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Sarairis Aguilar/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- Students of the Mexico City school that collapsed after a powerful earthquake hit Tuesday afternoon were seen being pulled out of the rubble in dramatic video posted to social media.

When first responders and bystanders notice an opening in the building's structure, they rush to it and begin pulling the facade from the exterior in an effort to enlarge the hole, the video shows.

Rubble from the building litters the streets as the rescuers crouch down to retrieve the survivors. First responders are seen attempting to reassure crying children as they are picked up and out of the destroyed building. Yelling from inside the building informs the search team that there are more survivors.

Hermano eres un héroe, estoy orgullosa de ti, salvaste la vida de varios niños en Colegio Rebsamen 🙏 pic.twitter.com/9JnJw0PA8u

— Isabel Miranda W (@WallaceIsabel) September 20, 2017

Search and rescue teams continued to frantically search for victims trapped under the rubble of the Enrique Rebsamen primary and secondary schools on Wednesday, more than 24 hours after the earthquake struck.

The bodies of 21 children and four adults have been discovered at the school, according to Mexico's Education Minister Aurelio Nuño. Eleven people have been rescued, and three are still missing.

Rodrigo Heredia, a 13-year-old student, told a Televisa reporter in Spanish that he escaped the building because of an earthquake drill held earlier in the day on Tuesday.

Citywide earthquake drills were held to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the Michoacán earthquake of 1985, which killed thousands and caused catastrophic damage in Mexico City.

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck near the town of Raboso in Puebla state Tuesday afternoon, according to the United States Geological Survey. It marked the second powerful quake to hit Mexico in less than two weeks, after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the country's Pacific coast 12 days earlier.

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Sarairis Aguilar/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- Search and rescue crews continued the grim task of digging out from Tuesday's massive earthquake in Mexico City as they clung to hope of finding survivors in the rubble two days later.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said late Wednesday night the priority in the country's capital was still on saving lives. Search and rescue crews are working across the city, with more than 50 people rescued from collapsed buildings, according to the president.

The death toll in the 7.1-magnitude earthquake was at least 245 people early Wednesday. Of those, 115 people died in Mexico City, according to Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera.

More than 1,900 people have received medical attention, Pena Nieto said.

Mexico has accepted technical and specialized assistance from many countries, including the United States, Spain, Israel, Japan and several Latin American countries.

"We are all one when it comes to saving a life or helping a victim," Pena Nieto said.

Much of the attention of rescuers in the city was focused on the Enrique Rebsamen school, an elementary and secondary school which collapsed during the quake. The bodies of 21 children and four adults were found in the wreckage of the school, where an ongoing rescue effort was underway overnight after a young girl was found alive -- trapped in the rubble -- Wednesday afternoon.

Rescuers were communicating with the girl and had dropped water bottles and oxygen to her as they worked to free her. The country's minister of education told ABC News that officials believe two other children are located nearby the girl, but they have not heard any definitive signs of life from them.

Pena Nieto said 95 percent of electricity had been restored to the nearly 5 million customers who lost power due to the quake.

The president outlined a three-part plan Wednesday night for recovering from the quake. 1) assisting those affected, 2) an exhaustive assessment of the damage, and 3) reconstruction starting with the removal of rubble and demolition of buildings.

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gynane/iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- London Metropolitan police arrested a sixth suspect in last week's Underground train bombing in the early hours of Thursday morning.

After serving a warrant at an address in Thornton Heath, police arrested a 17-year-old male under section 41 of the Terrorism Act and began a search of the property.

The arrest follows less than a day after a 48-year-old man and a 30-year-old man were arrested in Newport, South Wales, when officers executed a warrant at the address where the two men were located.

A 25-year-old man was arrested Tuesday evening, also in Newport, at a different address.

UK terror threat lowered after 2nd man arrested in London Underground attack

A 21-year-old man was arrested on Saturday in Hounslow, a borough in West London, by detectives with the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command, and earlier Saturday police had evacuated a house in a London suburb as well as part of the Port of Dover after arresting an 18-year-old man that morning in the southeastern coastal city.

None of the six men who have been arrested in connection with the attack have been publicly identified. All remain in custody at a South London police station.

Thirty people were injured in September 15 attack on a train at Parsons Green Underground station in London. Police said an apparent bucket bomb exploded during the Friday morning commute, injuring 30 people. All of the injuries were considered minor. Authorities said the bomb did not fully explode, likely limiting the number of casualties.

The terror threat was lowered to severe from critical over the weekend, but police warned the public should remain vigilant.

"This continues to be a fast-moving investigation. A significant amount of activity has taken place since the attack on Friday," said Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met Counter Terrorism Command.

"We urge the public to report any suspicious activity to the police by calling us, in confidence, on 0800 789 321, or in an emergency by dialling 999," Haydon said in a public statement.

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LEE JIN-MAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Iran is in complicance with the international nuclear deal, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command said Wednesday, the same day that President Trump said he has "made a decision" on whether to certify Iran as compliant.

"The facts are that Iran is operating under the agreements that we signed up for under the JCPOA," Gen. John Hyten said at an event at the Hudson Instititue, a conservative think tank.

"But at the same time they are rapidly, rapidly deploying and developing a whole series of ballistic missiles and testing ballistic missiles at all ranges that provides significant concerns to not just the United States, but our allies," Hyten noted. Still, he said, "we have an agreement that our nation has signed. And I believe that when the United States of America signs an agreement, it's our job to live up to the terms of that agreement, our job to enforce that."

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said that he has reached a decision on recertifying or scrapping the deal. "I have decided," he told reporters after a bilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "I'll let you know what the decision is."

The Trump administration has until October 15 to recertify Iran's compliance.

On the campaign trail, Trump suggested renegotiating the deal, something that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says will not happen. "Either the JCPOA will remain as-is, in its entirety, or it will no longer exist," Rouhani told reporters.

"There will be absolutely no changes, no alterations, nothing done to the current framework of the JCPOA."

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ABC News(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Puerto Rico in dark, curfew set after island 'destroyed' by Hurricane Maria, officials say

The island of Puerto Rico has been "destroyed" after Hurricane Maria made landfall there as a Category 4 storm Wednesday morning, according to emergency officials.

Puerto Rico's office of emergency management confirmed that 100 percent of the U.S. territory had lost power, noting that anyone with electricity was using a generator.

A spokesperson with the Puerto Rico governor's office confirmed one person has died in the storm. They were killed in Bayamon, just southwest of San Juan, after being hit in the head by a wooden panel.

Multiple transmission lines sustained damage from the storm, said Ricardo Ramos, director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Ramos said he hopes to begin launching helicopters by this weekends to begin inspecting the transmission lines.

Telecommunications throughout the island have "collapsed," Abner Gomez Cortes, executive director of Puerto Rico's office of emergency management and disaster administration agency, told ABC News.

As of 11 p.m. ET, Maria had weakened to a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained wind of 110 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was located about 55 miles northeast of Punta Cana, a popular tourist destination in the Dominican Republic.

The hurricane warning for Puerto Rico was officially discontinued at 11 p.m., according to the National Weather Service, but heavy rain continued overnight.

Conditions on the eastern side of the Dominican Republic were further deteriorating overnight Wednesday into Thursday.

Some strengthening is possible now that the storm is back over the ocean, so Maria has potential to become a Category 3 hurricane again. Maria is forecast to churn past off the eastern shore of the Dominican Republic into Thursday before moving near Turks and Caicos and the southeast Bahamas Thursday night through Friday.
 
The latest track has Maria curving north and eventually north-northeast. Forecast models currently show the storm continuing to weaken next week as it travels far offshore, staying away from Florida and the Southeast coast. The only impacts the storm will have on the east coast at this point will be dangerous surf and rip currents.

Puerto Rico pummeled by the powerful storm
Cortes described Maria as an unprecedented storm, adding that the island had not seen a storm of that strength since 1928.

A hurricane task force for the U.S. Department of State is monitoring Maria's path in the Caribbean and will coordinate evacuations for U.S. citizens and provide aid on the ground, a State Department official told ABC News.

Puerto Rico was still experiencing tropical-storm force winds Wednesday afternoon, forcing emergency services and search and rescue teams to wait before heading out to assess the damage, Cortes said.

More than 12,000 people are currently in shelters, and hospitals are now running on generators, Cortes said. Two hospitals -- one in Caguas and one in Bayamon -- have been damaged.

No deaths have been reported so far, but catastrophic flooding is currently taking place on the island. Multiple rain gauges have reported between 18 and 24 inches of rain, with some approaching the 30-inch mark over the last 24 hours.

Flooding is the danger "that will take lives," Cortes said, advising residents not to venture out of their homes until Thursday because "it is not safe to go out and observe."

"We will rebuild our island with federal and state funds, hard work and the spirit of all Puerto Rican citizens," Cortes said.

ABC News correspondents observed widespread destruction in the town of Guaynabo, about 10 miles south of San Juan.

Trees and power lines were downed, and storefronts and building facades had crumbled. Neighborhoods in Guaynabo were filled with waist-deep floodwaters and destroyed homes that were clearly not built to any kind of code.

A Guaynabo resident who huddled in a bathroom with her family of six said told ABC News, "The winds took my home."

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced via Twitter that a curfew was in effect starting at 6 p.m.

Storm surge was predicted to be 6 to 9 feet in coastal Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rainfall totals for Puerto Rico were projected at 12 to 18 inches, with as much as 35 inches in isolated areas.

Felix Delgado Montalvo, the mayor of Catano, some 7 miles southwest of San Juan, told ABC News on Wednesday there are hundreds of people in shelters and over 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the communities of Juana Matos, La Puntilla and Puente Blanco. Most of the homes are flooded and are missing roofs or have collapsed walls, he said.

About 80 percent of residences in the Juana Matos community were destroyed from storm surge and flooding. Homes there are filled with at least 3 to 4 feet of water, according to Montalvo.

By Friday, Maria will pass to the east of Turks and Caicos, but the storm is not expected to make a direct hit.

From there, the hurricane is forecast to pass by the southeast islands of the Bahamas.

Maria leaves behind trail of death, destruction in Caribbean
Maria did severe damage to multiple Caribbean islands over the past 36 hours, including Dominica, Guadeloupe and the Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Department of State sent a message of solidarity Wednesday to the people of Dominica and all across the Caribbean who were affected by Maria.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to Dominica's prime minister, told reporters via WhatsApp on Wednesday that several people have died and the death toll "will rise" as officials continue to assess the widespread damage on the tiny island. Dominica has suffered a "tremendous loss of housing and public buildings" since the storm hit, ripping off roofs and tearing doors from hinges. The island's main general hospital "took a beating" and "patient care has been compromised," he said.

"The country is in a daze -- no electricity, no running water," Henry said via a WhatsApp message. "In summary, the island has been devastated."

The Ross University School of Medicine, based in Portsmouth, Dominica, announced on Facebook that it is attempting to make contact with all of its students. More than 1,400 students and faculty have signed the registration sheet so far, and the school has reached out to the family members of more than 700 others, who informed them that they are safe.

Officials in Guadeloupe announced Wednesday that two people were killed and two others were missing due to the storm.

France's Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said some 80,000 people in Guadeloupe -- around 40 percent of the population -- were without electricity Wednesday. Many roads there are impassible due to flooding and French Navy planes have not been able to assess the damage on the island due to bad weather conditions.

In Martinique, about 70,000 homes were without electricity and 50,000 homes did not have access to safe drinking water Wednesday. Fallen trees and downed power poles have blocked many roads there, Collomb said.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in both Martinique and Guadeloupe to ensure security. More than 3,000 first responders are on the French Caribbean islands, according to Collomb.

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Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered a heated response Wednesday to President Donald Trump’s remarks to the United Nations General Assembly, during which Trump declared the Iran nuclear deal all but dead and called it an "embarrassment."

"Ugly, ignorant words were spoken by the U.S. president against the Iranian nation," said Rouhani in his own speech to the General Assembly, "full of hatred and baseless allegations."

Rouhani continued by defending his country's participation in the nuclear agreement and offered a threat directed towards the U.S., saying that Iran "will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party."

Taking further aim at Trump, Rouhani said "destruction" of the nuclear agreement by what he called "rogue newcomers to the world of politics’" will not impede Iran’s course of progress and advancement.

"We never threaten anyone. But we don't tolerate threats by anyone," he said. "Our discourse is of mutual respect."

Rouhani also addressed Israel in his remarks: "It's disgraceful that the Zionist regime not committed to any international instrument or safeguard has the audacity to preach to peaceful nations."

Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech to the U.N. that his country was firmly against the Iran nuclear deal.

"Change it or cancel," Netanyahu urged.

Though Trump has signed temporary waivers on sanctions against Iran, the administration must decide by Oct. 15 whether to recertify Iran as compliant with the nuclear agreement. Trump has openly said if it were up to him, he would have already said the country has not complied. If Trump chooses to decertify Iran's compliance with the nuclear agreement, Congress would have up to 60 days to vote on any sanctions. Trump could also choose to stop signing waivers on sanctions or to begin enforcing the nuclear agreement with more vigor.

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Sarairis Aguilar/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- Rescuers continue to frantically dig through the rubble of a collapsed school in Mexico City a day after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck, killing hundreds.

Neighbors, police, soldiers and firefighters alike could be seen tirelessly clawing through the cinderblock and rebar that once made up a wing of the Enrique Rebsamen primary and secondary schools.  

So far, the bodies of at least 20 children and two adults have been discovered at the site, while another 30 children and eight adults remain missing, Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto said earlier.

On Wednesday evening, first responders continued an eight-hour effort to rescue a student Mexico's education minister told Televisa.

Rescuers managed to contact the girl as well as give her water and oxygen, the education minister said. She was trapped under a granite table or desk, rescuers believe is giving her some protection from the rubble.

The girl informed workers that there are two people trapped with her. She said she can feel the others but doesn't know whether they are alive.

Young students were seen being pulled out of the rubble in dramatic video posted to social media.

ABC News' Matt Gutman witnessed the rescuers working from a rooftop in direct eyeshot of the hole. Every few minutes, he said, the near silence is punctuated by whistles demanding silence, the call for dogs and screams for doctors. The Herculean effort is being performed before hundreds of people thronged a block away, according to Gutman.

Tuesday's quake, which has already claimed more than 200 lives, came on the 32nd anniversary of a 1985 earthquake that caused thousands of deaths in Mexico.

The region was engaging in earthquake drills only hours before the earthquake struck Tuesday.


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Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- At least 230 people, including 21 schoolchildren, are dead after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked central Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, hitting on the 32nd anniversary of the biggest quake to strike the country's capital.

Yesterday's earthquake was centered about 75 miles southeast of Mexico City and caused extensive damage, leveling at least 44 buildings, including homes, schools and office buildings, according to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who did a flyover of the city Tuesday afternoon.

Among the dead are at least 22 people, including students and at least two adults, from a collapsed primary school in the south of the city. Peña Nieto visited the school late Tuesday. He said the 22 bodies have been recovered but that 30 children and eight adults are still missing.

Rescuers were clawing at the wreckage looking for survivors late Tuesday, pausing to listen for voices.

“Children are often the most vulnerable in emergencies such as this, and we are particularly concerned because schools across the region were in session and filled with students,” said Jorge Vidal, director of operations at Save the Children in Mexico.

Hanna Monsivais, programs coordinator at Save the Children in Mexico, said she has been out on the streets in Mexico City with hundreds of other people trying to help their neighbors. But entire street blocks have been cordoned off and numerous buildings are still too dangerous to enter because of the damage.

"Volunteers are bringing water, food, clothes and face masks so that they can help the official authorities move all the debris and rocks, because there are still people trapped under buildings,” Monsivais said. “Every once in a while, authorities ask for silence so they can hear the people who are still trapped. It’s amazing what people are doing for others, but some people are clearly still in complete shock.”

Many areas were still without power, and communications remained limited, Monsivais said.

“This night is going to be tough," she said. "For sure, tomorrow the death toll will rise.”

Mexico City's airport descended into chaos as the ground rippled and chunks of plaster fell from the walls when the earthquake hit, Dallas resident George Smallwood told ABC News.

“I felt the ground shaking, and I heard everyone screaming and starting to run,” he said, adding that he initially thought he was in the middle of a terror attack.

Smallwood had stopped in Mexico City for a long layover after a vacation in Medellin, Colombia, and had spent the day exploring the capital. He was getting ready to go through security at Mexico City International Airport for his 3:35 p.m. flight back to Dallas when the earthquake struck.

 Parts of the ceiling were "swinging back and forth," and the panicked crowd took off "running in every different direction," he said.

The tremors lasted for about six to seven minutes, he estimated. After the shaking subsided, first responders swooped in to help the injured, and a fleet of military and police helicopters buzzed overhead, he said.

Smallwood’s flight was rescheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, so he needed to find somewhere to stay for the night, he said.

Tuesday's earthquake -- which hit at about 2:14 p.m. ET near the town of Raboso in Puebla state, according to the United States Geological Survey -- comes 11 days after a magnitude-8.1 quake struck off Mexico's southern Pacific coast, killing dozens of people.

Thousands of people on the capital's main boulevard streamed out of buildings and into the street in panic after the quake struck.

"I was just paying at the supermarket, and suddenly the floor went ‘boom, boom,’" Mexico City resident Lara Rodriguez told ABC News on Tuesday. "People were obviously panicking."

Rodriguez added, "So I rushed out and I went to get my kid from school to make sure he was okay. Luckily, everything was fine, but on the way, there was a lot of debris. There were clouds of dust flowing up as if a bomb had hit or something."

Dramatic images and footage depicted the destruction in Mexico City.

Video filmed inside an office building showed the overhead lights swinging violently as the ground shook.

Así el #Sismo en #CDMX, piso 8 en Lomas de Chapultepec. pic.twitter.com/IHNj3EwU01

— Alfonso Ruiz (@alfonsorup) September 19, 2017


Meanwhile, chaos broke out in the newsroom of Milenio, a Mexican news site.

Así se sintió el sismo en la redacción de https://t.co/yZhRO4eZHB pic.twitter.com/V4694bCDJT

— Milenio.com (@Milenio) September 19, 2017


Several cars were damaged by falling debris.

Mexico City, built on a former lake bed, is one of the worst possible places for an earthquake to strike because of its soil, which can amplify shaking by factors of 100 or more, California-based seismologist Lucy Jones told ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV. By comparison, the worst condition seen in Los Angeles during an earthquake is shaking amplified by a factor of five, Jones said.

Earlier in the day, earthquake drills were held in Mexico City to mark the anniversary of the Michoacán earthquake of 1985, which caused widespread death and injuries as well as catastrophic damage in Mexico City.

Narciso Suarez of Mexico City said he was attending a meeting on the ninth floor of a high-rise building when he first felt the quake's tremble. He said authorities in the building ordered those inside to shelter in place "at least until the shaking passed."

Suarez, who was also in the area Sept. 7 when the last earthquake struck, said Tuesday's tremble was "a lot worse."

 

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon, "God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you."

God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2017

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence echoed the commander in chief's comments.

 

Our hearts are with the people of Mexico City. We're thinking of you and, as @POTUS said, we are with you. https://t.co/0Yt1YwbQAZ

— Vice President Pence (@VP) September 19, 2017

 

The U.S. State Department said in a statement, "We stand ready to provide assistance should our neighbors request our help. Our embassy in Mexico City has sent out public messages to U.S. citizens in Mexico, and the embassy stands ready to provide consular assistance to any U.S. citizens who may have been affected. We offer our condolences to any who were injured or lost loved ones."

.@statedeptspox: Our thoughts & prayers are with the people of #Mexico affected by today’s 7.1-magnitude earthquake. https://t.co/AFmJr9tB5O

— Department of State (@StateDept) September 20, 2017

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Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea reached their highest point in years over the course of this summer, and they don’t look as if they will diminish anytime soon.

Increased missile tests by the North Koreans and a change in approach by the Trump administration have taken the two countries’ leaders into uncharted territory.

The war of words between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump further escalated Tuesday when Trump, in his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly, slammed Kim, saying, "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime."

Though much about the so-called Hermit Kingdom’s inner workings remain a mystery, more and more information about its military programs and arsenal is becoming clear. Ahead, what we know about the North Korean threat.

The North Korean mindset

Steve Ganyard, an ABC News contributor and a former deputy assistant secretary of state, was quick to note that nobody really knows what motivates Kim, but “the consensus in the intelligence community is that he’s trying to use nuclear weapons for regime stability and the ability to make the U.S. think twice about whether they would trade Seoul for Seattle.”

Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, agreed that maintaining stability is a major goal, as is projecting a strong image globally and at home.

“I believe Kim Jong Un knows that he’s weak and vulnerable, and he believes that having nuclear capabilities and an ability to strike the United States will help to remove the vulnerability he feels,” Snyder told ABC News.

Snyder also believes that the country’s nuclear arsenal helps bolster his legitimacy domestically.

“Having nuclear weapons has become a key to his survival in sustaining his rule, because he looks around the neighborhood and the world and sees that he’s weak,” Snyder said.

He said that while North Koreans call the country’s nuclear weapons program “the treasured sword,” Kim sees it as “the great equalizer.”

In a statement after the country’s most recent missile test, Kim said “he was seeking equilibrium with the U.S.,” Snyder said.

“In that statement, he’s showing his concern about North Korea’s vulnerability,” Snyder added.

There may be a more tangible goal as well, Ganyard said.

“I think there’s also a growing sense with many people that his ultimate goal is a reunification of the Korean Peninsula under his control,” Ganyard said. “That’s even more scary, because that’s a very offensive mindset that he thinks he can keep the U.S. at bay and that he can defeat the South militarily. Now, that’s highly, highly unlikely, but history is replete with conflicts that have been started by miscalculations.”

Missile launches

North Korea has conducted 14 ballistic missile tests so far this year.

The first came in February, when the North launched a solid-fuel, intermediate-range missile that traveled 310 miles into the Sea of Japan.

Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told a congressional panel in early April that the February launch marked a significant advancement for North Korea because it was its first successful solid-fueled missile fired from a mobile launcher, which makes those missiles harder to track because they can be positioned and fired on short notice.

Subsequent missiles have flown increasing distances, reaching more than 600 miles in one March test of a medium-range Scud-er (extended range).

There was a series of missiles that failed before reaching greater distances, but their capabilities reached new heights on July 4. That was when North Korea launched, for the first time, a two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile to mark the United States’ Independence Day.

The missile was launched into a high-altitude trajectory, reaching 1,730 miles up and about 577 miles horizontally, landing in the Sea of Japan. Three weeks later, another ICBM was launched and went even farther.

The latest missile was launched on Sept. 14, and Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that the missile traveled as high as 478 miles and reached a distance of about 2,300 miles.

According to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, if angled correctly, that ICBM could potentially travel as far as New York or Washington, D.C.

Nuclear arsenal

North Korea has a small arsenal of nuclear weapons, the existence of which have been proven by the country's five nuclear tests. A 2016 Congressional Research Service report estimated that North Korea has between 66 and 88 pounds of separated plutonium, enough for at least half a dozen nuclear weapons.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea now has an arsenal of as many as 60 nuclear devices.

North Korea is currently working toward its stated goal of placing a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.

U.S. intelligence agencies have also concluded that North Korea tested a hydrogen bomb on September 4, according to a U.S. official.

Military technology

Ganyard said North Korea would have to have four essentials in place before being able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon: the weapon itself, missiles capable of carrying it, technology that allows the missiles to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere without igniting, and the capability to target missiles.

Kim "showed us that the rocket has the range" necessary to strike "most" of the U.S. through recent missile tests, Ganyard said. A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report and a recent missile test in which Kim detonated a thermonuclear weapon 20 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima have led officials to believe the country possesses a nuclear weapon that could be placed on a missile.

Whether Kim has the missile re-entry technology and missile-targeting capabilities necessary for such an attack remains a mystery. Ganyard said it’s “still doubtful” that North Korean forces have the re-entry technology needed to have a nuclear weapon explode at its most destructive state. A recent missile test also appeared to show that the bomb that they had tested “disintegrated before fully re-entering,” Ganyard said.

The North's ability to target missiles remains totally unknown.

“We have no idea where he stands on that technology,” Ganyard said.

Just what kind of re-entry and targeting technology North Korea has is a question that has been unanswered since August.

“Even with the [Defense Intelligence Agency] report out there, I would still say that they have an unproven capability to deliver because there has not been a judgment yet about their ability to master re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere, so that applies for now to the continental United States,” Snyder told ABC News in August. And that still holds true today.

What the recent thermonuclear test has shown, Snyder said, is that the North has nuclear capabilities.

“More importantly, the size of the yield was large enough that it reduces the need for accuracy in the event that North Korea wants to strike a location in the United States,” Snyder said this week.

Snyder also warned that North Korea's re-entry abilities could change in the coming months.

U.S. defense systems

U.S. troops are permanently stationed in South Korea as part of the security commitment America made to South Korea after the Korean War. In addition to those 28,500 American troops in South Korea, there are also 54,000 American troops stationed in Japan.

Beyond simple manpower, the United States has a layered missile defense system designed to track and intercept missiles launched from North Korea.

It includes missile interceptors aboard Navy ships in the Pacific and large ground-based interceptors located in Alaska and California. However, the viability of the large interceptors has been routinely questioned since they became operational nearly a decade ago.

In late May, the Missile Defense Agency successfully tested an interceptor that targeted an ICBM test missile fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is a missile defense shield designed to intercept short-, medium- and intermediate-range missiles.

In April, the United States deployed THAAD to South Korea for the first time, a long-planned move agreed to last summer after a series of 2016 North Korean missile tests. The United States has also placed the THAAD system in Guam, which could be reached by some of North Korea's long-range missiles.

Shifts in rhetoric

The overtly aggressive rhetoric that Trump has been using toward North Korea, coupled with the country’s increasing number of missile tests, has brought the question of what happens next to the fore.

While that answer remains unclear, Snyder suggests that the tests are tied to the rhetoric.

Since taking office, Trump has called North Korea a “rogue nation,” a “great threat,” “hostile and dangerous,” “looking for trouble” and “behaving very badly.” In August, he said that if North Korea didn’t stop threatening the U.S., it would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen." Most recently, he has taken to referring to Kim as “Rocket Man.”

Those comments coincide with an increase in tests, Synder said.

“The North Koreans have been pretty consistent in playing tit for tat and responding to threats of pressure with threats of pressure,” Snyder said.

“Within the past months, the escalation in rhetoric has been on the U.S. side -- not to point any fingers -- and the North Koreans have responded in kind,” he added.

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Matthew Horwood/Getty Images(LONDON) -- London Metropolitan police arrested two more men early Wednesday in connection with last week's bombing of a subway car in Parsons Green.

Police said they arrested two men, ages 48 and 30, in Newport, Wales, just after 5 a.m. local time. The men were arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act after officers executed a warrant at the address where the two men were located.

A 25-year-old man was arrested Tuesday evening at a different address in Newport.

The total number of people held in the attack is now five. None of the five men have been identified by police.

A 21-year-old man was arrested on Saturday in Hounslow, a borough in west London, by detectives with the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command, and earlier Saturday police had evacuated a house in a London suburb as well as part of the Port of Dover after arresting an 18-year-old man that morning in the southeastern coastal city in connection with the attack, police said.

Thirty people were injured in the attack on Sept. 15 at the Parsons Green subway stop in London. Police said an apparent bucket bomb exploded during the Friday morning commute, injuring 30 people. All of the injuries were considered minor. Authorities said the bomb did not fully explode, likely limiting the number of casualties.

"This continues to be a fast-moving investigation," said Dean Haydon, head of the Counter Terrorism Command, in a press release. "A significant amount of activity has taken place since the attack on Friday. We now have five men in custody, and searches are continuing at four addresses. Detectives are carrying out extensive inquiries to determine the full facts behind the attack."

Police said the search at the Hounslow property had concluded, but two addresses in Surrey and two in Newport were still being combed over by authorities.

The terror threat was lowered to "severe" from "critical" over the weekend, but police warned on Wednesday that the public should remain vigilant and report any unusual activity.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A little over a year ago, few people gave Germany's controversial, right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party any chance of making a dent in German national elections. In recent months, the party suffered through several embarrassing internal spats and saw its polling numbers sink amid growing support for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But AfD is now poised to become Germany’s third largest political party after Sunday's elections. Opinion polls show the AfD scoring as much as 12 percent of the vote on Election Day, allowing it to send dozens of lawmakers to national Parliament - or Bundestag - and potentially disrupting German politics.

If the predictions hold, it will be the first time since the end of World War II that a far-right party has attracted enough votes to enter Germany’s Parliament. And the strong showing means the AfD will be the biggest opposition party if Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) continues its governing coalition with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).

"It's without question a significant achievement for a right-wing party when you view it historically,” said Karen Donfried, the president of the German Marshall Fund, referring to Afd. She said because of its Nazi history, German voters have usually rejected right-wing parties in elections.

“But this is a significant shift for the German political landscape,” she noted.

Founded in 2013 as an anti-European Union party, the AfD shifted its focus from the euro zone debt crisis to immigration after Merkel in 2015 opened the doors to over a million migrants, many fleeing war in the Middle East.

Since then, the party has increasingly found success by becoming the most visible anti-immigration party in Germany. It scored well in a series of regional elections thanks largely to a growing public anger over Merkel's welcoming policy toward refugees, particularly from Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world.

Gideon Botsch, a political scientist at the University of Potsdam just outside Berlin, said AfD's success is partly due to the disillusionment voters feel with Germany's established political parties.

“Many voters, especially on the right but also in the center, have felt that the two traditional parties have not addressed the issue of immigration and German cultural identity,” Botsch said. “And that has led them to consider voting for the AfD.”

The party's platform is staunchly anti-immigrant and opposes any welcoming of Muslims to Germany.

The AfD has called for sealing the European Union’s borders, instituting rigorous identity checks along Germany's national borders and setting up holding camps abroad to prevent migrants from leaving for Germany in the first place. The party also wants to deport anyone whose application for political asylum is rejected while encouraging foreigners to return to their home countries.

Party leaders believe the few migrants who are allowed to remain have a duty to fully integrate into German society, emphasizing the primacy of the German language and traditional German culture. Many of its top officials have outwardly rejected the idea that Islam is part of German society.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel equated the party with the Nazis who ruled the country from 1933 to 1945, an insult rarely heard in national politics.

“If we’re unlucky, then these people will send a signal of dissatisfaction that will have terrible consequences,” Gabriel, a member of the Social Democrats, said in an interview with Internet provider t-online.de. “Then we will have real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since the end of World War II.”

Justice Minister Heiko Maas warned that the AfD's religious, family, criminal and European policies are in clear violation of the German constitution. In an essay published in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, he singled out a blanket ban on minarets - the towers on mosques from which the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer - which the AfD has promised to introduce.

Though the official AfD platform says that the party supports direct democracy, separation of state powers and the rule of law and order, throughout its short history critics have accused individual members of promoting neo-Nazi ideas and using neo-Nazi language.

Earlier this month, the party was forced to defend its co-leader Alice Weidel following media reports that she had expressed racist views in a private email four years ago. Top AfD officials dismissed a report in the weekly Welt am Sonntag that quoted from an email Weidel allegedly sent to an acquaintance in which she claimed the government was trying to cause "civil war" by systematically flooding German cities with Arab and Roma migrants.

The AfD also developed a series of controversial campaign ads, including one showing the belly of a pregnant woman that says “New Germans? We'll make them ourselves.” Another ad declares “Burkas? We prefer bikinis.”

“In years past, these kinds of ads would turn off many voters in Germany,” Donfried said. “But this time around they seem to resonate with some voters and that’s been a problem for the two main politics parties.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As residents of Puerto Rico brace for Hurricane Maria -- which slammed into the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm Monday night -- Puerto Rico's governor is calling the storm "the biggest and potentially most catastrophic hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in a century."

Maria, which has left at least two dead in the Caribbean, is forecast to "remain an extremely dangerous Category 4 or 5 hurricane" as it approaches Puerto Rico early Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Maria could bring life-threatening flooding and mudslides, as well as a 6- to 9-foot storm surge, to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Dangerous flash flooding and mudslides are also possible, especially in mountainous regions in Puerto Rico.

As of 3 a.m. on Wednesday, Maria's maximum sustained winds had decreased to 160 mph, but it remained a Category 5 storm. Maria's maximum sustained winds had been as high as 175 mph during the day Tuesday. It was located 35 miles west of St. Croix and 70 miles southeast of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. The storm is expected to reach the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning.

The last time Puerto Rico was hit by a Category 5 storm was in 1928.

President Donald Trump tweeted his best wishes and pledged support for the U.S. territory late Tuesday.

 

Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you- will be there to help!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2017

 

Early Wednesday, a gust of 137 mph had been reported in the western part of St. Croix as the storm moved west-northwest at 10 mph.

The prefecture of Guadeloupe announced early Wednesday two people were killed in the hurricane, and two others were missing.

A palm tree in St. Thomas appeared to be nearly uprooted as the storm moved over the island in video posted to Facebook.

Hurricane warnings are in effect in St. Kitts and Nevis, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic.

Most models are forecasting Maria will stay away from Florida and the U.S. mainland.

The storm -- which is expected to bring life-threatening winds, storm surge and flooding -- will be violent, the governor of Puerto Rico warned today. The governor advised residents to be prepared to hunker down for 72 to 90 hours.

The eye of the storm is expected to approach the eastern part of Puerto Rico and make landfall between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Heavy winds and gusts over 100 mph for the eastern part of the island in the morning, while strong winds will affect San Juan into the afternoon hours.

It's been just two weeks since Hurricane Irma, which killed at least 39 people in the Caribbean and demolished homes, tore through Puerto Rico, and now Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello is saying Maria is "potentially most catastrophic hurricane to hit" the U.S. territory in a century.

A Category 4 storm hasn't hit Puerto Rico directly since 1932.

Rossello said up to 25 inches of rain could fall in some areas and he urged anyone in a flood-prone, mudslide-prone or coastal area to leave. Over 300 people are already at shelters as of this afternoon, the governor said.

Rossello said a lot of infrastructure will likely be lost and he said communications will be affected.

The governor in an address this afternoon said, "We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history."

When Irma tore through the Caribbean, Rossello said, "the people of Puerto Rico not only demonstrated our resilience but we banded together to show our kindness and hospitality to thousands of our fellow Americans in the U.S. Virgin Islands, BVI, St. Marteen and beyond."

"Now we’re looking down the barrel of Maria, a historic Category 5 hurricane. Although it looks like a direct hit with major damage to Puerto Rico is inevitable, I ask for America’s prayers," he said. "No matter what happens here in the next 36 hours, Puerto Rico will survive, we will rebuild, we will recover and with your support, we will come out stronger than ever."

While Puerto Rico residents appeared to go about their days with little urgency Monday, many seem to be on edge today as the storm nears.

In the capital of San Juan, most businesses are closed or closing early today and the San Juan Airport is closing this evening.

As Maria hit the Caribbean island of Dominica Monday night, Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit published a series of dire Facebook posts, calling the 160 mph winds "merciless."

"We do not know what is happening outside. We not dare look out ... we pray for its end!" Skerrit wrote.

Maria was the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall on Dominica; before Monday the strongest hurricane to hit Dominica was Hurricane David, a Category 4 in 1979.

Guadeloupe and Martinique, which both neighbor Dominica in the Caribbean, were also battered with Maria's powerful winds and rain Monday night.

Officials said in Guadeloupe one person died from a falling tree.

Officials said 80,000 are without power on Guadeloupe and some flooding was reported, but few homes are damaged.

Dominica was "shut down" as the storm approached, said Anil Etienne, a spokesman for Dominica’s Office of Disaster Management. Etienne told ABC News officials were worried about flooding in low-lying areas and opened about 146 shelters.

The prime minister of Dominica wrote on Facebook late Monday night, "My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding," before announcing, "I have been rescued."

Skerrit gave an update this morning, writing on Facebook, "Initial reports are of widespread devastation. So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains."

"The winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with," he continued. "The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside."

After hitting Puerto Rico, the storm will begin to turn north and is expected to come near the Dominican Republic Wednesday afternoon, potentially with winds over 100 mph.

Maria is forecast to then continue north, avoiding the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Florida, before ending up out to sea.

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Sean Gallup/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Germans head to the polls Sunday for national elections that could prove to be the country’s most consequential political contests in decades.

While Chancellor Angela Merkel looks likely to win a fourth term, several smaller parties could have a big impact on the 63-year old's stewardship in her next term.

The most notable is the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a nationalist upstart that has rocked the German political establishment with its rejection of open borders, Islam, political correctness and the euro.

While many experts initially thought the party’s popularity would wane, opinion polls now show it gaining enough strength to send dozens of its lawmakers to parliament. If polls hold, it would mark the first time in 60 years that a far right party would enter the German Bundestag.

"The AfD appears to pulling votes from both of the more established parties in Germany," said Sudha David-Wilp, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. "That could mean a much stronger turnout for the party on election day than many expected."

Here is a breakdown of what you need to know ahead of Sunday's vote.

Germany’s notoriously complex voting system does not allow the public to vote directly for chancellor. Instead, voters cast ballots for political parties.

Who are the main players?

There are two main parties in Germany, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), but turnout for several smaller parties in this year’s voting could prove pivotal.

The CDU holds the chancellorship, thanks in part to historic support for its top candidate, Merkel. The CDU and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), are in the same parliamentary group. Since the end of World War II, the CDU has been in power most of the time, and Merkel is hoping to ride that wave of popularity.

In a poll conducted earlier this month by Infratest-dimap and German public broadcaster ARD, Merkel earned her highest approval rating since the fall of 2015. Just over 64 percent of those surveyed at the beginning of June said they were satisfied with the job she has been doing as chancellor, making her the most popular politician in the country.

Often described as Germany’s center-left party, the SPD is the main opposition party. It’s the second-largest party in terms of voter support, after the CDU. Yet its working class base in urban areas has eroded in recent years as Merkel’s popularity has soared.

The SPD’s candidate for chancellor and Merkel’s chief political rival, Martin Schulz, has managed gain ground in the polls in recent months, but most analysts say he faces an uphill battle to unseat her. A former president of the European Parliament, he poses the strongest challenge to her 11-year reign as chancellor. What role could smaller parties play?

Although several other smaller parties will be on the ballot, observers are likely to keenly watch results for the Alternative for Germany (AfD). While many experts initially saw the party as taking votes from the CDU in national elections, new opinion polls show he AfD hurting the SPD.

Though there has been a significant drop in voter turnout in German parliamentary elections during the past two cycles, the rise of the AfD and other populist movements have drawn in many previous nonvoters across the country, making a higher voter turnout more likely this year, according to observers.

The Alliance ’90/the Greens occupies the liberal-leaning part of the political spectrum. It is not expected to see overwhelming national turnout. But the Greens, with its base of urban, well-educated voters, has used its strong environmentalist tilt to attract a growing number of liberal Germans.

The Left Party, a democratic socialist group, often attracts unhappy SPD members; its voter base is traditionally eastern German and working class.

What are the biggest issues?

Without question, national security and immigration policy will dominate this year’s vote. A year ago, Merkel was riding high in opinion polls. But her open-door policy on accepting refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries as well as economic migrants has cost her some support. Her popularity plummeted last year after she welcomed nearly 900,000 asylum seekers, most of them from Syria and Afghanistan, into Germany.

A series of terrorist attacks — including a truck attack at a Christmas market that killed 12 people and injured dozens of others last year — has opened Merkel up to sharp criticism from nationalist groups. The economy is another issue that weighs heavily on voters’ minds, according to surveys. But with unemployment hovering at an all-time low — it reached 4 percent in May — the issue is playing a far smaller role in this year’s vote than in previous elections.

Germany’s relationship with the Trump administration is at play. Trump is deeply unpopular in Germany, and almost all the candidates have been critical of his policies.

Who is expected to win?

Though the CDU and CSU lagged in polling late last year, their fortunes have changed in recent months thanks in part to surging support for Merkel. Most surveys predict Merkel and her party will win easily.

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Karson Yiu/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- It was almost 65 years ago when North Korea and the United States agreed to a cease-fire. The guns stopped firing, and the planes stopped dropping bombs, but the war did not officially end. It was settled with an agreement, an armistice, that since 1953 has maintained a fully armed face-off along the 38th parallel. North Korean soldiers still stare at U.S. and South Korean forces across the 2-mile-wide Demilitarized Zone much as they have for decades.

To this day, North Korea is the most isolated country in the world. The DMZ, which divides North and South Korea, has gotten most of the media attention over the years, as it separates almost 28,000 U.S. troops from their enemies to the north.

I have been to North Korea eight times in the past 12 years, but on this trip, I wanted to explore the reclusive country's 880-mile border with China. The border largely follows two rivers: the Yalu in the south and the Tumen in the north. Both flow from the same source: a dormant supervolcano straddling the border — known to the Chinese as Changbaishan and to the Koreans as Mount Paektu.

It is a crucial trip because China is North Korea’s only remaining ally and never before has North Korea been such a threat. The country's mercurial leader, Kim Jong Un, is close to developing a nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. China could change this reality significantly.

The changing relationship with North Korea's lifeline


The relationship between China and North Korea has always been complicated. China's communist leader Mao Zedong famously said that the two countries were "as close as lips and teeth," a relationship forged in blood and steel during the Korean War against the United States.

It is true that these allies have stood side by side for many decades, but it is clear that their relationship is changing quickly — mostly since Kim took over from his father in 2011.

Economically, 90 percent of North Korea’s trade is with China, which means this border is the lifeline of the North Korean regime, a regime that China does not want to fall. The Chinese government fears that the sudden collapse of North Korea could spur a mass migration of people over the border, in a blow to China’s economy. More important, for all these decades, North Korea has served as a buffer for China, keeping U.S. and South Korean forces far from its own borders.

This 880-mile voyage along the border lasted six days and took us to five cities; it was filled with both beauty and unexpected moments.

We started in the city of Dandong, a bustling, unmistakably Chinese hub of commerce and condos on the southern end of the border. This is where the trucks and trains travel back and forth between the countries.

It’s also filled with Chinese tourists and about 40,000 North Korean workers, who spend years there without their families to learn Chinese and take money home when they return.

On another day, we watched Chinese military boats training on the river just a few feet from North Korea. Military guards lined the road, and people stopped their cars to watch. Our guides told us not to record video of North Korean land from our tour boat, lest we anger the soldiers who were carefully watching us from the other side.

During this trip, we heard firsthand about how the relationship between these close allies is quickly changing, largely because of North Korea’s unpredictable new leader. Along the border, Chinese people told us about their growing fears of a possible war. While most don’t believe China would be targeted by bombs or missiles, many told us they are very concerned that China’s economy will suffer if violence breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.

There is anger at the United States for irritating the North Koreans with U.S.–South Korean military operations. The Chinese people we spoke to along the border said they just want all that to end.

Hopes of reuniting someday

We visited many gorgeous places along the border, and perhaps the most impressive was Mount Paektu, which is considered sacred as the spiritual home of the Korean people. It is a volcanic mountain, geopolitically split in two at its crater. Some South Korean tourists we met there told us their hope is that the North and South will reunite someday and put an end to this ongoing war.

From this mountain, the melting glaciers pour into the Tumen River, which flows to the north. Half of China’s 2 million ethnic Koreans live in this region, and the river is narrower and shallower there, which is why more North Korean defectors choose to swim across to China.

In recent years there have been more reports of crimes committed by North Korean defectors, including theft and murder. In some cases, these crimes have also been committed by North Korean border guards, who are underfed and underpaid.

This region is close to North Korean nuclear sites where bombs have been tested. In Yanji, a city in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture near the border, a high school security guard told us about how his school was evacuated after he and the students felt the earth shake.

A glimpse of a country its leader never wants anyone to see

Along the roads farther north, Chinese security rules got stricter. Tourism quickly disappeared, and more checkpoints lined the roads.

On three occasions, we were stopped by soldiers, police or state security agents. We were searched, questioned and finally urged to leave the region and return to Beijing.

Although I have been in North Korea multiple times, most of those visits were to the capital, Pyongyang, as well as a few trips to the North Korean side of the DMZ and one tour of a nuclear facility in Yongbyon.

But on those trips, I did not have the chance to speak with everyday people. Pyongyang is the country’s most advanced and modern city, home to the powerful and the elite, and there are virtually no opportunities there to hear from the poor and secluded who largely live in the countryside.

This trip along the border was, therefore, an opportunity to view the reclusive state through the lens of its neighbor and only supposed ally, China.

About 40,000 people have fled North Korea by defecting through this area. North Koreans desperate to leave don’t escape by crossing the heavily armed DMZ to the south. Instead, they flee to the northeast, where they can hide in the Chinese homes of ethnic Korean families. These families speak their language and understand their culture. They live in Chinese cities and villages where all the words on signs and buildings are in both languages.

As we endeavored to hear the stories of people living along this border, Chinese officials sometimes followed us. We were told that North Korean soldiers were watching us from across the water as well.

In spite of this, we had the chance to get a glimpse — from a different angle — of a country its leader never wants anyone to see.

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ABCNews.com(MOSCOW) -- Video has emerged of a Russian attack helicopter seeming to fire on a group of bystanders during the major military exercises Russia has been holding over the past week.

Two videos of the incident show a man standing by some cars and military vehicles in a wooded area and looking up at two KA-52 “Alligator” helicopters as they approach. As the helicopters near, rockets suddenly fly from one of them towards the man, exploding and throwing debris over the camera.

The Russian website 66.ru that first published the video reported two people had been injured in the blast, though Kremlin officials have not confirmed injuries.

The incident reportedly took place at the same firing range where, on Monday, president Vladimir Putin watched artillery and aircraft conduct drills as part of the huge, Zapad 2017 exercises, which have drawn intense attention in recent weeks and worried countries in eastern Europe.

Russia’s ministry of defense confirmed that the incident in the video was authentic, but said it did not occur on the day Putin was present for the large-scale demonstrations and suggested it was unconnected to Zapad.

A ministry spokesperson told the Russian news agency Interfax that the helicopter’s targeting system had accidentally locked onto one of the parked vehicles while the aircraft were taking part in a different army exercise: practicing hitting ground targets.

The ministry, however, insisted it happened at “a different time” than the day Putin had been present and refused to confirm the location.

“On 18 September within the bounds of the staging the episode of the practical actions of the Zapad 17 strategic exercises, there were no incidents connected with the work of army aviation,” the ministry told Interfax.

Accounts in the Russian media, though, seemed to tell a different story. Reports confirmed the incident occurred at the same firing range, though potentially some days earlier. The leading business newspaper, Kommersant, quoted defense sources that it had taken place at the Luzhsky firing range close to Saint Petersburg, but two days earlier, on September 16. According to the sources, three people were lightly injured and two cars damaged, and the military is already carrying out an investigation. A local St. Petersburg news website, Fontanka.ru also cited sources who said it happened at Luzhsky.

A ministry of defense press release last Sunday, the night before Putin arrived, said that Zapad exercises with Ka-52 helicopters had successfully carried out rocket strikes on ground targets at the Luzhsky range.

The second video appears to show the rockets striking an military truck, dug in under camouflage netting. Civilian cars are parked around it.

The heavily armed Ka-52 helicopters took part in the grandiose demonstration watched by Putin on Monday, which included dozens of aircraft, artillery and tanks pretending to repel a NATO-like enemy. The Zapad exercises, conducted jointly with Belarus, have discomforted Moscow’s neighbors in the Baltic States and Poland who, following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, see them as a threat.

Russia insists the exercises, which take place every four years, are entirely defensive. But NATO has accused Russia of deliberately under-reporting the numbers of troops taking part; Moscow says no more than 13,000 are involved, while NATO officials have said it could be as high as 100,000.


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