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  • ABCNews.com(MOSCOW) -- Russian police have reportedly arrested a man who has claimed to be a worker at a so-called troll factory in St. Petersburg, Russia, hours after he gave interviews to foreign journalists and lifted the lid on a secretive organization the U.S. Department of Justice last week accused of trying to undermine the 2016 presidential election.The Justice Department Friday indicted 13 Russians it accused of running a campaign through the alleged trolling operation to undermine the U.S. election, using social media posts and fake news websites. The indictment named the company behind the alleged operation as the Internet Research Agency.Since the indictment, Marat Mindiyarov, a 43-year-old former teacher who said he worked for the operation from 2014 to early 2015, has been giving interviews to multiple foreign news outlets, including The Associated Press and The Washington Post, describing its inner workings.He was then detained Sunday by police who accused him and a friend of making a false report about a bomb near his village outside St. Petersburg, he told The Moscow Times.Mindiyarov has since been released, Russian radio station Echo of Moscow reported.Mindiyarov, like most of the workers, was not named in the U.S. indictment brought as part of U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. The indictment Friday named people accused of overseeing the alleged trolling effort or playing a key role in the operation to undermine the election.It also named the Internet Research Agency’s alleged owner, Yegenvy Prigozhin, a man nicknamed “Putin’s Chef” because of his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.Mindiyarov has said he was a lower-level employee, posting hundreds of comments on social media expressing Kremlin viewpoints.Mindiyarov knew the operation’s “Facebook Department” had hired hundreds of Russians who spoke English well to take part in a campaign to influence U.S. public opinion, he told reporters."Your first feeling, when you were there, was that you were at some factory that turned a lie into a conveyor belt,” Mindiyarov told The Washington Post Saturday. “The volumes were enormous; there were a huge number of people, from 300 to 400, and they all wrote an absolute lie. It was like in the world of [novelist George] Orwell, the place where you have to say that white is black, and black is white.”He is among a number of former employees at the “troll factory,” as well as undercover journalists, who have come forward in the past two years to explain what they say are the internal workings of its operation to media organizations, including ABC News.The Kremlin has denied having any connection to the “troll factory,” with Putin’s spokesman telling reporters Monday that Mueller had failed to provide sufficient evidence of a campaign to meddle in the U.S. election.Echo of Moscow, the Russian radio station, reported that police had detained Mindiyarov and a friend it named as Igor at an apartment Sunday, accusing Igor of having used his phone to make false reports about bombs near their village.But, writing on his Facebook page Monday, Mindiyarov said he “is not afraid even after the events of the last night and today.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • ABCNews.com(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Time is ticking as Iranian rescue teams search the Zagros Mountains trying to locate the wreckage of a missing Aseman Airliner that crashed there on Sunday morning with 66 people on board.The missing plane was an ATR 72-500 twin-engine turboprop. It left the capital city of Tehran to Yasuj, a southwestern city at 4:30 a.m. GMT on Sunday, but went off the radar 50 minutes into its journey around the city of Semirom in Isfahan Province.Relatives of those on board have been desperately waiting all day on Sunday, but are losing hope as reports say all 66 passengers are feared dead. Those on board include 60 passengers, two flight attendants, two security guards, and the pilot and co-pilot.According to the statement of Iran Emergency Center, the heavy winds and snow did not allow a rescue team's helicopter to approach the possible location of the crash on the first day.The rescue operation was resumed Monday in better weather, but the plane wreckage had yet to be tracked down.To accelerate the operation, Iran has reached out to other countries for help.“We have asked China and European countries to immediately inform us of any image they might capture with their satellites,” Mojtaba Saradeghi, deputy head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, told the Iranian Student News Agency on Monday.Family and friends have posted desperate pleas for news on the missing on social media, including one from a women who listed four co-workers killed in the accident and the statement, translated as, "Do you know we have filled your desks at the office with flowers? We shared your memories, and cried."Russia has also sent information on the possible location of the crash to Tehran via diplomatic channels, according to Spotnik, the Russian news agency.The Iranian airliner's fleet is very old as it has been prevented from updating for years due to severe sanctions from the West. The Islamic Republic was not allowed to purchase new Western planes and spare parts for about two decades.In 2015, the country signed a nuclear deal with six world powers (Germany, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and the United States), based on which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear-related activities in return for the easing of some sanctions against the country.One of the top priorities of Iran was removing sanctions on its aviation industry. While easing these sanctions has led to a major deal between Iran and Boeing for the purchase of airplanes over the coming years, the body of the fleet of the country is still worn out.The recent crash has led to discussions on social networks about where the West and Iranian aviation stands two years after the lifting of the sanctions on the industry.Pouyan Tabasinejad, policy chair of the Iranian Canadian Congress, was among those to criticize Canadian Sen. Linda Frum on Twitter after she slammed Boeing for selling Iran new aircraft.However, some of those who used to blame the West for the high number of casualties in airplane crashes in Iran are now pointing their fingers at Tehran’s mismanagement for not upgrading its fleet in the past two years after the lifting of the former restrictions.Capt. Houshang Shahbazi became a national hero to Iranians in December 2011 after he managed to safely land a 40-year-old Boeing 727 while the gear in the nose was jammed and the front wheel did not open. He saved the life of 120 passengers on board.Before the nuclear deal, Shahbazi was a vocal critic of the Western sanctions on Iran’s civil aviation industry. But in an interview with ABC News about the recent incident, he said time to blame the West for such incidents is over. Instead, he criticized Iranian aviation officials for not being swift enough in updating the fleet.“It is not a humanitarian crisis. This crash is the result of a political crisis,” he said, putting the blame on where political parties choose to invest the resources of the country. “Two years has
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  • Kevin Hagen/Getty Images(SOUTH AFRICA) -- The African National Congress, the party of the late Nelson Mandela and the ruling party in South Africa, has ordered the country's president, Jacob Zuma, to hand in his resignation, though giving him no deadline to do so.The party’s secretary general, Ace Magashule, made the announcement at a news conference today after a marathon special ANC National Executive Committee meeting outside Pretoria that lasted into the early hours.The executive committee had reportedly resolved to give Zuma the option to resign or be recalled.Although Zuma indicated his willingness to resign, Magashule said, he wanted a grace period of between three and six months to step down, which the executive committee rejected.When Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s deputy president who also heads the ANC, went to see Zuma Monday night, the president reportedly said: "Do what you want to do."Ramaphosa has been in ongoing discussions with Zuma to negotiate an exit plan while South Africans waited with bated breath.Last week saw the unprecedented cancellation of the State of the Nation address that was scheduled for Thursday.Opposition parties Monday called for the dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections to be held to elect a new president.It’s unclear when Zuma will resign. Officials have not given him a deadline, Magashule said, but are “leaving it to him to do the right thing.”Zuma stands accused of more than 780 charges of fraud, money laundering and racketeering related to an arms deal scandal. Although he has consistently denied the charges, prosecutors are gearing up to reinstate them. The beleaguered president was also found by the highest court in South Africa to have failed in his duty to uphold, defend and respect the country’s Constitution after making improvements to his private homestead with taxpayers’ money.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • ABC News(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Thursday night in Itaewon, the hippest district in Seoul, the leader of the communist state to the north begins his march.But take a closer look. It's not actually Kim Jong-un. Instead, it's a cheerful South Korean impersonator.An English instructor during the day, Dragon Kim ventures out at night to some of the most crowded streets of Seoul dressed as the supreme leader.He boasts dance moves and mimics the motions of the real Kim Jong-un. People stare at him first in awe and then out of curiosity. When they figure out he's an imitator, they laugh and ask to take a selfie together.Kim began this one-man show for Halloween in 2014, when he first showed up as Kim Jong-un and attracted attention from social media. He has been hanging out in his hermit-leader costume ever since. Some people recognize him as "Itaewon Kim Jong-un," and he cherishes the attention."Not only just people are happy about what I'm doing," Kim told ABC News, "but I'm also happy because it is really fun to see how people react."Kim says he has a lot in common with Kim Jong-un -- not only their looks but a taste for American food and a passion for basketball. He dreams that one day the two men will be able to play basketball together.
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  • ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- American special operations forces and FBI agents on the ground in Syria are actively searching sites where they believe Western hostages, including Americans executed by ISIS, may have been buried, counterterrorism officials told ABC News.Three officials briefed on the ground searches by U.S. commandos -- the first real effort to recover the remains of two American journalists and two American humanitarian aid workers killed from 2014 to 2015 -- said they were undertaken on the basis of new intelligence from two ISIS members from London captured last month by Syrian Kurds.“Intel people are digging hard and directing ground guys to locations,” a counterterrorism official who is not authorized to speak publicly told ABC News.Two other counterterrorism officials confirmed to ABC News that ground searches have begun and suggested the efforts are limited so far but could be expanded. The remains are believed to be spread out over several sites.Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are two of the most important ISIS figures ever captured on the battlefield. U.S. commanders at Joint Special Operations Command and CIA have had a policy of carrying out targeted killings with armed drones of the terrorist group's senior leadership rather than more risky attempts to capture them.The two ISIS fighters taken prisoner last month were half of a quartet of British guards — dubbed the "Beatles" by the hostages — who tortured and beheaded their captives. Their leader, Mohammed Emwazi, was called "Jihadi John" and died in a CIA airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, in November 2015. Another member, Aine Davis, was captured in Turkey last year.The two men are being interrogated by U.S. officials and are providing information about burial sites of American hostages they tormented and executed while running a kidnap and ransom operation for ISIS, which began in 2013. Ransom demands were halted after a July 4, 2014 failed Delta Force rescue raid and the subsequent U.S.-led coalition air campaign against ISIS.The U.S. Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell has contacted families of the hostages who died -- some of whom were shown having their heads cut off by Jihadi John on video -- many of whom welcomed the capture of the pair and U.S. efforts to find the remains of their loved ones.Diane Foley, mother of journalist James Foley, the first to die on video in August 2014, told ABC News, that knowing that U.S. forces are searching for burial sites of her son and his fellow captives is emotionally difficult but gratifying."I am grateful for all these efforts but bringing these two jihadists to justice gives us more hope and solace than the return of Jim's remains," she said.Foley's execution was followed by the killings on video of fellow American hostages Steven Sotloff, a journalist, and Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig, a humanitarian medic and former Army Ranger. Five more men — two from Britain, two from Japan and one from Jordan — also died in horrific videos released over several weeks by ISIS into early 2015.Kayla Mueller was the only westerner whose death did not play out in a Jihadi John video. ISIS announced the death of the humanitarian aid worker from Prescott, Ariz. in a Feb. 6, 2015 tweet, claiming a Jordanian airstrike killed her in Syria. The captors sent her parents three photos of her lifeless face when they asked for proof."I don't know what happened to Kayla. I don't where Kayla is. I need her home," said her mother, Marsha, on Friday. "She belongs here."Kayla's father, Carl Mueller, said he appreciates that any effort to recover the remains of his only daughter, whose death is still a mystery. The Muellers recently pressed U.S. hostage recovery officials in a Washington briefing to reveal how their daughter died and were told specific details have eluded investigators."Unlike the other families, we don't have the gruesome execution video,” Carl Mueller told ABC News. “We need to know s
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