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Ferry Crew Members Could Face Accidental Homicide Charges in Sinking


The Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images(JEJU ISLAND, South Korea) -- Prosecutors are considering charges of accidental homicide against the captain, third mate and helmsman of last week’s doomed South Korean ferry, with new details revealing the frantic and confused ship-to-shore radio communications as critical minutes passed.

At least 80 people are confirmed dead in the tragedy, with 222 others still missing.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 68, initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and waited more than half an hour to issue an evacuation order as the ferry sank. By then the ship had tilted so much it is believed that many of the missing could not escape.

Video showed that Lee was among the first people rescued. Some of his crew said he had been hurt, but a doctor who treated him said he had only light injuries.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Monday that the captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry committed "unforgivable, murderous behavior" by telling the passengers to stay put while giving themselves opportunities to escape.

"Legally and ethically, this is an unimaginable act,” she said.

The captain and two crew members -- third mate Park Han-gyeol and an unnamed helmsman -- have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, and prosecutors said Monday that four other crew members have been detained. Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don said prosecutors would decide within 48 hours whether to seek arrest warrants for the four: two first mates, a second mate and a chief engineer.

Park is a relative rookie shipmate with just over a year of experience. The captain reportedly left her in charge on a tricky route while he took a break.

Lee has said he waited to issue an evacuation order because the current was strong, the water was cold and passengers could have drifted away before help arrived. But maritime experts said he could have ordered passengers to the deck -- where they would have had a greater chance of survival -- without telling them to abandon ship.

Transcripts released by the South Korean Coast Guard detail the frenzied, befuddling rescue efforts. A crew member of the ferry that sank Wednesday told Vessel Traffic Service at 9:14 a.m. the ship was "leaning too much, and evacuation is impossible."

But minutes later, as the boat continued to list to the left, the unidentified crew member asked three times in succession whether rescue would be immediately possible if they evacuated the ferry's passengers, which elicited jumbled responses from traffic control.

"If this ferry evacuates passengers, will you be able to rescue them?" the crew member asks.

"At least make them wear life rings and make them escape," the VTS official responded.

"If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?" the crew member posed again.

"Don't let them go bare -- at least make them wear life rings and make them escape," the VTS official said. "The captain should make the final decision and decide whether you're going to evacuate passengers or not."

"I'm not talking about that," the crew member said. "I asked, if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?"

VTS then responds that a rescue helicopter is 10 minutes away, to which boat crew replied: "There are too many passengers. A helicopter would be insufficient."

Search crews have had trouble reaching the ferry, unable for days to enter the submerged ship because of strong currents, bad weather and low visibility. Oil could also be seen on the water’s surface, adding to the poor visibility. Over the weekend divers were able to use a new entryway through the dining hall, resulting in a jump in the discovery of corpses.

Relatives of the missing passengers continue to struggle with grief, waiting and waiting for news, overcome by the grim reality. On Jindo, relatives of the missing must search white signboards giving sparse details such as gender, height, hair length and clothing to see if their loved ones have been found.

No names are listed, just the slimmest of clues about mostly young lives now lost. Many favored hoodies and track pants. One girl painted her fingernails red and toenails black. Another had braces on her teeth.

"I'm afraid to even look at the white boards," said Lim Son-mi, 50, whose 16-year-old daughter, Park Hye-son, has not been found. "Because all the information is quite similar, whenever I look at it, my heart breaks."

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, 80 people were confirmed dead, with 222 passengers still missing. About 174 people were rescued last Wednesday. Most of the 476 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.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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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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Syrians to Cast Presidential Ballots June 3


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Syria will hold presidential elections on June 3, despite the raging civil war believed to have killed around 150,000 people.

Candidates have until May 1 to register. Syrians living abroad will have the opportunity to cast their votes on May 28.

Many expect Bashar al-Assad, whose term ends on July 17, to announce his reelection for another seven years in office. For all the country's deadly warring, it's also believed that Assad could win another term.

To qualify for candidacy, applicants must have lived in Syria for the last decade, according to new election policies. This will prevent eligibility for any key opposition in exile.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Results of Afghan Election Still Far from Concluded


iStock/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- More than two weeks after millions in Afghanistan went to the polls to pick a new president, the Independent Election Commission has only counted half of the ballots.

At this point, it appears a run-off will be necessary as the front-runner, Abdullah Abdullah, has 44 percent of the votes, with rival Ashraf Ghani in second place with 33 percent.

Should neither candidate get at least 50 percent, a run-off will take place in late May. As it stands, the election commission should finish counting the ballots by May 14.

As much as Afghans want to learn who will replace Hamid Karzai, who has spent ten years in office, Washington is anxious for his replacement to step in so that the Bilateral Security Agreement can be signed.

Karzai has refused to agree to the post-war pact, which would keep a residual force of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan past 2015 to serve in training and advisory capacities. Billions in foreign aid is also contingent on the new president getting around to signing the BSA.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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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.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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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.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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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."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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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."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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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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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.

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."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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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.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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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.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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