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Fidel Castro Writes About Meeting with Cuban Five

NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images(HAVANA, Cuba) -- Fidel Castro met on Saturday with the Cuban Five, a quintet of agents convicted of espionage within the U.S. in a controversial 2001 trial which found them guilty of spying on anti-Fidel Castro groups.

Three of the five were released in December 2014, around the same time as the return of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years. The other two had been released in 2011 and 2014.

In a piece written by Castro for La Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban government, the former Cuban President wrote about the unjust incarceration of the Cuban agents. He said that he met with them on Saturday for five hours.

The release of the last three Cuban agents came as President Obama announced a normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Last month, Castro wrote in an op-ed for La Granma that he did not have confidence in U.S. policy.

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Death Toll in Ukraine Fighting Surpasses 6,000

Marcio Silva/iStock/Thinkstock(GENEVA) -- More than 6,000 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine, according to the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The fighting has brought with it "merciless devastation of civilian lives and infrastructure," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a press release. "More than six thousand lives have now been lost in less than a year due to the fighting in eastern Ukraine."

Zeid called for both sides of the dispute to honor the Minsk agreements, which called for a cease-fire.

The situation, which calmed somewhat in December, "dramatically deteriorated" in the last two months, the OHCHR report said.

"The human rights situation in Ukraine remains grave," Zeid said in a release. "Should this trend continue, this would represent a new and very deadly chapter in this conflict, expanding the areas where the rule of law and the protection of human rights are effectively absent."

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Twitter Escalates Its Own ISIS Skirmish: 2,000 Accounts Suspended Last Week

Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- ISIS has been under attack in the last few days from Twitter, which has quietly suspended at least 2,000 accounts linked to the terror group and its supporters, according to people with knowledge of the operation.

The accounts shut down include some of the most important distributors of ISIS messages in a major escalation against ISIS’s propaganda and recruitment efforts, according to J.M. Berger, a terrorism analyst who monitors ISIS online messaging.

"Twitter has been doing a whole lot over the past week. They've slammed them pretty hard, including the official media distribution guys," Berger said. He said 13 of the 16 major ISIS distribution accounts were among those shut down.

Top U.S. security officials previously said ISIS has successfully leveraged social media networks, including Twitter, as powerful recruitment tools to draw in fighters from 90 countries. But a person with knowledge of Twitter’s recent suspension spree said it was not done due to U.S. government pressure -– in fact, he said the U.S. intelligence community would prefer the accounts stay open for intelligence gathering purposes.

Instead, the suspensions have been a result of increased media reporting, which in turn spurred public awareness, which has created more user-generated policy violation reports, the person said. It’s against Twitter’s policy, for instance, to make direct, specific threats of violence against others.

The assault on ISIS social media was followed by an apparent threat Monday by supporters of the Syria-based network responsible for killing thousands of innocents while establishing an Islamic "caliphate" from Syria to Iraq and elsewhere. The message posted online called out Twitter founder Jack Dorsey by name and used his photo.

The Twitter spokesperson would only say that the company's security team was "investigating the veracity of these threats with relevant law enforcement officials," and that content is constantly reviewed against Twitter's rules.

"I would certainly be concerned if I were Twitter," said Berger, co-author with Jessica Stern of ISIS: The State of Terror, set for release next week.

A counter-terrorism official told ABC News that the U.S. was looking into the threat and that for months ISIS's ability to distribute its daily dose of beheading and murder videos has been "challenged." Some airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria have targeted the ISIS media team, which analysts have assessed has limited the core leadership from releasing more than a handful of slick videos since September.

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Go Inside the Bus Station the ISIS-Bound Schoolgirls Passed Through

The BBC(ISTANBUL) --  Surveillance video released Sunday shows the three British teens who reportedly traveled to Syria last month to join ISIS.

Shamima Begum, 15, Amira Abase, 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, were last seen February 17 when they boarded a flight from London's Gatwick airport headed for Turkey.

The surveillance video obtained by the BBC shows the girls waiting in a bus station for around 18 hours. They then boarded a bus to Gaziantep, a Turkish border town that has gained notoriety for being a portal for foreign fighters travelling to Syria.

ABC News’ Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz visited the bus station in Istanbul. Watch the digital original video below to learn more.


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NASA's Dawn Nears Dwarf Planet Ceres

NASA(NEW YORK) -- NASA's Dawn spacecraft will reach the dwarf planet Ceres on Friday in what has been a nearly eight-year journey.

When the probe reaches Ceres and inserts itself into its orbit, it will be the first time a space mission has successfully visited a dwarf planet, according to NASA. Ceres is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

"Studying Ceres allows us to do historical research in space, opening a window into the earliest chapter in the history of our solar system," Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said in a statement. "Data returned from Dawn could contribute significant breakthroughs in our understanding of how the solar system formed."

Launched in 2007, Dawn first explored the asteroid Vesta in 2011 and 2012 before moving along on its journey to Ceres. Dawn began approaching Ceres in December and has sent back the highest-ever resolution photos seen of the dwarf planet, revealing a crater-like surface appearance that scientists are eager to learn more about.

Once Dawn reaches its second destination on Friday, the mission is expected to continue for 16 months as researchers analyze data about Ceres, which is thought to be icy and possibly contain an ocean -- possibly yielding new clues about the formation of the solar system.

The spacecraft uses ion propulsion engines to power it through its long journey in space.

NASA will make another house call to a second dwarf planet, Pluto, when the New Horizons probe reaches its destination this summer.

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US Not Providing Air Support for Iraqi Push to Retake Tikrit from ISIS

State Dept photo(BAGHDAD) -- Iraq’s military has launched what it calls a major offensive to recapture Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit from ISIS, but U.S. officials say there has been no coordination from the U.S. nor any requests for coalition airstrikes to support the operation.

On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Al Abadi announced that the Iraqi military had launched a major operation to recapture the northern province of Saladin from ISIS. Tikrit is located 80 miles north of Baghdad and was seized by ISIS fighters last summer shortly after ISIS had taken over Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

An Iraqi military spokesman told ABC News Monday that ISIS fighters were retreating from some areas in the province that had come under attack by Iraqi military forces. However, those claims could not be independently verified.

Iraqi state television reported that a large Iraqi military force had pushed into Saladin Province accompanied by Shiite and Sunni fighters and supported by Iraqi fighter jets. There have been unverified reports that the combined Iraqi force numbers as many as 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia fighters.

A U.S. official told ABC News that this appears to be more of a “tactical operation” and that Iraqi military elements involved do not appear to be well-coordinated.

"We were aware of the operation before it started,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters Monday. “But I’m not going to details about what degree of coordination was involved in this."

Another U.S. official said that the U.S. began monitoring Iraqi troop movements in the area last week, though it remains unclear how much advance information Iraq provided to American military officials.

Warren said U.S. and coalition aircraft are not providing airstrikes in support of the operation since Iraq did not request air support. A U.S. official told ABC News that the Iraqi Air Force and Army aviation are providing Iraqi troops with air cover for the operation.

Warren said the U.S. military mission in Iraq is to advise and assist Iraq's military in their fight against ISIS, but that Iraq decides the level of cooperation it wants.

A Shiite militia leader told the BBC that Iran's Gen. Qasem Soleiman, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, was involved in the planning of the offensive. Officers of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have been assisting the Iraqi military since last year and Iranian jets have conducted airstrikes against ISIS targets in eastern Iraq. Senior U.S. military officials have said repeatedly that there is no coordination with Iran in the fight against ISIS inside Iraq.

A U.S. official said Monday there appears to be Iranian involvement in the planning and execution of the Iraqi operation.

Warren noted that Iran has a great interest in the fight in Iraq, but he would not speak to the level of Iranian involvement.

Separately, Jordanian aircraft have now begun conducting airstrikes inside Iraq. Until now, Jordan and four other Arab countries participating in the air campaign against ISIS had only launched airstrikes inside Syria. The expansion of Jordanian airstrikes into Iraq reflects Jordan's push to do more militarily against ISIS following the group's burning death of a captured Jordanian pilot last month.

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Behind the Scenes: Prince William Visits Forbidden City

John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- Prince William’s trip to Beijing marks the first time in almost 30 years that a member of the British royal family has visited China.

The prince was greeted by a media frenzy at the Forbidden City Monday after officials emptied out the ancient site for him to tour.

ABC News' Bob Woodruff takes us behind the scenes of this carefully choreographed historic visit, and asks Chinese reporters about their first encounter with the prince.

“How’s your Chinese coming?” one Chinese reporter asked the prince.

“Slowly,” Prince William responded before offering a cautious “nihao” -- hello.

“I think he’s very cute,” another Chinese reporter told ABC News, “after he became a father he is more charming than ever.”

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Google Street View: Explore the Amazon on a Zip Line

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Google Street View is taking people on an adventure through the Amazon rainforest all without having to ever pack a bag.

The tour was filmed on a zip line, allowing virtual travelers to take in the lush sights of tree tops, vines and thick moss that make up the rainforest's diverse ecosystem.

Another view takes viewers to the forest floor, surrounding them with towering trees, insects and plants. After exploring the 360-degree view there, hop on a boat and glide down the Rio Aripuanã or the Rio Mariepauá. Google said viewers can sail down more than 300 miles of the scenic rivers.

The tour also features stops in 17 local villages, allowing virtual travelers to see how people live along the Amazon River.

"These people are the devoted stewards of the river and forests, and protect it by living with it, preventing the destruction of the trees and the life that depends on them," a Google blog announcing the virtual tour said.

The adventure was made possible with the help of the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation, a group promoting preservation of the area.

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Model Dating Boris Nemtsov: 'Nothing Suspicious Happened' Before Shooting

Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The 23-year-old model who was with Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov when he was assassinated told a Russian TV channel that she didn't see the shooter.

In a Skype interview with Dozhd TV, Ukrainian model Anna Duritskaya added that "nothing suspicious happened" before the shooting.

Nemtsov, who was a critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down while walking across a bridge near the Kremlin Friday night. The couple had been heading back to Nemtsov's apartment after having dinner.

According to Russian news reports, a car pulled up and someone fired "at least seven or eight shots" before fleeing the scene.

"I did not see a man," Duritskaya told Dozhd TV. "When I turned around I saw a light colored car, but I did not notice the brand of the car or the license plates of the car which was leaving."

Duritskaya said she went to a snowplow driver to ask for the police's phone number after the shooting.

Duritskaya rejected a suggestion that Nemtsov's relationship with her could have anything to do with the assassination and said neither of them had received any recent threats.

The couple had reportedly been dating for several years.

No arrests have been made and the reason for the shooting remains unknown. Investigators said they were looking into several possible motives and have offered 3 million rubles -- nearly $50,000 -- for information.

Nemtsov was a deputy prime minister under former President Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s, but fell out with the Russian president and formed Russia's People's Freedom Party.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin called the shooting a provocation.

"Putin noted that this cruel murder has every sign of being a contract one which has solely provocative nature," Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

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Boris Nemtsov: 18 Cameras, but Footage of His Killing So Far Is Scarce

Dmitry Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The shooting death of Boris Nemtsov happened in what might be one of the most watched locations in all of Russia. It was brazen -- literally a stone's throw from the famous Kremlin wall.

ABC News counted at least 18 security cameras in the immediate vicinity of the site where, according to Russia's Investigative Committee, Nemtsov was shot multiple times in the back and killed late Friday night. They are in plain sight. There may be many more we can't see.

Some of the cameras along the bridge and road belong to the Moscow City Council and the Kommersant newspaper reported that the cameras were switched off for repairs on Friday night. The council, though, has denied the report, insisting the cameras were fully functional. What they won't say is whether the footage shows the moment Nemtsov was killed.

The other cameras nearby belong to Russia's Federal Guard Service (FSO) and they line the Kremlin wall. ABC News could observe at least nine of them from the scene of the shooting.

In what might be an incredibly lucky turn for the gunman and accomplice, an FSO spokeswoman told ABC News on Monday that none of those cameras were pointed at the bridge at the time and none of them captured the events of Friday night.

A video broadcast on Russian state TV does purport to show the moment that Nemtsov was gunned down as he walked across a bridge near the Kremlin.

However, the surveillance camera video is grainy and shot from far away, so the figures walking across the bridge are barely discernible. And at the moment when TV Center, the station, which is controlled by the Moscow city government, said the shooting occurs, a snowplow blocks the view of the two people said to be Nemtsov and a companion.

ABC News has not independently confirmed the veracity of the video with the snowplow.

Russian news reports said that Nemtsov was walking with a female companion when a white car pulled up and fired on him before fleeing the scene.

Nemtsov was a former deputy prime minister under Vladimir Putin during the 1990s, but fell out with the Russian president and formed Russia's People's Freedom Party.

The reason for the attack remains a mystery and no arrests have been made. Investigators said they were looking into several possible motives and have offered 3 million rubles -- nearly $50,000 -- for information about the shooting.

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N. Korea Warns of 'Merciless Strikes' as It Launches Two Missiles into the Sea

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) — Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are on the rise, with North Korea warning of "merciless" war and launching two missiles as the joint United States-South Korean forces launched annual military drills on Monday.

The communist country test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea from Nampo, located 37 miles southwest of Pyongyang, North Korea, early Monday. Both flew about 310 miles, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry.

The test firings of missiles and rockets are often means of expressing dissatisfaction and are conducted regularly, especially during this time of the year. North Korea denounces the annual joint military exercises by U.S. and South Korean forces as rehearsals for a northern invasion aimed at toppling the country's regime.

“Key Resolve and Goal Eagle, which will last 'til April 24, are dangerous nuclear war drills for invading the DPRK,” an unidentified staff of the North Korean military said in a statement carried by the state Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for his military to become elite guard units in full preparation for war with the United States, KCNA reported Saturday. Kim's statement was made as he inspected the new guard unit hall at a war museum. The title of guard is the highest given to elite units, and was created in 1950 during the Korean War.

Pyongyang offered last month to temporarily halt nuclear tests if the U.S. suspended those exercises with South Korea. Seoul and Washington have flatly rejected that proposal.

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Officials: Mom Knew Her Son Mohammed Emwazi Was 'Jihadi John'

Obtained by ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The mother of the man identified as "Jihadi John" recognized immediately from his voice that her son was the alleged killer when he appeared in his first beheading video in August, Kuwaiti government officials told ABC News.

The parents of Mohammed Emwazi, who were questioned recently in Kuwait, told authorities they last heard from their son in mid-2013 when he called them from Turkey. Emwazi said he was going to do humanitarian work in Syria, the parents said, according to the officials. Emwazi's father, a former policeman, said he's been waiting for news of his son's death ever since.

Instead of doing humanitarian work, Emwazi allegedly linked up with ISIS and has appeared in videos online apparently beheading Westerners, including several who were actual humanitarians.

The FBI said in September it had identified the black clad figure known in the media as "Jihadi John", but the identity was kept secret until it was reported last week.

Ever since, a complex picture is emerging of the alleged murderer's life before ISIS. Born in Kuwait, Emwazi moved with his family to London when he was a boy.

A school picture captured what appeared to be an angelic smile, but a teacher told the BBC Emwazi had anger management issues, for which he eventually went to therapy.

A former boss of Emwazi's in Kuwait, when Emwazi briefly lived there in 2010, told The Guardian that Emwazi was a stellar employee, "calm and decent."

"He was the best employee we ever had," the former boss said of the then 21-year-old.

Even later, a member of the British activist group CAGE told reporters he saw Emwazi as a "beautiful young man."

But at the same time, Emwazi was linked by court documents to a number of alleged jihadists in London who purportedly supported a terror group in Somalia.

In recent years Emwazi had attempted to move back to Kuwait to pursue a computer science job there but was denied entry, according to an official with CAGE, with whom he corresponded. Instead, Emwazi is alleged to have eventually gone to join ISIS.

Now, a former ISIS fighter says Emwazi is being used by the terror group.

"ISIS play him like a piano, a celebrity to attract our Muslim brothers in Europe," the fighter told the BBC. "But some think he is showing off, they think he is being used by ISIS."

The fighter described Emwazi as cold and "strange" when the two met in Syria.

Still, Emwazi is a high-value target for American and coalition airstrikes. But authorities told ABC News he has been careful to avoid using computers or his cell phone, which could give away his location.


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Skydiver Rescued in Mid-Air After Suffering Seizure

ABCNews.com(SYDNEY) -- The tense moments when a skydiver fell unconscious in mid-air were all caught on camera.

The skydiver, 22-year-old Christopher Jones, was doing a routine training dive to become a skydive instructor when he jumped from a plane 12,000 feet over Western Australia.

At 9,000 feet, Jones suddenly fell unconscious as he suffered a seizure in mid-air.

For 30 terrifying seconds, Jones, who suffers from epilepsy but believed his condition was under control, plummeted towards the ground at 124 miles per hour.

Jones, who was visibly convulsing during his descent, fell further and further away from his instructor, Sheldon McFarlane.

Just as Jones reached 4,000 feet, a quick-thinking McFarlane was able to reach Jones and pull his ripcord, releasing Jones’ parachute.

“I was just glad to get to him, stop him turning and make sure he had a parachute above his head,” said McFarlane, an instructor at the West Australia Skydiving Academy.

Jones said he regained consciousness another 1,000 feet after the rescue, at around 3,000 feet.

“Then the next thing I know I wake up at 3,000 feet, thankfully underneath a fully inflated parachute,” he said.

The near-death accident occurred last November while Jones was on stage five of what he calls the school’s Accelerated Free Fall program. He posted the video of his fall on YouTube Sunday, where it has already been viewed nearly four million times.

“He’s a hero. He’s a massive hero,” Jones said of McFarlane.

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Boris Nemtsov Killing: Video Purportedly Shows Moment of Shooting

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- A video broadcast on Russian state TV is purported to show the moment that opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down as he walked across a bridge near the Kremlin.

The surveillance camera video is grainy and shot from far away, so that the figures walking across the bridge are barely discernable. At the moment when TV Center, the station, which is controlled by the Moscow city government, says the shooting occurs, a snow plow blocks the view of the two people said to be Nemtsov and his companion.

ABC News has not independently confirmed the veracity of the video.

Nemtsov was shot multiple times in the back late Friday night, according to Russia's Investigative Committee.

Russian news reports said that Nemtsov was walking with a female companion when a white car pulled up and fired on him before fleeing the scene.

ABC News

Unidentified killers fired "at least seven or eight shots" at Nemtsov when the politician was walking on Bolshoy Kammeny Bridge in central Moscow, Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.

"Witnesses to the killing are being questioned, and the crime scene is being carefully examined," Markin said.

No one has been arrested for the killing. Investigators said they were looking into several possible motives and have offered 3 million rubles -- nearly $50,000 -- for information about the shooting.

Nemtsov was a former deputy prime minister under Putin during the 1990s, but fell out with the Russian president and formed Russia's People's Freedom Party.

The reason for the attack remains a mystery. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Putin was aware of the news and called it a provocation.

"Putin noted that this cruel murder has every sign of being a contract one which has solely provocative nature," Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency.


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Thousands March in Moscow Sunday in Honor of Slain Putin Rival

Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Thousands of mourners marched in Moscow on Sunday to honor Boris Nemtsov, a political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was fatally shot outside the Kremlin Friday.

The march was scheduled prior to Nemtsov's death, but it was originally intended to be a march for peace, against the war in Ukraine. Nemtsov was to lead the march. In light of his death, others went on with plans to march, with one extra cause in mind.

The BBC's Olga Ivshina said on Sunday that those who marched "hope that this would change things, that this would trigger mass protest movement or this would trigger some changes within Russia."

ABC's Foreign Desk correspondent and former Moscow correspondent Kirit Radia said Sunday that the Russian government's investigation is unlikely to be impartial. The Russian system, he notes, is one "where very few things happen by accident."

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