Review Category : World News

Son of Cecil the Lion killed outside Zimbabwe national park

miroslav_1/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The son of the now-famous Cecil the Lion was killed near a Zimbabwe national park earlier this month, the New York Times reports.

The lion, named Xanda, was shot just outside of Hwange National Park on July 7, the Times reports. That information coming from Andrew Loveridge, a researcher at Oxford University who studied both Xanda and his father.

Xanda was a six-year-old lion, and was wearing an electronic collar at the time of his death in an effort to monitor his movements.

Xanda’s death was first reported by The Telegraph, which said that the hunt was led by Richard Cooke of the company RC Safaris.

Cecil was killed at the age of 13 by American dentist Dr. Walter Palmer in 2015. Palmer received threats and harassment in the wake of the report that he had killed Cecil.

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President Trump says ISIS ‘falling fast’ ahead of meeting at Pentagon

icholakov/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that “ISIS is falling fast.”

As he and Vice President Mike Pence arrived at the Pentagon for an update on the fight against ISIS, Trump was asked whether more troops would be sent to Afghanistan.

“We’re going to see, and we’re doing very well against ISIS,” the president said. “ISIS is falling fast, very fast.”

Following the meeting, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Dana White gathered the press for a readout of the meeting. President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of Defense James Mattis were in attendance, as were other members of the Trump cabinet including Rex Tillerson, Steven Mnuchin, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and Gen. Paul Selva.

White said that the meeting “was never meant to be a decision meeting,” that rather it was called to discuss “where we are, where we’re going.”

When pressed on any changes in the South Asia Strategy — formerly known as the Afghanistan strategy — White said that no decisions are expected this week.

As for the content of the meeting, White said that “they kind of covered the planet, what are the opportunities, what are the challenges…there was a lot of talk about economic, ways to influence trade.”

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Burundi robotics team missing after competition in Washington, DC

D.C. Metropolitan Police Department(WASHINGTON) — Six students from the small African country of Burundi went missing this week after participating in an international student robotics competition in Washington, D.C.

The team, consisting of two 17-year-old girls and four boys, aged 16 to 18, was reported missing after the competition’s closing ceremony in Washington on Tuesday night. They were last seen in the area of the D.A.R. Constitution Hall near the White House.

Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department reported on Thursday that two of the teens had crossed the border safely into Canada. It’s unclear how and when the students got there, what they were doing there, and where the other students are, according to police.

There is no indication of foul play in the disappearances, police added in the statement.

Canadian authorities could not confirm the entry of the two Burundian teens, telling ABC News, “It is not a practice of the Canada Border Services Agency to confirm and/or deny the entry of any one person to Canada.”

The robotics competition grabbed headlines worldwide after an all-girl team from Afghanistan was twice denied U.S. visas to compete, but the White House later intervened in a last-minute act, granting that team and its chaperone a special parole to enter the country on a short-term basis.

The president of FIRST Global, the organization that runs the competition, made the initial call to the police about the missing team and has been assisting authorities, according to the group.

“Security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST Global,” they said in a statement, adding that students are “always to be under close supervision of their adult mentor and are advised not to leave the premises unaccompanied by the mentor.”

The Burundian embassy in Washington did not answer multiple phone calls or respond to an email from ABC News.

Burundi is a small, landlocked country in Africa’s Great Lakes region, bordering Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The State Department issued a travel warning on June 23 for the country, noting, “The political situation in Burundi is tenuous, and there is sporadic violence throughout the country” after President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for and won a controversial third term in 2015.

In the aftermath of that election, state security forces have conducted numerous killings, disappearances, abductions, torture, rape and arbitrary arrests, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), with attacks and killings by armed opposition groups as well. More than 325,000 Burundians have fled the country since 2015, according to HRW.

Burundi has a high refusal rate for business and tourism visa applications, with 61 percent of applicants denied — an indication of U.S. authorities’ fear that someone might overstay their visas and remain in the U.S. illegally.

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Prince William beats Duchess Kate in rowing competition in Germany

Samir Hussein/WireImage(HEIDELBERG, Germany) — Prince William won bragging rights Thursday in Heidelberg, Germany, as his crew boat defeated Duchess Kate’s boat in a race on the Neckar river.

William and Kate, both 35, faced off in the friendly competition on day four of their royal tour of Poland and Germany.

Boat one, led by William, just edged out boat two, led by Kate, in the race cheered on by big crowds along the river’s banks.

William and Kate each gave their respective teams a little encouragement. The crews all wore polo shirts for the race with the word “friendship” and the British and German flags

Kate, who is famously competitive, told her crew, “No pressure, but I do want to beat my husband,” and conceded she was fearful of “crashing.”

William admitted he had no idea what to do as the coxswain, or navigator, of the boat, saying, “This could be a challenge.”

The race, whose finish was celebrated by William, Kate and their crews with steins of Heidelberg beer, was the latest in a serious of fun, public face offs between William and Kate.

William won a race in dragon boats in Canada in 2011, while Kate won a race in America’s Cup yachts in Auckland Harbor in 2014. William and Kate both lost a sprinting race at Queen Elizabeth Park earlier this year to Prince Harry.

Kate’s sampling of local beer put to rest speculation the mother-of-two may be pregnant. At a stop in Poland earlier this week, Kate joked with William after receiving as a gift a stuffed bear that is said to soothe newborns.

Kate said to William with a laugh, “We’ll just have to make more babies.”

The crowd was overflowing in Heidelberg’s town square earlier Thursday, with many locals packed against adjacent windows to catch a fleeting glimpse of William and Kate, who visited the town without their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

William and Kate once again doled out their famous hugs, and William even joked with a group of young boys about his muscles.

Kate giggled while watching William try his hand at rolling dough while the couple made pretzels at a stop in the town square. When William attempted to fold the dough into the traditional pretzel knot shape, Kate gave him a gentle pat on the back and clapped as the crowds cheered with approval.

William and Kate, who also tried their hand at candy-making, started their day paying a visit to the German Cancer Research Institute to learn about stem cell research.

Kate wore a lace yellow-gold damask dress by Jenny Peckham — one of her favorite designers — and wedge heels.

Kate is always very conscious of diplomatic dressing whenever she is abroad. When she touched down in Germany on Wednesday, she donned a Catherine Walker coat and dress in cornflower blue, the color of Germany’s national flower.

Kate’s red, off-shoulder gown at Wednesday’s garden party for Queen Elizabeth and Thursday’s creamy gold dress are a nod to the colors of the German flag.

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For many gay men in conservative Chechnya, living in fear for their lives is commonplace

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — They call themselves survivors. Two Chechen men who agreed to share their story say they have been forced into hiding and their lives are in danger simply because they are gay.

They say they are so afraid, even with a place in a secret safe house outside of Moscow, that they asked ABC News’ Nightline not to reveal their identities so they can share, without fear of reprisal, the details of their lives in the shadows. All interviews are translated from Russian.

The two men, who we have chosen to call “Danill” and “Dimitry,” spoke with ABC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Terry Moran and said they fled Chechnya because authorities were rounding up and arresting gay people.

“Because the rounding up of homosexuals had begun,” Danill said. “And it was a new level of rounding up.”

Bigotry against LGBT people in Russia has been on the rise in recent years. Human Rights Watch has collected disturbing images of men allegedly being choked, beaten and violated — targeted, they say, because of their sexuality — and repressive government policies have fueled the hatred.

But in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous republic, human rights groups say vigilante hate has evolved into something far worse — a coordinated government campaign to round up and eliminate gay men: a mass persecution.

In April, reports emerged that the Chechen authorities were kidnapping and torturing dozens of gay men, holding them in secret prisons attached to police stations. In accounts, first to the Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta and later to foreign media outlets, including ABC News, Chechen men have described how they were detained by security forces and tortured, often through beatings and electric shocks, into confessing their sexuality and into naming others as gay.

According to the accounts from Dmitry and others, police went through men’s phones looking to find others they suspected were gay. Those identified then also faced being detained and tortured.

The campaign is said to have brought a new level of terror, but according to those who have fled and rights groups, it has always been dangerous being gay in Chechnya.

Danill said he is no stranger to discrimination and violence. As a gay man in Chechnya, he said he could take the risk of dating very rarely, and even when there was the glimmer of a possibility of a romantic encounter, building trust with someone took months.

“We meet in public places, in case of danger, we can run away or ask for help,” he said.

Danill lived in Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic, and said the threat of being exposed as gay, then blackmailed or beaten, was always present. He said he met a man who he saw three times on clandestine dates, who then, terrifyingly, set him up.

“We met three times before … and a fourth time he has asked me to visit his place,” he said. “He came out to meet me, I gave him my hand to say ‘hi’ and then I saw three men. They were dragging me into the apartment. Someone was holding me, someone was punching me, I started to resist and I ran downstairs.”

For many gay men, Danill said, living in fear, hiding your truth is commonplace in the conservative Islamic culture of Chechnya. LGBT activists say here, Islam takes the harshest view of homosexuality.

Danill said he heard more and more of his acquaintances were disappearing, and he said one disturbing story about a friend allegedly being arrested led him to make a decision to flee.

“He was taken out in handcuffs, forced into a car trunk and taken away,” Danill said. “The same day, I quit work, packed my stuff, everything I could carry and left Grozny.”

Dimitry said what happened to him was far worse. Caught in the organized round-up, he said he was arrested and detained by Chechen security forces, and spent more than a week held in a basement, where he was starved and brutally tortured.

“They split my eye, my lip, broke my ribs, they electrocuted me … they put metal clips on my ears,” Dimitry said. “Electrocution is unbearably painful. It felt much worse than normal voltage. The shock makes you want to jump to the ceiling.”

He said he heard others screaming as they were being tortured, “and confess all sorts of things that weren’t even true, just to make it stop. It’s horrible.”

Both Dmitry and Danill were given refuge in a safe house in Moscow by a rights group, LGBT Network, that since the persecutions began has been working to help gay men get out of Chechnya.

Accounts like these from gay men in Chechnya have only slowly emerged into public view in part because of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, one of the country’s last independent papers. They were the first to break the story back in April.

“The first … men were beaten, they were tortured, they were electrocuted and one of the main questions the police forces asked is, ‘Give us names of another gay man, just names,’” said Irina Gordienko, who covers Chechnya for the paper.

Since then, Gordineko said she believes at least 200 men have been rounded up, held and tortured. She said she knew of three men who had died as a result.

But an accurate accounting is hard to come by in Chechnya, where there is little government accountability, even less free press and a long history of extrajudicial killing.

Gordineko said the Chechen authorities operate with impunity and have also done the same horrific things to other people including Islamic extremists, drug dealers and people who have suspected ties to Syria.

The Chechen Republic is under the rule of Ramzan Kadyrov, a onetime separatist militia leader, who became a Moscow loyalist during the second Chechen war that ended in 2000. Kadyrov has ruled the region with an iron fist for the past decade.

“The Kremlin chose … to put a strongman in charge of it,” said Denis Krivosheev, the deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International. “Now that comes at a price and the price is to overlook virtually anything that he wants to do in that territory.”

Kadyrov is a leader filled with bravado and bluster. He regularly stars in his own online videos that he shares on social media, which serve as glimpses into the personality cult he has built, one based on masculinity, power and devout Muslim observance.

In a recent interview with HBO’s Real Sports, his first interview with Western media in years, which will be airing all month on HBO, Kadyrov flat out denied the very existence of gays in his country or that gays had been subjected to torture in Chechnya.

“We don’t have those kinds of people here,” Kadyrov said. “If there are any, take them to Canada. Praise be to God. Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”

“They are devils,” he continued. “They are for sale. They are not people.”

He even suggested that if Chechen families took matters into their own hands, authorities would look the other way.

“If we have such people here, then I’m telling you officially, their relatives won’t let them be because our faith, our mentality, customs and traditions,” Kadyrov said. “Even if it’s punishable under law, we would still condone it.”

According to Krivosheev, Kadyrov has stoked prejudice in the traditionalist society to enlist people in the persecution.

“Men who are suspected, who have been outed as gay, are at risk of [being killed by] their own families and in fact it seems the authorities who are behind this campaign have staged it in a way that they didn’t have to deal with anyone directly,” he said. “They ultimately return these men to their families and tell them, ‘You know what to do.’ … Essentially families are expected to kill their own relatives if they are have been publicly named gay.”

Since the story of gays being tortured broke, there has been international condemnation. Kadyrov was summoned to Moscow and denied there was any purge during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had ordered an investigation that human rights groups say has since been halted.

Novaya Gazeta reported it was initially heartened by apparent government moves to investigate, particularly the appointment of a veteran investigator known for being effective. But the investigator has since been moved away from the case and the newspaper says it now believes authorities are pushing to have the investigation die off.

At the same time, the rights group, LGBT Network, said it has received new reports that the detentions of gay men have begun again. A spokesperson for the group told ABC News on Tuesday that after weeks where they believed the campaign had halted, in the past month it had suddenly received around 10 new appeals for help and that those making the requests had described new arrests.

Despite all of this, Danill and Dimitry both said they were torn between protecting themselves and leaving their families behind.

Dimitry, who is married and has two children, says he has not even told his wife where he is.

“She thinks that I just left to work, left to Russia, but that I am at work, that I work on a construction site somewhere,” he said. “No one knows where I am.”

Both men are being given refuge by the LGBT Network, a Russian nonprofit organization that has already helped dozens of people.

But even having reached relative safety in Moscow, Danill and Dimitry feel they are still in a kind of purgatory. They have little hope of leaving. There’s a kind of “underground railroad” that’s been set up, but LGBT Network organizers say just 27 of the 120 people who have sought their help have made it out of Russia.

“If I had the means, I would have left,” Dimitry said.

For both men, they say there is no good option. They have already lost their families, their homes and their country.

“I understand that there is no way back for me,” Dimitry said.

Danill said he loves his country, and he just wants a “normal” life where he can live, work and come home without having to be in hiding.

“I understand that there is no way back for me,” Danill added. “As long as I am here, I have no clue what tomorrow brings me.”

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Terror attacks decline worldwide for second consecutive year, State Department says

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. State Department released its 2016 report on the global threat of terrorism Wednesday, showing that the number of terrorist attacks, as well as deaths caused by those attacks, decreased from 2015.

According to the report, there were just over 11,000 attacks around the globe, with more than 25,000 people killed in those incidents. Another 33,000-plus people were injured. The report notes that 26% of the deaths in the worldwide terror attacks were the attackers themselves.

Those figures represent significant drops from the previous year — the number of attacks was down nine percent, while the number of deaths was 13 percent lower.

Of note, the 2015 figures were also down from the year before — 2014 saw the rise of ISIS and an increasingly violent campaign led by Boko Haram in Africa.

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Charity groups unite to tackle hunger and famine in the Horn of Africa

PeterHermesFurian/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Eight U.S.-based international relief groups have joined forces to desperately urge the public to donate to a new relief fund aimed at addressing looming famine and hunger in South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and neighboring nations.

“In the 21st century, innocent children should not be dying from hunger. People caught in this crisis are generously opening their homes and sharing what little they have, but they have run out of time and resources — they need our help now,” said the groups making up the Global Emergency Response Coalition in a news release Monday.

On Monday, the coalition — made up of CARE, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision — announced its Hunger Relief Fund. The groups said the coalition was the first of its kind.

To learn more, visit here.

The Global Emergency Response Coalition said that its groups were working in 106 nations and that donations made to the fund would “help those already going hungry and on the brink of famine survive and lay the groundwork for recovery.”

Its partners, which are helping to bring awareness and money to the effort, include Google, Twitter and Visa.

Recently, ABC News anchor David Muir and his team traveled with Save the Children as it traveled to the deserts of Somaliland to identify children suffering from malnutrition.

Carolyn Miles, the CEO of Save the Children, told Muir the malnutrition crisis was one of the worst she’d seen since World War II.

“I don’t think the world has really woken up to this disaster at this point. They haven’t realized what’s happening — the possibility of four famines at once,” she said.

More than 20 million people are at risk of starvation, the coalition said. The groups also said that without immediate help, 1.4 million severely malnourished children could die.

According to the Global Response Coalition, $10 can get:

1. A month’s worth of water for a child at school.
2. Basic health services for a child in Somalia.
3. One week’s worth of highly nutritious peanut paste for a malnourished child. (Brand name: Plumpy’Nut)

Save the Children said that $2 in Somalia can provide a child with water at school for one month; $23 in Ethiopia can provide one child with lunch at school for a month; and $5 in South Sudan can buy medicine to treat 10 children suffering from malaria.

Dr. Yusef Ali, the regional director of health in Somaliland, told Muir during his visit to the region that the country was on the verge of famine.

“We’re seeing it [famine],” Ali said. “It’s here. … We are losing them [children]. There are so many unreported cases. We are losing them.”

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Russian lawyer ‘happy’ to testify before Senate on Donald Trump Jr. meeting

Leigh Vogel/WireImage(MOSCOW) — The Russian lawyer who met with U.S. President Donald Trump’s eldest son last year said she would be willing to testify before the U.S. Senate about the meeting.

In an on-camera interview with Russian state-funded network RT Tuesday, Natalia Veselnitskaya said she is “ready to clarify the situation” as long as her safety is assured.

“I’m ready if I’m guaranteed safety because today I have to think about my safety first and foremost, about the safety of my family, my four children,” she told RT. “If the Senate wishes to hear the real story, I will be happy to speak up and share everything I wanted to tell Mr. Trump last year.”

Donald Trump Jr. last week released four pages of what he said was an email exchange with publicist Rob Goldstone in June 2016. The messages appear to show Goldstone’s saying the “Crown prosecutor of Russia” could provide damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the heat of the 2016 presidential race. In response, Donald Trump Jr. wrote, “I love it.”

The emails preceded a meeting at Trump Tower in New York City with Veselnitskaya. Donald Trump Sr.’s then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner also attended.

Donald Trump Jr. said in a statement last week that Veselnitskaya had “no information to provide.”

In an interview with ABC News in Moscow last week, Veselnitskaya acknowledged that the younger Trump had expected her to present him with incriminating information about Clinton when they met at Trump Tower. But she denied offering him information from the Russian government and called the situation a misunderstanding, claiming she had no idea how it happened.

“I think he was misled about my role, myself and about my request to everyone,” Veselnitskaya told ABC News on July 12. “I have never had compromising materials on Hillary Clinton. I have never pronounced such a word.”

Veselnitskaya was also unclear about who organized her meeting with Donald Trump Jr. She told ABC News that a Russian speaker, whose name she could not recall, contacted her via telephone, saying he worked for Goldstone and that he was organizing a meeting between her and Trump. She said the caller may not have identified himself and, if he did, she forgot his name.

In the on-camera interview Tuesday with RT, Veselnitskaya reiterated that she does not know Goldstone, calling the email exchange between him and Trump “complete nonsense.”

“I don’t know that person,” she said of Goldstone. “It is nonsense, totally insane. Show me this man. I want to look him in the eye. It is complete nonsense.”

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Prince William, Duchess Kate and children arrive in Berlin

STEFFI LOOS/AFP/Getty Images(BERLIN) — Prince William, Duchess Kate and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, arrived in Berlin Wednesday on the second leg of their five-day tour of Poland and Germany.

Princess Charlotte, 2, wearing a blue floral smock dress and blue shoes, proved determined to step down the plane’s stairs on her own and accepted her own bouquet of flowers as the family was greeted by well-wishers at the airport. Prince George, who turns 4 in just a few days, was dressed in navy blue shorts and a white collared shirt.

When the family departed Poland earlier Wednesday, George was seen anxiously tugging on William’s hand to get back on the plane. The future King of England is obsessed with anything that flies. His parents took him last summer to the Royal International Air Tattoo, which bills itself online as “the world’s greatest air show.”

On this trip, the two Cambridge children have often been seen peering out the plane’s windows and have been fascinated by the plane rides.

George had to be coaxed by his father to deplane when he arrived in Warsaw, however, he seemed to get the hang of it upon arrival in Berlin, shaking the hands of the dignitaries greeting the family. Charlotte was a natural, dancing while holding her mother’s arm as the family left en route to Berlin.

Kate color-coordinated with her children’s attire, wearing a cornflower blue coat dress by Catherine Walker, a favorite designer of William’s mother, the late Princess Diana.

William and Kate, both 35, were without George and Charlotte when they met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The couple is next heading to the Brandenburg Gate, which now serves as a symbol of unity for Germany, a once-divided nation.

Later Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit Strassenkinder, a charity that assists young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, including homeless children.

The couple will also pay tribute to those who were killed during the Holocaust by making a pilgrimage to Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial. William described his and Kate’s visit Tuesday to the Stutthof concentration camp, one of the first concentration camps installed outside of Germany, as “shattering.”

Perhaps the most anxiously awaited part of the tour will be on Thursday when William and Kate take their competitive streak to the water again as they captain crew boats in Heidelberg.

The couple previously faced off in dragon boats in Canada — a race won by William — and in America’s Cup yachts in Auckland Harbour, where Kate won. In a sprinting race at Queen Elizabeth Park earlier this year, the couple lost to Prince Harry.

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Afghan girls robotics team wins silver, meets Ivanka Trump

Twitter/Afghan Embassy, D.C.(WASHINGTON) — The six Afghan girls who were twice denied U.S. visas before President Donald Trump intervened at the last minute, won a silver medal for “courageous achievement” Tuesday at the robotics competition they traveled thousands of miles to attend.

The young women, who arrived in the U.S. shortly after midnight on Saturday, participated in the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge, in which teams of young women and men from around the world showcase robots they created. The three-day competition kicked off Sunday at Washington, D.C.’s DAR Constitution Hall.

The Afghanistan team’s “courageous achievement” recognizes teams that exhibited a “can-do” attitude even under difficult circumstances or when things didn’t go as planned. The gold medal in that category went to the South Sudan team and bronze to the Oman team, whose students are deaf.

The competition’s top honors went to the Europe team, which won a gold award for getting the most cumulative points over the course of the competition. Poland got silver and Armenia snatched bronze.

The Afghan embassy in Washington tweeted photos of Ivanka Trump meeting the girls, writing, “Our #STEMGirls are doing so well at @F1RSTglobal #FGC2017 that @IvankaTrump had to see. Thanks for supporting #Afghanistan & #womeninSTEM.”

Our #STEMGirls are doing so well at @F1RSTglobal #FGC2017 that @IvankaTrump had to see. Thanks for supporting #Afghanistan & #womeninSTEM pic.twitter.com/Dmhewg2lcx

— Afghan Embassy DC (@Embassy_of_AFG) July 18, 2017

The State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs also tweeted a photo of Ivanka with the Afghan team at the competition.

Senior Advisor @IvankaTrump meets with the Afghan girl’s team at the #FGC2017 robotics competition. @F1RSTglobal pic.twitter.com/DKk4QjrdwN

— State_SCA (@State_SCA) July 18, 2017

And Jennifer Korn, special assistant to the president, tweeted photos of the first daughter sitting down with the Afghan team, and at the competition, writing, “Amazing visit 2 @FIRSTweets w/ @IvankaTrump celebrating girls empowerment & STEM at Global Robotics comp & mtg / teams USA & Afghanistan.”

Amazing visit 2 @FIRSTweets w/ @IvankaTrump celebrating girls empowerment & STEM at Global Robotics comp & mtg / teams USA & Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/Yj4eog6fzm

— Jennifer S. Korn (@jennifersks) July 18, 2017

The team, from western Afghanistan’s Herat region, had twice been denied visas to enter the country by the U.S. State Department, although the reason was never publicly disclosed. Still, many critics pointed to Trump’s travel ban executive order and his administration’s policies, which some perceive as hostile to some foreigners, for the girls’ denial of entry.

But the president stepped in, and the team was soon U.S.-bound.

“The State Department worked incredibly well with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that this case was reviewed and handled appropriately,” Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser for strategy, said in a statement following the president’s intervention. “We could not be prouder of this delegation of young women who are also scientists — they represent the best of the Afghan people and embody the promise that their aspirations can be fulfilled. They are future leaders of Afghanistan and strong ambassadors for their country.”

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