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Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Still Coming Up Empty


(NEW YORK) -- Forty-five days after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, there has still been no sign of any wreckage in the south Indian Ocean.

It's expected that the air and surface search for the plane with 239 on board will continue indefinitely. However, the Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle, which is taking sonar scans of the ocean floor, might end its operation within a week.

The Bluefin has focused its search on a 6.2-mile circle of seafloor about 1,200 miles northwest of the Australian city of Perth. The sub has gone deeper than recommended, which could potentially damage its equipment.

It's been almost two weeks since the last acoustic ping from Flight 370's black box recorders was heard in the area where the search is concentrated.  In all likelihood, the recorders' batteries have died.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Hamzah Zainuddin met with families of the passengers and crew Sunday to discuss financial assistance.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Divers in South Korean Waters Reach Sunken Ferry, Find More Bodies


ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Divers Sunday were finally able to enter the capsized ferry that sank near South Korea last week, discovering more bodies, with the death toll expected to climb substantially as they make their way through the vessel.

However, divers are also facing an enormous challenge in looking for bodies because of murky waters and strong currents.

As of Monday, 61 people were confirmed dead, with 240 passengers still missing. About 179 people were rescued last Wednesday. Most of the 475 passengers on the ferry were high school students on a field trip.

Meanwhile, Lee Joon-Seok, the captain of the ferry Sewol, and two others were arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

South Korean prosecutors claim Joon-Seok was in his bedroom when the ferry crashed and that the third mate, who is in her 20s, was at the ship's helm when the accident happened, trying to steer the ship in the treacherous waters.

On Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye remarked, "The conduct of the captain and some crew members is unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense, and it was like an act of murder that cannot and should not be tolerated." Meanwhile, four more crew members from the Sewol have also been detained.

It was also revealed Monday that all 12 crew members from the ferry survived and had communicated with one another via walkie-talkies.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is assisting in search-and-rescue efforts. The Seventh Fleet will aid in the mission with the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard assigned to a search area 15 nautical miles from the shipwreck site.

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Prince George Squeals With Delight Upon Meeting Bilby Named After Him


Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage(SYDNEY) -- Call it a meeting of the adorable minds.

Prince George met a bilby named after him while visiting the Taronga Zoo in Sydney with his parents, Prince William and Kate Middleton. He squealed with delight upon seeing the marsupial, known as Australia's Easter Bunny.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge helped officially open the new enclosure at the zoo, which was named the Prince George Bilby Exhibit.

Prince William held his son - who turns 9-months-old Tuesday - against the enclosure as he peeked over the glass to get a closer look at the bilby. The marsupial was originally named Boy but was renamed George to celebrate the Prince's birth.

Prince George also received a road sign that he promptly chewed on and a stuffed bilby, which he flung to the floor when his mother handed it to him.

The royal family has been touring New Zealand and Australia since late last month.

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Pope Francis Prays for Peace on Easter Sunday


Franco Origlia/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Thousands packed St. Peter's Square Sunday morning to celebrate Easter Sunday with Pope Francis.

Wishing onlookers Happy Easter from his balcony, the pope presided over Holy Mass and gave his "urbi et orbi" message and blessing, calling for an end to violent conflicts around the world.

The pope focused the theme of his Easter Sunday message on the crises in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, and Nigeria, praying for peace in those countries that have been wracked with political tension, violence, and bloodshed.

Pope Francis urged humanity to overcome the scourge of hunger, made worse, he said, by conflict and wastefulness.

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Russia 'Outraged' by Deadly Ukraine Shootout


GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The Russian government says it is "outraged" by a shootout overnight near Slovyansk that left at least three dead, saying the attack was carried out by a Ukrainian right-wing nationalist group.

The attack took place before just before 2:30 a.m. on the outskirts of Slovyansk, a town under the control of pro-Russian forces. Four vehicles reportedly approached a checkpoint and opened fire, and video of the aftermath showed spent bullet casings and two burned out vehicles.

According to Ukraine's Interior Ministry, three people were killed and three wounded in clashes between armed groups, but it denied Ukrainian forces played any role. The Sloviansk hospital declined ABC News' request for comment, but Slovyansk's pro-Russia mayor confirmed the three dead to reporters.

"The Russian side is outraged with the provocation, which indicates that Kiev is unwilling to put in check and disarm nationalists and extremists," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted by the state-run Russia Today channel.

Moscow "insists on the strict implementation by the Ukrainian side of its commitments to de-escalate the situation in southeastern Ukraine," the ministry statement said.

Ukraine's Security Service called the incident a "cynical provocation" by "armed offenders and saboteurs who are terrorizing the local population in Slovyansk."

A pro-Kremlin website posted video of what it said was evidence of the nationalist group Right Sector's involvement in the attack, including crisp $100 bills, Google Maps satellite images of the area, bullets and the business card of the group's leader.

Sloviansk's new mayor quickly calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to send Russian "peacekeepers" to defend the region's citizens from "fascists and imperialists."

On Thursday, foreign ministers from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union signed an agreement that "all illegal armed groups must be disarmed" and that "all illegally seized buildings" in Ukraine must be vacated. But the armed groups occupying those buildings in eastern Ukraine haven't moved, arguing that the "criminal" government in Kiev has to first step down.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Robbers Wielding Guns, Machetes and Tasers Target Cell Phone Stores


iStock/Thinkstock(SURREY, Canada) -- Employees and business owners in British Columbia have been left terrified for their lives after armed robbers targeting cell phone stores threatened staff with machetes, handguns, and tasers.

Surveillance video captured the series of three broad-daylight robberies in a matter of weeks at different Wireless World stores in Surrey, B.C. An employee of one of the stores said the robbers tied him up before stealing away with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.

"The gun never left their hand," Jaswal told CTV News in Canada. "It was always on the back of my head. He told me, 'Hey, don't make any sudden moves or you're going to get popped in the head.'"

Rob Riah, the owner of the three stores, which are among two dozen Wireless World locations in British Columbia and Alberta, said $70,000 worth of merchandise has been stolen so far from his Surrey stores.

"We've been robbed three times in two weeks," Riah said. "I'm worried for my staff, I'm worried for my customers. Something needs to be done."

The robbers have since been selling the cell phones on Craigslist and Ebay, where unsuspecting buyers could be purchasing stolen items, Riah said, adding that the store generally blocks the IMEIs (equipment identity number) within a few days so that the phone is unusable.

By then, the thieves are usually far away and the victims are left out of pocket, Riah said.

The Surrey Royal Canadian Mounted Police could not immediately be reached on Sunday, but told CTV they had received several tips in their investigations and that the robberies were a "top priority."

Meanwhile, Riah offered a $5,000 reward for anyone able to identify the suspects in the footage, while his employees said they are seeking greater support from government and police in fighting violent crime.

"I don't think anybody's going to do anything until someone does get killed," Jaswal said. "They're not using little toy guns. They're using Tasers, they're using real guns. We don't know what they're going to do."

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Loch Ness Monster Reportings on the Rise After Sighting on Apple Maps


Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images(LOCH NESS, Scotland) -- Images of what is reportedly the infamous monster of Scotland's Loch Ness has spawned a spate of copycat sightings since the mythical creature was supposedly captured on Apple Maps by amateur Loch Ness Monster spotters last year.

Photos of what appears to be a creature roughly 100 feet in length floating under the surface of the North End of Loch Ness, a large freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands, has recently gone viral in media reports and online forums.

Glen Campbell, 49, the founder and president of The Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, which has been studying the images for months, told ABC News he's received at least two more reports of similar sightings of the elusive plesiosaur known as "Nessie," since they went public.

The pictures taken on satellite imagery by Apple for its smartphone maps were first flagged by two people late last year. Andrew Dixon and Peter Thain both separately sent images in to the Nessie Fan Club, which contains a register for every Loch Ness Monster sighting since 565 A.D., according to Campbell.

After much debate and speculation, the group decided to take the pictures to Scottish Canals, a government entity responsible for managing Scotland's waterways, where authorities also "had no idea what it was," he said.

ABC News could not immediately reach Scottish Canals for comment.

"The interesting thing is that nobody has been able to explain what it is," Campbell said. "It's pretty large, so it's not a seal or an otter. It's also not a whale or basking shark as some people claim, because they wouldn't go in fresh water."

Campbell is also convinced the unidentified object is not a boat.

"When you look at it, it looks like it could be a boat, but on the right-hand side, if you look at the various images taken from Apple maps, you can see the other boats moored on the shore, which do not look similar at all," he said.

Campbell, who is a professional chartered accountant in Inverness, Scotland, said he had spotted Nessie with his own eyes once before. He was sitting in his car near the loch in March 1996 when he saw what he described as a "mini whale" duck out and back into the water twice.

"I went to report it and there was nobody keeping a list of all the sightings and the last logging had been done in 1985," Campbell said. "We also realized Nessie didn't have a fan club."

The incident motivated Campbell and his artist wife, Kathleen Campbell, 46, to form the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, which now boasts 353 members. The pair claim they run the hobby site "for fun" and do not profit from it. Campbell also said he hasn't seen Nessie since the first time.

"If you see the Loch Ness more than twice, people think you've been drinking," he said.

The most recent supposed sighting ended an 18-month drought during which time no one reported seeing the Loch Ness Monster, Campbell said, adding that hasn't happened since 1925.

"We really have got a mystery, which is great," he said. "It keeps us all going here and it's elicited another couple of sightings, which is great as well because it's brought [Nessie] back into the forefront of the public imagination."

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Pakistani Journalist Targeted, Shot by Militants


ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images(KARACHI, Pakistan) -- For the second time, Pakistani militants have targeted a prominent journalist critical of the Taliban.

Hamid Mir-- a top-rated Pakistani talk show host and outspoken critic of the Taliban-- was shot several times by gunmen in Karachi.

Mir has been hospitalized and is expected to survive.

ABC's Muhammad Lila reports that the attack happened as the talk show host was traveling from the airport to an office in Karachi.

According to Lila, Mir reportedly, "called a friend of his on his cell phone to say that he had been followed by armed gunmen. He was followed for quite some time until the gunmen eventually reached him and opened fire."

The gunmen-- who were riding on motorcycles-- escaped.

This is the second time Mir has been targeted; in 2012, explosives were found under his car in Islamabad.

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South Korea Ferry Captain in Custody as Divers Search for Survivors


JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The captain of the ferry that sunk near South Korea Wednesday is in custody as divers continue to search for survivors.

Captain Lee Joon-Seok was arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

South Korean prosecutors claim the third mate, who is in his 20's, was at the ship's helm for the very first time when the accident happened, trying to steer the doomed vessel in the treacherous waters.

Joon-Seok said he was in his bedroom when the ferry crashed.

Joon-Seok and two crew members are now behind bars.

Thirty-six deaths have been confirmed. About 270 people are still missing.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Four French Journalists Freed After 10 Months of Captivity in Syria


Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(SANLIURFA, Turkey) -- Four French journalists are free after being held captive in Syria for 10 months.

The journalists had gone missing in two separate incidents last June, and now President Francois Hollande says it's an "immense relief" that all four have been released.

The journalists were reportedly dropped off near the Turkish border where soldiers on patrol found them blindfolded and handcuffed.

One of those released, Didier Francois, said he is "really happy" to be freed. "It's very nice to see the sky, to be able to walk, to be able to be to speak freely," Francois said.

The Elysee Palace says the journalists will return to France this weekend.

While their conditions have not been disclosed, all are said to be in good health despite being held under what are described as "very trying conditions."

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Ukraine Suspends 'Anti-Terrorist Operation'


iStock/Thinkstock(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Ukraine suspended the "active stage" of its "anti-terrorist operation" in the eastern part of its country Saturday, citing the Easter holidays and Geneva Agreement as the reason, according to its Ministry of Defense.

Last Sunday, Ukraine's acting president announced the military operation to take back areas seized by pro-Russian forces. So far, the only success the operation has seen was taking back an airfield.

Ukrainian troops have defected to the pro-Russian side along with their tanks and armored personnel carriers, while near the town of Kramatorsk a column of APCs was blocked by local civilians.

Maryna Ostapenko, a press secretary for Ukraine's Ministry of Defense, said in a statement that the anti-terrorist operation would continue but it would no longer be active.

"The efforts are currently focused on securing the safety perimeter around armed separatists in order to avoid having victims amongst peaceful population," she said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped Russia will not have to use force in eastern Ukraine. He also denied Western claims that Russian troops are already operating inside Ukraine and that the unrest there has been orchestrated by the Kremlin, warning that if the situation continued, Russia will not recognize the results of next month’s Ukrainian presidential election.

Secretary of State John Kerry struck a deal in Geneva with his Russian, Ukrainian and European counterparts on Thursday, agreeing that "illegal armed groups" would put down their weapons and leave occupied buildings. But it has changed little to nothing on the ground; pro-Russia protestors in eastern Ukraine have refused to vacate the seized buildings until, they say, the government in Kiev - which they view as "criminal" - does the same.

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US Assists in South Korean Ferry Search and Rescue Efforts


Shannon Jensen/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The United States Navy is assisting in search and rescue efforts related to the sunken South Korean ferry, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki announced Friday.

The Seventh Fleet will aid in the mission, with the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard assigned to a search area 15 nautical miles from the shipwreck site. The capsized vessel, Sewol, plunged into the waters off South Korea's coast on Wednesday, with more than 400 people on board.

Rescue teams are on the lookout for more than 250 people who are still missing, many of whom were high school students headed on a class trip. In addition to the Navy ship, two MH-60 Seahawk helicopters are conducting operations within the search area.

"We're ready to provide further assistance as needed," Psaki said.

Capt. Joey 'JT' Tynch, commanding officer of the Bonhomme Richard, said South Korean responders have been efficient with their efforts. Psaki also noted the U.S. and South Korea will exchange liaison officers to facilitate communications during the mission.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with the passengers and crew of Sewol and their families," Tynch said.

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After Secret Conviction, Marine Vet Sends Letter from Iranian Prison


Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A former U.S. Marine accused by Iran of being a CIA spy pleaded his case to the Iranian leadership in a letter written from detention, a few days after he was sentenced in a secret court to 10 years in prison.

Arizona-born Amir Hekmati, who holds dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship, wrote directly to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, asking that his “judicial file not to be entangled with the historic diplomatic problems between two countries,” according to a translation by IranWire. “What I ask of you as an Iranian citizen, a compatriot, as someone who has been separated from his family for 30 months, is freedom from prison.”

In the letter Hekmati rejected all the charges against him and swore he did not collaborate with the U.S. government against Iran. A representative for the Hekmati family authenticated the letter and confirmed IranWire’s translation.

Hekmati disappeared in Iran in August 2011 while he was on a trip to visit his grandmother, his family said. Weeks later, Hekmati, then 28 years old, appeared on Iranian state television in December where he seemed to calmly “confess” to being a spy sent by the CIA to infiltrate Iranian intelligence.

Days after the Iranian broadcast, Amir Hekmati’s father, Ali, told ABC News that the accusations against his son were a “bunch of lies.”

“My son is no spy. He is innocent. He’s a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man,” the elder Hekmati said.

Service records provided to ABC News in December 2011 show Hekmati enlisted in the Marines after graduating high school in Flint, Mich., in 2001 and joined the infantry, completing basic training at Camp Pendleton in California. He briefly attended the Defense Language Institute for the Marines in Monterey, Calif., and his father told ABC News he worked as a translator, but records show Hekmati was officially a rifleman only. A Marine spokesperson said it was possible he could have served as a translator for his Marine unit in a more informal capacity.

Hekmati said in his letter to Zarif that he worked as an Arabic translator with the U.S. military and it had nothing to do with Iran. He never had any military intelligence training, records show.

In his letter, Hekmati said he had then planned to pursue a graduate degree in economics in the U.S. – plans interrupted by his arrest.

In early January 2012, the Iranian government sentenced Hekmati to death. At the time, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said it ‘strongly condemn[ed] this verdict” and said allegations the Hekmati worked for the CIA or was sent to Iran by the agency were “simply untrue.”

“The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said then.

Iran later overturned the sentence. The case was then in limbo for months until last week when Hekmati’s lawyer said his client had been convicted again after deliberations in a secret court and given 10 years in prison.

The Hekmati family said they took the news with a “very heavy heart” and said the conviction is “unsettling specifically because Amir was born and raised in the United States and committed no crime, choosing only to visit Iran to spend time with his ailing grandmother.”

“The Hekmati family respectfully asks senior Iranian officials to review Amir’s conviction, and to resolve this grave misunderstanding by granting Amir his freedom and a safe return home,” a family statement posted online says. “Despite these afflictions, Amir’s family continues to show faith in God that after this hardship will come ease… Our family’s love and resolve is emboldened by a diverse and growing global community of support that believes in justice, freedom and humanity.”

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WorldÂ’s Tallest Building Set for Construction in Saudi Arabia


iStock/Thinkstock(JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia) -- Construction for the world’s tallest skyscraper is set to start next week in Saudi Arabia, according to local media.

The Kingdom tower will measure 3,280 feet when completed, which stretches 568 feet taller than the current Guinness World Record holder for tallest man-made construction, the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, The Saudi Gazette reported.

The finished structure will reportedly be 200 floors high and requires around 5.7 million square feet of concrete and 80,000 tonnes of steel to build, at a cost of roughly $1.23 billion.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Powerful Earthquake Shakes Central Mexico


iStock/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) -- A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on Friday morning, sending people streaming out of high-rise buildings and into the streets for safety.

The earthquake was felt strongly in the resort city of Acapulco where many Mexicans are on Easter vacation.

It was also felt in the capital, Mexico City, but local reports indicated there was no major damage.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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