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Qld Fire & Emergency(QUEENSLAND, Australia) — The calm after the storm wasn't so calm after emergency crews on Thursday found an unexpected shark out of water on a flooded road in Queensland, Australia.

Residents of Queensland were warned to stay out of the floodwaters after Cyclone Debbie left an almost five-foot long bull shark washed up on an inland road.

Think it's safe to go back in the water? Think again! A bull shark washed up in Ayr. Stay out of floodwater. #TCDebbie #ifitsfloodedforgetit

— Qld Fire & Emergency (@QldFES) March 30, 2017

A Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crew spotted the aquatic predator while doing checks of flooded roads in the Queensland town, Ayr, just north of where Debbie made landfall.

The ex-tropical cyclone slammed into Australia's northeast coast as a fierce Category 4 storm on Tuesday and caused widespread damage from extreme wind, rains and flooding.
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Photosensia/iStock/Thinkstock(ANKARA, Turkey) -- A key partner in the fight against terror and an ally with a faltering record on human rights, Turkey will host Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Thursday as he embarks on his fourth overseas trip.

There will be plenty to discuss as the two countries continue to work together to defeat ISIS even as the State Department has warned of "an increase in anti-American rhetoric" in Turkey that could "inspire independent actors to carry out acts of violence against U.S. citizens."

Tillerson landed in the capital Ankara Wednesday evening, and here are the top issues he faces:


Turkey “has suffered more losses to terrorism than all the Europeans combined,” according to a senior State Department official. Tillerson will be expressing appreciation for their contributions to the fight against ISIS and discussing the next steps in combating global terrorism.

Areas for cooperation include the upcoming fight for Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital, and the establishment of “de-escalation zones” to stabilize areas won back from ISIS.

“Stabilization is very different than a nation-building endeavor,” one senior official said, referring to measures that include the clearing of IEDs and landmines and the resumption of services like electricity and running water. It’s “a sustainable campaign at minimal cost for U.S. taxpayers," and a minimum risk of American lives -- "very different than what we’ve done before," the official said.

The campaign for Raqqa is “proceeding very well and in fact accelerating,” but it's also facing challenges over the various factions involved. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, including the Kurdish militia known as the YPG, will take the lead.

Turkey has pushed back over the involvement of the Kurds, an ethnic group with a large population that straddles Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Turkish officials have expressed concerns over their growing clout as they seek their own state and consider the YPG a terrorist organization for its ties to other Kurdish independence groups like the PKK that the U.S. has designated as a foreign terrorist organization.

“There are differences with Turkey on some issues, as there are with any of our coalition partners, and so we’ll work through those,” said a senior official.


The trip comes at a tense time in Turkey as well. The country is set to vote in just a few weeks on a referendum that would extend a state of emergency and grant even more power to the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan emerged from a failed military coup last summer and has since consolidated power in his government and jailed opposition leaders, journalists, and fired thousands of government employees. More than 100 reporters have been detained and over 175 press outlets shut down, according to the nonprofit Reporters Without Borders.

“It’s very hard to predict where Turkey is going to be in terms of how they factor in a visit from a U.S. Secretary of State into their domestic political referendum, but it’s certainly something that we all are acutely aware of and that the secretary will be mindful of while he’s there,” said a senior State Department official.

And while Tillerson “will not veer from” America’s support for freedom of expression and fair trial guarantees in Turkey, officials did not say whether that means Tillerson will raise the issue himself.

He is not meeting with members of the opposition, though. “His schedule doesn’t allow time to meet with anyone else” beyond Erdogan, foreign minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu, and the U.S. embassy staff, the senior official said.

The tension over the referendum has spilled over to other European countries. Germany, which has a large Turkish population, butted heads with Turkey after Erdogan’s party tried to campaign in the country and rally support among the emigrant population there. The State Department maintains that this is an issue for these countries to work out on their own and has declined to take a position.


But one demand Turkey may make of the U.S. is the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania who Erdogan accuses of masterminding last summer’s coup.

In response to Turkey's request, the Obama administration asked them to file paperwork with the Department of Justice providing evidence justifying his extradition. That process is ongoing, but the Trump team was reportedly considering “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away,” former CIA director and Trump campaign adviser James Woolsey told the Wall Street Journal.

A senior official referred questions to the Department of Justice, but said, “It’s possible that the Turks will raise it, and the Secretary will be prepared to respond if they do.” There is no word on what that response would be.


With larger questions looming about team Trump's ties to Russia, the U.S. will have to work through Turkey to deal with Russia in Syria. That's because the U.S. has been frozen out of peace talks by Turkey, Iran, and Russia, arguably the three most dominant outside powers operating in Syria. Those talks, held in Astana, Kazakhstan, have tried to coordinate ceasefires in the country, with Turkey representing the rebels and Russia the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The Obama administration was shut out and so far the Trump administration has so far only sent a representative to monitor.

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Top Photo Group/iStock/Thinkstock(PERU) -- Deep in the Peruvian Amazon lives a giant tree frog that is in high demand for its natural toxins, which people are using to poison themselves in a ceremony that has become the latest super clense trend.

For hundreds of years, these frogs have been used by Amazonian tribes for their supposedly powerful healing properties. The person first burns a small area of their skin and then applies the frog toxins, called “kambo” or “sapo,” to the burned spot so it’s quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

At first, the person feels a few moments of serenity, but then within seconds, that feeling turns to suffering and can force the person to vomit.

The effects shortly fades away and practitioners say it’s worth it, claiming the process can cure depression, drug dependency, heart problems, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal issues.

Lenny Kosh works as a mortgage broker and went to a kambo practitioner in the Los Angeles hills on a recommendation from his holistic health practitioner.

“Kambo is helping me resolve emotions to understand them; it’s almost like a guide to a resolution,” Kosh said. "I believe that everyone should go through this experience at least once in their life."

“It did kind of scare me,” added Johndell Hill, who also was trying kambo for the first time. “But I kind of trusted… my intuition.”

Currently, there is no research indicating kambo benefits human health and it is not officially classified as a medicine. There is no regulation of this treatment by the FDA or other authorities, though kambo is legal in the U.S. and people who use it swear by it.

“Like any medicine, if you … do it with no knowledge, [there] is obviously more danger,” said Simon Scott, the founder of Kambo Cleanse, a retreat organization based in Arizona. “It requires a certain amount of preparation… So I would say it's not wise to do kambo if you have not done it before, you know, alone.”

Watch the “Nightline” team’s harrowing journey deep into the Amazon rainforest to see the fabled frog up close and capture the kambo experience HERE.

Amazon explorer Peter Gorman, who claims credit for bringing sapo to the U.S., owns a camp in the rainforest where visitors who want to try kambo can stay.

“[Kambo] somehow just seemed to explode on the scene,” Gorman said. “It's the emerging stages of a small but legitimate phenomenon.”

As treatments from the Amazon like kambo become more popular, Gorman said people can’t ignore the impact it could have on the local ecosystem.

“I don't think any indigenous group in the Amazon is large enough to be able to handle busloads of tourists coming in,” he said. “I think that would destroy their entire way of life.”

The toxins are scraped off the frog's back with a stick.

In order to extract the toxins from the frog, the guide places strings around each of its four feet and spreads the frog’s body out between four sticks. The toxins the frog releases as a defense mechanism are then scraped off its back with another stick. The frog is then released back into the wild.

Once the toxins have dried on the stick, the skin is burned, the toxins are reconstituted with saliva or water and applied to the burnt skin. It takes about 15 seconds to feel the effects.

Peter Arnold traveled all the way from Switzerland for kambo. He said he had tried it four times already because he wanted the “unique” experience.

“You throw up, you feel very sick, you feel like you’re going to die,” he said laughing. “And finally it’s going away and after that, you have a kind of a feeling of being relieved.”

But afterward, participants say they feel cleansed.

“It was a unique experience,” Arnold said. “I believe it really works like the detoxification of your body.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. military is now conducting a formal investigation into what role a U.S. airstrike may have played in the deaths of as many as 200 civilians in Mosul, Iraq.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told a congressional committee that there has been no change in the rules of engagement regarding airstrikes targeting ISIS in Iraq and Mosul.

The U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS has acknowledged that a March 17 airstrike in western Mosul was close to the location of three houses that were leveled with dozens of civilians inside.

Votel told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that the review into the allegations of civilian casualties at the site had transitioned into a more formal investigation.

"It'll be a more formalized approach to really look into the details of this as much as we can to establish what happened, establish what the facts are, identify accountability and then certainly identify the lessons learned out of that," said Votel.

Headed by an Air Force brigadier general, Votel said the investigation will look at what role the U.S. military and ISIS may have played in the civilian deaths. The intelligence and planning for the airstrike as well as the types of the munitions that were used will also be reviewed.

Votel said he agreed with Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend's assessment Tuesday that there is "a fair chance that our operations may have contributed to civilian casualties.”

Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, said that it appeared the civilians found at the site may have been placed there as human shields by ISIS.

“I think is also important to clearly recognize that the enemy does use human shields, has little regard for human life and does attempt to use civilian casualty allegations as a tool to hinder our operations," Votel added. "And so they bear responsibility for this as well.”

Votel told the committee that there has been no change to the rules of engagement for U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS.

“We have not relaxed the rules of engagement,” Votel said.

He explained that last year U.S. Central Command delegated the approval for airstrikes to lower level general officers in Iraq in anticipation of the tough urban fight in Mosul.

"To be clear, there were no changes in the rules of engagement that allows us to engage," he emphasized.

Iraqi security forces have faced stiff resistance from ISIS fighters as they push into the historic section of western Mosul that is riddled with narrow streets and densely populated areas.

Votel praised Iraqi forces for their resilience in continuing the fight against ISIS despite heavy casualties in western Mosul.

"The Iraqi Security Forces, so far, in about 37 days have sustained about 284 killed and a little over 1,600 wounded in the western part of the city," said Votel.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Thousands of people gathered in London Wednesday to pay tribute to the victims of last week's attack.

Police officers, young Muslims and other Londoners with flowers in their hands walked across Westminster Bridge, where the attack took place last Wednesday.

More than 500 young people from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in London were part of the ceremony, according to one of the organizers.

“When the attack happened we knew that a lot of people would have questions about whether this is actually what Islam teaches,” Farhad Ahmad, an imam with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, told ABC News.

He and other young Muslims on the bridge were wearing shirts that said “I’m a Muslim” on the front and “Ask me anything“ on the back.

“In this moment in time it’s very crucial that the Muslim community comes out and tells people what the true teachings of Islam are as compared to what people think Islam says based on some individuals’ actions," he said. "The Quran says that if you kill one person it’s like killing the whole of humanity. If we can get that true message of Islam across to people it will build bridges and bring communities together.”

On March 22, 52-year-old Khalid Masood, a Muslim convert with a criminal past, crashed his rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and later stabbed a police officer. Four people were killed in the attack, including the officer. Masood was shot and killed by police.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May has triggered Article 50, formally starting the process for Britain to leave the European Union -- but what happens next?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Article 50?

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty allows any EU country to leave the EU and outlines the plan for the exit.

What happens after Article 50 is triggered?

It’s unclear exactly what will happen because no country has ever used Article 50 before. Once Article 50 is triggered, the U.K. and the EU have two years to reach an agreement -- unless they can agree on an extension. On April 29, leaders of 27 EU countries will meet without the U.K. to give the European Commission a mandate to negotiate "Brexit," as it is colloquially known.

What will be the focus of negotiations?

The U.K. will have to pay the EU when it leaves the union and that will be subject to negotiations, said Dr. Andrew Blick, a lecturer in politics and contemporary history at King’s College London.

"It's pretty clear that the U.K. will have to pay something," he told ABC News. "The question is how much and over how long a period of time. This is not the only issue but [it is] a significant one."

The status of EU citizens currently in the U.K. and U.K. citizens in EU countries is expected to be discussed as well, he said. While the U.K. is member of the EU, U.K. citizens can live and work in any other EU country without a visa -- and EU citizens also don’t need a visa to live in the U.K. That is likely to change once the U.K. leaves, but what about EU citizens who already live and work in the U.K.? The U.K. government has said that it wants to recognize the rights of EU nationals currently in the U.K., but that it wants reciprocal rights for the millions of U.K. nationals living in Europe.

The U.K. is also hoping to negotiate what the future trade relationship will be with the EU, which is the U.K.’s largest trading partner -- but that might not be possible.

“It’s going to be very difficult within the two years to actually finalize a free trade agreement,” Blick said. If no agreement is made within the two years, the EU and the U.K. can still continue to negotiate -- but once the U.K. leaves it will not be part of the free trade agreement with the EU until a new deal is in place. In the meantime, the U.K. can trade via the World Trade Organization, but that’s not as favorable, said Blick.

Will the U.K. definitely leave the EU once Article 50 is triggered?

Experts don’t agree on whether the U.K. can change its mind and remain in the EU after triggering Article 50, but it might be possible, said Blick.

“I suspect that if the U.K. says ‘we realized this was a really bad idea’ the E.U. might say ‘we are not pleased, but OK,’” he said. But that could only happen if the political situation in the U.K. changes, he added. That could be a shift in public opinion, with more people wanting to stay in the EU, or if something changes within May’s Conservative Party, he explained.

Voters in Scotland are in favor of remaining in the EU, and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon is calling for a referendum on independence for Scotland so that Scottish voters can decide if they want to leave the U.K., which would, in turn, allow them to remain in the EU.

The Scottish Parliament has backed Sturgeon’s call for a referendum, but the U.K. government has said it will block it until the process to leave the EU is finalized. Even if the referendum doesn’t happen, the debate about it could have an influence on public opinion, said Blick.

“It could contribute to a general sense of, ‘We better think again about this,’” he said.

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Wilson Spinoz(JAUJA, Peru) — Video posted to social media Tuesday shows a Peruvian Airlines passenger jet on fire at Francisco Carle Airport in Jauja, Peru, located about 165 miles east of Lima.

The video, which was posted to Facebook, shows several workers tending to the plane as thick black smoke billows toward the sky.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Peruvian Airlines said the plane turned off the runway upon landing at 4:30 p.m. local time.

All 141 passengers on board the Boeing aircraft were evacuated from the plane; none were considerably injured, the airline said.

Alberto Lopez, a spokesman for Peruvian Airlines, emphasized that the plane did not crash, though. "The investigators are traveling to Jauja tomorrow [Wednesday] at 5 am and our emergency team is in place and that is all we can say. The plane did not crash, it landed and then the fire was produced once the plane was on the ground but the exact cause of fire will be explained once the investigation has been completed."

The aircraft caught fire as a consequence of the "forced landing," the Peruvian Ministry of Transport and Communication said in a statement. Firefighters at the airport put the fire out.

Boeing tweeted Tuesday night, "We are aware of the incident involving Peruvian Airlines Flight 2036. Our team is currently gathering more information."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- According to the top U.S. commander in Iraq there is "a fair chance" that a coalition airstrike played a role in the deaths of as many as 200 civilians killed inside three leveled buildings in western Mosul.

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told reporters Tuesday that an ongoing review of the incident may find that the civilian deaths were due to a combination of the airstrike and the ISIS tactic of using human shields inside the buildings.

"If we did it, and I’d say there’s at least a fair chance that we did, it was an unintentional accident of war and we will transparently report it to you when we’re ready," Townsend said in an audio briefing from Baghdad with Pentagon reporters.

Townsend said initial indications show there were multiple airstrikes in the area where the buildings are located.

"Is it possible that we did that? Yes, I think it’s a possible," Townsend said later. "That's what I mean by a fair chance. If we didn’t strike in that area, I’d be telling you it was unlikely. But because we struck in that area, I think there’s a fair chance that we did it."

An Air Force brigadier general is leading the coalition's credibility assessment into the claims of civilian casualties at the location in western Mosul where local reports say as many as 200 civilians were killed in demolished structures.

A team of American experts visited the site in Mosul on Monday, gathering samples and information that Townsend said will help determine if a coalition airstrike played a role in the collapse of the buildings.

Cautioning that initial assessments can sometimes be wrong, Townsend said, "My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties."

"What I don’t know is were they gathered there by the enemy?" Townsend asked. "We still have some assessment to do. It sure looks like they were. I firmly believe they were gathered there by the enemy. The people we're talking to say they were gathered there."

Townsend said that the building had been used by ISIS as a fighting position and that "there were people that you really can’t account for in any other way, for why they would all be there, unless they were forced there."

"My initial impression is the enemy had a hand in this and there's also a fair chance our strike had some role in it," said Townsend. "I think it’s probably going to play out it was some combination. But you know what? I really can’t say for sure and we really have to let the investigation play out."

Townsend pointed out that the buildings in question were completely leveled, but he noted that the types of bombs used in the airstrikes in the general area would not have leveled the building.

"The building should not have collapsed and that's something we have to figure out," he said.

The general also told reporters that allegations of civilian deaths from an airstrike on a Syrian school building are "not credible."

Activist groups have claimed that a coalition airstrike that destroyed the building outside of Raqqa killed as many as 33 civilians, who were in the building to flee local fighting.

Though the coalition review of the allegations is still underway, Townsend said initial indications are from "multiple corroborating streams" of information seem to indicate that only ISIS fighters were killed in the airstrike.

U.S. Central Command and the coalition are also reviewing a March 16 airstrike in al Jinnah, Syria that residents have claimed killed as many as 50 civilians gathered at a mosque. U.S. officials have stressed the airstrike targeted a building where dozens of al Qaeda militants had gathered and did not strike a mosque across the street.

Townsend described the fighting in western Mosul as some of the toughest and most brutal he has ever seen. The narrow streets of the city's historic center have made it tougher for Iraqi forces to advance.

And ISIS is forcing residents unable to flee the fighting to be human shields. According to Townsend, two houses in Mosul were recently found rigged with explosives while 45 civilian hostages were in one house and 25 in another. The explosives were successfully defused and the hostages were released safely.

Townsend stressed that the coalition takes great care to prevent civilian casualties, though they are sometimes accidental, whereas ISIS targets civilians indiscriminately.

"ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis," Townsend said. "ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cages and they’re making the video record to prove it. This has got to stop. This evil has got to be stamped out."

"In my mind, all of the responsibility for any civilian deaths, the moral responsibility for civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria belongs to ISIS."

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Andy Buchanan - WPA Pool /Getty Images(EDINBURGH, Scotland) -- Scotland's parliament has backed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's call for a second referendum on independence for the country.

Members of Scottish parliament voted to ask the British government for a referendum before the U.K. leaves the European Union with 69 votes to 59.

Last year when the U.K. voted in a referendum to leave the EU, Scots largely voted to remain.

In a 2014 referendum for Scottish independence, Scots rejected independence, but Sturgeon believes that Brexit has changed matters and people should be able to vote again.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said "now is not the time" for a referendum, according to the BBC, and she will not allow another vote until the Brexit process has been completed and Scots can see the U.K.'s new relationship with the EU.

Sturgeon argued: "When the nature of the change that is made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, that change should not be imposed upon us, we should have the right to decide the nature of that change.

"The people of Scotland should have the right to choose between Brexit - possibly a very hard Brexit - or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and create a true partnership of equals across these islands."

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iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Dozens of protesters in Paris clashed with police on Monday over the killing of a Chinese man.

At least 35 people were detained after demonstrations outside a police station Monday, and three police officers were injured, according to BBC.

Liu Shaoyo, 56, was shot and killed at his home on Sunday night when police responded to reports of a domestic dispute, BBC reports. Police said Liu, a father of five, attacked an officer with a sharp object. French media said Liu was holding a pair of scissors.

The family's lawyer, Calvin Job, told French media the family was "shocked" by the police accounts and that Liu's daughters were sitting near him when he was shot.

French authorities are investigating the deadly shooting. China's foreign ministry has called for a full investigation and for the protection of Chinese people in France.

At least 150 people participated in demonstrations on Monday in Paris' 19th arrondissement (district), including many members of the Chinese community in Paris, according to BBC.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BRISBANE, Australia) -- A group of scientists is claiming to have found the largest-ever dinosaur footprint in a region nicknamed “Australia’s Jurassic Park."

The team of paleontologists, hailing from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, report that an "unprecedented 21 different types of dinosaur tracks have been identified on a 25-kilometre stretch of the Dampier Peninsula coastline."

According to the university, its scientists braved sharks, crocodiles and massive tides in order to unveil dinosaur tracks embedded in what they say are 127- to 140-million-year-old rocks in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Their findings were ultimately published in The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, and that study's lead author, Dr. Steve Salisbury, likened the finding to a real-life version of the Steven Spielberg blockbuster in a press release issued by the university.

“It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period,” Salisbury said of the scientists' findings.

“It’s such a magical place -- Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting,” he added.

While it might be too much of a trek for most Americans to visit in person, the school has released images and video of the tracks for everyone to see.

Simply put, they are huge: One image shows a man lying next to a footprint, and its size encompasses his entire body.

Also, the landscape surrounding the prints appears barren and serene -- the region where the tracks were found is sparsely populated, and inhabited primarily by the Goolarabooloo tribe, who collaborated with the scientists in this expedition, according to the university.

Salisbury described the prints as being diverse.

“There were five different types of predatory dinosaur tracks, at least six types of tracks from long-necked herbivorous sauropods, four types of tracks from two-legged herbivorous ornithopods and six types of tracks from armored dinosaurs," he said.

Among the tracks, Salisbury noted, is the only confirmed evidence for stegosaurus in Australia.

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Metropolitan Police(LONDON) — The wife of the 52-year-old man who committed a deadly terror attack in London last week condemned her husband's actions, saying she is "saddened and shocked."

"I express my condolences to the families of the victims that have died, and wish a speedy recovery to all the injured," said Rohey Hydara, the wife of Khalid Masood, who killed four people and injured dozens in a vehicle and knife attack that took place outside the Houses of Parliament last Wednesday.

"I would like to request privacy for our family, especially the children, at this difficult time," she added in a statement released through London police.

Masood killed three people and injured at least 28 others with a car on Westminster Bridge. He was then shot and killed by police after fatally stabbing a police officer.

Masood, a U.K. native with a number of prior criminal convictions, is believed to have acted alone.

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iStock/Thinkstock(TOKYO) — Seven high school students and a teacher were killed in an avalanche on Monday while mountain climbing at a ski resort in Japan, according to ABC News partner NHK.

About 62 students and teachers from seven high schools were in Tochigi Prefecture, about 100 miles north of Tokyo, Japan, when the avalanche hit, the report said.

The eight were found unresponsive after a getting caught in the snow slide at around 8:30 a.m. local time while taking part in 3 days of mountain climbing safety training, the report said.

Tochigi authorities had initially said they believed all eight victims were students.

"A strong wind blew. As soon as I felt it, I also saw something white roaring toward us," a male student who was caught in the slide told NHK in a phone interview.

"Right then, our teacher shouted 'crouch down!' We did, but we were engulfed," said the student, who was not identified by name.

Authorities said 40 others were injured in the accident, with two students sustaining serious injuries, according to NHK.

The weather bureau had previously issued snow and avalanche warnings for the area.

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Alexander Miridonov/Kommersant via Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Stirred by allegations of corruption, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in dozens of cities across Russia yesterday, in the largest anti-government demonstrations the country has seen in years.

Between 7,000 and 30,000 people demonstrated in Moscow, and up to 10,000 in St. Petersburg. Rallies were reported in 82 cities and towns in total.

It’s unclear how many have been arrested. Independent Russian news agency Interfax reported about 500 people were arrested, while Russian human rights group OVD-info reported more than 700 people in Moscow, 34 in St. Petersburg and between 80 and 100 in other cities.

These appear to be the largest protests since fraud allegations in parliamentary elections sparked uprisings, which began in 2011 and continued in the following year, countering harsh laws restricting protests that were enacted after that time.

Yesterday's protests were precipitated by an anti-corruption group’s investigation into Russian prime minister and former president Dmitry Medvedev, alleging that he used phony companies and charities to build a massive empire of real estate and luxury goods for his own profit.

The Fund for Combatting Corruption (FBK) and its leader, Putin-opposition activist Alexei Navalny, released a report earlier this month and called for the protests Sunday as a way to demand that Russian authorities investigate.

Navalny, who has said he will challenge Russian president Vladimir Putin for the presidency in 2018, was arrested yesterday, slapped with a $350 dollar fine for violating public meeting rules and sentenced to 15 days in jail for disobeying police. His organization’s offices were raided by police, who arrested 20 staff members.

The Kremlin dismissed the allegations against Medvedev and has refused to investigate. After Sunday’s protests, the Kremlin also condemned the demonstrations while trying to downplay them.

"What we saw in several places, especially in Moscow -- it was provocation and lies," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday, accusing the organizers of tricking people into protesting and paying teenagers to participate.

"We regret that our active citizens, many probably out of ignorance, didn’t want to use the alternative venues," he said, referencing the spaces far outside Moscow’s city center where authorities said the protests could have been held legally.

While saying the government respects people’s right to demonstrate, Peskov said this march was an "absolutely forbidden protest action."

State media has ignored the protests as well. Western journalists reporting in the country said Russian television made no mention of the protests, instead covering corruption in Ukraine and South Korea. Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine that aggregates news stories, did not include the protests in their roundup.

Critics in the U.S. were also quick to question the Trump administration’s initial silence on the protests. The State Department released a statement after an American journalist was arrested, but for hours the administration said nothing about the protests themselves -- or Putin’s crackdown.

"The United States government cannot be silent about Russia’s crackdown on peaceful protesters," said Republican Senator Ben Sasse in a statement. "Free speech is what we’re all about and Americans expect our leaders to call out thugs who trample the basic human rights of speech, press, assembly, and protest."

Later, on Sunday night, the State Department issued a statement from acting spokesperson Mark Toner, "strongly" condemning the arrests of peaceful protesters and the targeting of Navalny and his anti-corruption organization.

"Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values ... We call on the government of Russia to immediately release all peaceful protesters. The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve a government that supports an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution," it read in part.

The White House has not issued its own statement, but at Monday's briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer said the State Department's comment "reflects the view of the United States government."

Trump has called for cooperation with Russia, especially in the fight against ISIS, and previously refused to criticize Putin’s record on human rights. In an interview last month with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, he dismissed the interviewer’s comment that "Putin’s a killer," saying, "We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?"

That is a contrast from the U.S. reaction the last time there were major anti-government protests in Russia.

After reports that parliamentary elections in 2011 were rife with fraud, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "full investigation."

"We have serious concerns about the conduct of those elections ... The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted, and that means they deserve fair, free, transparent elections and leaders who are accountable to them," she said two days after the election at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Those comments struck a nerve in Moscow as thousands began to protest. Putin then publicly blamed Clinton, saying she incited them.

According to a U.S. intelligence report released in January that blamed Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, that episode, in part, led to Putin’s campaign "to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency."

"Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012," the report read, "and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- North Korea conducted another rocket engine test this weekend that looked similar to intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology, U.S. officials tell ABC News.

The officials said the rocket engine test, where the rocket is bolted to the ground to test the engine's power, was the third such test in recent weeks.

Earlier this year, North Korea Leader Kim Jong Un said the country was close to testing an ICBM.

A fully-developed ICBM in North Korea could threaten the U.S. as an ICBM has a minimum range of 5,500 km (3,400 miles).

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