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Riot police surround Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University as some protesters hold out

iStock(HONG KONG) -- An unknown number of protesters remain holed up inside Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University as riot police encircle the campus, which has been the site of violent clashes in recent days.

Thousands of black-clad demonstrators -- thought to be mostly students -- once occupied the third largest university in Hong Kong, transforming the Kowloon peninsula campus into a heavily fortified base. They had blocked entrances and armed themselves with bricks, homemade bombs, axes and bows and arrows.

The protesters, who fear mainland China is increasing its control over Hong Kong, battled with police over the weekend, facing tear gas, rubber bullets and even live ammunition. It was one of the largest and most sustained sieges in the anti-government protest movement that has convulsed the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for months.

Since then, about a thousand demonstrators have left the campus, either surrendering to authorities or being caught while trying to escape.

There is now only one way into Polytechnic University and one way out. Visitors and protesters are screened at a basic security checkpoint before being allowed to enter.

The protest movement began in early June when hundreds of thousands of mostly young people marched against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspected criminals in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie Lam, has since withdrawn the bill, but widespread unrest has continued as demonstrators broaden their demands to include a call for direct elections for the city's leaders, amnesty for protesters and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.

Hong Kong's largest, pro-establishment political party has urged voters to “kick out the black force” in district council elections set for Sunday.

Meanwhile, China has ordered the United States not to interfere with the ongoing protests, after Congress unanimously passed a bill intended to back the protesters in Hong Kong and reexamine support for the city's government.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called on U.S. President Donald Trump to veto the proposed legislation, warning it could undermine trade talks between the two nations.

"We urge the U.S. to grasp the situation, stop its wrongdoing before it's too late and immediately take measures to prevent this act from becoming law," Geng said in prepared remarks at a press briefing Thursday. "The U.S. should immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's other internal affairs, or the negative consequences will boomerang on itself. China will have to take strong countermeasures to defend our national sovereignty, security and development interests if the U.S. insists on making the wrong decisions."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicted for bribery, fraud, breach of trust

LiorFil/iStock(JERUSALEM) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted Thursday on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, the nation's attorney general said.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced the decision following lengthy investigations into Netanyahu's alleged dealings in three cases.

Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister criminally charged while in office. He's not required by law to step down, but he's likely to face severe pressure to do so.

Speaking on live TV later on Thursday, the prime minister said it was a very sad day and that efforts to indict him equated to a coup.

"Tonight," he said, "we are witnesses to a coup attempt against a prime minister through an investigation process which is contaminated and tendentious."

The bribery charge could carry a sentence of up to 10 years, while a charge of fraud and breach of trust could lead to a three-year sentence.

In one case, Netanyahu allegedly accepted lavish gifts from two wealthy friends -- Israeli-born Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer -- in exchange for political favors, such as promoting the moguls’ business interests or obtaining visas.

The gifts from Milchan and Packer are estimated to amount to more than 1 million shekels, about $280,000.

Mandelblit recommended charges against Netanyahu back in March.

The case in which Netanyahu allegedly received expensive gifts from the two businessmen in exchange for favors was dubbed "Case 1000." For that, Mandelbilt recommended charges of fraud and breach of trust.

In "Case 2000," the prime minister is accused of agreeing to limit the distribution of one newspaper to receive more favorable coverage in another. For that, Mandelbilt recommended a charge of breach of trust.

The third case, "Case 4000," Netanyahu, while serving as communications minister and as prime minister between 2015 and 2017, allegedly intervened with regulators in a way that benefited the controlling shareholder of Israel's largest telecommunications firm in exchange for positive news coverage on a site owner by that shareholder. He also allegedly demanded negative coverage of political opponents.

In Mandelblit's announcement of the indictment, he urged for the protection of the legal system and called for the attacks against himself and his colleagues to stop.

He added that he first announced his intention to indict Netanyahu in February and gave the prime minister's lawyer ample time to prepare a defense. After reading their arguments carefully, Mandelblit said, he and his colleagues rejected most.

At the end of Netanyahu's televised speech Thursday night he said he'd continue "to lead the country, by the letter of the law, exactly as written."

"I will continue to lead the country responsibly and with dedication," he added, "while concerned about our security and future."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

16 people found in sealed trailer on ferry heading to Ireland from the Netherlands

whitemay/iStock(LONDON) — Sixteen people were discovered sealed in a truck on a ferry traveling from France to Ireland, officials said Thursday.

The 16 individuals were found on a Stena Line ferry, which was traveling from Cherbourg, France, to Rosslare, Ireland, during a routine inspection and were sealed in a trailer on the vehicle deck of the ferry, according to a statement from Stena Line's Chief People and Communications Officer Ian Hampton.

"All the individuals are reported to be in good health and have been moved to a private passenger lounge on the ship where their well-being is the focus of our employees," said Hampton in the statement.

The company alerted security and immigration officials in Rosslare so the necessary arrangements and proper procedures could be made for the group upon their arrival in Rosslare on Thursday, Hampton said.

Just Wednesday it was reported that 25 other individuals were discovered in a refrigerated container on a ferry that originally embarked from the port of Vlaardingen, near Rotterdam in the Netherlands, heading to Felixstowe, a small port town in England.

These events follow "the largest mass fatality" in the history of the Essex Police Force that happened less than a month ago when 39 Vietnamese nationals ranging in age from 15 to 44 were found dead inside a trailer at an industrial estate in Essex in the United Kingdom in the early hours of Oct. 23. The vehicle had arrived on a ferry originating in Zeebrugge, Belgium.

British police have since charged a man from Northern Ireland, 25-year-old Maurice Robinson, with 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people. Three more people have since been released on bail pending further investigations. Another 22-year-old man from Northern Ireland was also arrested on a British warrant and Essex Police have begun the extradition procedure to bring him to the U.K. to face charges of manslaughter.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Natalee Holloway's mother on her nearly 15-year journey to find out what happened to her daughter in Aruba

ABC(SAN NICOLAS, Aruba) -- Roughly 24 hours after her teenage daughter Natalee Holloway vanished in 2005, Beth Holloway stood face to face on a foreign island with the man she believes holds all the answers to what happened to her daughter – Joran van der Sloot.

“I thought, ‘You're it,’” Beth Holloway told “20/20” in an exclusive interview this summer. “Did I know what was to come? No. But I knew that I was gonna hang onto him 'til my last breath.”

Natalee Holloway, an 18-year-old from Alabama, was in Aruba celebrating her high school graduation with members of her senior class when she disappeared.

She was last seen on May 30, 2005, leaving a bar called Carlos’n Charlie's in Oranjestad and getting in a grey Honda with van der Sloot, a Dutch national who was 17 at the time, and two of his friends.

Van der Sloot is now serving a 28-year prison sentence in Peru for a different crime. He has never been charged in connection to Natalee Holloway's disappearance.

“We always felt like with every lead, with every tip, it was always as if we were about to get her,” Beth Holloway said. “They just always turned up nothing.”

It’s now been nearly 15 years since her daughter disappeared. She has never been found.

Beth Holloway has fought for years to find out what happened to her daughter and “20/20” exclusively documented her emotional return to the island this summer.

Searching for Natalee Holloway in Aruba

Upon learning of her daughter's disappearance, Beth Holloway immediately flew from her home in Alabama to Aruba. There, she, as well as others from Alabama, Natalee’s father, local police, and Aruban locals spent days in massive searches for the young woman.

Surveillance footage from a casino adjacent to Natalee Holloway’s hotel showed her seated at the same blackjack table where van der Sloot was sitting. The footage was taken hours before Natalee Holloway was seen leaving the Carlos’n Charlie's bar with him.

A few hours after Beth Holloway arrived on the island, Aruban police officials accompanied her and other Alabama parents on a visit to the van der Sloot home to ask about Natalee Holloway. The grey Honda she was last seen getting into was parked outside.

“Deepak Kalpoe and Joran van der Sloot are standing out in the gravel driveway,” Beth Holloway said.

There, Joran van der Sloot told Beth Holloway the night her daughter went missing he had fooled around with her, then returned her to her hotel, a Holiday Inn.

It was the first of many stories he told, and the first to prove a lie. Surveillance footage from the hotel showed no evidence that Natalee had returned to the hotel that night.

Beth Holloway still had no idea the journey that was ahead of her.

“I found this taxi and I asked him to take me somewhere I could pray. He took me to the other side of the island,” Holloway remembered. “There was a small beautiful little chapel, Alto Vista Chapel, that was sitting on the hillside overlooking the sea. And I walked up to the cross and just fell to my knees.”

“This is the only place on the island where I could come to feel close to Natalee,” she said. “If I had not had found such peace on this island, I could have never done the work that was before me.”

More than a week after Natalee Holloway's disappearance, van der Sloot and his two friends, brothers Deepak Kalpoe and Satish Kalpoe, were taken into police custody.

Van der Sloot and the Kalpoes then changed their stories and claimed the brothers had dropped van der Sloot and Holloway off at the beach. Joran said he later left a sleeping Natalee alone at the beach.

In the following weeks, Beth Holloway joined journalist Greta Van Susteren, who was reporting on the case from the island, for an interview without cameras with van der Sloot’s parents at their home. Holloway said van der Sloot's father, Paulus van der Sloot, invited them in.

“I wanted to be that close to Paulus van der Sloot,” Holloway said. “I wanted to make him feel in some way how I was feeling.”

“Beth was stern and direct,” Van Susteren said. “Anita, Joran's mother, was crying, sobbing.”

“Paulus, who was sitting next to me, was perspiring like something I have never seen in my life,” Van Susteren continued. “I assume that there are medical reasons people perspire like that. But there's also the suspicion that someone who's perspiring like that knows something.”

About that exchange, Beth Holloway said she thought Paulus van der Sloot was “the most pathetic human being I’ve ever seen.”

“Because he knows what happened. He knew,” she added.

Beth Holloway continued making media appearances to keep the pressure on authorities to solve the case. The story was dominating headlines around the world and Beth Holloway said at the time, she did a dozen interviews a day.

“Mic and sit and talk,” she said. “I mean, that's all you could do.”

Early in the search, she told ABC News’ Deborah Roberts in 2005 she would not entertain the possibility that her daughter wouldn't be found, saying at the time: “That’s not an option.”

“Without the media's constant presence there, Aruba would have just swept this under the rug,” she said in "20/20's" 2019 interview.

She said public support for her changed after Deepak Kalpoe and Satish Kalpoe were released from police detention and she made a desperate plea.

“It is now that I ask the world to help me,” Holloway said at a July 5, 2005 press conference. “Two suspects were released yesterday who were involved in a violent crime against my daughter. Help me by not allowing these two to get away with this crime.”

It was after that press conference, she said, that "the island turned on me."

“All the people that were helping, all the people that I felt we were working together," Holloway said. "You could feel the tide turn. It was not okay for me to call their citizens criminals.”

The Kalpoe brothers have never been charged in connection to Natalee Holloway's disappearance.

Then, in late August 2005, the international media attention on Natalee Holloway’s case turned to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the United States. The lull in media coverage of her disappearance also coincided with van der Sloot’s release from police custody because Holloway’s body had not been found and authorities did not have enough evidence to charge him.

“He's a monster. I know that he was responsible for the demise of Natalee. And I'll never, never not believe that,” Beth Holloway said. “I made a pledge that I will share everything that I have learned. So, that's what I did.”

Back in the U.S., Beth continued her media circuit. Holloway appeared on Dr. Phil’s talk show where he called on Americans to boycott Aruba.

“Our sole bread and butter is tourism,” said Alberto Groenveldt, an Aruban who helped guide Beth Holloway in the search for her daughter. “A lot of flights start to cancel. Of course, the tourism went down.”

“I was trying to destroy an island and Joran, so I was on a mission. They destroyed me, and I thought, ‘Well, I'm going after them,’” she said.

Joran van der Sloot’s story changes again and again

As the years went on, Joran van der Sloot’s story about what he says happened to Natalee Holloway continued to change.

By 2006, van der Sloot was in the Netherlands for school. In February 2006, he flew to New York for an interview with ABC News, during which he said he left Natalee Holloway on the beach the night she disappeared and went home.

“The last time I saw her, she was sitting on the sand by the ocean,” he told ABC News at the time. He denied that he had harmed or killed her.

In February 2008, Aruban officials reopened the case against van der Sloot after a tape showing him describing Holloway’s death, filmed via hidden camera by Dutch crime reporter Peter de Vries, was released.

However, Aruban officials were unable to corroborate van der Sloot's statements.

Then, in November 2008, Greta Van Susteren got an interview with van der Sloot in Thailand, during which he claimed he had sold Natalee Holloway into sexual slavery. But soon after, he called Van Susteren and told her that story was all a lie.

On March 29, 2010, Beth Holloway’s lawyer, John Q. Kelly says that van der Sloot contacted him by email using a pseudonym, claiming that in exchange for $250,000 -- $25,000 up front -- he would reveal the location of Natalee Holloway’s remains.

“Joran's a gambler and that's probably the most important thing to know about him,” Kelly told “20/20.” “Everything in life is a gamble and a game to him.”

But Kelly and Beth Holloway believed this might provide them with an opportunity to get the justice they sought against van der Sloot.

“I thought, ‘OK, so he wants $250,000 trying to sell me her remains,’ as sick and cruel as that sounds,” she said. “What can we do with this?"

They worked with the FBI to gather evidence against van der Sloot for possible wire fraud and extortion. Kelly says the FBI went down to Aruba to set up recording devices in a hotel room where he was to meet van der Sloot.

When Kelly met with him, he said he gave van der Sloot $10,000 in cash and Beth Holloway wired $15,000 to van der Sloot’s bank account in exchange for information van der Sloot said he had on the missing teen.

 Kelly says van der Sloot then took him to a location away from the hotel and changed his story again about the night he had been with Natalee Holloway.

He now claimed that he had picked her up but that she had demanded to be put down, so he threw her to the ground. He said when he did, her head hit a rock and she was killed instantly by the impact.

Kelly says Joran then took him to a nearby home and claimed that his father, who had since died, had buried Natalee in the house’s foundation.

After that exchange and they parted ways, Kelly says van der Sloot emailed him and told him that story was all a lie -- a message which Kelly forwarded to the FBI.

But van der Sloot already had the $25,000 from Beth Holloway. Within days, van der Sloot had slipped away to Peru.

“I thought, ‘What the f--- is he doin' in Peru? Why isn't he arrested?’” Beth Holloway said.

The FBI declined to comment to ABC News on Wednesday.

But in 2010, the FBI said in a statement that the Holloway “investigation was not related in any way to the murder in Peru. Despite having been in motion for several weeks … it was not sufficiently developed to bring charges prior to the time van der Sloot left Aruba."

The lack of an arrest in the extortion case, the FBI said at the time, "is not due to any fault on the part of the FBI or the U.S. Attorney's Office."

Van der Sloot murders Stephany Flores

On May 30, 2010 – five years to the day of Natalee Holloway’s disappearance -- Stephany Flores, a university student and daughter of a presidential candidate, was found beaten to death in a hotel room rented by van der Sloot in Lima, Peru.

“Some people have said, ‘Well, you know, Beth, if you hadn't sent him that $25,000 he probably wouldn't have had the money to go to Peru and then kill Stephany.’ Well, hell no. I did everything I knew to do,” Beth Holloway said. “Whoever was responsible for letting Joran leave that island, Aruba – they are the ones that have to sleep at night over Stephany Flores' death. Not me.”

In the three days before Flores’ body was discovered, van der Sloot was able to cross the border into Chile. An international manhunt was launched, and based on a tip given to authorities, he was arrested in Chile.

On that same day, U.S. federal prosecutors announced wire and extortion charges against van der Sloot “for soliciting money from Natalee Holloway’s mother on promises he would reveal the location of her daughter’s remains in Aruba and the circumstances of her 2005 death.”

Meanwhile, van der Sloot was sent back to Lima, where according to the local prosecutor, he admitted to everything -- how he beat Flores, took her money, and then fled with her belongings.

Beth Holloway decided to fly to Peru in the wake of Flores’ murder.

“I wanted to go to Peru to meet with Stephany's family,” Holloway said. “The Flores family and I, we share this same bond… It’s not a bond you want, but it’s a bond that exists.”

She also went to see van der Sloot in prison while he was awaiting trial for Flores’ murder. It was the first time she had seen him since the day her daughter vanished five years earlier.

“I walked through by myself with all the girlfriends and mothers and lovers who were standing in line for that visitation day,” she remembered. “One of the wardens there took me in his office. And then we set up the meeting with Joran.”

Face to face with van der Sloot again, Holloway asked him once more to tell her what happened to her daughter.

"Let me take her home," Holloway told him.

Van der Sloot told the grieving mother, “I’ve had a lot of time here to really think. I really do want to write you. I need some time to think about what I want to say.”

Despite not learning the whereabouts of her daughter’s remains, Holloway said it was “glorious” to see him in prison, “Where I wanted him to have been five years ago.”

In 2012, van der Sloot pleaded guilty to Flores' murder and was given 28 years behind bars -- a sentence he is currently serving in Peru’s prison system.

“Is it the justice I wanted? No, but it’s the justice I’ll take,” said Holloway, who is still waiting for an answer.

In March 2014, it was announced van der Sloot will be extradited to the U.S. after he finishes his sentence in Peru.

Aruban prosecutor Hans Klaver told ABC News recently that his office has never closed the Natalee Holloway case.

However, “the cases against Joran van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers have been dismissed. Only new facts and circumstances unknown at the moment of the dismissal can lead to reopening their cases."

Beth Holloway returns to Aruba

It's been fourteen years since her daughter disappeared, and Beth Holloway said the island “has become a lot less significant” for her.

“I have come to the terms that this island doesn't hold anything over me anymore,” she said.

Upon her return this summer to the island, she reunited with Groenveldt, who helped her in the initial search for her daughter.

Beth Holloway told him it was the “the first time today I've been really able to just look at the ocean, enjoy the ocean and feel it and just sit on the beach.”

“Every time I looked out at the ocean, I couldn’t handle it. It just disturbed me greatly. Because it made me feel as if I was never going to get an answer as to what happened to Natalee,” she said. “But I feel like I have accomplished a huge feat… I can come back now to Aruba. I can get in the water... It feels great.”

Today, van der Sloot is still being held in Peru and will be eligible for parole before his sentence is finished.

Beth Holloway said she keeps her daughter's senior portrait in her bedroom.

“Every morning I go give her a kiss on the cheek, trace my hands down the rosary beads and across and just say a prayer. Some days I'll say, ‘What are we doin' today, Natalee?’ and ‘Let's do this today.’ So I feel like she's still a team with me,” she added. “She was always a driving force, so she’s been with me all the way.”

“You’re never going to get over the loss of losing your loved one- that’s not going to happen. But life does move on,” Holloway said. “Natalee would want us to enjoy what life we have left.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Documents may be breakthrough in case of FBI veteran who vanished in Iran

Courtesy Levinson Family(NEW YORK) -- Documents obtained years ago by the family of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who has been missing in Iran for more than a decade, may provide the most convincing evidence yet that he was arrested and held by Iranian intelligence agents after a new statement from the country recently came to light.

Levinson, a veteran agent and specialist in Russian organized crime, vanished on March 9, 2007, after arriving on the remote Kish Island while working on a murky CIA contract for intelligence analysts at the agency. For the first seven years he was missing, U.S. officials said Levinson was working as a private investigator and was "not a U.S. government employee."

The purported Iranian files took on new significance after the United Nations revealed Tehran had recently admitted to having an "ongoing" judicial inquiry into Levinson, at the same time a more precise English translation of the Farsi-language documents his family has had for nine years appeared to reveal that his arrest in 2007 was from a "judicial" order by the Iranian military.

The word "judicial" had been missing in an English translation by the FBI of the apparent 2007 arrest order given to the family years ago.

News of the Iranian admission to the U.N. this month was followed by the Trump administration upping the reward for information leading to Levinson's recovery to $25 million -- the same amount offered in the past for information leading to the location of terrorist leaders Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"We have always believed that someone on Kish Island made a horrible mistake in arresting Bob -- which is confirmed by these documents. Now is the time for Iranian authorities to do what they know is right and send this wonderful husband, father and grandfather home to us," his wife, Christine Levinson said in a statement to ABC News.

The two single-page documents, which an Iranian journalist provided to the Levinson family in 2010, appear to include an order for his "arrest" by Ministry of Intelligence agents on Kish Island following a "judicial order" by a military prosecutor, which came the day before Bob Levinson went missing. But the potential significance of this language in the 2007 document about the "judicial order" only became clear last month when the U.N. revealed the new Iranian statement, a source close to the case told ABC News.

A source close to the Levinson case provided the purported Iranian military reports to ABC News after the Iranian government made the surprising statement last month to the U.N. that there is an "ongoing" court case involving the missing American -- after 12 years of denials he was ever in their custody.

The first document, dated March 8, 2007, states that Levinson -- erroneously referred to as "Robert Anderson" -- had an FBI background, "may be CIA," and alleged he was engaging in "spying activities."

"He is here using the cover of a tourist while conducting various meetings, taking pictures and gathering information," an Iranian counterintelligence official appears to have informed military prosecutor Hojatol-Islam Bahrami, who then ordered Levinson's immediate arrest by "MOIS [Ministry of Intelligence] brothers" in a handwritten reply on the typed memo.

The second document appears to show a senior commander at Kish Air Base, an Iranian military facility, asking military prosecutors on May 2, 2007, what to do after Levinson fell ill in detention and collapsed into a coma.

"Greetings, I hereby inform Your Excellency that according to your judicial order, the accused subject is under the surveillance of this military unit at a detention center at this base," writes an individual who identifies himself as Col. Mohammad Reza Jalali, the base's "commander of intelligence protection."

"A doctor examined him and he was diagnosed to have diabetes and noted that he is not in a good condition and ordered to transfer him to a hospital," Jalali continued. "In regard to the sensitivity and importance of this matter and the accused, please give us the necessary orders that should be taken in this regard."

ABC News was not immediately able to verify Bahrami or Jalali’s existence as officers serving the Islamic Republic of Iran, but a source close to the case said the Levinson family has verified their names and roles from their own lawyer in the country.

The Levinson family says they handed the alleged arrest order and report of Levinson’s illness on state security letterhead to Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in 2010. A few months later, a mysterious proof of life video surfaced in which Levinson pleaded for help.

"Please help me get home. Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something," a gaunt Levinson said in the video.

Washington Post columnist and former Iran hostage Jason Rezaian reported this month that in response to a Levinson family complaint three years ago to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the U.N. had noted that it had received a new message from Tehran in October.

"According to the statement of Tehran’s Justice Department, Mr. Robert Alan Levinson has an ongoing case in the Public Prosecution and Revolutionary Court of Tehran," the U.N. reported.

Iranian officials quickly backpedaled and said their communication with the U.N. was merely acknowledging a missing person case existed for Levinson.

Sources close to the Levinson matter say the recent admission of a pending case before Iranian courts backs up the language in the 2007 Kish Island report saying he was arrested after a "judicial order" by a military prosecutor.

President Donald Trump jumped on the news and tweeted Nov. 10: "If Iran is able to turn over to the U.S. kidnapped former FBI Agent Robert A. Levinson, who has been missing in Iran for 12 years, it would be a very positive step. At the same time, upon information & belief, Iran is, & has been, enriching uranium. THAT WOULD BE A VERY BAD STEP!"

Trump has made hostage recovery a hallmark of his presidency, boasting he has freed almost two-dozen American captives. Levinson's family say they were thrilled and buoyed this week when Taliban hostage Kevin King was freed after three years in a prisoner exchange, along with Australian fellow university professor Timothy Weeks.

Sources close to the Levinson case say the documents the family obtained nine years ago were given to U.S. officials at the time, who in the years since have told the family they never were able to authenticate them. A U.S. official told ABC News that the FBI had no reason to believe they were forgeries.

"The FBI is aware of the documents and while we cannot discuss specific details of the investigation, over the past 12 years the FBI has worked diligently to follow every lead into Bob’s abduction," said a statement provided to ABC News by the Bureau.

ABC News was only provided photos of the two purported Iranian documents, which therefore cannot be authenticated with absolute certainty, experts say.

However, one Iranian-born former top U.S. official, Ladan Archin, said they "seem legit" based not just on appearance but on her deep familiarity with how regime commanders speak with each other in sensitive military communications.

"If these files are legit, it shows the Iranian government knew where Bob Levinson was and this specific Iranian official [Bahrami] gave orders to arrest him," Archin, who served for five years as the Iran Country Director at the Pentagon during the Bush administration, told ABC News Wednesday.

In reviewing the Iranian files at the request of ABC News, Archin found small errors in the FBI's English translation and some words missing, which the Levinson family and their advisers see as newly significant, including how the Iranians repeatedly referred to Levinson not as a "subject" but as "the accused." The most important words missing in the original English translation appear to pinpoint specific Iranian offices involved in his detention, such as that the arrest order was "judicial" and that it was carried out specifically by "MOIS brothers" -- meaning Ministry of Intelligence agents.

Archin, who was born and raised in Iran and speaks Farsi as a native language, also worked to fight terrorism finance at the U.S. Treasury Department, where she continued following developments on the Levinson abduction after leaving the Department of Defense shortly after he went missing in 2007.

"The regime's denials are empty. There is a chance they kept this very close-hold within the regime -- but no chance they didn't know," Archin added.

Iran does not have an embassy on U.S. soil but the regime's representatives at the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment by ABC News last week.

Last February, ABC News reported that the Levinson family had received many new tips about their long missing patriarch, even after he was written off as dead by the Obama administration.

In 2016, Levinson’s family was shocked that he wasn't released or otherwise accounted for when Rezaian and three other Americans held captive were set free by Tehran when the United States and Iran finalized the terms of deal to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Several current and former senior government officials told ABC News that intelligence assessments at the time of the hostage negotiations concluded that Levinson, 72, had probably died in captivity, in spite of what all of those officials agreed was an almost complete absence of any hard evidence of his demise beyond his advanced age, health problems and the duration of his captivity.

"It was nowhere near 100-percent and it wasn’t based on a scintilla of evidence at all, just pure speculation," said one of several senior officials briefed on the Levinson case who spoke to ABC News earlier this year.

Iranian representatives at the bargaining table shelved accounting for Bob Levinson and U.S. negotiators agreed not to let the nuclear deal get hung up on the fate of an American they concluded was no longer alive, confirmed the officials who spoke to ABC News, a mix of political officials from the Obama and Trump administrations as well as career officials.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prince Andrew to step back from public duties due to 'ill-judged association' with Jeffrey Epstein

emarto/iStock(LONDON) -- Prince Andrew will step back from public duties "for the foreseeable future" over heavy criticism he has faced for his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, he said in a statement on Wednesday.

"It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organisations and charities that I am proud to support," the statement from the prince read.

He said he asked Queen Elizabeth if he may step back from his public duties, and she gave her permission.

The prince added that he continues to "unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein."

Epstein died in prison from an apparent suicide on Aug. 10.

"His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure," the prince said in a statement. "I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives."

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

106 believed dead, internet cut off as Iran protests become increasingly violent

omersukrugoksu/iStock(TEHRAN, Iran) — With internet connections cut off across the country by authorities in Iran after days of bloody protests, Iranians are scrambling to understand what is happening beyond what little has come out in official channels.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International reported at least 106 people have been killed since the protests against a fuel subsidy cut began over the weekend. The report cites videos and eyewitness accounts that have trickled out of the country, an effort complicated by the internet restrictions. It illustrated the struggle for ordinary Iranians to obtain accurate information about the extent of the ongoing protests despite no access to social media or international news.

"I feel like I am stranded on an island. I have no idea what is happening to other people and to my friends in other cities," a Tehran-based university student, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told ABC News. "In this very sensitive time, my news source is now limited to the state TV and state news website. I am not sure how much is left out."

Thousands of people took over the streets in different cities in Iran, objecting to the dramatic rise in gasoline prices, a decision made by the heads of the three powers of the Islamic Republic in the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination. The council was established in the spring of 2019 by the order of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to counter the severe U.S. sanctions on the country.

Outside of the country, Iranians have shared posts on social media with the hashtag "#Internet4Iran," asking the government to give people the right to access the internet. Some Iranian expats organized protests in front of Iranian embassies in other countries, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, and condemned any violent confrontations with protesters.

Nationwide protests against tripling fuel prices in Iran have resulted in at least 106 protesters in 21 cities in Iran killed, Amnesty International reported Tuesday.

Protesters blocked highways and streets by stopping their cars in the middle of traffic, while others set fire to gas stations, banks and other public properties. They raised objects to some of the domestic and international policies of the Islamic Republic, by shouting slogans like, "No Gaza, no Lebanon, I give my life for Iran" and "We've got no money and no fuel, leave Palestine alone."

Islamic Republic officials said they recognized the right to protest, but blamed Iran's enemies for encouraging "rioters" to keep endangering the country's security.

"The authorities must end this brutal and deadly crackdown immediately and show respect for human life," Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

"The frequency and persistence of lethal force used against peaceful protesters in these and previous mass protests, as well as the systematic impunity for security forces who kill protesters, raise serious fears that the intentional lethal use of firearms to crush protests has become a matter of state policy," he continued.

In his speech on Sunday, Ayatollah Khamenei specifically mentioned the house of Pahlavi, Iran's former monarch, and a dissident group known as the MEK, as the ones pushing people to the streets in the "cyber space," according to the official website of the leader.

"The internet will gradually be returned to the provinces where it can be guaranteed it is not misused," said Ali Rabiei, a spokesman for Iran's government, according to the Iranian Students News Agency on Tuesday.

Iran's economy faces many challenges, from exporting oil -- the major source of revenue for the country -- to a shrinking job market, high inflation and sinking value of the country's currency as a result of the U.S. decision to reinstate crippling sanctions on the country.

In May 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran's nuclear deal, known as the Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action. The deal had been signed in 2015, when Barack Obama was president, between Iran and the U.S., U.K., Russia, China, Germany and France. Tehran had agreed to put a cap on its nuclear activities in return for the easing of economic sanctions by the West.

Iranian officials say that the power price rise was a move to compensate for the budget deficit the country faces due to its sanction-hit oil revenue. The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised to allocate the income from reducing gasoline subsidies to the vulnerable households that, as he described, make up over 80% of the country's population.

Out of the 25 million Iranian households, 18 million are in difficult conditions, [so] the government has decided to provide them with aid packages," Rouhani said in a speech in Kerman, as reported by IRNA on Nov. 12.

"This is meaningless. I don't know what this tiny amount of money can even mean," a 40-year-old English teacher told ABC News. "I wish the government would get it sooner that people's problems cannot be solved by a 10,000 tomans subsidies increase and cutting the internet."

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House Hitler was born in to become a police station

TomAF/iStock(BERLIN) — Austrian officials announced Tuesday that the home Adolf Hitler was born in will be turned into a police station. The decision follows a lengthy legal battle between the Austrian government and the owner of the house in Braunau am Inn, a small town near the German border.

When Austria's Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government taking ownership of the building back in early August, the interior ministry announced an architecture competition to renovate it. Now, the terms of the competition have been laid out in an attempt to stop the site from becoming a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.

"The house’s future usage by the police should set a clear signal that this building will never be a place to commemorate Nazism" said the country's interior minister Wolfgang Peschorn in a statement to press.

The EU-wide architecture competition to determine the building's new design will be launched at the end of this month, with the winner announced in the first half of 2020, authorities said. The Braunau police will move into their new home in what they hope will stop Hitler sympathizers from lingering as they have done since it became unoccupied in 2011.

The legal battled was settled in August when Austria's Supreme Court ruled against its former owner, Gerlinde Pommer-Angloher, who claimed the property was worth much more than what the government paid her for it in 2016. She had been forced to sell it to the government for $910,000 but attempted to argue that it was worth almost $1.7 million.

Hitler was born in the three-story, 17th century house in 1889. It was purchased and used by the Nazis who came to power in Austria in 1938. It was later transferred back to the original owners, Pommer-Angloher's family, and was used as a government-funded care center for people with disabilities.

However, the government ended that project in 2011 when Pommer-Angloher refused to renovate the building. Since then, she reportedly had rejected several offers from the government to purchase it, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

In 2016, the Austrian parliament voted to seize the house and drastically renovate it in order to stop neo-Nazis from visiting the site.

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Two US service members killed in helicopter crash in Afghanistan

guvendemir/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Two U.S. service members were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Wednesday. U.S. military officials said it did not appear that the helicopter went down as a result of enemy fire.

"Two U.S. service members were killed in a helicopter crash on November 20, 2019 in Afghanistan," said a statement issued by U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

"The cause of the crash is under investigation, however preliminary reports do not indicate it was caused by enemy fire," said the statement.

No other details were provided by U.S. military officials about the circumstances of the deadly crash or where in Afghanistan it took place.

The two deaths bring to 19 the number of U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan this year -- the deadliest year for U.S. forces there in five years.

The U.S. military statement said that in accordance with Defense Department policy the names of the service members would not be disclosed until 24 hours after their next of kin have been notified.

There are still 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, most of them involved in a mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan.

Peace talks between the United States and the Taliban stalled in early September after the U.S. ended discussions following the death of an American soldier in a bombing in Kabul.

By that point the talks had reached a tentative agreement that could have led to the withdrawal of as many as 5,000 American troops from Afghanistan.

The Trump administration has advocated for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, but that move could only happen if talks restart and the Afghan government is brought into the peace talks.

On Tuesday, two western hostages held by the Taliban for more than three years were freed in exchange for the transfer to Qatar of three senior Taliban leaders held by the Afghan government.

The release of American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks appears to have been intended to jumpstart the stalled peace talks.

"It is a good step, but it’s only that," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said of the exchange as he traveled to Brussels.

"But it’s good. I think they’ll build confidence, there are a handful more that we hope will happen in the next few days, some Afghan prisoners who we hope will be released, a handful things after that," Pompeo said.

"We hope they’ll begin to build a foundation that we can get comfortable that a peace and reconciliation process has an opportunity of being successful," he added. "We’ve been working hard at it, we’re still working hard at it."

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Taliban releases two hostages, including an American, in prisoner exchange

KeithBinns/iStock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- An American and Australian professor who were kidnapped in Afghanistan and held hostage for more than three years have been released by the Taliban in a prisoner swap aimed at restarting peace negotiations between the United States and the Afghan militant organization.

American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were both professors at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul when they were ambushed and abducted by gunmen while leaving the campus in August 2016. They had appeared in a proof-of-life video looking gaunt and disheveled in January 2017 requesting then-President-elect Donald Trump secure their release by agreeing to a deal.

"We are so happy to hear that my brother has been freed and is on his way home to us," King's sister, Stephanie Miller, said in a statement to ABC News. "This has been a long and painful ordeal for our entire family, and his safe return has been our highest priority. We appreciate the support we have received and ask for privacy as we await Kevin's safe return."

Three senior members of the Taliban were released from Afghan government custody in exchange for the two men.

The three Taliban prisoners released were named as Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid. Haqqani is a leader of the Haqqani group, a network that has been blamed for several attacks and the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops since 2001. Haqqani's imprisonment by the Afghan government is said to have prompted the kidnapping of King and Weeks.

The hand-off of King and Weeks in eastern Afghanistan was facilitated by a U.S. special mission unit from Joint Special Operations Command, according to a counterterrorism official. In 2015, when prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed in a similar swap, Alpha Squadron from the Army's elite Delta Force handled the pickup, which the Taliban videotaped and released afterward.

Just last week, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said the decision was "a tough, but important" one and one he had to make in the interest of the Afghan people.

With King's freedom after three years in captivity with the Afghan Taliban's Haqqani Network, there remain a total of three Americans still held hostage by terrorists overseas, counterterrorism officials have told ABC News. They include Paul Overby, who is believed held by the Taliban in Afghanistan, Jeffery Woodke, a missionary taken hostage in Niger by ISIS, and a third U.S. citizen whose name and circumstances are not public.

The American and Australian professors were kidnapped after word got out that Haqqani -- brother of Afghan Taliban leader Siraj Haqqani and son of legendary mujahideen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani -- had been tried and sentenced to death in Kabul. That "ticked off the Taliban," a western intelligence official said at the time, and they kidnapped professors off the street in retaliation.

Weeks after the two professors were abducted, a video was released by the Taliban featuring Caitlan Coleman, a Pennsylvanian held hostage by the Haqqani Network for five years in North Waziristan with her Canadian husband and three children. Coleman said that she and her family would be killed if any harm came to Taliban prisoners, which officials interpreted as Anas Haqqani.

Two years ago, however, Coleman and her family were freed in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Coleman sent her best wishes to King, Weeks and their families.

"Welcome home, Kevin and Tim. Though we be strangers, the news of your safety at last has lifted my heart and causes me great relief. I am grateful also to the governments that worked to secure their safe return from the hands of the terrorists," Coleman said in a statement to ABC News.

Paul Overby’s wife, Jane Larson, said in a statement to ABC News Tuesday that she is glad King and Weeks are finally free.

"I am relieved that at last the professors are free and will soon be home with their families," Larson said. "Paul has been missing since May 2014. During the last five and a half years, I have not received any definitive information regarding his status or location. I remain eager for information from his captors or the governments of Afghanistan or Pakistan, where he was traveling at the time of his disappearance."

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Sweden drops Julian Assange rape investigation

DNY59/iStock(STOCKHOLM) -- Sweden has dropped a rape investigation involving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Officials said the evidence against Assange has weakened due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the alleged incident.

"I would like to emphasise that the injured party has submitted a credible and reliable version of events. Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed; however, my overall assessment is that the evidential situation has been weakened to such an extent that that there is no longer any reason to continue the investigation," said Eva-Marie Persson, deputy director of Public Prosecution.

Assange has always denied the August 2010 sexual assault accusations and fought extradition for years, hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy from June 2012 to April 2019 when he was arrested for jumping bail in connection with charges related to the rape case in Sweden. While the rape charges were later dropped, the bail jumping charges remained.

Assange is currently serving a 50-week jail sentence in the U.K. on the bail jumping charge.

This is far from the end of Assange's legal troubles.

He is also wanted in the U.S. in connection with one of the largest thefts of classified government information in American history. The U.K. has an extradition treaty with the U.S., depending on an assurance that wanted persons do not face the death penalty, which is outlawed in the U.K.

Hours after he was arrested by British authorities in April, U.S. prosecutors announced charges against him for allegedly conspiring with former intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to gain unlawful access to a government computer.

The indictment, which was filed in March 2018, claims Assange helped Manning crack a password on a Pentagon computer.

In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the offense, but her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama as one of his final acts in office.

"From the outset of Sweden's preliminary investigation, Julian Assange’s expressed concern has been that waiting in the wings was a United States extradition request that would be unstoppable from Sweden - and result in his spending the rest of his life in a US prison," WikiLeaks said in a statement. "Now that the US does seek Mr Assange’s extradition to stand trial on unprecedented charges for journalistic work, it continues to be a matter of extreme regret that this reality has never been properly acknowledged and that the process in Sweden -- with which Mr Assange has always expressed his willingness to engage and indeed did so -- became so exceptionally politicised itself."

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Dog found in Bahamas rubble 3 weeks after Hurricane Dorian is adopted by Florida family

Chase Scott/Big Dog Rescue(NEW YORK) --  Miracle, the puppy that was rescued in the Bahamas after surviving more than three weeks under debris from Hurricane Dorian, has a new family just in time for the holidays.

The Beaty family -- Clark, Briana and their three daughters Jayne, 8; Kate, 5; and Clare, 3 -- of Palm Beach, Florida, were formerly announced Wednesday as Miracle's new owners during a news conference at the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Loxahatchee Groves.

"Miracle has now gained 16 pounds -- almost half his body weight [when] he came in -- and weighs almost 35 pounds," said Lauree Simmons, Big Dog Ranch Rescue's founder and president. "He's healthy and ready to go home."

In October, workers from Big Dog Ranch Rescue found Miracle in Abaco, one of the hardest-hit areas in the Bahamas, after the Category 5 hurricane devastated the islands in September. The foundation used a drone with a high-resolution, heat-seeking camera to help them spot dogs that were either hidden under rubble or only coming out at night.

Miracle was trapped underneath an air conditioning unit that had fallen on him for more than three weeks after the hurricane struck. When rescuers located him, he was emaciated, his muscles had atrophied and he was suffering from other diseases after surviving only on rainwater.

Simmons was the first to start calling the dog Miracle as he recuperated in Florida. More than 10,000 families reached out to the organization, offering to adopt him.

On Monday, Briana Beaty told ABC News that her family of five was looking forward to having the "best holiday ever" with Miracle.

"We're so grateful to Big Dog Ranch for saving him and all the love they put into him," she told ABC News on Monday.

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Tense standoff: Hong Kong Polytechnic University becomes center of police protesters' battle

LewisTsePuiLung/iStock(HONG KONG) -- Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University has become the front line of a fight between protesters and authorities. Violence broke out on Sunday and turned into a tense standoff on Monday.

Since Sunday morning, Hong Kong's police have attempted to disperse protesters from the occupied roads around PolyU, the last major university that’s occupied and fortified by protesters.

This is one of the largest and most sustained battles in this protest movement, now in its sixth month.

An armored police truck was set on fire and an officer was shot through the leg with a bow and arrow. The police discharged rounds of rubber bullets and unleashed water cannons. Protesters responded with bricks and Molotov cocktails.

“If rioters keep doing what they do, police will have no choice and will fight back with tear gas and real bullets,” police warned after firing off rounds of live bullets on Sunday evening. Tear gas enshrouded the scene.

In a dramatic moment, a footbridge leading to the campus caught fire. Molotov cocktails which had been placed on the bridge also caught fire, leading to many minor explosions. The entrance to the university was left smoldering.

In a dramatic moment, a footbridge leading to the campus caught fire. Molotov cocktails which had been placed on the bridge also caught fire, leading to many minor explosions. The entrance to the university was left smoldering.

But the morale is changing among this core of committed protesters as they run out of supplies.

“The police have surrounded the whole campus, there’s absolutely no way out,” one protester told ABC News. “The situation is out of control,” he said.

“We don’t have any more supplies, so once we run out of water and food we’re going to die.”

Among the protestors inside the university are over 100 trapped high schoolers. Parents have joined a sit-in, begging police to let their children leave the university, while around 20 head teachers asked authorities to allow them to go in to escort the children out. But the requests have not led anywhere. The authorities have said they'll arrest everyone inside the college -- in some cases, protesters elsewhere are trying to draw the police away so those inside the university may have a chance to escape.

How long will the students be able to hang on is a vital question given that supply lines have been cut. “I don’t think anyone on the campus knows what they want to do, what they should do,” said the protester to ABC News. “We obviously need help from outside. But I don’t know who we’re going to get that help from.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking during a Q&A at Rice University, said that the U.S., the U.K. and "several dozen countries" have "all made clear" to China "our expectation of how China will behave" and called on General Secretary Xi to honor the commitment to "one country, two systems" -- a framework that, in theory, allows Hong Kong semi-autonomy.

“The UK is seriously concerned by the escalation in violence from both the protesters and the authorities around Hong Kong university campuses. It is vital that those who are injured are able to receive appropriate medical treatment, and that safe passage is made available for all those who wish to leave the area. We need to see an end to the violence, and for all sides to engage in meaningful political dialogue ahead of the district council elections on Sunday," read a statement from the U.K. foriegn office, condemning the violence.

Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, Hong Kong’s constitutional and mainland affairs secretary, said that the protests this weekend have reduced the chance of Hong Kong’s district council elections going ahead on Sunday, Nov. 24, according to local English-language newspaper rthk.hk.

As the siege continues into a second night, several hundred protesters have gathered with signs, hoping to pressure the police to let the protesters in the university leave.

Hardcore protesters have been joined by ordinary citizens. They are chanting “save the students,” and they are angry.

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North Korea hits back at Trump implying another summit

ABC News(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Pyongyang hit back hard in response to President Donald Trump's recent tweet suggesting another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea is no longer interested in holding a "fruitless" summit with the United States, according to a statement Foreign Ministry Adviser Kim Kye-gwan released to the state media outlet, Korean Central News Agency.

"We will not give the U.S. president anything to boast of without getting anything in return," Kim said in the statement. "We need to get the fair price for what President Trump has boasted as his achievements."

The message came along less than a day after Trump tweeted "see you soon" towards the North Korean leader, pushing him to "act quickly."

"Since June last year, three summit meetings and talks have taken place but no progress had been made between the United States and the DPRK," the statement said. "Even now, the United States is pretending to have progress regarding the Korean peninsula issue and gaining time for their benefit."

The foreign ministry adviser, who was formerly the communist regime's envoy, explained in the statement that he interpreted Trump's words on Twitter as implying a new U.S.-DPRK summit talk.

In the statement, the foreign adviser also urged Washington to drop hostile policies against Pyongyang in order to continue dialogue.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump sat down for summit talks first in Singapore in June last year, and again in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February. A third encounter was staged inside the joint security area of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea during Trump's Seoul visit.

None of these three meetings resulted in a denuclearization solution to satisfy either countries.

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Six arrested over US teacher found bound, murdered in Dominican Republic

Courtesy Adrianne Machina(SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic) -- Authorities in the Dominican Republic have arrested six people in connection with the death of an American teacher who was found dead in her home there last week, authorities said Sunday.

Patricia Anton, a U.S. citizen who lived in the Dominican Republic for the last several years, was found strangled to death last Tuesday in her apartment in Cabarete, a town on the northern coast of the island nation, the National Police said in a statement on Sunday.

The 63-year-old woman was found with her hands and feet bound together and several items were missing from her home, including a cellphone, laptop and television, police said.

The suspects were identified as Michael Marinez Rosario, Heuri Flores Hernandez, Junior Alexis Suarez, Juan Jose Andujar Mella, Oroniel Canario Montero and Alexis Maquey.

Police are searching for a seventh suspect who goes by the nickname "Eiden" and/or "The Venezuelan." Police said all seven suspects traveled to Puerto Plata with the intention of committing crimes before they fled.

Investigators did not say how they connected the suspects to the woman's death.

Police said four of the men have prior criminal records.

Anton moved to the island around 2013 and began teaching at 3 Mariposas Montessori six years ago, the school confirmed to ABC News.

"Patty was not only a colleague of mine, but she was also my mentor and one of my best friends," Sarah Ludwig-Ross, the founder and head of the school, told ABC News in a statement last week. "She was one of the most caring people I have ever met, always putting everyone else first."

"She shared our belief that peace in the world can only come from getting close to and understanding people who are different from ourselves. ... Patty loved each and every one of our children just as if they were her own," she added.

Anton's family described her as a loving woman who "was all about kindness and sweetness."

"Her life was so much bigger than her death," her cousin, Adrianne Machina, told ABC News on Thursday. "The Dominican Republic was her happy place. I think her dream was to retire down there. … The Dominican Republic really gave her purpose and peace."

The family said it was working with officials at 3 Mariposas Montessori to erect a "peace park" in Anton's honor.

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