100 miles from the quake's epicenter.

Italy's earthquake institute reported 150 aftershocks in the 12 hours following the initial quake, the strongest measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale.

The Italian government allocated 234 million euros to the search and recovery effort on Thursday, as glimmers of hope buoyed rescue teams who worked through the night in a desperate search for people trapped under collapsed buildings.

 Still, the death toll continued to climb as more and more bodies were recovered.

Italy's health minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, visiting the devastated area, said many of the victims were children.

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Italian Premier Matteo Renzi also visited the zone Wednesday, greeted rescue teams and survivors, and pledged that "No family, no city, no hamlet will be left behind."

Italy's Civil Protection agency updated the death toll from 159 to 247 early Thursday morning.

The State Dept. advised U.S. citizens to avoid the region of central Italy near the towns of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto, and Pescara del Tronto.

"Many roads have been blocked," the State Dept. said in a statement, noting that "numerous aftershocks have already been felt throughout the region, and there is the potential for further aftershocks."

The central Apennine region, a mountainous area of central Italy, has had several significant temblors, according to the USGS.

In April 2009, a 6.3 magnitude quake near the town of L’Aquila killed at least 295 people, injured more than 1,000 and left at least 55,000 homeless.

In Sept. 1997, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in the area killed 11 people and injured more than 100, destroying approximately 80,000 homes in the Marche and Umbria regions.

On Jan. 13, 1915, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake near Avezzano killed approximately 32,000 people.


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NOAA via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Gaston is expected to weaken later Thursday and revert from a hurricane back to a tropical storm, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Gaston is located about 1,225 miles east of the Leeward Islands and is moving northwest at about 17 miles per hour. That hurricane's path is expected to continue through Friday, although it is forecast to weaken during the next day or so.

Gaston's maximum sustained winds as of Thursday are close to 75 miles per hour.

There are no coastal warnings in effect from Gaston, according to the National Hurricane center.

Also in the Atlantic, all eyes are on a tropical wave that is expected to head in the general direction of Florida by this weekend. The tropical wave is near the Lesser Antilles and has an 80 percent chance of forming into a tropical cyclone. If it does become a tropical storm it will be named Hermine.

Some models show the tropical system closing in on South Florida by this weekend, and possibly even in the Gulf of Mexico by early next week, but the forecast remains uncertain.

Strong winds and heavy rain are expected to occur in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and the Bahamas over the next few days as it moves in a west-northwest direction.

Meanwhile, a depression in the Pacific has strengthened to become tropical storm Lester, about 185 miles south-southwest of Socorro Island and about 475 miles south-southwest from the southern tip of Baja California, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Lester's maximum sustained winds are 40 miles per hour and it is currently moving in a west-northwest direction at about 12 miles per hour.

There are currently no coastal watches in effect from tropical storm Lester.

Lester could become a hurricane in the next couple of days, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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Mueller Family(NEW YORK) -- The MP4 video clip was only 10 seconds. Long enough for her family to recognize the young American woman in a black head scarf and green hijab but not long enough to identify where she was or who held her hostage in Syria in 2013.

"My name is Kayla Mueller," she began in a clear voice, her eyebrows arched upwards, in apparent stress, above her glassy eyes. "I need your help."

Kayla was a hostage of a terrorist group the world would come to know as the worst in history -- but she didn't say any of that.

At 10 seconds and 22 megabytes, her proof-of-life video was small enough for the hostage-takers to send by email from Syria. Kayla had been missing from the war-torn city of Aleppo for almost a month by the time this video made by ISIS was received by a friend of the 25-year-old humanitarian aid worker who gave it to the FBI, where agents sent it to her parents in Prescott, Arizona, on Aug. 30, 2013.

The video, provided by the Mueller family to ABC News for Friday’s 20/20 broadcast of “The Girl Left Behind,” is the only known image of Kayla in ISIS captivity and has never been shown publicly before now.

"You just go into almost a catatonic state, I think. You can't even stand up," Carl Mueller told ABC News in a recent interview, describing his reaction three years ago to first seeing his daughter in the ISIS video.

Few at the time had ever heard of ISIS -- a group originally known to the U.S. as "al Qaeda-Iraq" -- or knew that it was violently breaking off its alliance in Syria with a franchise of core-al Qaeda in Pakistan, which Osama bin Laden founded. ISIS needed cash and Kayla became one of the first westerners they kidnapped in Syria's war-torn streets for millions in ransom.

"I've been here too long and I've been very sick. It's -- it's very terrifying here," she said into the camera lens before the image, which showed only her covered head and shoulders, abruptly stopped.

Kayla had clearly lost weight since she was abducted by a group of gunmen on Aug. 4, 2013, from a Doctors Without Borders car not far from a hospital in Aleppo, Syria, run by the group's branch in Spain.

"I saw how thin she looked but I saw that her eyes were very clear and steady," her mother, Marsha, said. "It broke my heart but I also saw her strength."

The proof-of-life video was intended to serve a few basic purposes, according to Chris Voss, retired FBI chief hostage negotiator, who examined the Kayla tape.

"You look at this video and right away you can see a number of things. Basically from a pure physical health standpoint, she's not in bad shape physically. They're letting us see that. They want us to see that overall she's not in bad shape," Voss told ABC News. "They probably put makeup on her before they shot the video. They produce these the same way any media company produces videos."

The reason for showing her in good health was that, to ISIS, Kayla Mueller was a commodity.

"This is an opening offer. This is, 'We want to talk,'" Voss explained.

"They probably rehearsed that a number of times. I would imagine they shot that anywhere from no less than five times, maybe as many as 15 times. They rehearsed her. They got the lighting right. They controlled what's in the background. They controlled everything they said. Everything she said. They want to put enough out there without raising the threat level. They want to put enough out there to start a negotiation. And that's what this is intended to do," he said.

But the friend that ISIS sent the video to was not in a position to negotiate for Kayla.

The Muellers instead put their faith in the non-governmental aid organizations Kayla worked for -- the Danish Refugee Council, Support to Life and the NGO Forum, a collective of many aid groups -- who told them the U.S. government had stepped in to take care of things and would get Kayla home.

Her family trusted all "like sheep," Carl Mueller now says.

Support to Life was helpful to the Muellers but it was a small organization with limited resources or knowledge of how to handle a hostage case, the family says.

Their faith in aid groups and the government meant that the Muellers did not begin negotiations with the hostage-takers for 10 months, when Doctors Without Borders turned over an ISIS email address two months after they had received it from their own workers freed from captivity.

Negotiations began with the hostage-takers on May 23, 2014. Most American families of ISIS hostages received few emails from the hostage-takers but the Muellers received nine.

Soon after, on May 29, proof-of-life came with Kayla's voice -- but not her face -- in an audio clip.

"Mom and Dad, I still am remaining healthy. You should have already received the three answers to the proof of life questions you provided. Those detaining me are demanding an exchange of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's release for my release. If this is not achievable, they are demanding 5 million euros to ensure my release," Kayla said.

And then, abruptly, what would be her last spoken word to her mom and dad: "Goodbye."

Tune in to ABC News' 20/20 on Friday, Aug. 26, at 10 p.m. ET for the full Brian Ross report, "The Girl Left Behind."

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The London Zoo rounded up all of its animals, big and small, to be weighed and measured Wednesday for the zoo's annual weigh-in event.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) zoo, home to more than 17,000 animals, said in a statement that the animals' weights will be added to an international database to share with zoos around the world.

"We have to know the vital statistics of every animal at the zoo – however big or small," Mark Habben, the zoological manager said in a statement. “This information helps us to monitor their health and their diets and by sharing the information with other zoos and conservationists worldwide, we can use this knowledge to better care for all our animals.”

Zookeepers came up with some creative methods to get the animals to cooperate. Penguins were tricked into being weighed when they had to step on the scale while they lined up for their breakfast. Meanwhile, to encourage the tigers and lions to stand up as tall as they could, breakfast was held over their heads while they were being measured.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized, potentially habitable planet orbiting our closest stellar neighbor.

Though the exoplanet is over four light years away, it's been hailed the "closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System," the European Space Observatory said Wednesday.

The "long-sought world" orbits the closest known star to the sun, a red dwarf known as Proxima Centauri, the ESO said. Accordingly, scientists have called the newly discovered planet "Proxima b."

The rocky world "has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface" and is just a little bigger than Earth, the ESO said.

"The first hints of a possible planet were spotted back in 2013, but the detection was not convincing," Guillem Anglada-Escudé said in a statement.

Anglada-Escudé, from Queen Mary University in London, was the one who led the team of astronomers examining Proxima Centauri.

"Since then we have worked hard to get further observations off the ground with help from ESO and others," he said, adding that that the recent Pale Red Dot campaign to confirm evidence of the planet "has been about two years in the planning."

"Many exoplanets have been found and many more will be found, but searching for the closest potential Earth-analogue and succeeding has been the experience of a lifetime for all of us," Anglada-Escudé said.

Most exoplanets that have been discovered are gas giants, like Jupiter in our solar system, because astronomers look for the wobble in the star caused by a massive planet's orbit. Detecting Earth-sized planets is much more difficult, requiring extremely sensitive instruments and longer periods of observation.

But the discovery of Proxima b isn't the end.

"The search for life on Proxima b comes next," Anglada-Escudé said.

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MARCO ZEPPETELLA/AFP/Getty Images(PESCARA DEL TRONTO, Italy) — It took 17 hours and several firefighters to rescue her, but 10-year-old Giulia was pulled from the rubble alive Thursday after an earthquake struck central Italy Wednesday.

As rescue workers raced to find survivors beneath the crumbled buildings in the town of Pescara del Tronto, about 100 miles northeast of Rome, they spotted Giulia’s legs and carefully removed wreckage around the trapped girl to get her out Thursday morning.

Her last name has not been released and the extent of her injuries, if any, is unknown.

Giulia’s dramatic rescue was captured on footage. The girl emerged caked with dirt and dust, and people clapped and cheered as a firefighter carried her away from the flattened building in one of the towns hit hardest by the powerful quake.

The 6.2-magnitude earthquake that rocked central Italy early Wednesday killed at least 247 people, injured hundreds more and left thousands homeless, according to Italy's Civil Protection agency.

Several aftershocks have occurred since the initial quake struck, around 3:30 a.m. local time, and tremors were felt as far away as Rome, more than 100 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.

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iStock/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A deadly attack on the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul has ended, according to a government spokesperson.

General Abdul Rahman Rahimi, Kabul's police chief, said early Thursday that 12 people were killed. Of the 12 killed, he said seven were students, three were police officers and two were American University of Afghanistan guards.

Rahimi said 35 students and nine police officers were injured.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack.

Three attackers were involved in the attack, Rahimi said. The first attacker detonated a suicide car bomb at the entrance the other two managed to enter the campus, he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the attackers were armed with grenades and automatic weapons. The siege of the university lasted almost nine hours, before police killed the two assailants around 3:30 a.m., he said.

"Most of the dead were killed by gun shots near the windows of their classrooms," Sediqqi said.

The U.S. State Department acknowledged reports Wednesday morning of the attack on an official Twitter account, posting, "Reports of attack on American University in Kabul. Exercise caution, avoid unnecessary movement in the area & monitor news for updates."

State Department Director of Office of Press Relations Elizabeth Trudeau later read a statement saying that they "condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms."

"An attack on a university is an attack on the future of Afghanistan. Our embassy in Kabul, as well as our NATO counterparts of the Resolute Support Mission, are closely monitoring the situation as we are. We understand this situation is ongoing.

"We do understand there are small numbers of Resolute Support advisers who are assisting their Afghan counterparts as Afghan forces are responding as this situation develops. These advisers are not taking a combat role but advising Afghan counterparts," she said.

"We are in the process of accounting for all chief of mission personnel and working to locate and assist any U.S. citizens affected by these attacks. The U.S. embassy in Kabul did issue a security message warning U.S. citizens of the attack and advising them to avoid the area until further notice. Our travel warning for Afghanistan warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan because of the continued instability and threats by terror attacks against U.S. citizens," she said.

The attackers managed to enter Noor Hospital, adjacent to the school, according to eyewitnesses.

The American University of Afghanistan opened in 2006 and was a pet project of former first lady Laura Bush, who helped launch the institution on a 2005 visit to Kabul, the capital.

Much of its funding has come from the U.S. Agency for International Development, which administers civilian foreign aid, and today the school has more than 1,700 full- and part-time students. It has produced 29 Fulbright scholars and maintains partnerships with many U.S. colleges, such as Stanford, Georgetown and the University of California system.

The school says on its website that it "embraces diversity and community" in Afghanistan. But it has been no stranger to threats of violence since its creation.

Two professors at the university — one American and one Australian — were abducted at gunpoint outside the campus earlier this month, underscoring the deteriorating security situation in the capital and across the rest of the country.

Also, two people employed by the university were killed in 2014 when a suicide bomber set off an explosion in a Kabul restaurant that was popular with expats.

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Corpo Forestale(ROME) --  As rescue workers searched among debris in the wake of a deadly earthquake in Italy early this morning, video from Italy’s State Forestry Corp shows one rescue worker in the rural Italian town of Capodacqua trying to calm a woman who was trapped under the rubble of her home.

The death toll has reached 159 after the 6.2-magnitude quake struck in the middle of the night while many residents were asleep in their homes.

Pope Francis replaced his weekly catechesis in St. Peter's Square with a heartfelt address.

"Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists, and learning there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened," the pope said.

"I cannot fail but to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those in those zones afflicted," he added, offering "condolences to those who have lost love ones and my spiritual support to those who are anxious and afraid."

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US Navy(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Nitze was “harassed” by four Iranian Revolutionary Guard small craft on Tuesday, some of them coming as close as 300 yards to the ship as it was in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz, a Department of Defense official said Wednesday.

The official characterized the encounter as “unsafe and unprofessional” and said the four Iranian speed boats "came way too close for comfort."

“Four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGCN) vessels harassed the guided missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) by conducting a high-speed intercept and closing within a short distance of Nitze despite repeated warnings as Nitze transited international waters in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz Aug. 23,” the defense official said.

The crew of the Nitze fired flares and sounded the ship's horn to warn the small craft, but they continued to approach the ship from the side, the official said.

In video of the encounter recorded aboard the Nitze, an unidentified voice can be heard narrating the Iranian boats' fast approach.

"Full visual contact on four Iranian Push WPB," said the narrator, who describes the approach in real time.

"Bridge to bridge comms were conducted, no response," the narrator continued as he described how the weapons aboard the Iranian craft had been "uncovered."

The warning flares fired from the ship are visible in the video and warnings from the ship's horn can be heard in the background.

Iranian harassment of American vessels in the Strait of Hormuz is nothing new. In mid-July, Iranian craft harassed the USS New Orleans as it played host to General Joseph Votel, who, as the commander of U.S. Central Command, is the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  The White House is condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for using chemical weapons against Syrians, after the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed suspicion of chemical weapons use in Syria in 2014 and 2015.

Three years to the week since President Obama pulled back from striking Syria over its use of chemical weapons, the investigation found that the Syrian government was responsible for two chlorine gas attacks in April 2014 and September 2015 in Idlib in the north of the country.

“It is now impossible to deny that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price wrote in a statement Wednesday. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Asad regime's use of chlorine against its own people.”

The inquiry -- unanimously authorized by the U.N. Security Council -- would be the first time a perpetrator has been identified. The results are due to be discussed by the Security Council next week, after which the report will be made public.

The investigation was set up with the threat of imposing Chapter 7 sanctions against those responsible -- the part of the U.N. charter that deals with sanctions and authorization of military force. However, the U.N. Security Council would need a further vote to impose sanctions -- setting the stage for a fight with Russia and China, who may veto any future sanctions against the Syrian government.

Chlorine's use as a weapon is prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013. In 2013, the Syrian regime agreed to remove and destroy its chemical weapons.

“The OPCW-UN report also confirmed that in August 2015, ISIL used mustard gas against civilians in Syria,” Price noted. “The U.S.-led Counter-ISIL coalition has placed a high priority on targeting ISIL’s chemical weapons capabilities, including by capturing one of its chemical weapons manufacturing leaders in March 2016 and using information gained from him to launch airstrikes to degrade ISIL’s ability to use such weapons. We continue to remove leaders from the battlefield with knowledge of these weapons and will target any related materials and attempts to manufacture such chemicals going forward.”

Asked about these reports that Assad didn't turn over all the materials involved in chemical weapons production in Syria, Earnest reiterated the achievements years ago when Assad turned over and destroyed chemical weapons.

“What we were able to achieve a couple of years ago in getting the Assad regime to acknowledge that they had a significant quantity of chemical weapons, rounding up those chemicals and destroying them, made the world safer. It eliminated a significant proliferation risk,” he said. “We have a country that is overrun by extremists. Having large quantities of chemical weapons floating around is not a good idea and not a good combination. So we've been pleased that the Assad regime's declared chemical weapons stockpile was rounded up and destroyed, but the situation in Syria has been murky for quite some time.”

“We've also been -- expressed our previous, long running concerns about the gratuitous violence that's used by the Assad regime against innocent civilians, including the weaponization of otherwise common chemicals to try to exacerbate the violence in that country. And I'm referring to chlorine, a commonly available industrial chemical that, according to some reports at least, the Assad regime is using as a weapon,” he continued. “And that is something that's a deep concern to the international community and certainly to the United States.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power called on the international community to act “to hold accountable those who act in defiance of such fundamental international norms.”

“When anyone -- from any government or from any terrorist group -- so flagrantly violates the global ban on chemical weapons use without consequences, it sends the signal that impunity reigns and it gravely weakens the counter-proliferation regime from which all of us benefit,” Power stated.

“It is essential that the members of the Security Council come together to ensure consequences for those who have used chemical weapons in Syria. It is essential that all state and non-state actors immediately cease any chemical weapons use. We strongly urge all States to support strong and swift action by the Security Council,” she said.

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US Army(NEW YORK) --  An American soldier killed by a roadside bomb Tuesday in Afghanistan's Helmand Province has been identified as Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California.

Thompson served with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State.

On Tuesday, the Army Green Beret was on a foot patrol with other American troops advising Afghan special operations forces near Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province where the Taliban have engaged in heavy combat.

Thompson was killed by a bomb blast that left another American service member injured and six Afghan soldiers.

 In a statement, General Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, expressed his condolences to Thompson's family.

"Our CENTCOM family is deeply affected by the death of Army Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated during dismounted operations," said Votel.

"On behalf of the men and women of U.S. Central Command, I extend our sincere condolences to the family, friends and Sgt. Thompson's fellow service members, as well as gratitude for his selfless and honorable service to our Nation."

On Monday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter also extended his condolences and said the deadly attack "reminds us that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and there is difficult work ahead even as Afghan forces continue to make progress in securing their own country."

Thompson is the second U.S. combat death in Afghanistan this year. In January, fellow Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock, 30, died after an hours-long firefight near Marjah, also in Helmand province. He was assisting Afghan special operations troops as they defended against an intense Taliban assault.

A U.S. official said that Thompson was not one of the 100 U.S. troops recently sent to Lashkar Gah to train, advise and assist local Afghan police as they face a major summer offensive by the Taliban. That group includes trainers as well as a force to provide protection for them.

In Monday's briefing, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters that the force would not be a permanent presence and that the troops would "return to their base at some point."

There are several hundred other U.S. personnel at the former Camp Bastion in Helmand Province that have been training the Afghan army.

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Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images(ROME) -- Drone footage that captures the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Italy Wednesday shows the contrast between the chaos in one hard hit town and the serenity of the sprawling countryside beside it.

The video pans from the affected area -- where some roofs are caved in, some buildings are destroyed and other ones are still standing -- to the sprawling grass and trees beyond the town, and then to mountains in the distance. The video does not specify the town.

The central Italian towns of Accumoli and Amatrice were hard hit from the earthquake that struck in the middle of the night.

Tremors were felt as far away as the capital city of Rome, located more than 100 miles away from the quake's epicenter.

Rescue workers Wednesday are searching through the rubble.

At least 120 people have been killed, according to Italy's prime minister.

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Mark Makela/Getty Images(ANKARA, Turkey) -- In a visit to Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden sought to ease heightened tensions with Turkey as the country continues to recover from a failed coup attempt last month.

In a press conference alongside Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Biden offered a message of solidarity and understanding while pushing back against some in the Turkish government who have assigned complicity to the U.S. in the coup attempt.

At the same time, Biden said he understands the “intense feeling” against U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the Turkish government has accused of orchestrating the coup.

We have “no interest whatsoever in protecting anyone who has done harm to an ally,” Biden said. “But we need to meet legal standard requirement under our law,” adding that it would be an “impeachable offense” for President Obama to deliver Gulen without going through the U.S. justice system.

Yildirim said that while some Turkish people might feel Washington had supported the coup attempt, that is not the official position of his government.

A senior U.S. administration official previewing Biden's visit said the Turks have submitted four separate extradition requests for Gulen but that none were related to his direct involvement in the coup.

Still, the Department of Justice has more lawyers handling the requests than any recent extradition case, according to the official.

As for the Turkish crackdown on dissenters following the coup and concerns raised among human rights groups, Biden said he remembered the confusion in the U.S. following 9/11 and it was important to “give [the Turkish government] time” to recover.

Biden also commented on the ongoing Turkish military operation into Syria, telling Syrian Kurdish forces they “must move back across the Euphrates River” if they hope to continue to receive U.S. support. While the comments were received positively from Yildirim, they immediately stoked anger among U.S.-backed Kurdish allies in the region.

Biden started his day in Ankara with a tour of the Turkish Parliament building that was damaged by airstrikes during the failed coup attempt.

Turkish Speaker of Parliament Ismail Kahraman gave Biden the tour, surveying damage to the building’s exterior that, at parts, included the very foundation.

“This is devastating. Can you imagine if this happened at home?” Biden said to reporters. “Can you imagine what the American public would be saying or doing?"

He compared the damage to what might have happened on 9/11 if United Airlines Flight 93 had made it to the U.S. Capitol instead of crashing in Pennsylvania.

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Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince William and Princess Kate shone a spotlight on mental health and suicide Wednesday morning, visiting mental health-focused charities in Bedfordshire, England, and spending time at a children’s hospice.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chatted with young people -- some of whom are recovering from challenges like self mutilation, suicide, bullying and social exclusion. The charities are creating safe places for children struggling with mental health issues.

William and Kate's appearances Wednesday marked the first time in a month they have been seen publicly after taking a vacation with their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, in the South of France, near Biarritz.

William and Kate opened the new Youthscape Center in Bute Mills, Luton, about an hour from London, which specializes in projects to support vulnerable children with emotional needs. The charity has a drop-in center for kids which provides them with a safe outlet for expressing themselves and getting the support they need.

Youthscape has worked with selfharmUK, a U.K.-based charity dedicated to help teenagers and young adults understand and recover from self-mutilation.

Other children Kate and William visited Wednesday were dealing with grief from the loss of a parent. Kate encouraged one group of young women by telling them they were “courageous and strong.”

William told a young girl who lost her mother at age 14 and had been self-harming herself, "What happened should never have happened to you and you should never have gone through it. The fact you have gone through it and where you are now, you should be really proud.”

The girl later told the Press Association she was grateful for Prince William’s words of support, saying, "I feel so thankful for what he said, especially because he lost his mum at a similar age.”

William and Kate's primary focus Wednesday was comforting those coping with suicidal thoughts and telling those who are struggling with mental health challenges that it's OK to ask for help.

Later Wednesday, the future king and queen of England will be driving to a hospice center which supports children and young adults at the end stages of life with medical care, complementary therapy, including art therapy, and emotional support.

Mental health is the primary focus of William’s, Kate’s and Prince Harry’s charitable agenda. The young royals, along with Prince Harry, started the Heads Together campaign to end the stigma surrounding mental illness so more young people and families feel comfortable opening up about what was once a taboo subject.

William, Kate and Harry have participated in several public service announcements for the Heads Together campaign using athletes, celebrities and various others in their campaign to make teens and young adults aware that mental health is an issue that people from all walks of life struggle with.

Bullying, cyber-bullying, social media, social exclusion and depression are all issues being addressed by the young royals. William, Kate and Harry have said they want people to understand there are safe places to reach out for help before people consider the worst, and that tackling these issues early in life by providing a safe environment for children will have an immeasurable impact on kids later in life.

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Chuck Fishman/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis replaced his weekly catechesis in St. Peter's Square with a heartfelt address on the unfolding tragedy after a severe earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday.

"Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists, and learning there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened," the Pope said.

Thanking "all volunteers and rescue personnel assisting these people," the Pope asked the people gathered in Rome to join him in a prayer for the "brokenhearted," who suffered loss in the wake of the 6.2 magnitude quake that struck at 3:36 a.m. as most residents slept inside their homes.

"With Jesus, let our hearts be moved with compassion," the Pope said.

"I cannot fail but to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those in those zones afflicted," he added, offering "condolences to those who have lost love ones and my spiritual support to those who are anxious and afraid."


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