NASA(NEW YORK) -- New images released by NASA show a dangerous sulfur plume moving across northern Iraq in the wake of the battle to retake Mosul.
As the Iraq military announced its operation to capture Mosul, which has been under ISIS control for over two years, ISIS set fire to the Al-Mishraq sulfur plant and Qayyarah oil field south of the city in an effort to provide cover from coalition airstrikes.
NASA said its ozone monitoring instruments detected a large sulfur dioxide plume dispersing across northern and central Iraq as early as last week. Initially, that sulfur dioxide was in lower parts of the atmosphere, but the plume has now reached higher into the atmosphere due to shifting winds.
“In the first few days, the fire did not appear to be particularly energetic and our preliminary observations suggest that much of the sulfur dioxide remained in the boundary layer and the lower troposphere, which accentuates the impact on air quality and health,” said Simon Carn, an atmospheric scientist at Michigan Tech. ”More recently, sulfur dioxide has been lofted to higher altitudes where it may undergo long-range transport.”
Growing concentrations of sulfur dioxide can impair breathing and even be life threatening. Al Jazeera reported that two people have already died from breathing in the sulfur, and hundreds have been taken to a nearby hospital with respiratory problems.
Civilians south of Mosul who were interviewed by al-Mawsleya TV wore masks and scarves to cover their faces from the toxic gas.
As a precautionary measure, the U.S. military said Saturday it has taken air samples to analyze the smoke. Coalition personnel at Camp Swift and Qayyarah West Airfield, about 50 miles south of Mosul, have been directed to limit their outdoor activity, and some have voluntarily chosen to wear protective gas masks, according to a military press release.
The coalition has also provided 24,000 "protective" chemical masks to Iraqi and Kurdish troops as they continue to push toward Mosul.
“The coalition is trained. We’ve trained the [Iraqis] and peshmerga; they’ve got equipment,” Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, said in the release. “We’re confident that as the enemy attempt to use a lot of means -- not just chemicals -- we’re targeting the training with the Iraqis and with the coalition to make sure we’re mitigating any risk of that threat.”
Even so, the emissions from the sulfur plant have been enormous. Atmospheric scientist Simon Carn tweeted that if the sulfur dioxide was released from a volcano instead of the plant, it would already be among the largest eruptions of 2016.
iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) -- Thousands of people fled their homes in a panic as a series of strong quakes struck central Italy on Wednesday night, the same area devastated by an August temblor that killed nearly 300 people.
A magnitude 5.5 quake first struck Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. local time near the town of Sellano, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said. Just over two hours later, at 9:18 p.m., a second, stronger 6.1 magnitude temblor rattled the same area, this time centered near the town of Visso.
Thousands of people remained out of doors through the night, many in their cars, as a series of seven aftershocks of magnitude 4 or greater -- all clustered around the same area -- kept the ground trembling in the hours that followed.
TERTIUS PICKARD/AFP/Getty Images(QUEENSLAND, Australia) -- A theme park in Australia has cancelled its planned reopening this weekend after police said that having guests inside the park could interfere with their investigation into the accident that killed four people on Tuesday, 9 News Australia reported.
"Postponing the service will give the Queensland Police Service the time it needs to conduct this investigation," the park, Dreamworld Australia, said in a statement.
Two women, aged 42 and 32, and two men, aged 38 and 35, were killed Tuesday after a raft on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the amusement park on Queensland’s Gold Coast turned over on its conveyor belt, police said. The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by today’s accident,” the park said in a statement following the incident. “Our hearts and thoughts go to the families involved and their loved ones.”
Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The global population of wildlife has declined drastically since 1970, suffering a drop of 58 percent between 1970 and 2012, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London.
The overall number of vertebrates -- a group that includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish -- has dropped dramatically as a result of human activity, the conservation groups say, with animals living in the freshwater systems showing the greatest decline, at 81 percent. The groups' bi-annual Living Planet report found that wildlife in the world's oceans dropped by 36 percent while on land the population numbers fell by 38 percent.
If current trends continue, the groups say, more than two-thirds of all global wildlife will be in decline by 2020.
“For the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, we face a global mass extinction of wildlife," said Mike Barrett, director of science and policy at WWF-UK.
The study blames human activities including deforestation, pollution, overfishing and the illegal wildlife trade as well as climate change for pushing species to the edge. The biggest culprit, according to the WWF, is habitat loss and degradation caused mainly by the global food system.
Mike63/iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- The top U.S. military commander in Iraq said today it is "imperative" to retake Raqqah, the de facto capital for ISIS in Syria, because of the potential for overseas terror plots. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in Paris today that the operation to free ISIS could begin in weeks and overlap with the current Iraqi military offensive in Mosul.
"We think there's an imperative to get isolation in place around Raqqah because our intelligence feeds tell us that there is significant external operations attacks planning going on, emanating central in -- centralized in Raqqah,” Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters via a video link from Baghdad.
"We know they're up to something," he continued. "And it’s an external plot. We don't know exactly where, we don't know exactly when."
He cited the recent capture of the Syrian town of Manbij where "we found links to individuals and plot streams to France, the United States, other European countries." Located a few miles south of the border with Turkey, Manbij was a key ISIS location for foreign fighters coming in and out of Syria.
"So we know that this is going on in Raqqah, as well. And so I think that's why it's necessary to get down there to Raqqah," Townsend added. "We know that it's a focal point of ISIL external operations, planning, plotting.”
ISIL is another acronym used to describe ISIS.
He described "a sense of urgency about what we have to do here because we're just not sure what they're up to, and where, and when. But we know that this plot planning is emanating from Raqqah.”
Carter indicated that an offensive on Raqqah could begin in a matter of weeks and would coincide with the Mosul offensive currently being undertaken by the Iraqi military.
"We've begun laying the groundwork with our partners to commence the isolation of Raqqah," said Carter. "As we meet here, we're hoping to generate the local forces that will do so."
In Syria, 300 American Special Operations forces have been advising the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) in the fight against ISIS. The force of 30,000 is mainly made up of Kurdish forces, but also has a sizable Syrian Arab contingent known as the Syrian Arab Coalition.
The idea of Kurdish forces potentially being used in an offensive on Raqqah is a sensitive matter for Turkey, which is wary of a strong Kurdish military presence on its border.
Townsend said talks are underway with Turkey about its possible role in the Raqqah operation and particularly about what role Syrian Kurds will play in Raqqah.
Given those sensitivities, Townsend said the isolation of Raqqah would be primarily undertaken by the Syrian Arab forces aligned with the Syrian Democratic Forces. Townsend believes there are currently enough of those forces available to begin encircling the city in the near future.
But he anticipates that the battle for Raqqah will take longer than the current battle for Mosul given that the anti-ISIS partners in Syria do not have the resourcing available to the Iraqi military. He added that the 300 American military advisers in Syria will also have a light footprint as part of a Raqqah operation.
According to Townsend, the timing of the offensive to retake Raqqah was not precipitated by the potential of an overseas terror plot.
“We want to pressure Raqqah so that the enemy doesn't have a convenient place to go," said Townsend.
daveswallace/iStock/thinkstock(ST. MAARTEN) -- The world's "scariest" landing is coming to an end.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced Wednesday that it will no longer fly Boeing 747's in and out of St. Maarten's airport, ending the popular event where dozens of beachgoers gather to snap pictures as the plane flies over the beach.
The last flight into the island is scheduled to land on October 28th.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Children in the Calais "Jungle" camp in France are living in unsafe conditions and are at risk of being trafficked by human smugglers as they wait to learn if they will be brought to the United Kingdom, humanitarian organizations warn.
The process of registering the children and bringing them to the U.K. should have been completed before demolishing the camp, the organizations say.
“We do know it is an environment where people smugglers do operate, and outside the humanitarian center, children are exposed to potentially being trafficked by some fairly shady and unscrupulous characters,” Laura Padoan, a spokesperson for the U.N.'s refugee agency UNHCR -- which is assisting the U.K. in identifying unaccompanied children and registering them -- told ABC News.
“It’s critical that safeguards are in place. Currently, we feel that it’s not being done, but we do have protection staff on the ground ready to support,” she added.
On Oct. 10, U.K. Interior Minister Amber Rudd made a commitment to bring as many children as possible to the U.K. with close family ties in the country before the closure of the camp. She also said she would transfer unaccompanied refugee children from Calais to the U.K. who meet the criteria of the 2016 Immigration Act’s Dubs amendment, which called on the U.K. to take in 3,000 unaccompanied children from across Europe.
Since Rudd made the commitment earlier this month, the U.K. has transferred nearly 200 children, including more than 60 girls, many of whom are at high risk of sexual exploitation, the interior minister said on Monday. But the U.K. is far from done with the process -- the country expects to accept hundreds of more children and still has around 1,000 children left to interview even though the process of demolishing the camp has begun. This means that even unaccompanied children who have been registered and are staying in the safer “humanitarian camp” are witnessing harsh scenes.
“The demolition of the so-called 'Jungle' camp is happening around the humanitarian camp where the children who have registered are residing. I can only imagine that it must be extremely frightening if you are a child who is being surrounded by the chaos of the dismantling, wildfires, riot police and people with the intention of creating tensions with the police,” said Padoan of UNHCR.
Children who have been registered and are staying in the humanitarian camp sleep in white shipping containers with room for 12 people, said Lliana Bird, co-founder of Help Refugees, a humanitarian organization that was formed in September 2015 in response to the crisis unfolding in Calais. Other children haven’t been able to register yet and don’t have a place to sleep in the meantime because their shelters have been destroyed, she said.
“We are urgently saying that there are hundreds of unaccompanied minors with no safeguarding and nowhere to sleep tonight. They must be brought to safety immediately. Ideally, there’ll be youth workers and safety workers there,” Bird told ABC News.
“On Monday registration didn’t occur all day and today it stopped at 12:15 so children who didn’t get to register in time were told they had to go back and sleep in the camp. But the camp is on fire at the moment and many had their shelters dismantled and don’t have a place to sleep tonight,” Bird said, adding that trafficking is another big risk children face because they are on their own in the camp.
“Children should not be brought over during this distressing time. It’s all happening last minute and should have happened much earlier. Any chaotic or distressing situation going on around children who are already vulnerable makes them even more vulnerable and more open to abuse,” said Bird.
On Monday, Rudd said that in some cases children who were supposed to board a bus to come to the U.K. didn’t show up, raising concerns.
“Over the past few days, there have been cases in which we have expected children to be available to board the bus to come to the U.K., and sometimes non-governmental organizations themselves have been surprised not to have been able to find them,” she said speaking to the U.K. parliament Monday. She declined to comment further on the issue of children not showing up.
During a Q&A session with the parliament on Monday, Rudd also addressed why the U.K. didn't start the process of interviewing and registering children in Calais earlier.
“My officials were given access to the camp to interview children only in the past week and, similarly, we have only recently received agreement from the French Government that we could bring Dubs cases to the U.K. Before that, we worked closely with the French behind the scenes, but without their agreement it was not possible to make progress on taking non-family cases from Calais,” she said.
U.K. Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said that the U.K. is committed to safeguarding and protecting children in Calais.
"We are working closely with our French partners and the immediate priority is to ensure those who remain in the camp are provided with secure accommodation during the clearance operation. U.K. officials will continue to identify those eligible to come to Britain,” said Goodwill in a statement sent to ABC News. “Our focus is, and will continue to be, transferring all eligible minors to the U.K. as soon as possible and ensuring they arrive safely. This must be done through an agreed and proper process and with the agreement of the French.”
According to the interior ministry, the U.K. government will contribute up to £36 million (approx. $44 million) to maintain the security of the controls, to support the camp clearance, ensure that the camp is kept closed and to help keep children safe in France.
Joe Giddins - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince Harry met with young people in Nottingham Wednesday in a trip that included a visit to a police station and a recording studio.
Harry, 32, delighted the thousands of well-wishers who came out hoping to catch a glimpse of Harry as he visited programs that work to reduce youth violence and provide a safe venue for kids.
Harry’s first stop was a local police station, where he spent time with the community policing unit. Harry also received a special gift from an 80-year-old woman who surprised him with a basket including Harry’s favorite Haribo candy.
The gesture prompted Harry to ask, “How did you know I like them?”
The woman, Irene Hartman, told reporters she met Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, “many years ago” and recalled them saying Harry liked Haribo.
“I told Harry I knew from when he was a young boy and I told him, ‘Your mum would have been proud of you,’” Hartman said.
Harry was also gifted with a white rose in memory of Diana. Dr. Alicia Osorio, 32, originally from Mexico City, told Harry she was giving him a white rose because his mother Princess Diana was an English rose.
"I asked if he can put it on his mother's tomb," Osorio told ABC News royal contributor Victoria Murphy. "He said, 'Thank you very much. White is my favorite color.'"
Harry is often compared to Princess Diana for his compassion and devotion to service. Later in the day, he spent time at two programs that are part of the Coach Core initiative he started with Prince William and Princess Kate in 2012.
Harry visited an ice rink and also tossed around a rugby ball with kids and young people training as sports coaches.
Harry’s final stop in Nottingham, in Central England, was a community recording studio that works to keep kids off the street through arts education, music programs and mentorships.
Harry's visit to Nottingham comes as he prepares for a 15-day tour of the Caribbean starting Nov. 20. Harry will travel on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, to Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The trip will be Harry’s third official visit to the region.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For 25 years, the United States has always voted "no" on a United Nations General Assembly resolution denouncing the country's embargo on Cuba. But this year, for the first time ever, the U.S. will abstain.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power explained the vote change on Wednesday: "Instead of isolating Cuba, as President Obama has repeatedly said, our policy isolated the United States."
Power made clear that the U.S. rejects language in the resolution that questions the embargo's legality and said the U.S. is still "profoundly concerned" about human rights violations in Cuba.
(QUEENSLAND, Australia) — Dreamworld will reopen Friday just days after four people were killed on a water ride at the amusement park in Australia.
All proceeds from the day will go to the Australian Red Cross in memory of those who lost their lives in the tragic incident, the park said.
"We hope this will be considered the start of the healing process for all concerned," Dreamworld Australia said in a statement Wednesday.
Four adults were killed Tuesday after a raft on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the popular amusement park on Queensland’s Gold Coast turned over on its conveyor belt, police said.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by today’s accident,” the park said in a statement following the incident. “Our hearts and thoughts go to the families involved and their loved ones.”
Two children who shared the raft with the victims were thrown from the raft, which flipped backwards after hitting a raft in front of it. The children managed to get themselves out. Closed-circuit television footage showed the ride was near the end when the two rafts collided, police said.
"In terms of how they escaped, maybe through the providence of God or somebody, but it seems from what I've seen almost a miracle that anybody came out of that," Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd said Tuesday. "If we're going to be thankful for anything, I'm thankful for that."
In its statement Wednesday, Dreamworld Australia noted that its Thunder River Rapids ride “had successfully completed its annual mechanical and structural safety engineering inspection on Sept. 29, 2016.”
Ian Walton/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Philadelphia neighborhood had a brush with royalty Tuesday when Prince Albert II of Monaco paid a visit to a home he recently bought for a reported $754,000.
The home in Philadelphia’s East Falls neighborhood is a stately brick home that was the childhood home of Albert’s mother, Grace Kelly.
Kelly, an Oscar-winning actress, left Philadelphia for Hollywood as a young woman and became Princess Grace of Monaco when she wed Monaco’s Prince Rainier III in 1956.
Albert, 58, is one of the couple’s three children.
Princess Grace's childhood home was built by her father, John B. Kelly, a businessman who won three Olympic gold medals for rowing. Grace died at age 52 in 1982 from injuries sustained in a car crash in France.
Albert told People magazine in an article posted Oct. 21 that he was “very happy” to have returned his mom’s six-bedroom, 2.5-story childhood home to his family.
“We’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do with it,” Albert told the magazine. “We’re looking at having it contain some museum exhibit space and maybe use part of it for offices for some of our foundation work.”
Albert spent time during his childhood at his newly-purchased home. His cousin, John B. Kelly III, visited the home with him on Tuesday.
Kelly told ABC's Philadelphia station WPVI-TV the group spent some of their nearly one-hour visit to the home Tuesday reminiscing about parties and "hanging out in the garage."
"It's been his idea and he really wanted to do this to preserve his mother's house, so he's very happy right now," Kelly told WPVI-TV.
iStock/Thinkstock(CHAMONIX, France) — A California wingsuit pilot shared a video of his near-fatal crash after leaping from a 12,000-foot mountain near Chamonix, France.
The video shows Eric Dossantos, of San Diego, soaring over rocky mountain slopes and outcroppings before reaching a pine forest, at which point the pilot starts to weave through gaps in the trees in a nail-biting sequence that ends with a dramatic thud.
"I should have died on a wingsuit crash in France but I didn’t so working on my healing from that," Dossantos wrote in a Facebook post uploaded on Oct. 4. "I appreciate your concerns and positive energy directed my way."
bwb-studio/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As Iraqi and Kurdish fighters move in on the city of Mosul, the United Nations says it is receiving reports of the "murderous" atrocities committed by ISIS, including extrajudicial killings and summary executions against women, children and male civilians in Iraq.
The UN also said it continues to receive information that ISIS fighters are "deliberately" using civilians as human shields -- "forcing them to move to sites where ISIL fighters are based, or preventing them from leaving other places for strategic reasons."
On Saturday, ISIS fighters reportedly shot and killed three women and three girls from a village called Rufeila in the al-Qayyarah sub-district, south of Mosul. The victims were allegedly shot because they were trailing about 100 meters behind other villagers who were being forced by ISIS to relocate to another sub-district, according to the UN.
The victims, which also included four children who were injured, were lagging behind because one of the children had a disability. She was apparently among the victims who were killed.
Human rights staff in Iraq have been informed that ISIS killed 15 civilians in the Iraqi village of Safina, about 28 miles south of Mosul. The dead bodies were thrown in a river in an apparent attempt to spread terror among other residents, according to the UN. On Oct. 19, ISIS allegedly tied six civilians to a vehicle by their hands and dragged them around the village, "simply because they were related to a particular tribal leader fighting" alongside Iraqi forces.
The next day, Iraqi security forces reportedly found bodies of 70 civilians ridden with bullet holes inside houses in the Tuloul Naser Village, located about 22 miles south of Mosul. It is unclear at this point who was responsible for those killings, the UN announced.
"We very much fear that these will not be the last such reports we receive of such barbaric acts" by the terrorist group, the UN said, calling on government forces and their allies to "ensure their fighters do not take revenge on any of the civilians who escape from areas" under ISIS control and treat all suspected ISIS fighters they capture in accordance with international humanitarian law.
The UN also said it is "concerned" by "severe" measures taken by officials in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk on residents now displaced after a surprise attack from ISIS on Friday. The only option given to those who wish to stay in the city is to move into established camps, which are either "already full or very close to full," the UN said.
It could take advancing troops more than two months to liberate Mosul from ISIS control, a Kurdish military commander told ABC News last week.
"We understand that hundreds of families have now been evicted by Kurdish Security Forces, and are worried that if the evictions continue, it could significantly complicate the already alarming situation of mass displacement in the region," the UN said.
Purestock/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached a record-high level, ushering in a "new era of climate reality," according to the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The global average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a milestone of 400 parts per million in 2015, the first time since modern record-keeping began in 1960, according to the WMO.
In 2016, the global carbon dioxide concentration rose even higher, breaking a new record, the U.N. group added.
"The rise was fueled by El Niño, which led to droughts in tropical regions and reduced the capacity of forests and oceans to absorb carbon dioxide," Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters on Monday.
“The year 2015 ushered in a new era of optimism and climate action with the Paris climate change agreement. But it will also make history as marking a new era of climate change reality with record high greenhouse gas concentrations,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
“The El Niño event has disappeared. Climate change has not,” Taalas added.
Although carbon dioxide levels have reached 400 parts per million in the past in isolated locations and times, 2015 was the first year that the global average levels for the entire year reached the 400 parts per million mark, according to the report.
The WMO predicts that the carbon dioxide concentrations will stay above this threshold for the entirety of 2016, "and not dip below that level for many generations."
Taalas applauded the recent international agreement in Kigali, Rwanda, to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, which have been shown to eat away at the ozone layer in the atmosphere.
"[B]ut the real elephant in the room is carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years and in the oceans for even longer. Without tackling CO2 emissions, we cannot tackle climate change and keep temperature increases to below 2°C above the pre-industrial era,” Taalas said in a statement.
“It's just a milestone more than anything," Ed Dlugokencky, a researcher who monitors carbon dioxide and other atmospheric gases with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory, told ABC News of passing the 400 parts per million threshold. "The alarming thing is that CO2 keeps going up, and the rate of increase keeps accelerating.”
Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was about 280 parts per million, Dlugokencky noted.
If we continue on the same trajectory with carbon emissions, the results would be that "it gets warmer, ocean get more acidic," Dlugokencky added.
"The tipping point that we don’t want to reach is where ocean levels rise to the point that they would inundate major coastal cities," Dlugokencky said. "The timescale for this is quite long, but to reduce emissions sufficiently we have to start acting soon."
“What we find is that approximately half the CO2 that is emitted into the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion remains in the atmosphere, so as we emit more, the amount that stays in the atmosphere increases,” Dlugokencky added.
The carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere will most likely not drop below 400 parts per million in our lifetime, he noted.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Fifteen years ago this month, then-President George W. Bush responded to 9/11 by publicly placing 22 top terrorists on an FBI most wanted list. In the decade and half since, more of the original list of fugitives have been killed than caught, while several remain on the run -- including two senior al-Qaeda figures believed to now be in Syria and the current leader of the terrorist organization.
The now well-known FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list was created when Bush strode onto a stage at the FBI's Washington headquarters on Oct. 10, 2001, and named 22 of the "most dangerous" people in the world. Many had a $5 million reward for information leading to their capture, and right at the top of the list was Osama bin Laden, worth $25 million.
"Everybody felt like, what are we doing, and what can we show people?" Thomas Pickard, who was then the FBI deputy director and was briefly its acting director, told ABC News.
He and other former senior FBI officials told ABC News that in the weeks after 9/11, officials were racing to investigate the attacks and prevent a follow-on strike and also were eager to show the American public that they were going to hold not just al-Qaeda accountable but also anyone who orchestrated acts of terrorism against U.S. citizens.
In addition to al-Qaeda members, fugitives among what Bush called "the first 22" included members of Hezbollah groups in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia wanted for attacks that killed Americans in 1985, 1996 and in 1998.
Support for Bush was high in October 2001, and the president -- only nine months on the job -- paused as he took to the lectern in a theater at FBI headquarters to a sustained round of applause from government officials gathered to hear his remarks, which were televised live. At his side were Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
"They must be found, they will be stopped, and they will be punished," Bush said of the terrorists. "Eventually, no corner of the world will be dark enough to hide in."
His statement has been as right as wrong.
Nine of the 22 whose faces appeared on flash cards given to reporters at the FBI that day have been killed in the last 15 years -- at least four by American military airstrikes in Afghanistan or CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, according to the U.S. government. Five others were killed by other means, some still unknown.
Four have been captured. Two were nabbed by the CIA in Pakistan and remain in prison in Guantanamo Bay: 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ahmed "Foopie" Ghailani, an al-Qaeda operative wanted for his role in the bombings of two U.S. embassy bombings in 1998 in East Africa.
A third, Abu Anas al-Liby, was caught by Delta Force in Libya in 2013 but died last year of liver disease before he could face trial in New York. The fourth, a Saudi Hezbollah operative who allegedly helped al-Qaeda bomb the Khobar Towers barracks for U.S. Air Force personnel in Saudi Arabia in 1996, was reportedly caught last year, though the FBI still lists him as a fugitive.
The others -- nine alleged terrorists -- remain on the loose, including three men the U.S. government would desperately like to get its hands on.
Saif al-Adel is the more prominent of the two senior al-Qaeda members now believed to be in Syria with al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front. The other is Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah. Al-Adel is a senior official on al-Qaeda's military committee who the U.S. government says was deeply involved in the devastating August 1998 twin truck bombings of the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed hundreds of people.
Both al-Adel and Abdullah were under house arrest in Iran for more than a decade after escaping the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan and were safe from America and its allies there. In Syria, however, they could finally face justice.
As the head of the FBI’s international terrorism operations section, Mike Rolince had a front-row seat for Bush’s 2001 announcement. While al-Qaeda leaders who relocated to Iran may have survived the 2000s, moving to Syria means they’re vulnerable to U.S. armed drones, which have been used for targeted killings of senior ISIS and al-Qaeda leaders in Syria, he said.
"If they're in Syria, that's probably a more fitting fate than a federal prison," said Rolince, who has remained active in the intelligence community since retiring from the FBI.
“Saif Adel sits above the rebranded Nusra Front in al-Qaeda's pecking order. He helps oversee al-Qaeda's global operations, mainly its role in various insurgencies, especially Syria,” said Thomas Joscelyn, an expert on the group at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
Al-Adel likely travels between Syria and southern Turkey, where the U.S. intelligence community has said al-Qaeda maintains a “node” plotting attacks against the West, Joscelyn said.
The top remaining fugitive Bush named 15 years ago is Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's longtime No. 2 and the current head of al-Qaeda. The intelligence community has at times said al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian, was hiding in Afghanistan and at other times said he most likely was hiding out in a teeming Pakistani city, likely protected by current or former agents of that country’s military intelligence service.
The State Department's Rewards for Justice program, which administers cash payouts to tipsters, says the U.S. has shelled out $117 million since 2001 to 58 informants. But officials have never disclosed who received money because their personal security is guaranteed only by anonymity. None of the successful tip-driven cases it touts today by name involved al-Qaeda figures brought to justice.
Many other al-Qaeda leaders were known to the FBI in 2001 but not placed on its publicized list. Bush kept those on a sheet of paper in his Oval Office desk drawer, which he would pull out from time to time to scratch off the names of those killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.
Another 22 accused terrorists have been added since the 2001 FBI list, for a total of 44 Most Wanted Terrorists publicized to date. In addition to the nine now dead from the original group, nine others placed on the list after 2001 are known to have been killed by U.S. airstrikes, such as al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or even by fellow jihadis, as was the case with American al-Shabab commander Omar Hammami of Daphne, Alabama, who was killed by other al-Shabab fighters in Somalia.
None of those added over the past 15 years have been captured alive.
"I don't have a problem with that, with taking people out before they take your people out," said Rolince, who led the hunt for many years.
The current FBI list includes fugitives from the Abu Nidal organization, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Abu Sayyaf and Jemaa al-Islamiyya -- but none from ISIS, such as its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, despite the group's notoriety as the greatest terrorist threat to American interests, according to the Obama administration.
Back in 2001, senior officials viewed the creation of a most wanted list specifically for terrorists to be part of America's going to war against al-Qaeda and other terrorists and the FBI's difficult transformation from a reactive agency investigating terrorism after it occurred to its new top priority of preventing attacks.
"It meant we were now on the front lines in the war and that we had to prevent terrorist incidents before laws were necessarily broken. A real game changer," Rex Tomb, who ran the FBI's fugitive publicity unit and was one of the architects of the Most Wanted Terrorists list, told ABC News.
Launching the program while the ruins of the World Trade Center still smoldered, in that way, was as much a psychological statement to reassure a nation still rattled by the destruction in New York, Pennsylvania and in Washington, D.C. as much as it was a plea for the worldwide public's assistance in finding al-Qaeda's leadership in hiding, said the retired official.
"It served to reassure the American and, indeed, the Western public that our government was doing all in its power to protect citizens from those who were committed to their destruction and the disruption of Western societies," said Tomb, who served 38 years at the bureau.
Joscelyn said the mixed results over the past 15 years are hard to assess, since most of those brought to justice were the result of worldwide intelligence operations.
"I don't think it was a total waste of time, but it had only a limited impact," he said.
The Original 22: The Dead
[The information on the individuals below is based on public remarks by government officials and terrorist groups, published reports and interviews with officials involved in tracking the fugitives.]
Osama bin Laden: Though bin Laden was blamed for 9/11 the day of the attacks, the FBI officially sought his indictment and pursuit in October 2001 for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, which killed hundreds of people. U.S. Navy SEALs killed him during a 2011 raid in Pakistan.
Muhammed Atef: Also wanted for the embassy attacks, al-Qaeda's military chief was killed in the U.S. onslaught in Afghanistan, in November 2001.
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed: A notorious leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa, Mohammed was gunned down at a police checkpoint in Somalia by transitional government troops in what was believed to have been an confrontation set up by members of the jihadi insurgent group al-Shabab, according to a report in The CTC Sentinel, published by West Point. Mohammed was wanted for his purported link to the 1998 embassy bombings.
Mustafa Mohamed Fadhil: Also wanted for the embassy attacks, Fadhil was killed in Afghanistan sometime after 9/11, which al-Qaeda confirmed years later, in 2013.
Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam: Msalam was alleged by the U.S. to have bought the vehicles packed with explosives that targeted the embassies in the 1998 bombings. In 2009, a CIA drone killed him in Pakistan's tribal areas with a fellow most-wanted fugitive, his aide Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan.
Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan: Also wanted for the embassy attacks, Swedan was killed in the 2009 CIA drone strike with Msalam.
Ahmed Mohammed Hamed Ali: Ali was reported killed in 2011 by a CIA drone strike in Pakistan's tribal areas, and his most-wanted poster was removed from the Rewards for Justice website. He too was wanted in connection to the embassy bombings.
Mushin Musa Matwalli Atwab: Atwab was killed in 2006 during military operations by Pakistani forces along the border with Afghanistan. Atwab was believed to be an al-Qaeda operative linked to the embassy bombings.
Imad Mugniyah: Mugniyah was wanted for the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, in which U.S. sailor Robert Stethem was tortured and murdered. Mugniyah, said to be a founder of Lebanese Hezbollah and in the top tier of the group's leadership, was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, Syria, in 2008.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed: Mohammed, known as KSM, was the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. He was officially wanted for an airline bomb plot in the Philippines in 1995.
Ahmed Ibrahim al-Mughassil: Wanted for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, which left 19 American airmen dead. It was al-Qaeda's last collaboration with Saudi Hezbollah, in which al-Mughassil served as military commander. He was reported captured in 2015, but the FBI still lists him as a fugitive.
Ahmed Khlfan Ghailani: The diminutive Qaeda operative known as Foopie was nabbed in Pakistan in 2004 and tried in New York in 2011 for his connection to the 1998 embassy bombings. He is serving a life sentence at the Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado.
Anas al-Liby: Al-Liby evaded justice for 15 years after the embassy bombings in 1998, but eventually U.S. special forces caught up to him in the streets of Tripoli, Libya, in 2013. He was sent to the U.S. to stand trial but died in New York, reportedly of liver cancer, just days before the trial was scheduled to begin.
The Ones Who Got Away, So Far
Ayman al-Zawahiri: After bin Laden's 2011 death, al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor once implicated in the conspiracy to assassinate Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, rose to become al-Qaeda's top leader, where he has spoken out against ISIS while renewing the group's threats to America. He is technically wanted for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings, for which he was indicted in the U.S.
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah: Also wanted for the embassy attacks, al-Zawahiri's fellow Egyptian is said to be in the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. He was under house arrest in Iran for more than a decade until his release last year. He is suspected to be in Syria with al-Qaeda fighters there.
Saif al-Adel: A former colonel in the Egyptian military, al-Adel is believed also to have been under house arrest in Iran, until 2010 or 2013. This year he was reported to have been sent to Syria in his role as a senior member of al-Qaeda's military committee. He is wanted for his purported role in the 1998 embassy bombings.
Hassan Izz al-Din: Al-Din, a purported Hezbollah member, is wanted for his alleged role in the hijacking of TWA 847. He remains sought by the FBI and is thought to reside in Lebanon, the bureau says.
Ali Atwa: Also wanted for TWA 847, this Hezbollah member also is thought to be in Lebanon.
Abdul Rahman Yasin: Yasin is wanted for his role in the first World Trade Center attack in 1993. The Indiana-born bombmaker was interviewed by the FBI and then returned to Iraq, where he had lived and studied. After a 2002 media interview, he vanished and was never located by the U.S. after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Ali Saed bin Ali al-Hoorie: Al-Hoorie is believed to be a veteran of an unprecedented collaboration between Sunni al-Qaeda and Shiite Saudi Hezbollah. He's on the run, indicted in Virginia for his alleged role in the Khobar Towers attack.
Ibrahim Salih Mohammed al-Yacoub: Also wanted for the Khobar Towers attack, al-Yacoub is considered a member of the outlaw pro-Iranian group Saudi Hezbollah.
Abdelkarim Hussein Mohamed al-Nasser: Al-Nasser was also indicted for his alleged role in the Khobar Towers attack. He remains a fugitive, with past reports suggesting his presence in Iran.