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Germanwings Co-Pilot May Have Had Hidden Illness; No Suicide Note Found

Adam Berry/Getty Images(DÜSSELDORF, Germany) — There are indications that the co-pilot of the Germanwings aircraft that crashed into the French Alps Tuesday hid an illness from his employers, German prosecutors said in a statement Friday morning.

The disclosure of torn medical documents at the co-pilot's home came shortly before Germanwings' parent company, Lufthansa, announced that it would be changing company policy to require two "authorized persons" remain in the cockpit at all times during the flight, in light of the finding that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz apparently stopped the captain from re-entering the cockpit and forced the plane to crash.

In addition to the findings suggesting Lubitz was hiding an illness, a search of his apartment in Dusseldorf yielded no suicide note and the city's prosecutor announced that there is no evidence that political or religious factors were involved in the crash.

During a press conference Thursday, the Lufthansa CEO said that the 27-year-old co-pilot had undergone a medical examination that included a psychological evaluation before being hired in 2013 but, unlike physicals, mental evaluations are not required annually.

The Germanwings plane crashed Tuesday in the Alps in southern France with 150 people on board, including two babies, the airline said. French President Francois Hollande said there were "apparently no survivors."

Brice Robin, public prosecutor of Marseille, France, said in a news conference Thursday that Lubitz appeared to want to "destroy the plane," purposefully locking the captain out of the Airbus A320's cockpit and accelerating the descent manually.


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Duchess Kate Middleton Makes Last Public Appearance Before Maternity Leave

Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Duchess Kate Middleton stepped out in a hot pink coat Friday at what could be her final public appearance before she gives birth to her second child, which is due next month.

The duchess, 33, was joined by her husband, Prince William, 32, at three engagements to support opportunities for young people in South London.

While touring the Stephen Lawrence Centre, a community and social research center, William reportedly told well-wishers it would be "not long now" before the birth of the couple’s second child, reports the U.K.’s The Telegraph.

The Telegraph also reported that the Duke of Cambridge, as William is formally known, described becoming a father a second time as a “game-changer” and said he could not wait for the birth.

"William said he couldn't wait for the baby to be born - he said he wanted it now, he couldn't wait another minute,” bystander Parl Reardon recounted to The Telegraph.

Kate is due in April but neither her exact due date nor the sex of the baby are publicly known.

The couple’s first child, son Prince George, will turn 2-years-old in August.

William and Kate on Friday also visited Christ Church in Gipsy Hill where they watched a performance by young people from XLP Arts Project, a charity for kids from inner London boroughs.

The royals also visited an XLP community bus and mobile recording studio that was converted from an old police riot van through MTV's Pimp My Ride TV show.

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People Flock to See Jesus' Face on Hillside in Colombia

iStock/Thinkstock(BOGOTA, Colombia) -- Many say you can see the face of Jesus in nature, but locals in a small town in Colombia are claiming that literally.

Both the faithful and opportunistic are flocking to see what they claim is an image of Jesus' face in a hillside in the town of San Francisco in the Colombian province of Putumayo, according to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

The site is in southern Colombia, close to the border with Ecuador.

The formation was discovered after a small landslide in the ravine.

"If you believe in Jesus you will see your image," Ximena Rosero Arango, a visitor to the site, told El Tiempo, according to a translation by Discovery.com.

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In Joseph Kony Hunt, US Courts Defectors with Pop Music

STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Three and a half years after President Obama sent 100 special operations troops to Africa to help root out Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony -- so far unsuccessfully -- the broader U.S.-supported international anti-LRA team has resorted to using a truly unstoppable force against the alleged war criminal: pop music.

Blasted over helicopter loudspeakers buzzing over the jungle and often on the radio, the song “Come Home” by popular Ugandan pop star Chameleone urges Kony’s followers to turn their back on the purportedly crazed leader. Chameleone composed the song in 2013 at the behest of U.S. embassy officers who were looking for innovative ways to reach would-be defectors, according to Marty Regan, a field representative for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations in Uganda.

Chameleone told ABC News he wrote the song to try and “cajole” Kony, who he says is a fan, “out of the bush.” In the song, he urges LRA members, “Your mother, father and family are waiting for you…do not suffer out there thinking nobody cares about you…I am simply waiting for my brothers in the LRA to come home. You are forgiven.” 

Regan echoed the song’s sentiments: “The message that it conveys is this: you were abducted, this is not your fault, this is your land, and you are welcome back here.”

The pop music initiative is part of a concentrated effort between the U.S. and its partners to reach out to local communities and develop reintegration programs for defectors. In addition to playing “Come Home” on the radio and over the helicopter loudspeakers, the program uses radio interviews, thousands of air-dropped leaflets and posters to reach out to communities.

The public relations effort, coupled with increased military pressure against the LRA forces, is what Regan attributes to a drastic decrease in LRA numbers. According to Regan, the LRA force is thought to be down to around 150 members, a far cry from the thousand militants it used to command in 2009.

Although the LRA is now in what Regan deemed “survival mode,” resorting to banditry and looting rather than mass abductions and murders, the memories of the atrocities the LRA committed is enough to strike fear in the local communities.

“It has not been long since they were a horrible force there,” said Regan. “As long as Joseph Kony is at large, while their ability to reconstitute themselves is questionable, the fact that he’s still out there is of concern.”

The State Department says that as the LRA’s leader, Kony is wanted for “among other acts, forced enlistment of children as soldiers through abduction, sexual enslavement, and intentionally directing attacks against civilian populations.” An INTERPOL Red Notice says Kony has been charged with 12 counts of “crimes against humanity” and another 21 “war crimes.”

Speaking in 2012 about his decision the previous October to send the 100 U.S. “advisors” after Kony, Obama told ABC News, “None of these decisions are easy, but those who are familiar with the Lord’s Resistance Army and their leader, Mr. Kony, know that these are some of the most vicious killers.”

“They terrorize villages. They take children into custody and turn them into child soldiers. They engage in rape and slaughter in villages they go through. They have been the scourge on the Uganda and that entire region, East Africa,” Obama said then.

The State Department’s use of pop music against the terror group was reported in the organization’s regular State Magazine. Regan is quoted in an article there as saying that despite the atrocities the LRA has committed, most defectors seem surprisingly “normal.”

“I have met with a number of LRA defectors. When you meet them, you are almost taken aback by how ‘normal’ they appear,” Regan said. “They appear to be humble, regular people. While you can sympathize with all of them who ended up in the LRA after being abducted at a young age, many of the defectors were long time fighters who murdered, mutilated and raped innocent people.”

The magazine said that 250 LRA members are believed to have defected since 2012. A State Department fact sheet put out the same year said that since the year 2000, more than 12,000 “former LRA fighters and abductees” have left the group and have been reintegrated through a local amnesty program.

Millions of Americans first heard about Kony and his group’s purported atrocities when a 30-minute web video called “Kony 2012” went viral that year. As of this publication, the video has over 100 million views.

The U.S. government is offering $5 million for information leading to Kony’s arrest or conviction.

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Australia Museum Offers Nude Art Tours of Exhibition for Exhibitionists

National Gallery of Australia(CANBERRA, Australia) — There's plenty of beautiful nude art worth viewing. But is it worth viewing art in the nude?

If ticket sales are any indication, it seems so. For three days the National Gallery of Australia will offer nude tours of a current exhibit are already sold out.

Nude tours of "James Turell: A Retrospective" will take place from April 1-3.

The nude tours are for guests 18 and older only. Participants, according to the National Gallery's web site, will arrive and leave nude. 

They will be led by Stuart Ringholt, an Australian artist, who has led nude tours at Australia's Museum of Contemporary Art. Ringholt will also be nude, though other museum staff will be clothed. Following the tour, there will be a coffee and cocktail reception, also in the nude.

Turell is an American artist whose medium is light. His works addresses light and perception and he is most-known for what's referred to as his "life's work."

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Saudis Lead Coalition Against Shiite Rebels in Yemen

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Saudi Arabia is leading a military offensive against the Shiite Houthi rebel group that has taken over large areas of Yemen while Egypt says it's prepared to join the Saudis and other Arab nations in what's been deemed "Operation Decisive Storm."

Saudi military jets have undertaken bombing raids against Houthi positions in Yemen's capital of Sanaa and other cities while a force of 150,000 soldiers stands ready for an imminent invasion.

Numerous deaths have been reported, including many civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Yemeni President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled his compound in Aden which came under siege by the Houthis, arrived in Saudi Arabia's capital of Riyadh Thursday.

Hadi is supported by the White House, which has seen its counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula severely hampered by the rise of the Iranian-backed Houthi militias.

The offensive is designed to first weaken the Houthis and then send in ground forces with the goal of forcing the rebel group back to the negotiating table for a power-sharing agreement with the current Yemeni government.

The U.S., meanwhile, is offering no direct military assistance but is providing the Saudis and their allies with technical and logistical support.

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Iraqi Forces Repel ISIS Counterattacks

Marcio Silva/iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- Iraqi forces were able to repel a number of ISIS attacks this week, despite the fact that much of the attention has been on the Iraqi attempt to retake the city of Tikrit from ISIS militants.

The U.S.-led coalition said Thursday that Iraqi Security Forces defeated four separate ISIS attacks on March 24. The attacks took place near Kisik, Kirkuk, Bayji and Habbaniyah. In the attack on Habbaniyah, the coalition says ISIS "unsuccessfully employed two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and 12 suicide bombers." They were believe to have been attempting to retake a bridge.

The coalition says that ISIS gained no ground in their attacks. "The tables are turning," Col. Wayne Marotto, coalition spokesman, said. "ISF is gaining ground and their capabilities continue to improve."

On Wednesday, the U.S. agreed to begin offering support to Iraqi Security Forces in an effort to reclaim Tikrit from ISIS.

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Germanwings Co-Pilot Appeared to Want to ‘Destroy the Plane,’ Prosecutor Says

F. Balsamo - Gendarmerie nationale / Ministere de l'Interieur via Getty Images(MARSEILLES, France) — The co-pilot of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps this week appeared to want to "destroy the plane," Brice Robin, public prosecutor of Marseille, said Thursday.

"The intention was to destroy the plane," he said, later adding: "Death was instantaneous."

Speaking at a news conference conducted mostly in French, Robin confirmed reports about the pilot being heard on the voice recorder asking co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a German citizen, to take over the controls, with a chair heard being moved and door heard closing.

The co-pilot, 27, took control, Robin said, and the accelerated descent was made manually.

Whatever the cause, Germanwings initially took exception to the prosecutor's comments, tweeting this morning, "We are shocked by the statements from French authorities that the co-pilot deliberately crashed the aircraft."

But at a news conference later in Cologne, Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said, “We have to accept that the plane was crashed on purpose.” He added, “It seems to be true that the co-pilot denied the pilot access to the cockpit.”

He asked people not to rush to judgment, however, which he called "speculation" about the co-pilot's intentions, adding, "the motivation could be of various nature."

He stressed that the co-pilot, who had 630 hours of flying time, had undergone extensive psychological and aviation review since beginning training in 2008 and joining the company as a first officer in 2013, though his training was interrupted six years ago for an unspecified reason.

"In our worst nightmare, we could not have imagined that such a tragedy could take place at our company," Spohr said, speaking in German and agreeing with French authorities that terrorism was not involved.

He declined to characterize the crash as a suicide, saying there has to be something else involved. "It is a puzzle for us," he said.

As for the chain of events, prosecutor Robin said all had seemed normal as the pilots communicated in a "amicable" way for the first 20 minutes of the flight.

But later, the captain can be heard on the voice recording knocking on the door and asking over the speaker to re-enter the cockpit, but there was no response from the co-pilot, Robin said.

The co-pilot can be heard breathing until the moment of impact, Robin said, so officials believe he was alive until the crash in which all 150 people on board are presumed to have died.

Air traffic control can also be heard calling, with no response from the cockpit.

Lubitz, who lived in Montabaur, Germany, had no reason to lock the pilot out of the cabin, no reason not to respond to air traffic control and no reason to disable the plane's ability to maintain contact with other plans in the area, Robin said.

Toward the end of the descent, investigators can hear "violent" banging on door as the pilot tries to get in, Robin added.

Lufthansa CEO Spohr said pilots are able to enter a code to re-enter the cockpit but that the pilot inside is able to disable the system electronically. So either the captain did not enter the code or Lubitz blocked his entry, he said.

"We have total confidence in our pilots and co-pilots," he said.


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Pope Francis Surprises Homeless Visitors During Private Vatican Tour

neneos/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(VATICAN CITY) -- The Vatican opened its doors Thursday to the homeless of St. Peter's Square, allowing the people who usually only see its steps outside to observe its beauty inside, and be greeted by Pope Francis himself.

A group of 150 homeless men and women took a guided tour of the museum and gardens and received dinner in the Vatican Museum’s cafeteria. They also were invited to pray in the Sistine Chapel, where the pope made an unannounced visit.

“This is everyone’s house: it’s your house. The door is always open for all,” Francis reportedly said as he shook their hands.

The Vatican says the pontiff spent 20 minutes with the visitors, meeting each one individually. He asked them to pray for him, saying, “I need prayers from people like you."

“It was a great surprise meeting him,” said Graziella, one of the homeless visitors, to the Italian news agency ANSA. "The pope was smiling a lot but above all I was struck by his humility. Who else would have done this? Nobody. I always go to church but I have never experienced such humanity and humility."

The tour passed the Casa Santa Marta, where Pope Francis chose to live instead of the stately Papal apartment, and included a stop at a recently opened room in the museum that houses the pope’s historical carriages.

The invitation is just one of a string of actions taken by the pontiff to reach out to the poor. To mark his birthday in December, Pope Francis had sleeping bags distributed to the homeless in and around St. Peter’s Square. In February, the Vatican built showers and hired barbers for the homeless around the square.

And in mid-June, Francis will lunch with some of Turin’s homeless on a visit there, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

Pope Francis’ outreach to the poor echoes one of the central messages of his papacy. "Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent," Francis said in 2013.

The Vatican has called on the homeless to help distribute gospels or prayer booklets to the faithful in the square on Sundays during the Pope’s noontime prayer.

The tour and dinner was organized by the Office of Papal Charities, which regularly distributes meals to the homeless who live in Rome.

The Vatican said Francis did not want any official photos or videos taken of the event.

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US Drops Anti-ISIS Leaflets over Syria

US Dept of Defense(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The Pentagon has released a copy of a leaflet that was dropped over ISIS' defacto capital in Syria earlier this month.

The leaflet drop is part of the U.S. military’s psychological operations to show potential ISIS recruits that they are part of a losing effort.

Some 60,000 of the leaflets were dropped over Ar Raqqa, Syria early on the morning of March 16, officials said.

The leaflets were dropped by a single U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter aircraft carrying a PDU-5B leaflet canister, according to the Pentagon.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Thursday that the drop was intended to dissuade potential ISIS recruits from joining the group.

"The message of this leaflet is if you allow yourself to be recruited by Daesh you will find yourself in a meat grinder,” said Warren, using the Islamic acronym for the group.

The leaflet shows a room identified by a sign with the arrow as a "Daesh Recruiting Office," and the meat grinder is labelled "Daesh."

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Tikrit Offensive: Iranian General Steps Out, US Steps In

iStock/Thinkstock(TIKRIT, Iraq) -- The U.S. agreement to conduct airstrikes to support the Iraqi offensive to retake Tikrit was contingent on Iranian-backed militias pulling out of the operation, the commander of U.S. Central Command said Thursday.

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Lloyd Austin said the Shia militias, led by Iranian Quds Commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani, had left the area around Tikrit before U.S. forces provided air support in the mostly-stalled offensive against Islamic State forces holding the city. U.S. officials had estimated that as many as 18,000 of the 23,000 Iraqi forces in the offensive were Shiite militia fighters.

Austin said the clearing of ISIS fighters in Tikrit would be left to 4,000 Iraqi Security Forces, mostly special operations troops and federal police who would be supported by U.S. airstrikes.

The Pentagon announced Thursday morning that U.S. forces had launched 17 airstrikes near Tikrit, destroying various ISIS positions at the request of the Iraqi government.

Speaking from his personal experience in Iraq, Austin explained why he would never work with Shia militias.

“I’d just like to highlight sir, after three tours in Iraq commanding troops in Iraq who were brutalized by some of these Shia militias I will not and I hope we never coordinate or cooperate with the Shia militias,” Austin said.

Austin took a dig at the Shia militia themselves, noting that the offensive to retake Tikrit had stalled specifically because they were poorly led.

“It’s the way the forces went about trying to do this,” Austin said. “The forces were not controlled by the government of Iraq, there was no coherent scheme of maneuvers, command and control, and didn’t have precision fires to support this effort.”

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, commander of the anti-ISIS coalition Gen. John Allen explained to lawmakers in the House Foreign Affairs committee that the U.S. only came to aid as a result of the Iraqi government’s request.

“I don’t believe at all that we’re, in our efforts, at this moment, saving or attempting to salvage a failed Iranian strategy,” Allen said. “As the operation unfolded, [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Haider al] Abadi and members of the Iraqi security forces requested U.S. and coalition support for the final phase of the operation ultimately to liberate the city of Tikrit."

Allen was then asked to answer why Iran’s Quds Force commander, who directed Shia militias during the Iraq War responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops, wasn’t himself targeted in the airstrikes.

“My question is, is if we were conducting air operations, would somebody like Qassem Suleimani be a target?” asked Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida.

Allen told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee the U.S. had no intention of targeting Suleimani.

“We're in this to assist the Iraqi government in dealing with Daesh,” Allen said. “That's the reason that we're there, not to go to war with Iran.” Daesh is the Arabic acronym for ISIS.


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Third American Victim in Germanwings Crash Identified

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The third American victim who died in the Germanwings plane crash has been identified as Robert Oliver.

Oliver, 37, was an American citizen born in Barcelona, Spain.

He worked as a real estate coordinator for the Spanish-based fashion company Desigual, a company spokeswoman told ABC News. Oliver covered German real estate for the company and was headed to Dusseldorf on a business trip with a Spanish colleague called Laura Altamira at the time of his death, according to the Desigual spokeswoman.

The first two Americans on board were named on Wednesday as mother-daughter pair Yvonne and Emily Selke.

Yvonne Selke lived in Virginia and worked at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, largely working with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Emily Selke graduated from Drexel University in 2013 as a music industry major.

Among the 144 passengers on board were 16 German high school students and their two teachers who were traveling back from a language exchange trip in Spain.

Six crew members were also on board, including co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who investigators believe kept his captain outside of the cockpit as he deliberately forced the plane to descend into the French Alps.

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What We Know About Germanwings Flight's Final 10 Minutes

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Details about the final 10 minutes of the Germanwings flight that crashed Tuesday in the French Alps are becoming a bit clearer Thursday.

Audio from inside the cockpit indicates co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a 27-year-old German citizen, was in control of the Airbus A320. That's according to Brice Robin, public prosecutor of Marseille, who spoke at a news conference Thursday.

"The intention was to destroy the plane," Robin said.

Here's a breakdown of what we know about Flight 9525's last moments, based on information released by authorities:

At 10:30 a.m., the plane is flying at 38,000 feet.

At some point around this time, the pilot is heard asking the co-pilot to take over the controls. A chair is heard moving and a door is heard closing.

At 10:31 a.m., the plane starts losing altitude.

The co-pilot is alone at the controls, and the accelerated descent is made manually. The pilot is heard knocking on the door and asking over the speaker to enter the cockpit. There is no response from the co-pilot.

The plane’s altitude drops down to roughly 6,000 feet.

Air traffic control can be heard calling, but there is no response. The pilot is heard “violently” banging on the door, as he tries to get back into the cockpit, according to Robin. The co-pilot is heard breathing until the final moment of impact, leading officials to believe he was alive until the crash.

At 10:40 a.m., the plane crashes, and the radar contact is lost.

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Andreas Lubitz, Germanwings Co-Pilot, Received Training in Arizona

Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The co-pilot who was at the controls when the Germanwings flight crashed this week received some of his training in America, the airline's CEO revealed Thursday.

Andreas Lubitz, 27, was a German citizen and started working for Germanwings' parent company Lufthansa at a flight training center outside of Phoenix in 2008, company officials said.

The facility, called Airline Training Center Arizona, was owned by Lufthansa and is used by its pilots in addition to other training locations in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Germanwings told ABC News that he also received some of his training in Bremen, Germany.

In spite of undergoing some of his training in 2008, he reportedly took breaks during the process and only became an official Germanwings pilot in 2013.

"Six years ago there had been an interruption to his training," Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said at a news conference Thursday. "We checked his skills and his competence and then he went back to training school. After that he was successful."

He went on to explain that the interruption lasted for a few months but he did not elaborate on the reason and said it was something that could happen regularly in their program.

Spohr said Lubitz passed training school "with flying colors."

"He was fit in all areas, 100 percent," Spohr said.

He had 630 hours of flying experience by the time he was at the controls during Tuesday's fatal crash into the French Alps, only 100 hours of which were on the same model plane, the Airbus A320, officials said.

U.S. law enforcement officials have offered cooperation on the investigation.

"The FBI has offered assistance to our French partners, who are leading the investigation into the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525," the agency said in a statement Thursday. "We stand ready to fulfill any requests for information or assistance by crash investigators, as we work with partner nations whose citizens were impacted by this tragedy."

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Germanwings Crash: How Co-Pilot Kept Captain Out of the Cockpit

iStock/Thinkstock(COLOGNE, Germany) -- The protocols that were put in place to stop an attacker from taking control of a plane were used against a captain by his co-pilot that resulted in the Germanwings crash in the French Alps, the airline's CEO suggested Thursday.

The CEO of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, spoke on Thursday about the safeguards in place to separate the cockpit from the rest of the plane, saying that the co-pilot appears to have purposefully locked his colleague out in the minutes leading up to the fatal crash.

CEO Carsten Spohr said that the Airbus A320 in question has a code on the outside of the door that will open it "electrically and automatically" but it can be stopped by whoever remains in the cockpit.

"This can be impeded by those in the cockpit by pressing a lever that says lock and the door will be closed for five minutes," Spohr said.

The cockpit voice recorder was found in the wreckage and investigators have reportedly been able to hear the captain exiting the cockpit, leaving 27-year-old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz at the controls.

Tapping can be heard on the audio recording, progressing into louder banging, which is believed to be the captain trying to get back into the cockpit, Spohr said, noting that the company's planes had the doors to the cockpit reinforced so that access is not possible using force or weapons.

"Since the eleventh of September, the access to a cockpit has changed," Spohr said, referring to the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.

Pilots and crew members know the code to get into the cockpit "by heart," Spohr said, suggesting that the co-pilot purposefully prevented the captain to get back inside.

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