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Video Appears to Show ISIS Execution of Second American Steven Sotloff


Obtained by ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A new video appears to show the execution of Steven Sotloff, the second American killed by a self-professed member of the Islamist terror group ISIS.

In the video, which appeared online Tuesday, Sotloff addresses the camera, saying, “I’m sure you know exactly who I am by now and why I am appearing.”

“Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq was supposed to be for preservation of American lives and interests, so why is it that I am paying the price of your interference with my life,” Sotloff says calmly as the black clad militant holds a knife casually at his side.

The video then cuts to the militant who makes a statement saying that as long as U.S. missiles “continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”

Sotloff was seen last month in a very similar video that appeared to show the execution of American journalist James Foley.


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US Airstrike in Somalia Targeted Al Shabaab’s Top Leader


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A United States military airstrike in Somalia on Monday targeted Ahmed Abdi Godane, the head of the militant group al Shabaab, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.

An assessment to determine if Godane was killed in the airstrike is ongoing. If confirmed, Godane’s death would be a significant jolt to the Somali militant group affiliated with al Qaeda that took credit for last year’s deadly attack at a Kenyan mall that killed at least 67 civilians.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that a mix of unmanned and manned aircraft fired Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs at an encampment in south central Somalia where it was believed that Godane was located.

Kirby said the airstrike occurred at 11:20 a.m. EDT (6:20 p.m. local time) and was based on “actionable intelligence” that led to the targeting of the encampment and a specific vehicle at the encampment.

“This operation was a direct strike against the Al-Shabaab network, specifically the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi al-Muhammad, also known Ahmed Godane,” said Kirby. “We are still assessing the results of the operation, and we’ll provide additional information when and if appropriate.”

Kirby said that if it is confirmed that Godane was killed in the airstrike it would be “a very significant blow to their network, to their organization, and, we believe, to their ability to continue to conduct terrorist attacks.”

A senior African counter-terrorism official told ABC News that Godane was targeted during a meeting of senior al Shabaab commanders outside of the coastal city of Barawe.  The official said the U.S. airstrike was carried out in conjunction with an offensive by African Union and Somali government forces operating in the area.

The Pentagon spokesman said the mission was conducted by a special operations unit that he would not identify.  Presumably he was referring to Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) which has conducted previous missions inside Somalia targeting targeted the leadership of the militant group.  The military command flies armed Predator drone missions over Somalia from neighboring Djibouti.

Kirby was emphatic that no American military forces were on the ground to assist with the airstrikes.   However, he did not respond directly when asked if other ground forces may have helped provide laser guidance for some of the munitions dropped on the encampment.

“All I would tell you is that we continue to work with partners in Somalia and the region but I won’t get any more specific than that,” said Kirby.

The U.S. did not have a regular military presence inside Somalia in the years since the deadly 1993 attack that became known as “Blackhawk Down.”  But earlier this year a Pentagon official confirmed that beginning in 2007 small U.S. military teams  worked with Somali government forces and the African Union forces known as AMISOM.  Since then the number of US military personnel has grown to about 120 as AMISOM’s security needs have grown.

Since 2011 the U.S. has given over $1.5 billion to the African Union and Somali government troops fighting al Shabaab.

While the terror group remains dangerous and has launched several high-profile attacks, most notably last year’s Westgate Mall attack, al Shabaab has been weakened tremendously over the last two years.

Once in control of the Somali capital of Mogadishu and most of southern and central Somalia al Shabaab now only controls the area surrounding the coastal city of Barawe which is where the US has conducted much of its recent military missions targeting the group.

Last October Navy SEALS aborted an attempt to capture a high-ranking al Shabaab official at a seaside villa in Barawe after they encountered heavy resistance.

In January a U.S. missile strike killed a top al Shabaab commander said to be close to Godane.

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Syrian Refugee Children Forced to Work


12-year-old Rami is from Syria. He and his parents fled when he was in 6th grade. He has missed nearly two years of school. He hopes to go back home and back to school one day. (Christine Romo/ABC News)(NEW YORK) -- At 6 a.m., just three short miles from the Syrian border, Hadija, 10, is awakened.

She gets dressed and within minutes, she walks hand in hand with her friend. No school bus is waiting though. There is instead a truck, with children spilling over. They are not going to school either today -- they are headed to the fields.

An urgent crisis is taking place halfway around the world, according to UNICEF and Beyond Association, a local organization that works with UNICEF to get refugee children access to schools.

According to UNICEF, there are nearly 600,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and at least 300,000 of those children do not attend school.

The children of onetime teachers, government workers and engineers in Syria are now forced to work. Their families have run from the Islamic militant army of ISIS and other terror. The children -- possibly as many as 300,000 of them -- work because farmers can pay them much less than what they'd have to pay an adult.

It is the new normal for the children here, just over the border from Syria in Lebanon.

The children ride 20 minutes on the truck. Farmers, with idle tractors, await them. The boys make more money than the girls because the farmers say they are stronger.

Rather than attend school, many of them work in the fields, filling sacks with potatoes. For many, they are the sole breadwinners for their families.

They spend seven hours a day filling the bags. And it's not just the fields. Children work in factories, even auto repair shops.

Rami left his sixth-grade class in Syria, where his mother was a teacher. Now he works behind a desk in the back of a garage, fixing tires.

He tells ABC News that he misses "everything."

Even at night, the children work. Mohammed, 8, sells flowers on the side of a busy street. His sister stands across the way selling as well.

Nour, a Syrian refugee selling tissues to passers-by, says her mother died in Syria.

Many of the children, without parents and paperwork, get picked up by the police. Some of them are then brought to Home of Hope, a shelter for abandoned street children in Beirut and the only one of its kind in the entire country. Home of Hope's Sahar Tabaroni said she had 71 children, with some as young as two and a half years old and some without parents.

Many of them crossed the Syrian border with their parents but were then separated from them.

"We don't even know who some of these children are," Tabaroni said. "We just go by the name they tell us. ... Some of them think they know a phone number and then can and call. And there's no answer. And that's the most devastating thing for a child."

Brother and sister Ahmed and Houda say they remember their parents as well as their home. Back then, they were allowed to play outside twice a week. The neighbors complained about the noise.

After seven hours of hard labor, though, some of the children leave the fields for a school run by UNICEF and Beyond Association.

"They come running here," said UNICEF's Sarah Shouman. "They'll be so exhausted. They're so excited. So you're trying to save at least part of their childhood."

When school ends, they return to the tents where they began their day.

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Violence Erupting in Pakistan: What You Need to Know


iStock/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) -- Two months of slow-burning protests and rallies against Pakistan’s ruling party finally erupted in violence last weekend in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, a normally quiet city with a heavy security presence.

Near midnight on Saturday, anti-government demonstrators rammed their way through the gates of the Parliament House using crude tools and a truck. They were met with tear gas, rubber bullets and baton-wielding riot police. More than 500 people were injured that first night, including dozens of police officers. At least three protesters died, according to authorities.

Now, the ruling party and the demonstrators, led by a sports legend and a firebrand cleric, respectively, are at a stand-off, with concerns over a possible intervention by Pakistan’s military lingering in the background as the situation deteriorates.

The roots of the crisis began in May 2013, when Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) party (PML-N) took over from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Pakistan’s first-ever democratic transition of power. But the victory of Sharif was met with allegations of voter fraud and rigging by opposition leader Imran Khan, a former cricket superstar and chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the losing party in those elections.

Little external evidence backs up his claims of a rigged vote, but Khan tapped into a deep well of popular resentment against the establishment politics of Sharif’s PML-N. Sharif served two prior stints as prime minister in the 1990s before being ousted in a 1999 military coup, and many in the country were dissatisfied with his return to power almost 15 years later. Khan began calling publicly for Sharif’s resignation earlier this year, calling for Pakistanis to protest against the PML-N government and threatening a "tsunami" of popular demonstrations if Sharif did not step down.

Soon, Khan had an ally: a charismatic populist cleric named Tahir-ul-Qadri, who, after spending the last decade in Canada, arrived in Pakistan in June preaching revolution. Qadri, a Sufi Muslim scholar known for his firebrand speeches and fatwas rejecting terrorism, renewed his opposition to Sharif’s government after police opened fire on demonstrators from his Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) in June, killing 14, including several women. After that incident, Qadri began calling for a complete clear-out of the current government and the installation of a new political system.

Khan and Qadri’s convergence was once extremely unlikely -- PTI spokesperson Shireen Mazari once accused Qadri of being an American agent -- but a common enemy has brought their considerable camps together. Tens of thousands of protesters -- as many as 30,000 by some accounts -- were in the streets of Islamabad demanding that Prime Minister Sharif resign from office.

In a nation of 196 million people, though, even 30,000 is a relatively small number. Sharif’s government and many analysts claim that Qadri and Khan’s demands are unconstitutional, having gone through no legal channels. Worse still, critics say, such a resignation could establish a troubling precedent for future leaders: if 30,000 passionate demonstrators can topple a democratically elected official, they ask, what will happen the next time a leader encounters resistance?

Parliament, which is firmly under the control of Sharif’s ruling PML-N party, recently reiterated its support for his government in the face of so-called "anti-democratic" demands, and the judiciary has also dismissed Qadri and Khan’s protests as undemocratic.

Finally, the entire situation is complicated by the hand of the Pakistan Army, Sharif's former (and perhaps future) bogeyman. Historically, Pakistani politics has been constantly framed by a rivalry between the military and civilian government for ultimate power in the nation, including its nuclear arsenal, and the military has taken control of the government on three different occasions in Pakistan’s history, most recently in 1999 when Gen. Pervez Musharraf ousted Sharif in a coup.

Many observers suspect military involvement in the convergence of Khan and Qadri’s camps, especially after Army Chief Raheel Sharif told the prime minister to negotiate with the protesters and not use force. Recent comments by former PTI president and ex-Khan ally Javed Hashmi added fuel to those speculations, as Hashmi accused Khan of plotting with the Army to remove Prime Minister Sharif. Khan has vehemently denied those accusations, and the Army has continued to state that it is neutral in the conflict.

So the stand-off, which has carried on over weeks of fiery rhetoric from Khan and Qadri’s camps and stubborn rejection by Sharif’s government, came to a head Saturday night. Protesters for PTI and PAT steadily streamed into the streets of Islamabad, camping out in front of the Parliament House and the prime minister’s residence. When protesters used a truck to force their way onto the Parliament grounds, they clashed violently with police tasked with the defense of government buildings.

Clashes and protests continued into Monday, when hundreds of protesters forced the state broadcaster off-air after storming their studios. Sharif convened a joint session of Parliament today to address the crisis.

Now, the nation waits as opposition politicians meet with Khan and Qadri to negotiate an end to the demonstrations. But each additional day of conflict takes the country closer to the threat of a military takeover in the event of destabilization. And even if the military does not execute a full takeover as it did in 1999, it may seek greater control of the country's foreign affairs at the expense of the civilian government's authority.

That civilian-military rivalry, which has colored much of Pakistan’s history and its relationship with the United States, may be entering a new chapter.

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How You Can Help: Syrian Refugee Children


Christine Romo/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- According to the International Labour Organization, there are an estimated 180,000 to 300,000 child workers in Lebanon, many of them Syrian refugees.

Child labor is illegal in Lebanon but Syrian refugee children can be found everywhere, from agricultural fields to urban streets, selling everything from chewing gum to flowers and tissues.

These children, some as young as 7, and their families fled the conflict in Syria.

Many of the children are from middle class families and were in school in Syria but now they are the ones supporting their families. They wake up at 6 a.m., board a truck and head to the fields to spend hours doing back-breaking work.

UNICEF and Beyond Association work together to give the kids some schooling after their fieldwork and before they return to tents and their families.

Below is information on how to help:

UNICEF:
To donate on the web: www.unicefusa.org/syria
To donate by text: Text SYRIA to 864233 to donate $10.
$15 can buy pencils and notebooks for an entire classroom.
$4 can buy a text book for a child.
$4 can buy a story book for a child.

Beyond Association:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/122371180173/#_=_

Save the Children:
http://www.savethechildren.org/syria

 

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Amnesty International Accuses ISIS of Ethnic Cleansing


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Amnesty International is accusing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria of "a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing" in Iraq.

According to a briefing published on Tuesday, dozens of men and boys were rounded up and massacred on the outskirts of villages, and "hundreds, possibly thousands" of women and children have been abducted since ISIS militants took control of northern Iraq.

Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Adviser Donatella Rovera said that ISIS' actions "provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq."

During August, Amnesty International says it found evidence of "several" mass killings. These killings, along with numerous abductions "have succeeded in terrorizing the entire population...leading thousands to flee in fear for their lives," said the Amnesty International post.

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US Marine Corps Helicopter Crashes in Gulf of Aden


U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Estrada/Released(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Marine Corps helicopter crashed into the water in the Gulf of Aden on Monday as it attempted to land aboard the U.S.S. Mesa Verde.

According to the U.S. Navy, all 25 people on board the helicopter, including 17 Marines and eight Navy sailors were safely pulled from the water. Some of the individuals suffered minor injuries and were treated aboard the U.S.S Mesa Verde.

The Navy noted that the crash was not the result of "hostile activity."

A joint investigation into the crash will be launched by the Navy and the Marine Corps.

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Israel to Seize Nearly 1,000 Acres of West Bank Land, UN Secretary General 'Alarmed'


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- United Nations Secretary General Bank Ki-moon on Monday said that he was "alarmed" by an announcement that Israel intended to declare nearly 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank "state land."

Ban suggested that seizing such a large area of land "risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which -- as the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions -- is illegal under intentional law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution. The land seizure is believed to be the largest in 30 years, BBC News notes.

The land, which Palestinians claim as their own, is expected to be used to expand a small Israeli settlement. The U.S. State Department called the move "unproductive" in regards to the pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

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US Military Conducted Operation Against Terrorist Group in Somalia


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon confirmed Monday night that military forces had engaged in an operation in Somalia against the al-Shabaab terror network.

Pentagon spokesperson Rear Adm. John Kirby confirmed the operation, but did not provide many specific details. Kirby said that the U.S. was still "assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate."

BBC News reports that the American operation came shortly after al-Shabaab militants allegedly attacked a Mogadishu detention center, hoping to free detained militants.

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Western Governments Step Up Efforts to Block ISIS Recruits


Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Alarmed by the attempt by a 16-year-old French girl to travel to Turkey this weekend allegedly to join the Islamic militant army of ISIS, the French government is urging parents to call a toll-free hotline if they know of anyone they believe may be considering joining the terror group.

It was the latest attempt by Western governments to prevent their citizens from joining the jihadist group where they could be trained in terror tactics and bring those lethal strategies back home.

The French teenager was arrested Saturday in the Nice airport in the south of France as she tried to board a plane to Turkey with the alleged intention of joining ISIS in Syria. Authorities announced that several hours later, they caught a 20-year-old man who had allegedly recruited her and paid for her plane ticket. The girl's parents reportedly had no idea about their daughter's plans and the statement said that airport police were responsible for her arrest.

In a statement released Sunday, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on the parents of young people to use the hotline if their children exhibit "a disturbing trend of violent radicalization."

The hotline was established just over four months ago -- well before the threat posed by ISIS was fully understood by the American public -- and the Interior Ministry reports they have received almost 300 calls. A quarter of those calls were about children who were suspected of getting involved with the terrorist group and 45% were about suspicious women and girls. It is unclear how many of those calls led to arrests.

France is the Western country with the most citizens who have joined ISIS and militant fighters in Syria and Iraq. An estimated 700 French citizens have joined the cause, followed by 500 citizens of the United Kingdom who have come under similar suspicion.

Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at Parliament Monday calling for greater anti-terror legislation, including giving police the ability to seize passports at airports. He said that the measures will help address "specific gaps in our armory."

The proposed changes come three days after the British government increased their national terror threat level from "substantial" to "severe" for the first time in three years. The "severe" threat level is the second highest in the U.K.'s threat level system, topped only by "critical" which is used to indicate that an attack is "expected imminently."

U.S. security forces took a different approach when they realized there was a 19-year-old woman in Denver who was planning on traveling to Turkey to join a jihadist group after connecting with a 32-year-old Tunisian man.

The woman, Shannon Maureen Conley, had eight interviews with police and FBI agents over the course of the six months leading up to her arrest at Denver’s international airport on April 8 – and the charging document reveals that she repeatedly spoke about her support of jihad and how she wanted to associate with terrorists in the hope of helping them. The Justice Department confirmed on Aug. 11 that a plea deal had been reached in the case but they did not release any information about what the deal entailed.

The British push to have police take passports away from suspected jihadist fighters comes nearly two months after the Australian government began doing so.

"I've canceled a number of passports on the advice of intelligence agencies," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said June 16.

An estimated 150 Australians are believed to have joined the fighting in Syria.

"We are concerned that Australians are working with them [ISIS], becoming radicalized, learning the terrorist trade, and if they come back to Australia, of course it poses a security threat," Bishop said.

American authorities have not announced specific steps they have taken to prevent citizens from joining ISIS or other Islamic groups, though they have reported an estimated 100 or so cases of U.S. citizens leaving the country to train and fight with ISIS. Special attention is being paid to Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota as nearly a dozen of the suspects have ties to the city.

The White House confirmed the death in Syria of Minnesotan Douglas McAuthur McCain, who records show was born in Chicago but was schooled in Minneapolis. An opposition group in Syria, the Free Syrian Army, claimed McCain was fighting with ISIS. The FSA also claimed another American ISIS member had been killed in recent fighting.

FBI officers have been aware of disaffected Muslim youths traveling abroad to join radical groups for years, as many Minnesotans went to fight in Somalia starting in 2007.

"In Somalia, it started as a nationalistic call… [but] we've now seen where some individuals perhaps are not interested or not inclined to travel to Somalia, [they] start to branch out to other hot spots around the globe, obviously Syria being among them," Kyle Loven, the FBI's Chief Division Counsel in Minneapolis, told ABC News.

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Ukraine Town Digs WWI-Style Trenches To Fend Off Rebels


iStock/Thinkstock(KIEV, Ukraine) -- A network of trenches dug by Ukrainian volunteers is all that stands between the city of Mariupol and pro-Russian rebel forces who have taken over a nearby town.

The elementary trenches look eerily similar to those most recently used in World War I.

The trenches were dug largely by volunteers and concerned citizens rather than the Ukrainian military, with concrete and sand bags helping to keep the underground barriers intact.

Tanks and soldiers from the Russia-backed insurgents have not yet made it to Mariupol, but residents fear that they are next since their port city is the next major town from Novoazovsk which was seized by the rebel forces last week.

Seizing the port city would give the pro-Russian forces - and consequently Russian access - to land route between Russia and Crimea, the oil-rich peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine earlier this year.

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Prince William and Kate Spotted in London Train Station


Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge appeared just like any other young parents returning home after a quick country trip away as they rushed through one of London's busiest train stations Friday.

William and Kate, both 32, caused a few double-takes as fellow travelers spotted them beneath the baseball caps they each paired with casual clothes while carrying their own bags through the rush-hour crowd at London’s Kings Cross station.

The Duke and Duchess were spotted traveling with their beloved dog, Lupo, but without their 1-year-old son, Prince George.

"It doesn't surprise me at all," said ABC News' royal contributor, Victoria Murphy, of the high-profile couple's low-profile means of travel. "I think that they are very keen to do things in the most efficient way and also in the most cost-effective way and I think that they want as little fuss as possible."

"They think like other people: What's the best way to get from A to B," Murphy said.

The royal couple was believed to be traveling home from Norfolk, the site of their country home, Anmer Hall, where they will be living when Prince William begins his new job as an ambulance helicopter pilot.

William and Kate were also spotted out together on a date night during their time away. The royals were reportedly seen walking hand-in-hand into a local pub that Prince William had driven his wife to himself.

Kate has reportedly been busy decorating Anmer Hall, a gift from the queen for William's 30th birthday, to make it a home fit for two future kings. The 10-bedroom mansion is based on the queen's 20,000-acre private Sandringham estate in Norfolk, close to the East Anglian Air Ambulance service, where Prince William will work.

The home is in the final stages of a two-year renovation, including a large conservatory for the family. It already includes a pool and tennis court and renovations are said to have reportedly added accommodations for protection officers and Prince George's nanny.

Prince William will begin a five-month training period for his Air Transport Pilot's license this month, the palace has said.


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Monday Marks Dark Anniversary in Russia


Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Monday marks one of the darkest anniversaries in Russia's recent history.

Ten years ago, on Sept. 1, 2004, a group of 32 pro-Chechen gunmen burst into School Number 1 in Beslan in the southern Russian republic of North Ossetia. They stormed the school during the "first bell" celebration marking the beginning of the school year.

More than 1,000 people – children and adults – were held hostage for three days: 334 of them were killed, most dying in a bloody gun battle when Russian special forces stormed the school gymnasium where the hostages were being kept, which the militants had littered with mines and bombs. More than 800 hostages were injured.

The hostage crisis in Beslan and the bungled rescue was a defining moment in Putin's war in southern Russia. The sole gunman who survived was jailed but spared the death penalty.

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US Launches Air Strikes, Drops Humanitarian Aid in Iraq


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States launched more airstrikes Saturday targeting ISIS militants.

Reportedly Australia, France, and the United Kingdom assisted the U.S. in delivering the international aid by dropping food and water to thousands who've been cut off by ISIS in the beleaguered Iraqi town of Amirli.

The Pentagon is saying that these strikes are specifically in support of the humanitarian mission and they will be limited in both there scope and duration.

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Sunday Marks 17 Years Since Princess Diana's Death


Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Sunday marks 17 years since Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris.

Princess Diana initially survived the Aug. 31, 1997, limousine crash, but later died from her injuries. Egyptian film producer Dodi Al-Fayed and the driver were also killed. A bodyguard was seriously injured.

French authorities investigating the crash found the driver had a high level of alcohol in his system when the crash happened. The paparazzi trailing Princess Diana was also scrutinized.

Thousands turned up for her funeral, held at Westminster Abbey.

Born Lady Diana Spencer, she became the Princess of Wales when she married Prince Charles in 1981. They had two children - Princes William and Harry - before they divorced in 1996.

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