Germanwings Co-Pilot Crashed Plane Intentionally

The co-pilot of the Germanwings flight that crashed into the French Alps Monday, killing all 150 people on board, took sole control of plane and intentionally started the descent, officials say. He has been identified as 28-year-old German national Andreas Lubitz. The New York Times reports that voice recordings from one of the two black boxes that was recovered revealed the pilot left the cockpit and could not get back despite several attempts before the fatal descent.

  • Investigators say the co-pilot is heard breathing “normally” on the recordings, and they have dismissed the theory of a health-related incident.
  • A senior French military official who heard the recordings described the situation: “The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer. And then he hits the door stronger, and no answer. There is never an answer. You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”
  • The same official, who is part of the investigation, said the two pilots had a “very smooth, very cool” conversation during the early part of the flight, which took off from Barcelona and was heading to Dusseldorf.
  • There was no communication from the cockpit to air traffic controllers during the 10-minute descent.
  • The French prosecutor Brice Robin said in a press conference that Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane into a mountain after "purposefully" locking the pilot out of the cockpit and refusing to let him back in.
  • Lubitz had 630 hours of flying experience, according to reports. He became a member of a flying club when he was a teenager. He then was a gliding student before qualifying as an Airbus 320 pilot with German airline Lufthansa.
  • He was registered as living in the western German town of Montabaur with his parents.
  • Prosecutor Robin said there were no terror-related suspicions concerning the co-pilot.
  • Search teams continue to scour the hard-to-access area of the mountain. (Photo above: Chen Xiaowei/Xinhua/ZUMA)
  • According to Le Monde, there are two simultaneous investigations by the Air Transport Gendarmerie and by the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety.

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A coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes in Yemen yesterday against the Iran-allied Houthi rebels besieging the southern city of Aden. That’s where the deposed, U.S.-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi had taken refuge, Saudi news channel Al Arabiya reports.

  • Three top Houthi military commanders were reported to have been killed during the strikes, along with at least 17 civilians.
  • Hadi has fled his residence in Aden, U.S. officials have confirmed.
  • The 10-country coalition participating in the so-called “Decisive Storm” operation includes the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, but not Oman), Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan and Sudan.
  • Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir told reporters the operation aimed “to protect and defend the legitimate government” of Haiti. “We will do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling,” he added.
  • The U.S. has said it is coordinating closely with Saudi Arabia, as the White House had already voiced support for a campaign against the Houthi rebels.
  • Iran and Syria have condemned the operation. The Iranian Foreign Ministry demanded an immediate halt of the campaign, describing it as a “military aggression,” Al Jazeera reports.
Northern Chile was plunged into chaos yesterday as the worst rains in 24 years hit the regions of Antofagasta, Coquimbo and Atacama, typically one of the world's driest areas. Read more about it on our Extra! feature.

The U.S.-led coalition launched its first airstrikes against ISIS in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit yesterday. The strikes support Iraqi forces fighting the terrorist organization alongside Iran-backed Shia militias on the ground and represent a decisive attempt to retake the city. A U.S. defense official told Reuters that American and allied warplanes have as many as a dozen targets. A second U.S. official insisted the operation would in no way coordinate with the Iran-backed Shia militias or seek to empower them in Iraq. Promising the country would prevail with the support of “friendly” countries, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on television the government forces had “opened the last page of the operations.”

Asylum applications in industrialized countries are surging and have reached their highest number in 22 years, a report published today by the UN Refugee Agency says. About 866,000 people, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, sought asylum in 2014 across 44 industrialized countries, 45% more than in 2013.

An Istanbul court has sentenced Turkish cartoonists Bahadir Baruter and Ozer Aydogan to 11 months and 20 days in jail and a $2,700 fine for “insulting” President Erdogan, Al Jazeera reports. Baruter and Aydogan published a cartoon in the satirical magazine Penguen in August depicting Erdogan entering the presidential palace, calling it a “dry” welcome and adding, “At least we could have slaughtered a journalist.” According to Penguen, a citizen complained to the government because of a circular hand gesture in the comic that allegedly represents homosexuality in Turkish culture.

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Nigeria's military has detained two Al Jazeera journalists in the northeast city of Maiduguri since Tuesday, the television broadcaster said on Thursday, days ahead of the country's general elections, Reuters reports.

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Thirty-six years ago today, the Camp David Accords were signed. Get ready for your 57-second shot of history.
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