Nineteen-year-old breaks record of youngest woman to fly solo around the world

NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

(LONDON) — From flying over an active volcano to surviving in minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit, British-Belgium teen Zara Rutherford has experienced a lot in her five-month journey flying over 40 countries and five continents.

When the 19-year-old landed in Belgium on Thursday, she made history by breaking the record of the youngest woman to ever fly solo around the world. The pilot who previously held the record, Shaesta Waiz, was 30 years old when she completed the journey.

“It’s been … challenging, but so amazing at the same time,” Rutherford told ABC News. “I think there’re some experiences that I’ll just never forget and others that I would wish to forget.”

Rutherford embarked on her epic journey with her Shark Aero, a high-performance, two-seat ultralight aircraft manufactured in Europe. The small plane is especially made to withstand long journeys at the cruising speed of 186.4 mph.

Since both of her parents are certified pilots, Rutherford learned her way behind the airplane controls when she was very young.

“Zara’s first flight in a very small airplane, was when she was three or four months old. … And frequently, she’d be given the opportunity to sit in the front, to start with, of course, on about six cushions to be able to manipulate the controls and move the aircraft around,” Sam Rutherford, Zara’s father and a former army helicopter pilot, told ABC News.

But it was not until about five years ago that Rutherford truly realized her passion for flying.

“It only really crystallized into something she actually wanted to do more formally when she was 14, and at 14, she started actually taking flying lessons,” Rutherford’s father said.

Then teen ran into maintenance problems, COVID-19 complications and visa issues along her journey. She said once she reached Russia, she fully realized the risks of her mission.

“There was no humans. It’s too cold. It’s like nothing. There’s no roads, there’s no power like electricity cables. There’s nothing, there’s no animals, there’s no trees. I didn’t see a tree for over a month,” Rutherford said.

“When you’re flying alone and suddenly this challenge comes up, I can’t say, ‘I’m done. I’m out. I give up.’ You have to still land the plane. You have to make sure that you get down on the ground safely,” she said.

Still, she was often amazed by the things she saw along the way.

“That is still like the hands down the most amazing thing flying straight over Central Park … because of air space [regulations] you have to fly quite low. And it’s quite strange when… some of the buildings still are higher than you like. Wow, this is incredible,” the young solo pilot said.

Someone to look up to

Before starting her journey, Rutherford messaged Waiz — the American-Afghan pilot who previously held the flying record — on LinkedIn and asked if she would mind if she attempted to break her record.

“‘Of course, that’s OK. Records are meant to be broken,’ I told her,” Waiz, who finished her journey in 2017, told ABC News.

“‘Not only are you going to fly around the world, but I’m going to do everything I can to help you, because it is an incredible experience and I want [you] to have that,'” she said to Rutherford.

Waiz got on her first plane as an infant, when her family left Afghanistan as refugees during the Soviet–Afghan War and settled in California. She didn’t fly again until she was 17.

“I was terrified. But as soon as that plane lifted off, something ignited in me and I just thought to myself, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,'” she recalled.

Changing perspectives

Flying solo around the world, for Rutherford and Waiz, was not just about crossing geographical borders and breaking records, but also about getting to see life from a different perspective.

To Waiz, the unique thing about aviation is the way it takes away all discriminations and differences among people.

“When you’re in the airplane and you’re flying, it’s such an unbiased environment that that aircraft doesn’t care where you come from or what you look like,” she said.

Rutherford said flying has taught her that life is “fragile,” and there is “so much more to life than just getting a good career and making and having a good salary.”

She hopes her history-making journey inspires other girls and women to chase their dreams.

“Her aim is actually not to fly around the world. Her aim is to encourage young women and girls to consider and hopefully take up careers in aviation, science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Rutherford’s father said. “There’s very little point to her flying around the world if nobody gets to hear about it. We all have our own worlds to fly around.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

British police arrest two men in probe of hostage-taking incident at Texas synagogue

Malik Faisal Akram – Obtained by ABC News

(LONDON) — Two men were arrested in England on Thursday morning as part of an ongoing investigation into a hostage-taking incident at a synagogue in the United States, British authorities said.

Counterterrorism officers detained one of the men in Birmingham and the other in Manchester, about 85 miles north of Birmingham. The pair “remain in custody for questioning,” according to a statement from the Greater Manchester Police.

Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally of the Greater Manchester Police has said that counterterrorism officers are assisting their U.S. counterparts in the probe of Saturday’s hourslong standoff between American authorities and a hostage-taker at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, about 27 miles northwest of Dallas.

An armed man claiming to have planted bombs in the synagogue interrupted Shabbat services on Saturday just before 11 a.m. local time, taking a rabbi and three other people hostage, according to Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller.

One hostage was released uninjured at around 5 p.m. CT on Saturday, Miller told a press conference later that night. An elite hostage rescue team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation then breached the synagogue at about 9 p.m. CT, after hearing the hostage-taker say he had guns and bombs and was “not afraid to pull the strings,” according to a joint intelligence bulletin issued Wednesday and obtained by ABC News.

“As a tactical team approached to make entry to the synagogue, the hostages escaped and were secured by tactical elements,” the bulletin said. “The assault team quickly breached the facility at a separate point of entry, and the subject was killed.”

No hostages were injured during the incident, according to Miller.

The slain suspect, identified by the FBI as 44-year-old British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, was from the Blackburn area of England’s Lancashire county, about 20 miles northwest of Manchester, according to Scally.

A motive for the siege is under investigation. The FBI said in a statement Sunday that the incident “is a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

During the negotiations with authorities, Akram “spoke repeatedly about a convicted terrorist who is serving an 86-year prison sentence in the United States on terrorisms charges,” according to the FBI.

Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that the hostage-taker was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who is incarcerated at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, about 16 miles southwest of Colleyville. Siddiqui, who has alleged ties to al-Qaida, was sentenced to 86 years in prison after being convicted of assault as well as attempted murder of an American soldier in 2010.

Two teenagers were arrested in southern Manchester on Sunday evening in connection with the synagogue attack. They were questioned and later released without being charged, Greater Manchester Police said in a statement Tuesday. Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that the teens are Akram’s children.

Akram has ancestral ties to Jandeela, a village in Pakistan’s Punjab province, the local police chief told ABC News. He visited Pakistan in 2020 and stayed for five months, the police chief said, a duration that may have been necessitated by COVID-19 restrictions.

Akram has been separated from his wife for two years and has five children, according to the police chief.

After arriving in the U.S. last month via a flight from London to New York City, Akram stayed at homeless shelters at various points and may have portrayed himself as experiencing homelessness in order to gain access to the Texas synagogue during Shabbat services, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who called the hostage-taking incident “an act of terror,” told reporters Sunday that investigators suspect Akram purchased a gun on the street. While Akram is alleged to have claimed he had bombs, investigators have found no evidence that he was in possession of explosives, according to Biden.

ABC News’ Luke Barr, Aaron Katersky, Habibullah Khan, Josh Margolin and Joseph Simonetti contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nineteen-year-old to break record of youngest woman to fly solo around the world

NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

(LONDON) — From flying over an active volcano to surviving in minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit, British-Belgium teen Zara Rutherford has experienced a lot in her five-month journey flying over 40 countries and five continents.

When the 19-year-old lands in Belgium Thursday, she will have made history by breaking the record of the youngest woman to ever fly solo around the world. The pilot who currently holds the record, Shaesta Waiz, was 30 years old when she completed the journey.

“It’s been … challenging, but so amazing at the same time,” Rutherford told ABC News. “I think there’re some experiences that I’ll just never forget and others that I would wish to forget.”

Rutherford embarked on her epic journey with her Shark Aero, a high-performance, two-seat ultralight aircraft manufactured in Europe. The small plane is especially made to withstand long journeys at the cruising speed of 186.4 mph.

Since both of her parents are certified pilots, Rutherford learned her way behind the airplane controls when she was very young.

“Zara’s first flight in a very small airplane, was when she was three or four months old. … And frequently, she’d be given the opportunity to sit in the front, to start with, of course, on about six cushions to be able to manipulate the controls and move the aircraft around,” Sam Rutherford, Zara’s father and a former army helicopter pilot, told ABC News.

But it was not until about five years ago that Rutherford truly realized her passion for flying.

“It only really crystallized into something she actually wanted to do more formally when she was 14, and at 14, she started actually taking flying lessons,” Rutherford’s father said.

Then teen ran into maintenance problems, COVID-19 complications and visa issues along her journey. She said once she reached Russia, she fully realized the risks of her mission.

“There was no humans. It’s too cold. It’s like nothing. There’s no roads, there’s no power like electricity cables. There’s nothing, there’s no animals, there’s no trees. I didn’t see a tree for over a month,” Rutherford said.

“When you’re flying alone and suddenly this challenge comes up, I can’t say, ‘I’m done. I’m out. I give up.’ You have to still land the plane. You have to make sure that you get down on the ground safely,” she said.

Still, she was often amazed by the things she saw along the way.

“That is still like the hands down the most amazing thing flying straight over Central Park … because of air space [regulations] you have to fly quite low. And it’s quite strange when… some of the buildings still are higher than you like. Wow, this is incredible,” the young solo pilot said.

Someone to look up to

Before starting her journey, Rutherford messaged Waiz — the woman who previously held the record flying record — on LinkedIn, and asked if she would mind if she attempted to break her record.

“‘Of course, that’s OK. Records are meant to be broken,’ I told her,” The American-Afghan pilot, who finished her journey in 2017, told ABC News.

“‘Not only are you going to fly around the world, but I’m going to do everything I can to help you, because it is an incredible experience and I want [you] to have that,'” Waiz said to Rutherford.

Waiz got on her first plane as an infant, when her family left Afghanistan as refugees during the Soviet–Afghan War and settled in California. She didn’t fly again until she was 17. “I was terrified. But as soon as that plane lifted off, something ignited in me and I just thought to myself, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,'” she recalled.

Changing perspectives

Flying solo around the world, for Rutherford and Waiz, was not just about crossing geographical borders and breaking records, but also about getting to see life from a different perspective.

To Waiz, the unique thing about aviation is the way it takes away all discriminations and differences among people.

“When you’re in the airplane and you’re flying, it’s such an unbiased environment that that aircraft doesn’t care where you come from or what you look like,” she said.

Rutherford said flying has taught her that life is “fragile,” and there is “so much more to life than just getting a good career and making and having a good salary.”

She hopes her history-making journey inspires other girls and women to chase their dreams.

“Her aim is actually not to fly around the world. Her aim is to encourage young women and girls to consider and hopefully take up careers in aviation, science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Rutherford’s father said. “There’s very little point to her flying around the world if nobody gets to hear about it. We all have our own worlds to fly around.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tonga’s undersea cable may take ‘weeks’ to repair after volcanic eruption

Dana Stephenson//Getty Images

(LONDON) — It may take weeks to repair an undersea fiber-optic cable connecting Tonga to the rest of the world, which was severed during Saturday’s massive eruption of a submarine volcano near the South Pacific archipelago nation.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement Wednesday that U.S.-based company SubCom, which builds underwater cable networks across the globe and is the repair contractor for more than 31,000 miles of cable in the South Pacific Ocean, “advises it will take at least four weeks for Tonga’s cable connection to be repaired.”

The ministry added that Caribbean-based mobile network provider Digicel has set up an interim system on Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, using the University of South Pacific’s satellite dish, which may allow a 2G connection to be established Wednesday, though the ministry said it will be “limited and patchy.”

Domestic and international communications for Tonga were cut off due to damage to the undersea cable. While limited communication within Tonga has been restored through satellite telephones and high-frequency radio, the internet is still down, the Tongan government said in a statement Tuesday.

Satellite images captured the blast of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Saturday evening, with NASA’s Earth Observatory calling it “one of the most potent volcanic eruptions in decades.”

The explosion “obliterated” the small, uninhabited South Pacific island where the submarine volcano was located, about 40 miles north of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, and “produced an atmospheric shock wave and tsunami that traveled around the world,” the observatory said in a statement Saturday.

Nearly 50-foot tsunami waves crashed ashore on several of Tonga’s 170 islands, devastating villages, while a huge mushroom-shaped cloud of volcanic ash, steam and gas covered the entire Polynesian kingdom, according to the Tongan government. A search-and-rescue mission was launched the following morning and at least three people have been confirmed dead — a British national and two Tongan citizens. There were also a number of injuries reported, the Tongan government said.

New Zealand’s foreign ministry confirmed Wednesday that no further deaths were reported in Tonga.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement Wednesday that its humanitarian partners on the ground reported the entire population of Tonga — more than 100,00 people — had been impacted by volcanic ash and tsunami waves. There’s been no reported evidence of ongoing volcanic or tsunami activity within the region in the last 24 hours, according to OCHA.

“However, activity could resume at any time without warning,” the agency said.

Data from surveillance flights over Tonga showed up to 100 homes “severely damaged” on Tongatapu and 50 on the nearby island of ‘Eua. Mango and Niniva were also “heavily impacted” with structures destroyed and trees uprooted, but those islands are only thinly populated, according to OCHA.

The Tongan government has declared a state of emergency that will last until at least Feb. 13.

Sea and air transportation have been impacted due to continuing large waves in the waters surrounding Tonga as well as volcanic ash blanketing airport runways. Water supplies have also been “seriously affected,” the Tongan government said.

Emergency response operations, including distribution of disaster relief supplies, initial assessments of the damages and clean-up of the airports, were still underway Tuesday, according to the Tongan government. New Zealand’s foreign ministry said the work to clear airport runways in Tonga is expected to be completed Wednesday.

Australia and New Zealand have dispatched naval ships carrying relief supplies and clean drinking water to Tonga, their South Pacific neighbor. New Zealand’s vessels are expected to arrive by Friday, depending on weather conditions, according to New Zealand’s foreign ministry.

OCHA said it is understood that ships will be able to dock at Tonga’s ports. Meanwhile, relief flights from both Australia and New Zealand are on standby until the Fuaʻamotu International Airport on Tongatapul is operational, according to OCHA.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New baguette price sparks ire of some in France

MirageC/Getty Images

(PARIS) — The new price of baguettes at a leading French supermarket is sparking outrage from some.

As of last week, customers in Leclerc stores were greeted with the new baguette price — 29 cents (in Euros).

The president of the Leclerc supermarket chain, Michel-Édouard Leclerc, announced Jan. 11 that baguettes would remain at that price in Leclerc stores across France for a minimum of four months.

“Yes, blocking the price of the baguette at 29 cents is quite a symbol!” Leclerc tweeted Wednesday, officially launching the initiative, adding that: “The baguette is a benchmark for the evolution of prices and purchasing power for consumers.”

That is 10 cents cheaper than Leclerc competitors Intermarché and Super U, and 16 cents less than at Carrefour stores. Meanwhile, the average baguette price in France is 90 cents.

This new price stirred the ire of five key players in the industry that branded the measure as “shameful” and “destructive” in a joint press release signed by the national farmers’ union FNSEA, the National Association of French Milling (ANMF), the National Confederation of French Bakery and Pastry shops (CNBPF), the organization representative of the French cereals sector Intercéréales and the General Association of Wheat Producers (AGPB) on Wednesday.

“In France, there are 450,000 people doing all this work in the cereal sector. It’s not just bread, but the whole cereal industry. I think it’s denigrating the whole industry!” the president of Intercéréales Jean-François Loiseau said to ABC News, arguing that “every day, a French person eats 30 cents worth of bread on average. When Leclerc sells his baguette for 29 cents, if I follow the same proportion, it means that he offers the French to eat bread for 10 cents every day. That’s a 20-cent difference every day. Is the subject of purchasing power in France at 20 cents a day, on bread?”

In the joint statement, the five organizations emphasized the difficult circumstances they said they are facing. For many years now, they said they have been fighting to be paid more fairly, while the price of wheat has exploded worldwide in recent months, and production costs are also increasing “strongly.”

Some customers had mixed reactions to the pricing announcement.

To Youssef Aïtbaila, 39, who just bought a baguette at the boulangerie Les Pyramides in Colombes, a northwestern suburb of Paris, Leclerc “is right” because “everything has become very expensive.”

“It’s always good to be able to give everyone access to a cheap baguette because it’s true that bread has increased a lot,” said Emilie Péré, 38, a client and mother of one.

At the Leclerc store across the street, 30-year-old Justine Grangette wasn’t too thrilled about the decision, insisting that it’s part of Michel-Edouard Leclerc’s “mentality” of cutting prices. “Anyway, I will continue to buy from my local baker.”

After an increase in 2021, the purchasing power per household in France is expected to fall by 0.5% in the first half of the year according to an assessement by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee).

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Huge asteroid safely passes close to Earth

NASA

(NEW YORK) — A comet more than three times the size of the Empire State Building got up close to Earth’s orbit Tuesday afternoon but was far enough to avoid turning into a sci-fi disaster movie, according to astronomers.

Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1) flew by Earth around 4:51 p.m., according to NASA, which has been tracking the object for decades through its planetary defense systems.

Researchers say the asteroid, which measures 1 kilometer in diameter, came around .01325 Astronomical Units, or 1.2 million miles, away from Earth’s atmosphere.

That distance didn’t pose any threat to the Earth, according to researchers.

The last time the asteroid was this close to Earth’s orbit was 89 years ago when it flew 0.00752 AU, roughly 699,000 miles, away from the planet, NASA data showed.

The next time the asteroid will come this close to Earth will be in 2105 when it will fly 0.01556 AU, roughly 1.4 million miles, away from Earth.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tonga government releases 1st statement since volcanic blast, described huge mushroom plume

Handout/New Zealand Defense Force via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — For the first time since a massive undersea volcano erupted and caused widespread damage, the government of Tonga released its first statement on Tuesday morning, describing a huge mushroom plume that covered the entire South Pacific island kingdom and nearly 50-foot tsunami waves that crashed ashore and devastated villages.

International and domestic communication, including the Internet, had been severed since the blast of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Saturday. According to the government’s statement, the volcanic eruption damaged an underwater fiber optic cable, cutting off communication to the outside world.

“As a result of the eruption, a volcanic mushroom plume was released reaching the stratosphere and extending radially covering all Tonga Islands, generating tsunami waves rising up to 15 meters, hitting the west coast of Tongatapu Islands, ‘Eue and Ha’apai Islands,” the government statement said.

The eruption occurred in the South Pacific, about 40 miles south of Tonga.

A damage assessment was underway on Tuesday and the government was relying on satellite phones and high-frequency radio to establish communication between the multiple islands that comprise the Polynesian kingdom. Government officials said communication with at least one island, Niuas, had yet to be restored.

At least three deaths have been confirmed, including the death of a British national, the government said. Also killed was a 65-year-old woman on Mango Island and a 49-year-old man from Nomuka Island, according to the statement.

Two people remain unaccounted for and numerous injuries have been reported, the government said.

The government said it is particularly concerned about the damage caused to the islands of Mango, Fonoifua and Nomuka after receiving initial reports from first responders deployed to those islands.

“The first consignment is headed for these islands as all houses were destroyed on Mango Island; only two houses remain on Fonoifua Island with extensive damage on Nomuka Island,” the government said.

It was not immediately clear how many houses and people occupied the islands of Mango, Nomuka and Fonoifua. Many of Tonga’s 170 islands are uninhabited or sparsely inhabited.

At least eight houses were completely destroyed and 20 others were severely damaged in the village of Kolomotu on Tonga’s most populated island, Tongatapu, the government said.

On ‘Eua Island, two houses were completely destroyed and 45 were severely damaged, according to the government.

The government said that evacuations are underway from the small island of ‘Atata near the capital city of Nukuʻalofa, throughout Tongatapu, Mango, Fonoifua and Nomuka islands.

“Water supplies have been seriously affected by the volcanic ash,” the government statement said. “Government efforts have to be made to ensure the continuity of the supply of drinking water.”

Sea and air transportation have also been affected due to continuing large waves and volcanic ash covering airport runways.

“Domestic and international flights have been deferred until further notice as the airports undergo clean-up,” the government said.

The volcanic eruption was so strong it caused a sonic boom that could be heard and felt more than 6,000 miles away in Alaska, officials said.

The blast also triggered tsunami warnings from Fiji to Hawaii and the California coast.

The large waves caused by the volcanic eruption were being blamed for an oil spill off the Peruvian coast roughly 6,600 miles from Tonga. The Peruvian Civil Defense Institute released a statement on Monday saying a ship was loading oil into La Pampilla refinery on the Pacific coast of Puru on Sunday when waves moved the vessel and caused the spill.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Teens arrested in England are children of alleged hostage-taker in Texas, sources say

PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

(LONDON) — Two teenagers have been arrested in England as part of an ongoing investigation into Saturday’s hostage-taking incident at a synagogue in the United States, British authorities said.

The pair were detained in southern Manchester on Sunday evening and “remain in custody for questioning,” according to a statement from the Greater Manchester Police. Multiple law enforcement sources in the U.S. told ABC News that the teens are the children of the alleged hostage-taker.

The arrests were made in connection with a 10-hour standoff between American authorities and a hostage-taker at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, about 27 miles northwest of Dallas. An armed man claiming to have planted bombs in the synagogue interrupted Shabbat services on Saturday just before 11 a.m. local time, taking a rabbi and three other people hostage, according to Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller.

The suspect, identified by the FBI as 44-year-old British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, died in a “shooting incident,” according to Miller and FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno, neither of whom provided further details.

Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that the initial indication is that Akram was shot and killed by the FBI team. The FBI said in a statement Sunday that its Shooting Incident Review Team “will conduct a thorough, factual, and objective investigation of the events.”

A motive for the incident is under investigation.

Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally of the Greater Manchester Police said in a statement Sunday that counterterrorism officers are assisting their U.S. counterparts in the probe. Akram was from the Blackburn area of Lancashire, about 20 miles northwest of Manchester, according to Scally.

During the negotiations with law enforcement, Akram “spoke repeatedly about a convicted terrorist who is serving an 86-year prison sentence in the United States on terrorisms charges,” the FBI said in a statement Sunday.

“This is a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force,” the agency added. “Preventing acts of terrorism and violence is the number one priority of the FBI. Due to the continuing investigation we are unable to provide more details at this time.”

Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that the suspect was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who is incarcerated at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, about 16 miles southwest of Colleyville. Siddiqui, who has alleged ties to al-Qaida, was sentenced to 86 years in prison after being convicted of assault as well as attempted murder of an American soldier in 2010.

One hostage was released uninjured at around 5 p.m. CT on Saturday. The standoff ended hours later, when Cytron-Walker and the other two hostages executed an escape plan that included Cytron-Walker throwing a chair at the suspect and bolting to an exit door with his fellow hostages, the rabbi told CBS News.

Law enforcement sources also told ABC News that after arriving in the United States, Akram stayed at homeless shelters at various points and may have portrayed himself as experiencing homelessness in order to gain access to the Texas synagogue during Shabbat services, sources said.

Biden told reporters Sunday that he was briefed on the incident at the Texas synagogue by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Biden confirmed that the suspect had only been in the country for a couple of weeks and spent at least one night in a homeless shelter.

Bide said investigators suspect Akham purchased a gun on the street. While Akham is alleged to have claimed he had bombs, investigators have found no evidence that he was in possession of explosives, according to Biden.

“This was an act of terror,” Biden said.

ABC News’ Luke Barr, Meredith Deliso, Bill Hutchinson, Aaron Katersky and Josh Margolin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

British police arrest two teens in probe of hostage-taking incident at Texas synagogue

PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

(LONDON) — Two teenagers have been arrested in England as part of an ongoing investigation into Saturday’s hostage-taking incident at a synagogue in the United States, British authorities said.

The pair were detained in southern Manchester on Sunday evening and “remain in custody for questioning,” according to a statement from the Greater Manchester Police.

The arrests were made in connection with a 10-hour standoff between American authorities and a hostage-taker at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, about 27 miles northwest of Dallas. An armed man claiming to have planted bombs in the synagogue interrupted Shabbat services on Saturday just before noon local time, taking a rabbi and three other people hostage, according to Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller.

One hostage was released uninjured at around 5 p.m. CT. An elite hostage rescue team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation breached the synagogue at about 9 p.m. local time and rescued the remaining hostages, Miller told a press conference Saturday night. The suspect, identified by the FBI as 44-year-old British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, died in a “shooting incident,” according to Miller and FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno, neither of who provided further details.

Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that the initial indication is that Akram was shot and killed by the FBI team. The FBI said in a statement Sunday that its Shooting Incident Review Team “will conduct a thorough, factual, and objective investigation of the events.”

A motive for the incident is under investigation.

Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally of the Greater Manchester Police said in a statement Sunday that counterterrorism officers are assisting their U.S. counterparts in the probe. Akram was from the Blackburn area of Lancashire, about 20 miles northwest of Manchester, according to Scally.

During the negotiations with law enforcement, Akram “spoke repeatedly about a convicted terrorist who is serving an 86-year prison sentence in the United States on terrorisms charges,” the FBI said in a statement Sunday.

“This is a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force,” the agency added. “Preventing acts of terrorism and violence is the number one priority of the FBI. Due to the continuing investigation we are unable to provide more details at this time.”

Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that the suspect was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who is incarcerated at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, about 16 miles southwest of Colleyville. Siddiqui, who has alleged ties to al-Qaida, was sentenced to 86 years in prison after being convicted of assault as well as attempted murder of an American soldier in 2010.

President Joe Biden told reporters Sunday that he was briefed on the incident at the Texas synagogue by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Biden said the suspect had only been in the country for a couple of weeks and spent at least one night in a homeless shelter. The man was armed with a gun, which he allegedly purchased on the street, when he entered the synagogue, but investigators have found no evidence that he was in possession of explosives, according to Biden.

“This was an act of terror,” Biden said.

ABC News’ Luke Barr, Meredith Deliso, Bill Hutchinson, Aaron Katersky and Josh Margolin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

North Korea launches fourth missile test in two weeks

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images

(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea Monday morning, its fourth test in less than a month.

“South Korea’s military detected two projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles launched into the East Sea to the northeast from the Sunan Airfield in Pyongyang, North Korea, around 08:50 a.m. and 08:54 a.m.,” South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff told reporters Monday.

The missiles traveled about 236 miles and reached an altitude of about 26 miles, said South Korea’s military, which was analyzing details of the launch.

It was the fourth missile launch this year, following two self-claimed hypersonic missile tests on Jan. 5 and Jan. 11 and last Friday’s short-range ballistic missile that the secluded regime’s state news agency, KCNA, claimed was launched from a rail car.

Pyongyang’s consecutive showcases of its military capabilities came as the United States discussed sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear program.

“North Korea probably believes they pulled out a response from the U.S. by firing hypersonic missiles in the new year because the U.S. acted with new sanctions,” Moon Keun-sik, a military expert at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, told ABC News. “North Korea claims that ballistic missile test-launch is a part of the training, but it also acknowledges that their action is a UN violation.”

North Korea has said its weapons development is a rightful act of self-defense. The country blames the U.S. for escalated tensions.

“The DPRK’s recent development of new-type weapon was just part of its efforts for modernizing its national defense capability. Nevertheless, the U.S. is intentionally escalating the situation even with the activation of independent sanctions, not content with referring the DPRK’s just activity to the UN Security Council,” KCNA said on Friday, citing North Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

North Korea expressed open discontent about the sanctions imposed last Wednesday on North Korean individuals and entities who support the country’s ballistic-missile program.

“We could say that the situation has escalated as the United States took out the sanctions card in response to North Korea’s recent missile test launch,” Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean studies at Seoul-based Dongguk University, told ABC News. “Through missile experiments, Kim Jong Un intends to highlight North Korea’s presence while the United States is mainly taking care of Ukraine issues, and at the same time maintain solidarity among their people.”

Some experts saw the recent tests as planned drills on North Korea’s side. Kim Jong Un announced at the 8th Party Congress in January 2021 that the country planned to strengthen its weapon systems, including hypersonic missiles.

“Pyongyang’s missile tests will take rounds and rounds for the next three years, not mainly intended to send a political message, which is only part of the motivation,” Bong Young-shik of Yonsei University told ABC News. “It would be a mistaken belief to think that the North Korea military can be bought out with massive immediate concessions because North Korea is moving on its own schedule by military capability.”

Analysts in South Korea agreed that North Korea was following its own schedule to ramp up military capabilities in a time when there’s a slim chance of negotiating with other countries in person.

“North Korea is in the direction of enhancing the technical completeness of their missile program and knocking on the United States, trying to persuade them they should reach out to North Korea in any way,” Kim told ABC News.

It isn’t the first time North Korea has scaled up in its weapons experiments. Back in 2019, North Korea fired over 20 short-range ballistic missiles between May and November.

ABC News’ Chae Young Oh contributed to this report.

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