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iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Some 47 million French voters are set to head to the polls on Sunday in what could be one of the most consequential elections France has held in decades.

On the ballot are 11 candidates who span the political spectrum; if no single candidate garners a majority of the votes, two will advance to a run-off vote to be held in two weeks.

The week leading up to the vote saw President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama wading into the campaign half a world away, as well as a terrorist attack in Paris put the country on alert.

The vote could pose an existential threat for the European Union -– a major U.S. ally that has sustained a battering by last summer's Brexit vote -- the decision by the United Kingdom to pull out of the EU.

But what's all the fuss about? And why should we care?

Here's what you need to know.

Populists at the polls

"In this year's French election, voters face an almost existential question: what type of country should modern France be? A liberal and tolerant nation conducting economic reforms at home and playing an active role within the EU and in international affairs? Or a more closed nation, unwilling to undertake structural reforms, pursuing an anti-globalization and anti-EU agenda?" said Erik Brattberg, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Europe Program.

Many of the same forces that elevated Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and saw Brits vote to Brexit are at play in France.

Ethnic and religious tensions have been stoked by repeated terror attacks. Unemployment has been stuck at around 10 percent for nearly five years. France's economic growth was meek in 2016 -– estimates put it just above 1 percent.

These factors are driving frustration and anger in large parts of the country. The question is how will that translate on polling day.

"With populism and anti-establishment anger surging on both sides of the Atlantic -– leading to Brexit as well as Trump's election –- the French election will provide a critical indicator of whether the populist wave is still building, or beginning to subside," Charles Kupchan, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News in an email.

The candidate who is seemingly poised to gain the most from the discontent is Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

Seen as a political ally of Trump and the United Kingdom's so-called Brexiteers (both of whom she has praised), Le Pen is among the frontrunners going into Sunday's poll.

Le Pen and Trump "both want to be tough on immigration and both have been accused of racism," Philip Crowther, a correspondent for France 24, explained to ABC News in an email.

Her candidacy is somewhat tarnished, however, by her father’s reputation. The elder Le Pen led the Front National party before his daughter, and was widely rebuked for calling Nazi concentration camps "a detail of history." Marine Le Pen has denounced these remarks.

She has taken a strong stance against illegal immigration and championed anti-globalist sentiments.

On immigration, she has said that those who enter France illegally "have no reason to stay in France, these people broke the law the minute they set foot on French soil."

And that strong stance could pay dividends.

"Confronted with a wave of immigrants in recent years, coupled with a succession of terrorist attacks, France and other European societies are experiencing heated debates about immigration and the integration of minorities into society," Kupchan said.

Le Pen –- along with some other less popular candidates -– has also proposed a referendum on France's membership in the E.U. Many have dubbed the hypothetical vote "Frexit."

The fresh-faced Frenchman

But her victory is far from guaranteed.

Leading recent polls, but just barely edging Le Pen, is 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron -– a political newcomer who has never held elected office.

A centrist who wants to see France remain in the E.U., the political neophyte "is seen as the candidate most likely to stop Le Pen in her tracks," Crowther said.

Previously appointed as economy minister by the current (and widely unpopular) government, Macron quit his job in 2016 and formed the En Marche! party, which now claims a quarter of a million supporters.

His political platform earned him the tacit support of none other than President Obama this week, who called Macron to wish him well. Obama's spokesman was quick to note that this was not a formal endorsement; however, the two are seen as political allies.

Macron and Le Pen face strong competition from conservative Francois Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Continental quandary

While Sunday's vote will almost certainly not determine the presidency –- every election since 1965 has gone to a run-off -– it will determine which two candidates will contest the final vote on May 7.

Analysts say that this French election could prove to be a matter of life and death for the European Union –- the bloc of democratic European countries that grew out of a desire for cooperation after the strife of World War II.

"Depending on who is elected, the European Union, the United States' major trading partner, is in danger of crumbling," Crowther said.

The U.S. and E.U. are strong diplomatic allies on the international stage, and commerce between the two represents the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world.

Within the E.U., France is the third largest economy (after Germany and the soon-to-be-exiting United Kingdom).

A French decision to leave the E.U., "would undermine Europe even more than Brexit, at a very crucial time," Carnegie's Brattberg said.

Kupchan agreed, saying: "If Le Pen or Melenchon were to win and seek to guide France out of the E.U., the European project might well collapse. Britain is already in the process of quitting the union, which would likely not survive a French departure.

"A collective Europe remains America's best partner in the world," he continued. "To see the E.U. unravel and Europe's separate nation-states and borders come back to life would constitute a historic setback. Especially in the face of rising challenges from non-democratic states like Russia and China."

Yet, Le Pen's promise to put France first appears to have strong appeal among a support base that is wary of Europe's largely open borders and the broader forces of globalization.

Similar sentiments have propelled two shock votes elsewhere in less than a year. Sunday will see whether Le Pen can capitalize on them within her country –- and thus put herself on a path to shake up the whole of Europe.

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Family of Ahmed Hassan(NEW YORK) -- The family of a 17-year-old New Jersey boy who has been imprisoned in Egypt since December are calling on U.S. authorities to do more to secure his release.

Ahmed Hassan was arrested on Dec. 1, 2016 while staying with his extended family at their home in Zagazig, a city in the Egyptian Nile Delta, his family said. According to Ahmed's lawyers and father, the teen was taken into custody when the police came to arrest his uncle on a minor building code violation.

Family members present at the time got involved in a dispute with the authorities, which resulted in the arrest of seven of them, including Hassan. The family members were sentenced to a year in prison for resisting authorities, according to Hassan's father, Mohamed Mostafa.

The family had been anxiously awaiting a court hearing that would reconsider Hassan's imprisonment, Mostafa told ABC news. The hearing was scheduled for April 19 but was postponed until July 16 because the police were not available to secure his transportation to court, Mostafa said.

"I went with the lawyer to see the judge overseeing Ahmed’s case and begged him to set an earlier date to look into his reconsideration, but he refused,” Mostafa said.

While he awaits the July court date, Hassan is living in a cell packed with other people, his father said, adding that he said he must pay the other prisoners in order to get a small amount of space to be able to sleep on.

In March, Hassan sent a letter to President Donald Trump begging him to intercede with the Egyptian authorities on his behalf.

"I am in a jail cell with more than 20 adults. It is scary to be here with these people and the police," Hassan wrote. "Mr. President, please help me. I want to be with my family and friends. I am proud to be an American. I beg you to defend my right to be free."

A copy of Hassan's letter was provided to ABC News by Pretrial Rights International, a legal advocacy organization that is working on his case.

The families of other U.S. citizens imprisoned in Egypt had also written a letter to President Trump ahead of his April 3 meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. In addition to Hassan, the letter asked Trump to intercede on behalf of Mustafa Kassem, 52, and Ahmed Etwiy, 23, who have both been imprisoned since 2013.

"Mr. President, we believe in your commitment to represent Americans first and the values America holds dear, especially freedom. We urge you to demand that President Sisi release all unjustly detained prisoners in Egypt, including our American family members," the letter stated. It was signed by Mostafa, Eman Kassem and Dr. Nagwa El Kordy.

Hassan was born and raised in the US, where his father has been a resident since 1984. Hassan and other members of the family have been going back and forth between the US and Egypt since the mid-2000s.

Before his arrest, Hassan was living in Atlantic City and studying for his SATs, hoping to return to the US for college, his family said.

Praveen Madhiraju is a lawyer with Pretrial Rights International who is working on Hassan's case pro-bono. He said that when Hassan was arrested, the Egyptian authorities wanted to record his nationality as Egyptian, while Hassan insisted that he is American.

“They made fun of him and said 'they [the US government] will do nothing for you,'" Madhiraju said.

The DC-based lawyer adds that his organization is currently engaged in talks with both the State Department and Congress to try to pressure Egyptian authorities to release Hassan.

The family has also been in touch with the US embassy in Egypt. But Hassan's father said their response so far has been a "disappointment."

"The person who came from the US embassy didn’t even see where Ahmed is jailed. They meet him only at the office and said: 'We don't attend the questioning, we only follow up after,'" Mostafa said. "I am American. I have the right to be defended and protected. Otherwise, what’s the reason to be an American citizen?"

The U.S. embassy did not return ABC News' request for comment.

According to Praveen, Hassan is one of approximately 19 American citizens currently jailed in Egypt.

Earlier this week, an Egyptian court acquitted 30-year-old Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American aid worker. She had been detained for nearly three years on charges related to child abuse. On Thursday, Hijazi met with Trump at the White House.

"We are very happy to have Aya back home," Trump said.

But Hassan's family are left wondering if and when he will be next. Mostafa said that he was happy to hear that Hijazi had been release because it showed that applying pressure on Egyptian authorities can yield positive results. But he also said it was "hypocritical" that pressure was not being applied by the US to free Hassan.

"Why is there no pressure for Ahmed’s case? Is there a difference between people working in human rights and a normal citizen?" Mostafa said.

Meanwhile, the teen's father also worries that they are running out of options to get bring him home.

"I see Ahmed every Sunday," Mostafa said. "He is staying strong but he is starting to break down. He has been in prison for four months and was hoping to leave after his hearing before it got postponed."

Mostafa said Hassan's fate seems to rest in the hands of el-Sissi.

"Our only hope now is for a presidential pardon," he said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Taliban leader once known as a shadow governor of an Afghanistan province has been killed in a U.S. airstrike, U.S. forces in that country said.

Quari Tayib, at one time known as the Taliban shadow governor of Takhar Province, was killed in an airstrike in Archi District, Kunduz Province, Afghanistan on Apr. 17, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in a press release Saturday morning.

"Tayib had been a target of interest since 2011 and was directly responsible for the deaths of U.S. service members in Afghanistan," the release said. "Eight additional Taliban fighters were killed in the strike."

The airstrike was part of what the military described as ongoing efforts to deny Taliban freedom of movement in the area, release said, adding that it targeted a compound Tayib owned and used for insurgents in the area.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As North Korea blusters about launching missile strikes against the United States and its allies, experts are warning that aggressive action from North Korea is more likely to come from cyber space.

While Kim Jong-Un has struggled to develop a traditional arsenal to rival those of his enemies as international sanctions have barred Pyongang from the global financial system, North Korea’s military has cultivated an increasingly sophisticated group of hackers capable of launching cyber-attacks on Western and Western-backed targets.

John Carlin, a former assistant attorney general for national security and an ABC News contributor, said the government hasn’t done enough to protect the country’s core infrastructure from North Korea and other cyber threats.

“We're still vulnerable,” Carlin told ABC News. “The threat in this space way outmatches what our current defenses are. It needs to be a top priority of this administration and this Congress to fix it … You’ve seen all these attacks take place. It’s not a hypothetical.”

He cited two recent examples of cyber-attacks U.S. officials suspect were carried out by North Korea. In 2014, a group calling themselves the Guardians of Peace hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment, delaying the release of The Interview, a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that depicted a fictional assassination attempt on Kim Jong-Un. In the following days, the hackers released proprietary information and embarrassing emails, costing the studio millions of dollars.

In 2016, hackers stole $81 million of Bangladeshi funds from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York through the SWIFT network, a financial messaging service used by thousands of banks around the world. According to The New York Times, U.S. officials are investigating whether North Korea was involved because the hackers used a piece of code that also appeared in the cyber-attack on Sony.

The North Korean government has denied any hacking allegations, but the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky released a report earlier this month linking the hacker group “Lazarus” to both the Sony and SWIFT attacks and tracking “Lazarus” back to an IP address in North Korea.

In January, President Donald Trump pledged to appoint a team to deliver a plan to address U.S. cybersecurity vulnerabilities within 90 days of his inauguration, but Carlin noted that deadline has come and gone without a plan or a team in place.

“I can't think of a more urgent problem facing this administration, but as of yet we haven't heard what their strategy will be,” Carlin said. “I hope that it goes to the top of their agenda.”

A senior administration official declined to comment on when the president’s cybersecurity plan might be made public but told ABC News that, despite reports to the contrary, a “fully functional” cybersecurity team led by White House National Security Council cybersecurity coordinator Robert Joyce is already in place. Related efforts spearheaded by Jared Kushner and Rudy Giuliani are also underway, the official said, but it is Joyce who will set cybersecurity priorities.

The official acknowledged, however, that the government has “a long way to go” when it comes to cybersecurity, citing vulnerabilities in some federal networks.

“There are over 200 departments and agencies and they’re not all equipped to do cybersecurity right,” the official said. “Nobody would be credible if they claimed anything different.”

Those vulnerabilities could be exploited by foreign hackers. A cyber brigade is easier to develop than a traditional fighting force, even for a country with extremely poor network infrastructure. North Korea only made its first known connection to the Internet in 2010, and access remains tightly controlled by the government and limited to only a select group of citizens. As a result, Internet use in North Korea is among the lowest in the world, with only about 14,000 Internet users in the country in 2016, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) within the United Nations.

An extensive report on North Korea's cyber capabilities compiled in 2014 by the technology firm HP determined that North Korea’s poor connectivity hasn’t stopped its government from building a team of so-called “cyber warriors.” Defectors say the regime identifies schoolchildren who show promise in mathematics, sends prospects to elite academies for rigorous computer science training and eventually recruits successful students into a cyber operations branch of the military. These “cyber warriors,” HP says, are some of the only North Koreans with access to the Internet.

"If they're going on the offensive, cyber makes a lot of sense for them," said Martyn Williams of 38 North, who specializes in coverage of North Korea's technological capabilities. "Some of those things you see in the parades look scary, but they don't have the resources to match the weaponry of the United States or South Korea. When it comes to cyber, it's much easier to become a formidable opponent, so it's a much more even playing field."

The exact size of the force, which is spread out among several different units overseen by the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB) within the General Staff Department of the Korean People's Army, is unknown, but a South Korean government analysis also conducted in 2014 estimated that the force could include nearly 6,000 soldiers, many of whom operate in foreign countries to hide their activity. The HP report pinpointed the location of one group, for example, called Unit 121, which is believed to have launched attacks on “enemy networks” in both the United States and South Korea from China, not far from the North Korean border.

John Bambenek of Fidelis Cybersecurity, who frequently consults for U.S. government agencies, says that many U.S. institutions, most notably banks, are also unprepared to defend themselves against a hostile intelligence service.

“Would they be able to compromise the CIA? No,” Bambenek said. ”But I think they could certainly go after soft target.”

Cyber thefts from financial institutions could bring security concerns about North Korea full circle, raising the question of whether North Korea might be pouring those allegedly stolen funds into its missile program.

Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow specializing in North Korea at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, says these alleged heists could be part of a new strategy to circumvent the international sanctions designed to cripple the missile program.

“North Korea has a long history of engaging illicit activities to acquire funds for its nuclear missile program, which they see it as key to the regime’s survival,” Ruggiero said. “As we squeeze more and are more successful, they may turn to illicit activities more. Cyber is one of the tools in their toolkit.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Thursday’s shooting on the Champs-Elysees boulevard in Paris has pushed security to the top of the political agenda and added more unpredictability to a close presidential race two days before French voters head to the polls.

The attack, which killed one police officer, could influence voters who will cast their ballots Sunday, analysts say.

“It seems inevitable that this attack will have some impact on Sunday’s vote,” Jim Shields, professor of French politics at Aston University in Birmingham, England, told ABC News. “We have had terrorist attacks during other election campaigns but never this close to polling day.”

Four candidates lead the race, which is still too tight to call – so even a small effect on the first round of voting Sunday could make a big difference, he said.

“With four leading candidates running neck and neck and up to a third of voters still undecided, even a marginal effect in increasing support for a particular candidate could be decisive,” he said.

This could benefit two candidates, he added: far-right leader Marine Le Pen and the conservative François Fillon, who have made security and the fight against terrorism central issues in their campaigns. The candidates who could lose votes are centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who had seen a recent surge in polls, he said.

Le Pen, slightly behind frontrunner Macron in the polls, has already reacted to the attack by saying she will introduce tougher immigration and border control, and she will likely continue to capitalize on it, said Françoise Boucek, lecturer at the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London.

“I definitely think that it’s Le Pen who might try to capitalize on it the most because her agenda is really about internal security, anti-terrorism and anti-Islamism. She’s going to capitalize on this and say, ‘Look, that's what I’ve been saying all along,’” Boucek told ABC News.

France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015. The country has seen a series of attacks that have killed nearly 240 people in the past two years. Thursday’s attack reminds voters of the security challenges the country is facing, Boucek said.

“It puts internal security on the top of the agenda and on the top of people’s consciousness so I would think that this is definitely going to affect people’s decisions on Sunday,” she said.

Le Pen is expected to make it to the second round, which she is then predicted to lose to Macron, according to the polls. Boucek said she’d still be surprised if Le Pen became president, even if she does get more votes than expected before Thursday’s attack.

President Trump tweeted Friday that the attack "will have a big effect" on the presidential election.

 

Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017

 

The attack adds to an already unpredictable race, said Simon Lightfoot, senior lecturer in European Politics at the University of Leeds.

Thursday’s attack is likely to benefit Le Pen and Fillon, he said. Le Pen was already expected to move on to the second round so the question is whether Fillon could now get enough votes to be the second candidate.

“If it’s a runoff between two right-wing candidates; it will be quite interesting,” Lightfoot told ABC News.

But the latest polls suggest that the second-round runoff on May 7 will be between Macron and Le Pen, and even if more people vote for Le Pen because of Thursday's attack, he doesn’t think the shift will be big enough for a far-right victory.

“I don’t think it will change the runoff dramatically,” he said.

Le Pen is an anti-European Union politician who has promised to dump the euro currency. If she wins, it could change France’s place in the world and deal a blow to the E.U., already dealing with the British exit from the bloc.

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ABC News(PARIS) -- An American who was near the Champs Elysees when a gunman opened fire on police in Paris described the scene as "mayhem" and "mass panic."

It was a beautiful night in Paris when Kentucky resident John Finney, his wife Angela and their three sons were walking on the Avenue des Champs Elysees after dinner and a day of sightseeing in one of the City of Light's most iconic destinations.

"This is the most expensive, most beautiful street in the world," Finney said he told his family. "We’ve got to see it at nighttime."

Then, Finney stopped to buy his wife a red rose from a street merchant near the Dior store -- a decision that could have saved the lives of him and his family.

"Thank goodness I did," Finney told ABC News. "Had I not stopped to get that rose for her, we would have been right on top of the shooter."

Finney then saw the gunman, dressed in all black, before he began to spray bullets at Parisian police.

"That's when panic set in," he said. "We were very terrified, obviously."

Angela Finney then yelled for everyone to run, Finney said. The couple's sons ran up the street, with their mother following behind them and Finney behind her, attempting to "block and shield them from any shots that were going."

Along with the Finney family, hundreds of other people were trying to escape the deadly scene.

"I mean, it was mass panic ... mayhem," Finney said. "People were falling down. People were stepping on people."

Finney said the family knew "right away" that they were in the middle of a "terrorist event" and described the shooter as having a "blank, dead look" on his face.

"He starts shooting. We're running. He continues to shoot, and we don't know where the bullets were at," Finney said, adding that the shots lasted for less than 40 seconds.

The father said the family was "absolutely" afraid for their lives.

"We were in the kill zone," he said. "We were definitely afraid."

As the family ran to safety, the manager of the watch store Swatch waved them into the building. After about 10 additional people ran in, the manger closed the metal gate. The group then waited in the basement of the store for two and a half hours.

The store employees "took care" of them, Finney said, providing them with food and coffee.

The family will not be shortening their trip, Finney said, adding that they will remain in Paris until Sunday, when they head for London.

Finney expressed a "love" for France and advised that other Americans not be deterred from coming there.

"To any other Americans who want to visit here, this is the country to come to," he said. "The French people are resilient. They're heroes. This is a beautiful country. They're beautiful people."

One policeman was killed and two others were injured in Thursday night's attack, which ISIS claimed responsibility for.

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American describes ‘mass panic’ and ‘mayhem’ during attack on the Champs Elysees

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- American and Canadian fighters jets intercepted two Russian military aircraft that flew north of Alaska and Canada on Thursday night, U.S. Air Force officials said Friday.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) also confirmed there was another incident on Wednesday night with another pair of Russian aircraft that did not require an intercept, bringing the total number of sightings to four in as many days.

"Alaskan-based NORAD F-22 Raptors and Royal Canadian CF-18 Hornets intercepted and visually identified two Russian TU-95 bomber aircraft" flying around the north coast of Alaska and Canada, said Mary Ann Clemons a NORAD spokesperson.

The Russian bombers did not enter American sovereign or Canadian airspace, Clemons said.

The U.S. military's Air Defense Identification Zone stretches 200 nautical miles from the Alaska coastline into international airspace. Aircraft entering that zone are asked to identify themselves as they transit through. American territorial airspace begins 12 nautical miles from American shores.

On Wednesday, two Russian IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft flew halfway up the Aleutian Islands chain, according to a U.S. official. Clemons said the Russian aircraft were identified during a maritime patrol close to Alaska. These aircraft were identified by NORAD, but no aircraft were scrambled to do so by visual means.

On Monday, two F-22 Raptor fighters and an E-3 AWAC reconnaissance aircraft intercepted two TU-95 Russian bombers that had flown into the ADIZ 100 miles south of Kodiak Island.

On Tuesday, two TU-95 bombers flying up the Aleutian Island chain were tracked by an E-3 AWAC aircraft as they flew 35 miles from the Alaska coast before turning around. A third aircraft, an IL-38 flying a different route briefly entered the ADIZ before turning back.

Each encounter has received a different response from NORAD.

"The intercepts are professional ones in accordance with international norms," said Captain Scott Miller, the chief spokesman for NORAD.

This week's intercepts mark the first times since July 4, 2015 that NORAD aircraft have intercepted Russian military aircraft flying near the American ADIZ. Russian military aircraft have never strayed into American territorial airspace.

Miller said the activity this week is not unprecedented given that the peak of long range Russian bomber flights into the AZID occurred in 2014.

A year later that activity dropped off significantly, probably due to a 2015 safety stand down implemented by the Russian military following a slew of deadly crashes involving TU-95 Bear bombers.

Miller noted that Thursday night's encounters highlighted "the strength of the bi-national relationship of NORAD", a joint American and Canadian command based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

As the Russian bombers transited through the American ADIZ into the Canadian ADIZ they were accompanied by American and Canadian aircraft belonging to different NORAD regions, a transition Miller characterized as "seamless."

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iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) — The suspect who shot one police officer dead and injured two others in Paris Thursday night has been identified as Karim Cheurfi.

Previously, French police identified the suspect but did not immediately release his name, saying only that he is a 39-year-old French national from an eastern suburb of Paris.

On Friday, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins confirmed that Cherufi was the attacker. He was identified by ID cards found on his person and corroborated by fingerprints.

A piece of paper that was found in his pocket praised ISIS and other papers found between seats in his vehicle showed addresses of various police departments. In the trunk of his car, investigators found a black bag containing a pump-action shotgun, knives, scissors and a Koran, according to Molins.

Cherufi was killed in a shootout with police after he got out of his car on the Champs Elysees and opened fire at a police vehicle.

Cherufi was known to authorities and had a long and violent criminal history going back well over a decade, including attempts to attack police, but during that time authorities never found evidence that he had been radicalized, Molins said Friday.

He had four convictions, two for violence committed against a guard and a fellow inmate while in prison. He was most recently convicted in 2014 for home burglary, refusing to stop a car and concealing stolen goods, Molins said.

Cherufi traveled to Algeria earlier this year — allegedly to get married — even though he was on parole. When he returned, he was reprimanded for breaking the terms of his parole.

Three people associated with Cherufi have been detained for questioning, though his connection to those individuals was not publicly released.

As with all other similar attacks in France, investigators are looking into the possibility of accomplices. So far none have been identified and there does not appear to be a connection between this attack and any other suspects.

Shortly after the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility and praised the attacker, though they used a different name to identify the man that they believed was responsible.


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YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A "close associate" of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. ground raid in Syria on April 6, U.S. Central Command said Friday. The raid targeted him for his role in planning the deadly New Years Eve nightclub attack in Istanbul, which killed 39 civilians.

"Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, an ISIS operative, was killed by U.S. forces working on operation near al Mayadin Syria to kill him," Colonel John Thomas, the spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told Pentagon reporters in phone briefing Friday.

Al Mayadin is southeast of Dayr Az Zawr in the Euphrates River Valley.

Thomas described Uzbeki as "a close associate" of al-Baghdadi who "was known to interact with him in various ways over time." Centcom has confirmed over the past two weeks that Uzbeki was killed in the raid.

Suspect in New Year's Eve Attack on Istanbul Nightclub Confessed: Governor

The spokesman described him as facilitating the movement of ISIS foreign terror fighters and funds. Uzbeki played a key role in ISIS external terror attack plotting and Thomas said he was "clearly linked" to the deadly Istanbul nightclub shooting attack on New Year's Eve.

That deadly attack was carried out by Abdulkadir Masharipov, an Uzbeki national, on behalf of ISIS.

Masharipov fired on hundreds of revelers at the trendy Reina nightclub killing 39 people and injuring dozens of others before he fled the scene. He was captured in a police raid in Istanbul two weeks after the attack and, according to Turkish authorities, confessed to his role in the attack.

Uzbeki is believed to have been involved in planning the attack.

 Thomas described the April 6 ground raid in Syria targeting Uzbeki "as an operation in order to eliminate him." The raid was conducted by American special operations forces, said a defense official.

Since late 2015 an "expeditionary targeting force" has operated inside Iraq and Syria targeting senior ISIS leaders. Typically their ground operations are not disclosed.

"We have a campaign against leaders of ISIS and a campaign against the leaders of al-Qaeda," said Thomas. "You can kind of look through the history of the strikes and I think we have a pretty good record of finding these folks and killing them."

Uzbeki's presence in al Mayadin seems to reinforce information from U.S. officials that senior ISIS leaders have escaped Raqqa, the de facto ISIS capital in Syria, heading towards areas of the Euphrates River Valley.

Senior ISIS leaders have also departed Mosul into the same valley region, which straddles both sides of the border, according to U.S. officials.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard/Released(NEW YORK) — A pilot from the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier safely ejected from a fighter jet, according to a statement from the Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.

The pilot was quickly recovered by a helicopter and is being assessed by the medical team on board the carrier. There are no injuries at this time, the statement said.

The pilot ejected from his F/A-18E Super Hornet as it was on its final approach to land on the USS Carl Vinson. The Navy said the plane had been conducting "routine flight operations during a transit in the Celebes Sea." The body of water is north of Indonesia and south of the Philippines.

The statement did not detail what caused the pilot to eject or when the ejection occurred.

The USS Carl Vinson recently gained international attention for its location, after President Trump recently said that the U.S. was sending an "armada" toward North Korea.

The U.S. Pacific Command had issued a statement that Admiral Harry Harris had "directed the Carl Vinson Strike Group to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific Ocean after departing Singapore April 8."

The statement said that the Vinson would head north "rather than executing previously planned port visits to Australia."

It made no mention of the Sea of Japan or North Korea, though a U.S. official told ABC News that the intended redirection of the Vincent was to the Sea of Japan east of the Korean Peninsula.

Later, Trump administration officials framed the Vinson's movement to the Korean Peninsula as a reaction to military provocations by North Korea.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was asked why the Vinson strike group was moving to the Korean Peninsula during an interview with Fox News on April 9.

"Well, it's prudent to do it, isn't it?" McMaster said. "I mean, North Korea has been engaged in a pattern of provocative behavior.

Three days later, in an interview with Fox Business Network, President Trump said the United States was "sending an armada" after a question about North Korea.

But the Vinson was not immediately headed north. It was actually headed south from Singapore to participate in a four-day military exercise with the Australian Navy that ended Tuesday. The carrier group is not expected in the Sea of Japan until the end of the month.

The White House was forced to clarify the series of confusing and possibly misleading statements about the carrier's location.

"Well, I mean I — PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] put out a release talking about the group ultimately ending up in the Korean peninsula. That's what it will do," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said at Wednesday's press briefing.

When asked whether the president may have spoken too quickly on the ship’s whereabouts before it actually headed north, Spicer replied, "The president said we'd have an armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact. It happened. It is happening, rather."

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Samir Hussein/WireImage(LONDON) -- Prince William, Duchess Kate and Prince Harry have released a candid new video for their Heads Together mental health campaign discussing some of the most personal issues they have faced, including parenting and coping with Princess Diana's death.

Kate, 35, and William, 34, the parents of Princess Charlotte and Prince George, opened up about the profound effects of becoming parents and the challenges they faced in the first few weeks after George was born in 2013.

Watch The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry in conversation on mental health for @heads_together #oktosay pic.twitter.com/417gqyqzk0

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 21, 2017


"Having a child, particularly your first child, is a life-changing moment, nothing can really prepare you for that," Kate said. "Remember the first few days with little George. You have no idea what you're doing. No matter how many books you read, nothing can prepare you for it."

William agreed saying, "There's no rule book. There's no training that teaches you how to do it. You just learn from previous generations and hope that you can translate into what you want to do."

William and Kate spoke movingly about how overwhelmed they were despite the support they received from family in the immediate aftermath of George's birth.

"Do you remember up in Anglesey, we'd had our couple weeks of family support and then you were keen to get back to work, and I was, 'Yeah, I'll come with you of course,' so we scooted off back to Anglesey with George. Those first few weeks were a steep learning curve," Kate recalled.

"A steep learning curve massively," William concurred. "When you have children it puts your own emotions and own life into perspective massively."

William, Kate and Harry, 32, also spoke poignantly, and for the first time on camera as a group, about the 1997 death of William and Harry's mother, Princess Diana, and how her death shaped their lives.

"Considering everything that you boys sadly went though and the trauma you experienced ... I do think it's incredible how strong and how you've been able to cope really," Kate said to her husband and brother-in-law. "And I put that down to your really early years and your childhood experience, but also the relations you've got."

Kate added, "You're amazingly close," to which William replied, "Most of the time," as he and Harry laughed.

Kate told William and Harry that despite the tragedy, the support they've given each other was a blessing in dealing with their own grief.

"Some families aren't as lucky as you guys have been and being able to share things," she said.

"We have been brought closer because of the circumstances as well, that's the thing," William agreed. "You are, you know, uniquely blinded because of what we've been through but even Harry and I over the years have not talked enough about our mother."

Harry agreed with his brother, saying, "No never enough."

Harry, who was 12 when Diana died, revealed earlier this week that he sought counseling two decades after his mother's death. Harry said he sought help at the advice of William after largely trying to ignore Diana's death because it was too painful.

"I always thought to myself, what's the point of bringing up the past? What's the point if bringing up something that's only going to make you sad," Harry said to William and Kate in the new video. "It ain't going to change it. It ain't going to bring her back. And when you start thinking like that it can be really damaging. And you always said to me, 'You've got to sit down and think about those memories.'"

He continued, "But for me I was like I don't want to think about it."

The conversation between William, Kate and Harry also covers topics including the emotional changes new parents go through, the stresses of modern childhood and dealing with trauma in the workplace. The video was shot at Kensington Palace on the afternoon of April 19.

The royal trio are looking ahead to this weekend's 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon, in which a team of more than 700 runners are running on behalf of Heads Together.

All 39,000 @LondonMarathon runners will be given a @Heads_Together headband to join #TeamHeadsTogether and end the stigma on Mental Health pic.twitter.com/kAFCcayvXG

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 10, 2017


William and Kate acknowledged in the video it was Kate's idea to make mental health a priority of their charity work.

Kensington Palace said in a statement William, Kate and Harry made a decision to "shine a spotlight on the power of conversations, both to shatter stigma on mental health and to help people get the help they need."

"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have been overwhelmed by the response to the Heads Together campaign. We are in the middle of a truly national conversation on mental health," a Kensington Palace spokesman said. "They are incredibly grateful to everyone who has shared their stories in recent weeks. And having asked others to start conversations on mental health with their friends and families, they wanted to show that they are taking part as well."

Speaking of the new video, the spokesman said, "They hope the film shows how positive a conversation on mental health can be."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As photographer Jacques de Lannoy stood on an empty beach last year in Okinawa, Japan, he almost failed to notice a heap of plastic bottles that had washed up on the shore.

"Discarded plastic has become such a common sight on Asia’s beaches that the absence of it would have been noteworthy," de Lannoy said in a statement.

The Tokyo-based photographer recently traveled to India where the issue of plastic pollution is especially dire. There, de Lannoy snapped shocking images of piles of plastic garbage swallowing the South Asian country's landscape, waterways and coastlines.

Lightweight, malleable, versatile, durable and affordable, plastic is becoming the defining material of the modern world.

"Plastics offer the dream of a perfect, convenient, shrink-wrapped world," he said. "But that dream quickly turns into a nightmare in a one-use, throw-away consumption system."

 According to a 2016 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation titled "The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics," just 14 percent of plastic products are recycled globally. The buildup of plastic waste in the environment is particularly visible in developing nations like India, where de Lannoy said plastic pollution has become a "cumulative nightmare."

Burning plastic is not a viable option, so the lion's share of plastic waste ends up in landfills or is simply tossed as litter.

"The developing world, in particular, has been completely overwhelmed by the challenge of managing plastic waste, especially when the plastic bag of a generation or two ago would have been a banana leaf and the PET bottle a bamboo vessel that would harmlessly degrade back to the soil –- not so with plastics," said de Lannoy, whose work largely focuses on human rights, the environment and culture.

 As much as 28 billion pounds of plastic enters the planet's ocean every year and, in the next decade, that figure could double, according to Ocean Conservancy.

Asia accounts for 82 percent of the total leakage of plastic into the ocean, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report.

"When it comes to the sea, the consequences are even more dire," de Lannoy said. "For the most part, plastic does not degrade but simply breaks into smaller and smaller pieces until it creates a toxic soup in the water that is ingested by sea birds, fish and predators that eat fish, including us."

In light of Earth Day on Saturday, de Lannoy said he hopes his latest photography project will spur serious discussions about plastic pollution in developing nations that will lead to finding solutions and taking action.

"This photo essay examines the dream versus the nightmare of plastics and managing the waste," he said. "I hope this series will generate a conversation about the need to upscale recycling efforts in the developing world by considering what happens to all that plastic after we use it if the plastic waste is not properly managed."

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Givaga/iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on police officers on the Champs-Élysées in Paris Thursday evening that left one officer dead and two others wounded.

The terrorist group released a message through its news agency Amaq saying that the attacker was "one of the fighters for the Islamic State."

The assailant was killed but has not been publicly identified, a police spokesperson said.

French President François Hollande said that one bystander was injured during a shootout between police and the attacker and that the leads so far indicated the attack was of a "terrorist nature."

French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henri Brandet said during a press briefing that a man exited his car and started a shooting at a police car with an automatic weapon around 9 p.m. The attacker continued shooting at police as he attempted to flee the scene and was killed by police in an exchange of gunfire, Brandet said.

A terrorism investigation into the attack had been opened, the Paris prosecutor's office said.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that Parisians would not not give in to the threat of terrorism.

"Faced with this ordeal, I know that the determination of Parisians to defend their way of life and their values is complete," Hidalgo wrote on Twitter hours after the attack.

Paris police posted tweets earlier in the evening telling people the area around the Avenue des Champs-Élysées was on lockdown and that a police operation was underway.

 The U.S. State Department's bureau of consular affairs warned its Twitter followers to avoid the area "after a shooting."

The Champs-Élysées is an iconic boulevard popular with tourists and Parisians alike that has theaters, shops, restaurants and, at one end, the Arc de Triomphe.

 President Donald Trump shared "our condolences" with the people of France during a news conference with the Italian prime minister, who was at the White House Thursday.

"It's a very terrible thing that's going on in the world today," Trump said, adding that he thought it was "another terrorist attack," though that had not been confirmed at the time.

"What can you say? It just never ends. We have to be strong, we have to be vigilant," he said.

And while in Indonesia Friday morning, Vice President Mike Pence said of the attack, "It’s just the latest reminder that terrorism can strike anywhere at any time -– something the people of Indonesia and the United States know all too well. As President Trump said yesterday, in the face of this great evil, and I quote, 'we have to be strong. And we have to be vigilant.'"

Pence added, "Today, the people of Paris have our condolences and our prayers. The people of France are in our hearts. And the people of Indonesia can be confident in the wake of this latest attack, we will not relent in our effort to end terrorism and the threat it present to both of our people, and I pledge to your our continued cooperation against terrorism in the uncertain days in which we live."

The incident comes as France heads into a presidential election to be held on Sunday. Several of the major candidates cancelled their scheduled campaign stops for Friday, French daily Le Figaro reported.

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Bruce Glikas/Getty Images(PARIS) -- Former U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, but “an endorsement was not the purpose of the call,” Obama’s spokesman said in a statement.

However, “President Obama remains deeply committed” to France “as a close ally of the United States and as a leader on behalf of liberal values in Europe and around the world,” Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said.

The French will go to the polls on Sunday for a first-round vote that could be as consequential as the U.K.’s Brexit vote and the election of President Donald Trump.

Lewis said that Obama would not be “making any formal endorsement” before the vote.

A spokesperson for Macron confirmed the call, saying, “Obama talked about his strong links with France and the importance of the ties between the two countries.”

“They also discussed about the future of Europe and the progressive values that they both share,” Macron’s spokesperson said.

Sunday’s vote will see Macron up against 10 other candidates, some with populist, anti-establishment leanings.

Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are widely seen as front-runners, according to European media reports, and the race is considered very competitive.

Macron, 39, is a former banker who served as his country’s economy minister until 2016.

Le Pen, 48, is a lawyer by training and took leadership of her National Front party from her father in 2011. She is currently a member of the European Parliament.

Le Pen has promised to "put France back in order" by holding a referendum on EU membership, restricting immigration, increasing border controls and giving French citizens a "national priority" for jobs by taxing businesses that hire foreign workers.

If no one among the 11 candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote, then the top two vote getters will compete in a runoff on May 7.

Analysts say a runoff vote will likely take place.

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Baloncici/iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Princess Kate revealed on Thursday that she, like other parents, has struggled with loneliness during motherhood.

The heartfelt confession was made by Kate, the mother of 3-year-old Prince George and nearly 2-year-old Princess Charlotte, at the opening of a London school that incorporates mental health into its curriculum.

"It is lonely at times and you do feel quite isolated but actually so many other mothers are going through exactly what you are going through," Kate, 35, told two young mothers who started an app as a meeting place for young moms navigating parenthood. “It is being brave enough, like you obviously were, to reach out to those around you."

Kate, who attended the school opening with Prince William and Prince Harry, encouraged students and parents to use the support network around them because many parents are facing the same, often overwhelming issues. She also told parents that mental health awareness should begin at an early age.

The Duchess joins @TheGAcademy students producing a radio show on the theme of #MentalHealth pic.twitter.com/qtHZMjB4i5

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 20, 2017

"Start these conversations from a much earlier age but through play, even if their language hasn’t yet developed," Kate said.

William, Kate and Harry spent the morning discussing mental health at the Global Academy school in Hayes, near London, which also focuses on teaching students skills in the media industry. The royal trio has spent the last week in a high-profile, coordinated campaign encouraging people to open up about mental health.

TRH discuss with @TheGAcademy students and @NickFerrariLBC @JamieTheakston @EmmaBunton @romankemp the importance of talking #MentalHealth pic.twitter.com/yhy7HnFVZ9

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 20, 2017

Harry, 32, revealed that he had to seek counseling and nearly had a breakdown after struggling for years to cope with the tragic death of his mother, Princess Diana, in 1997.

"And then [I] started to have a few conversations and actually all of a sudden, all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the forefront and I was like, there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with,” Harry told the U.K. Telegraph's Bryon Gordon about asking for help.

William recently disclosed that he too is still recovering from the shocking death of his mother. He also spoke of how he and Kate are raising their two young children.

"Catherine and I are clear that we want both George and Charlotte to grow up feeling able to talk about their emotions and feelings," Prince William said in an interview with Calmzine magazine.

William, Kate and Harry founded the Heads Together campaign to prioritize mental health and end the taboo and stigma around seeking help for mental health issues. Their year-long campaign culminates this weekend at the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon in which a team of more than 700 runners are participating to raise mental health awareness.

All 39,000 @LondonMarathon runners will be given a @Heads_Together headband to join #TeamHeadsTogether and end the stigma on Mental Health pic.twitter.com/kAFCcayvXG

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 10, 2017

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