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ABC News(MIAMI) -- Hurricane Matthew gained strength over the Caribbean Sea on Friday, and with its eye beginning to form became a major category 4 hurricane with winds up to 140 mph. This is the second major hurricane in Atlantic Basin in 2016.

The hurricane is on path to travel west-by-southwest through the central Caribbean on Friday afternoon and to retain its strength as a major hurricane, the National Hurricane Center showed.

By early Sunday morning, Matthew is forecast to begin to turn north toward Jamaica, with sustained winds that could be as high as 120 mph with even stronger gusts. A Hurricane Watch was issued for Jamaica.

Matthew is expected to make landfall or come close to Jamaica early Monday morning. On Monday night, the eastern part of Cuba could see a direct hit from Matthew with damaging winds, flooding rain and large waves.

"As Matthew moves over Cuba it will lose some strength due to the friction with the land mass," ABC News meteorologist Max Golembo said. "As it re-emerges north of Cuba in the Bahamas it could regain its strength back."

"At this time, most forecast models keep Hurricane Matthew east of Florida, and only a few models have it hitting Florida by the middle of next week," Golembo said.

Matthew developed very quickly from a tropical wave into a tropical storm with sustained winds of 60 mph around 11 a.m. on Wednesday. The only other storm that has done this was Hurricane Debbie in 1961, Golembo said.

As Matthew moved over the eastern Caribbean, it brought wind gusts from 50 mph to 60 mph from Dominique to St. Lucia and Barbados. Heavy rain of up to 3 inches fell on the islands, producing landslides and flash flooding. Landslides were so severe that one person was killed by a boulder in St. Vincent.

Matthew became a hurricane at 2 p.m. on Thursday and as it moved west Thursday night, it strengthened into category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph and gusts up to 120 mph.

At this time, most forecast models keep Hurricane Matthew east of Florida and only a few models having it hit Florida by the middle of next week. Because of the uncertainty of the long range forecast, we should all be watching for the track of the storm.

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VCG/VCG via Getty Images(CHENGDU, China) -- A group of baby pandas made their public debut at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China, on Thursday.

The sight was one to behold -- 23 adorable lumps of black-and-white fuzzballs with endearing rounded ears.

At first, all was going well. One little panda worked the camera during a photo-op with its irresistibly cute yawn. Another stole the spotlight with its playful antics with a handler.

But then, one clumsy cub came tumbling down.

A handler appeared to try and catch the lil' fluffball, but he was a just a little too late. The baby had its face in the ground and its stubby legs waving in the air

No worries, though! The panda was perfectly fine. It was promptly picked up and plopped back on the platform.

Even better news: Despite being especially clumsy creatures, pandas were taken of the endangered species list earlier this month by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“For over fifty years, the giant panda has been the globe’s most beloved conservation icon as well as the symbol of WWF," said WWF Director General Marco Lambertini in a statement. "Knowing that the panda is now a step further from extinction is an exciting moment for everyone committed to conserving the world’s wildlife and their habitats."

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ABCNews.com(IDLIB, Syria) -- A rescue worker in Syria broke into tears as he rescued a baby from a building destroyed by airstrikes.

After an hours-long operation in Idlib in the northwestern part of Syria, members of the Syrian Civil Defense were able to pull out a baby girl and a woman alive from under the rubble of a building on Thursday.

In an emotional video, the rescue worker cries as he embraces the baby. He says in the video that the baby had been under the rubble for about two hours but didn't have any wounds.

“Oh God, oh God,” he says between sobs in a video released by the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, a group of unarmed, nonpartisan rescue workers in Syria.

“Thank God, she doesn’t have one wound, no wounds at all," the rescue worker says in the video. "Thank God. When I carried her I felt like she was my daughter. The guys and I, the team that worked with me, we were three or four who took her out and then I carried her on my own and brought her to the hospital. I felt like she was my daughter. I hugged her tight. She moved me deeply.”

The rescue workers said that the baby was on the fourth floor of the building when airstrikes hit.

Airstrikes over Idlib killed at least six people including four children and an elderly man on Thursday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Airstrikes on east Aleppo have forced most schools to close, but one school in the besieged city is due to open Saturday on the first day of the new school year.

“We risk death and attacks and experience many difficulties, but that doesn’t prevent us from doing our job,” Principal Mohamad Faisal told ABC News. “At the end, these are our children and we are responsible for them. The least we can do is to teach them how to write and count.”

The school is located inside a mosque and its classrooms are lit by battery-powered lamps because there’s no electricity, he said. School supplies like pencils and notebooks are very limited and there’s not enough drinking water.

The sound of warplanes overhead can bring everything to a halt.

“When there’s any sound of planes, the teacher and the students become very anxious and concerned. If it continues like this, we will have a whole generation deprived of an education,” said Faisal, adding that many parents keep children home from school out of fear for their safety.

When warplanes are flying back and forth across the sky, they move the lessons down to the ground floor, Faisal said. Other times, when airstrikes are heavier than usual, they move to students’ homes and lecture some 10 to 20 children at a time.

What's most difficult, said Faisal, is seeing students who "live in poverty, with no mom or dad. Many of them have had health issues and contagious diseases like scabies."

The school itself has not been bombed, he said, but some of the surrounding buildings have been completely destroyed by airstrikes. In 2014, about seven students were killed in their homes in airstrikes, he said.

The school year in east Aleppo was supposed to start earlier this month, but due to the dangers of the war, the beginning of the school year was postponed until Saturday. Now, a recent upsurge in violence has forced most schools to remain closed, according to Save the Children, an international organization that supports children.

Locals and activists say that government forces and Russia have used bunker-buster bombs to target people sheltering underground, forcing even schools that have been moved to basements to close. More than 300 children have been killed or injured in eastern Aleppo in the past five days, said Save the Children.

“We’re now more likely to see children being pulled from the rubble or treated on the floor of a hospital than sat at a school desk. Children deserve the right to play, to learn, to be children. The use of bunker-busting bombs means there is literally nowhere we can keep children safe, and we want to see the use of these weapons investigated as a potential war crime,” said Nick Finney, Save the Children’s country director for northwest Syria, in a statement.

Even before the latest escalation in violence, most children in east Aleppo were out of school. The official enrollment figures have fallen to 6 percent. Up to 100,000 children are missing out on school, according to Save the Children.

“We are not going to school because the airplanes bomb any gathering,” a 12-year-old boy told Save the Children under the pseudonym Amjad. “When the plane comes we sit on the floor, afraid that things might fall above us. One of my friends died in the bombing -- he was my best friend. I love to go to school to study and I wish I could become a civil engineer to rebuild the houses that were destroyed.”

Airstrikes intensified after the Syrian military declared an offensive against eastern Aleppo on Sept. 22 -- a few days after announcing that a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire had ended. Activists say that government and Russian forces have used bunker-buster bombs to target people sheltering underground and cluster bombs to maximize the number of injured and killed in Aleppo.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The discovery of two American sisters dead in their hotel room turned the vacation of a lifetime in Africa into a heartbreaking tragedy.

The bodies of Robin Korkki, 42, of Chicago and Annie Korkki, 37, of Denver were discovered last week in the same hotel room of their luxury $2,000 a night resort in the Seychelles, off the coast of East Africa.

An autopsy determined the cause of death for both sisters as "acute pulmonary edema," a build up of fluid in the lungs. The autopsy determined that Annie also suffered a "cerebral edema," a swelling in the brain.

"When you are talking about pulmonary edema, that's a really big deal," said ABC News consultant and former FBI agent Brad Garrett said. "I would look primarily at drug use directly or indirectly by somebody else."

Their trip to the Seychelles, a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean known for its stunning beaches and resorts, was part of a nearly month-long African vacation.

Both sisters worked in banking. Robin's LinkedIn account showing she was a commodities trader, and younger sister Annie worked at JPMorgan Chase, according to her Facebook page.

The sisters were described as "loving sisters and best friends." They often shared details of their travels to exotic locations on social media, and Annie had posted photos on Facebook just days before the hotel announced the tragic discovery.

The sisters were discovered "when an employee of the hotel tried to wake them" in their villa, according to a statement from the hotel.

The day before their bodies were discovered, the pair had been seen drinking at the resort until about 6:45 p.m. and were later helped to their rooms by staff at 8:15 p.m., according to local news reports.

When the sisters were discovered the next morning, on Sept. 22, "no visible signs of injuries were found on the bodies," according to the police report.

"If this is a murder then it is somebody that gave them something," Garrett said. “Based on their apparent health and age, that it’s something that they ingested and/or inhaled that caused their death.”

Medications found in the sisters' room have reportedly been confiscated as part of the investigation, which will also include a toxicology analysis.

ABC News has confirmed the sisters' mother and brother have traveled to the Seychelles to bring home the bodies of Robin and Annie.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Matthew gained strength over the Caribbean Sea on Friday, and with its eye beginning to form became a major hurricane with winds up to 115 mph and gusting to 140 mph. This is the second major hurricane in Atlantic Basin in 2016.

The hurricane is on path to travel west-by-southwest through the central Caribbean on Friday afternoon and to retain its strength as a major hurricane, the National Hurricane Center showed.

By early Sunday morning, Matthew is forecast to begin to turn north toward Jamaica, with sustained winds that could be as high as 120 mph with even stronger gusts.

Matthew is expected to make landfall or come close to Jamaica early Monday morning. On Monday night, the eastern part of Cuba could see a direct hit from Matthew with damaging winds, flooding rain and large waves.

"As Matthew moves over Cuba it will lose some strength due to the friction with the land mass," ABC News meteorologist Max Golembo said. "As it re-emerges north of Cuba in the Bahamas it could regain its strength back."

"At this time, most forecast models keep Hurricane Matthew east of Florida, and only a few models have it hitting Florida by the middle of next week," Golembo said.

Matthew developed very quickly from a tropical wave into a tropical storm with sustained winds of 60 mph around 11 a.m. on Wednesday. The only other storm that has done this was Hurricane Debbie in 1961, Golembo said.

As Matthew moved over the eastern Caribbean, it brought wind gusts from 50 mph to 60 mph from Dominique to St. Lucia and Barbados. Heavy rain of up to 3 inches fell on the islands, producing landslides and flash flooding. Landslides were so severe that one person was killed by a boulder in St. Vincent.

Matthew became a hurricane at 2 p.m. on Thursday and as it moved west Thursday night, it strengthened into category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph and gusts up to 120 mph.

At this time, most forecast models keep Hurricane Matthew east of Florida and only a few models having it hit Florida by the middle of next week. Because of the uncertainty of the long range forecast, we should all be watching for the track of the storm.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(JERUSALEM) — In remarks at Shimon Peres's funeral in Israel on Friday, President Obama eulogized the former president for showing that "justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist idea."

Obama began his remarks by being the only speaker to acknowledge the attendance of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, calling it "a gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace."


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Obama then went on to paint Peres as a man whose vision for Israel at times seemed trapped between critics on the far left and far right.

"Whatever he shared with his family or his closest friends, to the world he brushed off the critics, and I know from my conversations with him that his pursuit of peace was never naive," Obama said.

Obama chronicled Peres’ work to attain security for the state of Israel, as well as peace with the Palestinians, pointing out to the attendees that "of course we gather here in the knowledge that Shimon never had his dream of peace fulfilled."

"The region is going through a chaotic time. Threats are ever present," Obama said. "And yet he did not stop dreaming and he did not stop working."

Obama continued to draw parallels with himself and Peres throughout the speech by recounting their meetings together, saying, "I could somehow see myself in his story and maybe he could see himself in mine."

"In many ways, he reminded me of some other giants of the 20th century that I've had the honor to meet," Obama said. "Leaders who have seen so much, whose lives span such momentous epics that they find no need to posture, or traffic in what's popular in the moment, people who speak with depth and knowledge, not in soundbites. They find no interest in polls or fads."

"He knew better than the cynic that if you look out over the arc of history, human beings should be filled not with fear but with hope."

In 2012, Obama honored Peres at the White House with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, praising him for his efforts to broker peace with the Palestinians and his status as one of the founding fathers of the state of Israel.

During the ceremony, Obama was seated alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two leaders met earlier this month for what was assumed to be their final formal meeting of Obama's tenure, capping off years of a tenuous relationship by announcing a new military aid package to Israel, the largest in U.S. history.


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jonathansemrok/iStock/Thinkstock(EDMONTON, Canada) -- The University of Alberta found a unique way of responding to a racist incident.  

Students and faculty were shocked when someone put up posters of a Sikh man with the phrase “F*** your Turban” and wanted to do something to flight such blatant racism.

Rafaela Mancuso and hundreds of others put together and event called “Turban, eh?”

“This is more than I thought, they brought everyone,” Mancuso said.

People of many ethnic backgrounds had colorful Sikh turbans wound around their heads.

“Right now, we’re putting forward our vision of Canada, and I feel our vision is a little more popular than theirs,” fellow organizer Arundeep Singh Sandhu said.

University of Alberta President David Turpin said the event better represents the school and the country.

The university is still trying to find out who was responsible for the anti-immigrant posters.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A new video shows parts of Aleppo in ruins, as humanitarian organizations call for an end to the Syrian government's recent offensive on the eastern part of the city.

In the video, released by the Syrian military, Syrian soldiers are walking around damaged areas and aiming with guns. Buildings in the neighborhood have been reduced to rubble.

Meanwhile, the besieged part of eastern Aleppo is still waiting for humanitarian assistance amid an upsurge of violence. For weeks, the United Nations has had aid loaded on vehicles parked by the Turkish border waiting for a green light to enter the besieged city, where up to 275,000 people are in need of food, water, shelter and medical supplies, according to the U.N.

Initially, 40 aid trucks were ready to enter -- but due to increased violence and an attack on an aid convoy, the aid was suspended. Only 20 of the 40 trucks now remain at the border, according to the U.N. The other 20 had to move to make room for other traffic. The aid will instead be distributed in other places inside Syria.

“Obviously, the humanitarian situation inside east Aleppo is going from bad to worse,” David Swanson, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told ABC News. “The situation even before this recent upsurge in violence was dire with many people lacking access to food, health, shelter and water. Between 250,000 and 275,000 people are now living without proper access to running drinking water. Right now, 20 trucks are standby and ready to enter as soon as the latest round of violence improves.”

Airstrikes intensified after the Syrian military declared an offensive against eastern Aleppo on Sept. 22 -- a few days after announcing that a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire had ended.

On Tuesday, a girl was rescued from under the rubble of a destroyed building in east Aleppo’s al-Shaar neighborhood. It took four hours to get her out of the building and she was the only survivor, according to the White Helmets, a group of unarmed, nonpartisan rescue workers in Syria. At least 24 people were killed and 15 wounded, said the White Helmets. Activists said the girl lost 16 members of her family in the attack.

Thursday morning, warplanes dropped bombs on the only bakery in the town of Anadan in the northern countryside of Aleppo. The bakery is now out of service, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Most of the residents have already left the town due to persistent government airstrikes, the observatory said.

On Wednesday, two major hospitals in east Aleppo were attacked and are now out of service, including the besieged area’s largest trauma and ICU center.

“Let us be clear. Those using ever more destructive weapons know exactly what they are doing. They know they are committing war crimes,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a speech Wednesday. “Imagine the destruction. People with limbs blown off. Children in terrible pain with no relief. Infected. Suffering. Dying, with nowhere to go and no end in sight. Imagine a slaughterhouse. This is worse. Even a slaughterhouse is more humane. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances and medical staff in Aleppo are under attack around the clock.”

According to Physicians for Human Rights, 95 percent of medical personnel who were in Aleppo before the war have fled, been detained, or were killed. Only some 30 doctors are believed to be left in the rebel-held part of Aleppo.

“Attacking hospitals, aid convoys, and rescue workers is beyond horrific," said Zaher Sahloul, a doctor and founder of the American Relief Coalition for Syria, a coalition of humanitarian organizations that provide assistance in Syria. “Every day brings new levels of horror for the people of Aleppo. By standing by and letting these attacks continue, it tells us the world has lost its moral compass.”

Activists say that government and Russian forces have used bunker-buster bombs to target people sheltering underground and cluster bombs to maximize the number of injured and killed in Aleppo.

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Samir Hussein/WireImage(VICTORIA, British Columbia) -- Prince George and Princess Charlotte made their second appearance of their family’s eight-day tour of Canada Thursday at a children’s party for military families.

The 3-year-old prince and 16-month-old princess could hardly contain their excitement at the party, where Charlotte was seen walking and talking for the first time in public. The toddler exclaimed, "Pop!," as she hugged a balloon arch on the ground and later called her father, "Dada." Charlotte also excitedly bounded towards a dog named Moose while she and her big brother, George, played with a bubble squirt gun.

George and Charlotte were accompanied by their parents, Princess Kate and Prince William, at the event held at Government House in Victoria, British Columbia.

George, who seemed a bit subdued next to his boisterous sister, climbed aboard a pony with the help of his parents and hugged his baby sitter while they examined the balloons. When Kate took Charlotte to have a balloon animal made, George, who was playing with a rabbit, quickly ran over saying, "But I want one. Can I have one?"

Charlotte wore a Pepa company blue smocked dress, which retails for $100, and a tiny blue sweater with a tiny blue bow holding back her brown hair. George was in his trademark shorts in maroon with a blue sweater.

Government House has been the family’s main base since arriving in Canada last Saturday. George and Charlotte have stayed there in Victoria with their nanny, Maria Teresa Borallo, while their parents traveled to different cities nearby for engagements.

William and Kate's whirlwind tour of Canada has seen them dazzle at a diplomatic reception at Government House and travel to Vancouver and Bella Bella, British Columbia. They also traveled to Kelowna, in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, where they met with University of British Columbia students and sampled local delicacies at the "Taste of British Columbia" festival at a local winery.

Charlotte and George stole the show in their only prior appearance in Canada, when the family arrived in Victoria on Saturday. Charlotte, on her first royal tour, was carried down the plane’s steps by her mother, while George, on his second royal tour, walked on his own, holding his parents’ hands and watching the planes and gathered crowd in awe.

The family will depart from Canada on Saturday. They visited the country on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and at the invitation of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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WABC-TV(NEW YORK) -- The mother and brother of New York City bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami spent two nights in an Afghan jail before being released, though they have not been allowed to leave the country, Rahami's father told ABC News Thursday.

The father, Mohammad Rahami, had said in an interview Tuesday that his wife Rajiba and son Qassim had been pulled off of a flight in Dubai, questioned for 16 hours and then sent against their wishes to Kabul, Afghanistan. The mother and son had been attempting to return to the U.S.

"Why send my son back to Afghanistan? He is a U.S. citizen," Mohammad Rahami told ABC News then in his first in-depth broadcast interview. "You have any questions? Bring him home. [Don't] send him to a different country."

The elder Rahami denied that anyone else in his family had anything to do with his other son Ahmad Rahami's alleged bombings in New York and New Jersey on Sept. 17, which injured 29 people.

The Rahami family is originally from Afghanistan. Ahmad came to the U.S. in 1995, got his Green Card in 2000 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2011, Mohammad said.

Ahmad has been receiving treatment at a New Jersey hospital since he was shot seven times in a shootout with police two days after the bombings. He has been charged with a litany of crimes connected to the bombings, some other unexploded devices and the gun fight with police.

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Pool/Sam Hussein/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Prince William and Princess Kate left their staff in a momentary state of panic Wednesday when they slid across a railroad bridge perched high above the icy waters of Canada’s Lake Bennett.

William and Kate, both 34, made the impromptu visit to the White Pass steam train in Carcross, Yukon, on the fifth day of their royal tour of Canada after learning that William’s grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, rode a steam train during one of their visits to Canada.

Photos show William and Kate, wearing boots and a grey cardigan, sidestepping along the tracks above the water, holding onto the train for support. The couple blew the train’s steam whistle before returning to the rest of their day's engagements.

The train visit was the second time Wednesday that William was touched by a memory of his family in Canada. While in Whitehorse, William was introduced to a 90-year-old man who said he met William’s late mother, Princess Diana, when she visited the area in the 1980s.

“I asked your father if he'd been to Yukon and he said no, and I said we ought to do something about that so I called the governor general and we made arrangements,” the man told William. “Then I got a call saying, 'They can't go, the princess is pregnant.’”

"Wow, that must have been me, or Harry,” said a surprised William.

The royal couple also enjoyed a laugh Wednesday when they joined children at the MacBride Museum of Yukon History in Whitehorse for story time on a log bench.

William and Kate both burst out laughing upon learning the book’s main character was named “William the Moose.”

Kate wore a striking Carolina Herrera coat for her day exploring the picturesque towns of Whitehorse and Carcross in the Yukon. The coat marked the third day Kate has worn crimson, in a nod to her Canadian hosts.

William and Kate are spending their time out of the spotlight on their tour of Canada with their children, Prince George, 3, and Princess Charlotte, 16 months. The family managed to secretly visit a local petting zoo Wednesday.

Prince George and Princess Charlotte will have their time in the spotlight Thursday as they join their parents at a children’s party for military families at Government House in Victoria, British Columbia. The party will mark the first time George and Charlotte have appeared at an official royal event since the family’s arrival in Canada last Saturday.

William, Kate, Charlotte and George are scheduled to depart Canada for the U.K. on Saturday.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Nearly half of the states in the U.S. have recently had their voter registration systems targeted by foreign hackers, and four of those systems have successfully been breached, sources tell ABC News.

That amount of targeting and actual infiltration into state election-related systems is significantly larger than the U.S. government has been willing to acknowledge.

Hackers working on behalf of the Russian government are suspected in the onslaught against more than 20 state election systems, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

"There's no doubt that some bad actors have been poking around," FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Wednesday, without offering any more specifics.

He acknowledged there have been “some attempted intrusions at voter registration databases” since August, when the FBI issued a bulletin to state governments warning that hackers had infiltrated the Illinois State Board of Elections and tried to breach election systems in Arizona.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Comey said the FBI is trying to figure out "just what mischief is Russia up to in connection with our election."

He emphasized that voter registration databases -— not the voting system itself — are being targeted by hackers.

"This is very different than the vote system in the United States, which is very, very hard for someone to hack into because it's so clunky and dispersed," Comey said, adding that states should be in contact with the Department of Homeland Security and "make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on."

During a separate House hearing on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said 18 states had reached out to his department seeking assistance in protecting their election systems.

Meanwhile, another top Homeland Security official and the head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission both said a cyberattack could not change the outcome of the 2016 election.

Dr. Andy Ozment, the assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications at DHS, told lawmakers on Wednesday that the hackers who broke into the voter registration system in Illinois and targeted a similar system in Arizona appear to have been looking to copy the personal information in those databases and perhaps then sell that information online. The aim was apparently not to affect the election process, he said.

"We have not seen intrusions intended to in any way impact individuals' votes and actual voting," Ozment said.

For months, the FBI has been investigating what appear to be coordinated cyberattacks on Democratic organizations -- the most damaging so far being the hack of the Democratic National Committee.

Not only did the hack apparently allow cyberoperatives to steal opposition research on Republican nominee Donald Trump, but many suspect it also led to the theft of internal messages that appeared to show efforts by DNC officials to undermine Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during the primary season.

After those damaging emails were publicly released by WikiLeaks, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped down as the DNC's chairwoman. Many suspect Russian hackers are also to blame for these cyberassaults on Democratic organizations.

In late June an "unknown actor scanned a state's Board of Election website for vulnerabilities" and, after identifying a security gap, exploited the vulnerability to conduct a "data exfiltration," or unauthorized data transfer, the FBI said in a recent bulletin.

Then in August, hackers used the same vulnerability in an "attempted intrusion activities into another state's Board of Election system," the FBI said.

"The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, , D-Nev., wrote in a recent letter to Comey.

Asked this summer why Russia might be trying to undermine the U.S. political process, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Russian President Vladimir Putin is "paranoid" about the potential for revolutions in Russia, "and of course they see a U.S. conspiracy behind every bush, and ascribe far more impact than we’re actually guilty of."

"They believe we’re trying to influence political developments in Russia, we’re trying to affect change, and so their natural response is to retaliate and do unto us as they think we've done to them," he said.


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Shashank Bengali/MCT/MCT via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The government of Sudan has used chemical weapons in multiple attacks against the country's own population, in a dramatic escalation of a long-simmering conflict in recent months, according to a human rights group.

As many as 250 people may have died as a result of at least 32 suspected chemical weapons attacks, the most recent of which took place on September 9, Amnesty International said today in a newly-released report.

Amnesty has also gathered satellite imagery that it says confirms 171 damaged or destroyed villages in the last eight months in a remote area of Darfur that is home to rebel groups that oppose the government.

“The scale and brutality of these attacks is hard to put into words," Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director of Crisis Research, said in a statement. "The images and videos we have seen in the course of our research are truly shocking; in one a young child is screaming with pain before dying; many photos show young children covered in lesions and blisters. Some were unable to breath and vomiting blood.

“It is hard to exaggerate just how cruel the effects of these chemicals are when they come into contact with the human body."

Amnesty bases its casualty estimate of up to 250 on scores of interviews it conducted with witnesses of the attacks and friends and family members of the victims.

“When [the bomb] landed there was some flames and then dark smoke," said a woman in her twenties who was injured by shrapnel. The woman said a toxic cloud immediately followed the initial blast, sickening both her and her baby.

"Immediately it caused vomiting and dizzying," the woman continued. "My skin is not normal. I still have headaches, even after I took the medicine ... The baby is not recovering ... he has blisters and wounds.”

The suspected chemical attacks come amid a large-scale military offensive launched in January 2016 by government forces in the remote area of Jebel Marra, against the rebel group, known as Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW), Amnesty says. The government accuses the rebels of ambushing military convoys and attacking civilians.

The United Nations has warned that some 80,000 people have fled the Jebel Marra region during the government offensive. Nearly three million people in total remain displaced inside the troubled country. Some 300,000 people have died since civil war first broke out in Sudan in 2003.

“The use of chemical weapons is a war crime," Hassan said. "The evidence we have gathered is credible and portrays a regime that is intent on directing attacks against the civilian population in Darfur without any fear of international retribution.”

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Eivaisla/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The deployment of 615 additional American troops to Iraq is the latest indicator that the Iraqi military offensive to retake Mosul could be launched as soon as October.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that the new troops "will provide specific capabilities including logistics and maintenance support; train, advise and assist teams for Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the upcoming Mosul operation."

Last week, General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that according to current assessments "the Iraqis will have, in early October, all the forces marshaled, trained, fielded and equipped that are necessary for operations in Mosul."

Ultimately, senior American defense officials say it is up to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi to decide if an Iraqi military offensive will take place in October or later this year.

General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S Central Command, believes ISIS could employ different strategies to defend the city when Iraqi forces eventually launch an offensive to retake it. He thinks ISIS may cede some parts of the city willingly, as it has done most recently in Jarabulus, and put up stiff resistance in other parts of the city, as it did in the battles for Manbij and Ramadi.

An Iraqi offensive on Mosul would be the culmination of a two-year Iraqi military campaign to remove the ISIS military threat from northern Iraq.

Much of the U.S. military presence in Iraq during that time has been geared toward training and advising Iraq’s security forces to defeat ISIS militarily and take back the cities controlled by ISIS, particularly Mosul. So far 35,000 Iraqi troops have been trained by the U.S.-led coalition, including the 8 to 12 Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga brigades that have been slotted for an offensive on Mosul.

ABC News takes a look at why Mosul is so important in the fight against ISIS.

What Is Mosul?

Located along the banks of the Tigris River in northern Iraq's Nineveh Province, Mosul is Iraq's second largest city with a population of more than 2 million residents. The population represents a mix of the diverse ethnic groups in northern Iraq, though the majority are Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

Mosul is the main industrial city in northern Iraq and a vital transportation hub in the flow of goods to and from Turkey and Syria. It is also located near significant oil fields in northern Iraq and the major oil pipeline into Turkey.

ISIS surprisingly seized Mosul in June 2014 in a matter of days after the retreat of a large number of Iraqi security forces from the city. American officials have blamed that retreat on the Sunni Arab soldiers and police based in the city who abandoned their posts after growing disenchanted with the increasing sectarianism of the Shiite-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The city's capture left ISIS with large amounts of Iraqi military equipment and supplies that it quickly used to push toward the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, 250 miles to the south. ISIS also seized an estimated $500 million in cash taken from the Central Bank of Mosul that is has used to fund its military and terror operations.

Why Is It Important to Retake Mosul?

ISIS’s seizure of Mosul was a blow to Iraq’s political stability and a propaganda coup for a terror group that wanted to demonstrate it was gaining territory to establish a new caliphate.

A successful offensive on Mosul will take away from ISIS its last strategic stronghold in Iraq and end the territorial dominance it commanded over large areas of northwestern Iraq for the past two years.

The group’s control of territory there was made easier by the flow of ISIS fighters from its de facto capital of Raqqah in north central Syria. An ISIS defeat in Mosul would cut off that route and leave the terror group’s military operations effectively contained to Syria.

What Is the Iraqi Military Plan for Mosul?


For more than two years, the Iraqi military offensive on Mosul has been expected to be the most important battle against ISIS.

Much of the training of Iraqi and Kurdish security forces by American and coalition trainers has effectively been directed at generating the more than 25,000 troops believed needed for an offensive on Mosul.

From early on, American military officials have telegraphed that the city would be enveloped from the north and south by as many as eight Iraqi Army brigades.

The expectation has always been that ISIS would mount a stiff defense to hold the city with the possibility of fierce street-to-street fighting on a grand scale.

If Iraqi forces successfully retake the city, plans call for as many as 6,000 local Iraqi police to quickly step in to help establish order.

ISIS Prepares to Defend Mosul

The U.S. military estimates that there are between 3,000 and 4,500 ISIS fighters still inside Mosul. It appears they are readying themselves for the Iraqi military offensive, no matter when it is launched.

On Friday, Colonel John Dorrian, the U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters that ISIS has dug "elaborate tunnels" and is placing roadside bombs throughout the city. He said they are also placing restrictions on the local population to conceal their operations in buildings like hospitals, schools and mosques that coalition aircraft are not allowed to strike.

"They've dug in, put up things like T-walls, big barriers to stop people from coming in or slow an advance," said Dorrian. "They've dug trenches. I've seen reports that they've poured oil in some of those trenches with intent to start them on fire."

"Essentially, they've built a hell on Earth around themselves and they're going to be in that whenever the Iraqi security forces come in there and push them out," said Dorrian.

ISIS is also conducting what Dorrian called "harassing attacks” on Iraqi forces near Qayarrah and the airbase that several hundred American troops are converting into a major logistical hub for the upcoming Mosul offensive.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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