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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Surveillance Photo of Taliban Fighters Raises Questions on Rules of Engagement; Autistic Young Man's Incredible Gift; 411: War on Terror
Aired September 13, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us tonight. We have a very special program for you, "On the Trail of Terror: The Hunt for al Qaeda Terrorists," is our top story tonight, and it includes a very important and provocative question. Look at this. It is a military photo apparently showing a group of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan as they gather for a funeral. If the drone that took this picture also carried a gun or a missile, would you have pulled the trigger, or should you have? We'll go in depth on that controversial question tonight.
We'll also be taking you live to Afghanistan, where my colleague Anderson Cooper is standing by -- Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Paula, yes, we'll be taking you out on patrol tonight with the U.S. 10th Mountain Division on the hunt of al Qaeda fighters and the Taliban. You'll actually see Taliban positions and see what the U.S. is doing about them in this very difficult mission, Paula. You can also ask me questions about what is happening here in Afghanistan, the war on terror or anything else. For that, you go to iReport@cnn.com. That coming up all throughout this hour -- Paula.
ZAHN: Anderson, thanks so much. See you in a little bit.
We're going to get right back to that stunning aerial photo showing what may have been a missed opportunity to take out dozens of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Tonight, the military says the picture should never have been released to the media, but argues it just happens to show that the U.S. holds itself to a higher standard than its enemies. The story tonight from senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The single video frame shows a large gathering of suspected Taliban militants in the crosshairs of a U.S. spy plane, sitting ducks, except that no one pulled the trigger. The picture first surfaced on a Weblog written by NBC News reporter Kerry Sanders (ph) in Afghanistan, who says the image was declassified at NBC's request. According to what Sanders was told, the 190 Taliban members, including top leaders, were at a funeral, and Army officers expressed frustration the group was not attacked. "Why?" he wrote, "Under the rules of engagement, the U.S. cannot bomb a cemetery." Actually, military experts say the U.S. can bomb a cemetery in some circumstances. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commanders on the ground usually have a degree of flexibility in terms of how they operate these rules of engagement. But again, a rule of engagement which essentially puts cultural and religious sites off limits, that's not unusual.
MCINTYRE: Initially, the U.S. military refused to comment on the photo, saying it should never have been released. But in a later statement, the military said the picture shows a July gathering of Taliban insurgents that it first considered a tactically viable enemy target but then decided not to strike because the group was on the grounds of a cemetery and were likely conducting a funeral for Taliban insurgents killed earlier in the day.
Another reason for caution: credible intelligence can be wrong, such as the time in 2002 when U.S. planes mistakenly bombed a wedding party in Afghanistan, killing several dozen civilians.
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPHERD, U.S. ARMY (RET.), MILITARY ANALYST: It could be a missed opportunity. It could be a disaster averted. Again, we have had both.
MCINTYRE: The statement noted that a suicide bomber attacked the funeral of a Afghan provincial governor Tuesday, killing innocent civilians, and said the U.S. holds itself to a higher moral and ethical standard than its enemies.
ZAHN: So Jamie, there's a tremendous amount of controversy over all this, but at the end of the day, do we even know who might have been in that group?
MCINTYRE: We don't. In fact, that's one of the problems with something like this, is you see a group picture like that, it looks like an inviting target. You don't really know who's in it, even though you've got some reports on the ground. And so that's one of the factors that plays into the decision of whether or not to strike a group like this. They really didn't know who was in there.
ZAHN: Is there any talk tonight now, in the wake of all this, of potentially modifying those rules of engagement, which seem to be subject to multiple interpretations here tonight?
MCINTYRE: No. You know, the rules of engagement -- there's no problem with that, according to the military. It's -- you know, if there's a problem, it's in the judgment call, and again, the judgment of this commander was to err on the side of not striking, and that's what people are second guessing now. But again, you have to put yourself in their shoes. They got to look at all of the factors involved, and in this case, he just thought it was the wrong call to strike this funeral party, given the circumstances.
ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, thanks so much.
Joining me now, a man that knows an awful lot about this, as well, our military analyst, retired Army brigadier general David Grange. Always good to see you. So, sir, if you had been in charge, what would you have ordered?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, it's a very inviting target, there's no doubt about it, and to destroy that many enemy insurgents at one time without hunting them down by onesies and twosies would be a great achievement. However...
ZAHN: So was it a missed opportunity or a disaster averted?
GRANGE: Well, we don't really know because we don't have all the information if, in fact, they were Taliban. Now, here's some key things, though. If it was a cemetery, you should have a cross check from GPS coordinates. All of those sites that are not to be fired upon, unless fired from, are in the system, on the maps. They're in the tactical operation centers. So a cross check should have been able to have been done very quickly.
And then on rules of engagement, whether it be a burial party or not, some level of command can make a decision on an exception to the rules of engagement, if need be. And we don't know where...
ZAHN: But that takes some time...
GRANGE: ... and when in that process...
ZAHN: That takes some time to make that all happen, doesn't it?
GRANGE: It does take some time, but keep in mind, I don't think that the drone was armed anyway, and they would have had to send some type of a strike aircraft or something to take out the target. So we don't know that part. The key things to ask, though, was the system in place to make decisions by exception, and did they cross check -- did they have the system to cross check immediately if it was a no- fire area or not?
ZAHN: So as you look at this, and there are so many unanswered questions tonight, would this suggest -- I know there's some judgment calls that you're questioning -- but whether the rules of engagement need to be modified?
GRANGE: I think the rules of engagement are probably better today than they were years ago. The question is -- and I've been in these situations, one time actually trying to disperse riot control gas to not harm a crowd but to disperse them, and it took me forever to get the decision to do that, to keep -- to save lives. But some level has the decision-making ability in these type of situations, and again, we don't know how high that went.
ZAHN: But mighty frustrating, right, to watch, when you see the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan right now.
GRANGE: Knowing that, yes, you'll fight them another day, absolutely.
ZAHN: General David Grange, thanks for your expertise. Appreciate it.
GRANGE: My pleasure.
ZAHN: We're going to go straight back to Afghanistan now, and Anderson Cooper is back with us again from Kabul -- Anderson.
COOPER: You know, Paula, the thing about that as you look at this picture, this is a counterinsurgency, and it is very difficult to wage counterinsurgency from the air. You really have to be on the ground. U.S. forces have some 20,000 troops on the ground here in Iraq (SIC). There's 20,000 NATO troops, as well, though NATO is saying they need more forces, especially in southern Afghanistan.
We recently just went out on an embed, several patrols with the 10th Mountain Division in eastern Afghanistan, and on the ground walking through these mountains, you really get a sense not only of how tough the mission is but how intense the fighting can be. Take a look.
(voice-over): Captain Jason Dye (ph) has served in Iraq but says his mission in Afghanistan is far more dangerous.
CAPT. JASON DYE, 10TH MOUNTAIN DIVISION: Before I came here, I was, like, Thank God I'm going to Afghanistan. It seemed safer than Iraq. And now that I've gotten here, I can say for sure it is exactly the opposite of what I thought. It is dangerous here. There's a lot of stuff going on.
COOPER: Dye commands Bravo Company, 3rd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division. His base is dangerously close to the Pakistan border.
DYE: This is one of the main infiltration routes for the enemy. They've begun to do a lot more rocket attacks. We used to get a rocket attack maybe once a week. Now it's every other day, every couple of days, every day, and they've resorted to that, and IEDs and mines.
COOPER: Captain Dye doesn't know for sure, but he believes Taliban militants are learning how to make IEDs from foreign fighters trained in Iraq.
DYE: There's a trainer coming out here, telling them how to do stuff. That's what my intelligence tells me.
COOPER: To stop jihadists and the Taliban from crossing into Afghanistan, Captain Dye and his men routinely patrol the rugged mountains along the border.
(on camera): The unit has just received intelligence, and we can't tell you how they received it, but it indicates that there may be fighters in this area. It could mean an ambush, could be just talk. It could be nothing at all, just means that the soldiers have to be extra vigilant as they head back down the mountain.
DYE: Personnel, anybody gathering in a spot that looks odd, people trying to hide in the tree line, that sort of thing, spotters. Usually, the locals don't go up into these hills. If you see someone sitting on them, that's a spotter.
COOPER (voice-over): On this patrol, however, there are no spotters, no ambush after all. Captain Dye and his men head safely back to base, one mission down, countless more to go.
DYE: You know, I have a family. All these guys have families. We're out here fighting so that we don't have to do this at home, so that our families can stay safe. And that makes you feel good. Makes you feel like you're doing something.
COOPER: You know, Paula, when you travel around these -- when you travel around these mountains, Paula, you really just get a sense of just how porous this border is with Pakistan. It's really, in some places, a border in name only, not recognized by the Pashtun tribes, by the Taliban militants on either side of the border. And because Pakistan has now signed this ceasefire deal with the militants in Pakistan territory, intelligence sources we've been talking to say it's going to be much easier for militants, for al Qaeda fighters to cross over and fight U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan -- Paula.
ZAHN: Anderson, you're obviously on patrol with some very experienced soldiers there. They have come to expect the Taliban to be hiding, as you were talking about, behind trees. And yet did you get a sense that they have been surprised by just how dangerous it is in this part of the world?
COOPER: I don't think so. I mean, I think, initially, you know, they thought it wasn't going to be perhaps this bad. I mean, you heard Captain Dye there in that report saying, you know, when he, you know, first got told he was going to go to Afghanistan, he said, Oh, well, you know, at least it's not Iraq, not so bad. Clearly, once you are there, you realize and you quickly see how intense it is. Captain Dye said he had had three contacts with the enemy when he was serving in Iraq. He had that many contacts with the enemy here in eastern Afghanistan within the first two weeks of getting here.
Every soldier who is here now is very well aware and kind of frustrated that people back at home don't realize how dangerous it is for U.S. troops here. One soldier was telling me he went on R&R on leave back home, and a woman in a restaurant asked him where he served, he said Afghanistan, and she said, Oh, well, you know, at least you're -- thank goodness you're not in Iraq. And he sort of got frustrated that there's not that sense in the United States, even probably amongst some in the military, that Afghanistan is as intense as it really is, Paula.
ZAHN: Well, your reporting certainly has shed some light on that tonight. Anderson, thanks. We'll see you back here in a couple of minutes.
But coming up next, some more of the other top stories we're following tonight, including the urgent hunt for a man the FBI now believes is one of the most dangerous terrorists at large.
ZAHN: As our top story, "Trail of Terror," continues tonight, a man who may be causing a lot of sleepless nights at the FBI. Coming up, the South American, as he is known -- how he went from a U.S. classroom to being one of the world's most wanted terrorists.
Tonight, NATO leaders have failed to get agreement to send more troops to Afghanistan to beat back the new challenge from Taliban fighters. In fact, official say it may be weeks before NATO can get any new commitments for extra troops.
We're on "The Trail of Terror" tonight, and our top story coverage takes us back to Afghanistan, where Anderson Cooper continues to stand by in Kabul -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, Paula. It's also very difficult for NATO troops. The rules of engagement for NATO troops in some cases are different, depending on where those troops are from. From Germany, they can't be deployed to certain regions of the country, makes it much more difficult for NATO commanders on the ground to deploy the resources that they do have. And as you were just saying, Paula, they don't have as many soldiers as they would like to have.
This is a counterinsurgency, which means it's not just a military campaign, it is also an attempt to win over -- they used to refer to it as winning the hearts and minds of people in the battle zone.
CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, joins me in now here Kabul. You've been looking at this counterinsurgency, not just the military aspects, but also what they call civil affairs.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The way an insurgency works, it can only survive if they have the support or they're intimidating the local population, and the Army's job, U.S. military's job, there is to break that link between the insurgents and the community. And the way they're trying to do that is to build roads, is to build schools. But what we're seeing out there is that the Taliban are fighting back.
If you want to see what the Taliban are attacking, just check out the remnants of this school the U.S. military had just finished helping fund and get it built.
(voice-over): That was several weeks ago, when the class was not in session.
LT. DANIEL GORDON, 10TH MOUNTAIN DIVISION: Once we heard that actual explosives were placed into it, it just -- just kind of took the wind out of all of our sails because we had high hopes for this place.
ROBERTSON: High hopes because the Army is running a counterinsurgency, and that means showing Afghans they're here to help. It's exactly what the Taliban is fighting to stop, and they're ratcheting up their campaign.
(on camera): This appears to be the spot where the explosives were placed, this crater in the ground here. This is where they were placed. Up there, shrapnel splattered on the freshly painted walls. And the Afghan government says this isn't the only school that's been attacked this year. They say so far, 150 have either been attacked or threatened. That's a 70 percent increase over last year, they say.
(voice-over): Soldiers say villagers already offered to help rebuild the school. But ask them who did it, and you can see the Taliban tactics of fear and intimidation are paying off.
GORDON: The villagers haven't said really anything to point it out. You know, they still live in a lot of fear due to the large amount of activities that happen in this area.
ROBERTSON: As we drive towards the nearby town, I see more of the Army's efforts to win the people over. The center of the town running through the bazaar is now paved, courtesy of U.S. tax dollars. Afghan contractors built it and made money. Everyone seems to have made friends. This is how a counterinsurgency is supposed to work.
(on camera): I notice, as we're walking around here, you're not wearing your body armor here. You've taken your helmet off.
COMMAND SGT. MAJOR WOOD, COMBINED FORCES COMMAND: Yes. None of the local people have it on. They feel safe enough to be here. I mean, it's their community. I'm secure. If they feel secure, you know, I'm secure.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): According to this trader, everyone does feel secure and is grateful to the U.S. Army. I look for another trader to ask about the school attack and suicide bombers I'm told operate in the area. He's very friendly, but will he tell me who's behind the attacks? "God knows better than us," he says. "We're scared of them."
Army translator Asad Ahmadi, an Afghan-American from Glendale, Arizona, has been here two years, helping to win the population over, today handing flyers out explaining who attacked the school. He understands better than most why people are afraid to talk.
ASAD AHMADI, U.S. Army TRANSLATOR: The bad guys are here. A lot of people are afraid to do anything about it. They control most of the places around here.
ROBERTSON: With sharp lessons in non-cooperation, it's clear counterinsurgency here is only just beginning and has a long way to go.
COOPER: You hear the soldiers and the interpreter talking about the bad guys. I mean, the soldiers we've been talking to, the bad guys, they believe, increasingly are being trained by al Qaeda.
ROBERTSON: They believe, and the people in the village believe, that this is all happening coming across the border from Pakistan, which is only a few miles away, and that's who -- that's who they blame for -- the villagers are blaming the Pakistanis for letting people come across, and that's where the training is going on. We know through our conversations when we're down there, the 10th Mountain Division, that they have information that there are groups going over for training. They'll see the level of violence drop off for a couple of weeks when they hear they're going for training, and when they come back from training, it picks up again.
COOPER: And they have heard Uzbeks, Chechens, Arabs, a variety of foreign fighters. Some people are even talking about fighters, trainers coming from Iraq, training Taliban fighters in IEDs, and there's been an uptake in IEDs.
ROBERTSON: Bringing in expertise from outside. I think the number of IEDs has more than doubled so far this year, and that's the concern. They have captured people who've got IED-making equipment, who've got fuses, wire. They came across one man from the United Arab Emirates, and he said, Oh, what are you doing with all this wire? And he said, Oh, well, I'm just here, I'm just a tourist. I'm not really doing anything. They can see right through that. They're getting the people who are coming in, bringing in that expertise.
COOPER: And yet, when you talk about counterinsurgency, it takes years and years and years. It is not -- you know, the question we always ask is, Well, how long are U.S. troops going to be there? A lot of soldiers are kind of -- wince at that question because we're talking about a generational length of time.
ROBERTSON: That's what the commanders believe. They believe that they're working this through the next generation, that will be perhaps over the next 20 years.
COOPER: The villagers you would talk to, I mean, they wouldn't even name who the enemy was.
ROBERTSON: They're so -- they're not used to outsiders. They're just not used to having people come in from outside, foreigners in particular. It's strange in that area for them. They haven't really had government control. So it's going to take a long time to build that level of trust. And as long as they've got the Taliban or other bad guys, when they go back to their houses, threatening them, what's going to make them trust us? It's only the good things that we do.
COOPER: And Paula, and as long as the security situation remains so volatile, it becomes very difficult for the other aspect of the counterinsurgency, the winning the hearts and minds, to actually work -- Paula.
ZAHN: You made that clear, as well, both of you, in that report. Thank you very much. See you again a little bit later on in the hour.
Now, at least one al Qaeda terrorist leader may be much closer to the U.S. than you might think. In just a minute, our top story "Trail of Terror" coverage focuses on a man who was educated right here in the United States and is known as the South American. Where is he now? And how dangerous is he?
A little bit later on, Anderson will be back with some shocking video. Did this suicide bombing really happen? Well, we've got the story behind the pictures for you tonight.
And don't forget our "411 War on Terror." E-mail your questions for Anderson to iReport@cnn.com.
ZAHN: We are on "The Trail of Terror" tonight. Our top story coverage moves now on to one of the most hunted men in the world. You may not have heard of this alleged member of al Qaeda. He happens to be known as the South American, but he was educated right here in the U.S., and investigators say that makes him especially dangerous. He is an alleged terrorist with a $5 million bounty on his head. And justice correspondent Kelli Arena has the very latest on all that right now.
KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirty-one-year-old Adnan el Shukrijumah is believed to be one of al Qaeda's most deadly sleeper agents and an urgent threat to the United States. This is the FBI agent who has spent the last three years of his life chasing him.
ANDREW LENZEN, FBI AGENT: There's been many weekends and many holidays cut short.
ARENA: The Saudi-born Shukrijumah came to the United States with his family when he was just 20 years old. His father wanted what only America could offer his son.
GULSHAIR EL SHUKRIJUMAH, FATHER: I brought him here since 1995 so that they can get a college education.
ARENA: Shukrijumah studied at Broward Community College in south Florida. He's seen here giving a presentation for his English class.
ADNAN EL SHUKRIJUMAH: I am going to start with showing you the right way of jump-starting a car.
ARENA: He did really well, excelling in chemistry and computers. His father, an imam, tried to raise him right, to be a good Muslim.
EL SHUKRIJUMAH: I trained him to be an Islamic missionary, and as such, you have to be good to people, whether they are Muslims as well as non-Muslims.
ARENA: But Shukrijumah's American experience took a sharp turn in his mid-20s. Sources say he met a man named Ishmael Faeez (ph), an alleged al Qaeda operative who, official say, helped turn Shukrijumah from a typical student into one of the most wanted men in the world. ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Yes, he is dangerous. Yes, he had ties with persons who were al Qaeda, and we believe he shares the ideology, and if he had the capability, would participate in an attack himself.
ARENA: Shukrijumah made his way to al Qaeda training camps, where it's believed he received extensive weapons training. But it's the time he spent in the United States that has investigators most worried. The FBI says Shukrijumah has surveilled targets in Chicago, New York, Washington and Houston, and it's believed he came up with a plot to blow up apartment buildings.
STU MCARTHUR, FBI ASST. SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: He has great understanding and knowledge of how this country works and operates, and that, you know, underscores his dangerousness.
ARENA: FBI special agent Andrew Lenzen, who can't show his face because of the work he's doing, is the lead on the case.
LENZEN: Adnan went to these camps and was not necessarily recruited but developed himself into an al Qaeda warrior. And part of that was that he started with these menial tasks, washing dishes, doing the chores of a low-level recruit to prove himself.
ARENA: Lenzen says when Shukrijumah returned to south Florida, he had changed -- more calm, more self-assured. But before the 9/11 attacks, he left his family for good and didn't even return when his father died two years ago.
LENZEN: We can firmly say that al Qaeda is using his skill sets as -- his chemistry background and his computer expertise, his interest in making movies, to really fit well into the al Qaeda (INAUDIBLE) al Qaeda version 2.
ARENA: The FBI believes Shukrijumah is somewhere in Pakistan. The U.S. is passing out matchbooks there with his picture, promising a $5 million reward.
Kelli Arena, CNN, Miami.
ZAHN: Of course, that probably has you wondering if there are more sleeper al Qaeda agents like El Shukrijumah. Joining me now, assistant FBI director John Miller and Robert Grenier, a former director of the CIA's counterterrorism center. Good to have you both with us.
John, I'm going to start with you tonight. We have seen how intense the search for this man is. How much of a priority is it for the FBI to apprehend him?
JOHN MILLER, FBI ASST. DIRECTOR: Well, it's a priority. As you saw in Kelli's report, it was announced by the FIB's director and the attorney general some time ago that he was a priority, somebody we were seeking information on. But I want to add, Paula, that anonymity, the ability to move in the shadows, for an operator within a group like al Qaeda, is a key piece, and by adding him to these lists, by putting him on your show, by doing these stories, by having him on our website, we take away a lot of that am anonymity.
We neutralize a lot of the abilities that would give us concern, the idea that he's comfortable in Western culture, that he's familiar with the United States, that he's got an ability to move around. This impacts that a great deal.
ZAHN: We hope it enhances your ability to ultimately apprehend him. He's a man who's been described as being a computer engineer. From the FBI's point of view, what is it that you fear the most about this guy being able to pull off?
MILLER: Well, he has some talents that al Qaeda would be interested in. He's got a computer background, certainly al Qaeda has tried to exploit the Internet as a propaganda tool and as a communications tool between what people they have left out there. That's one concern. The chemical background is obviously another concern when you think of the possibility there.
ZAHN: We understand, Robert, that law enforcement believes that, in fact, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed was actually giving him the instructions to keep the terror network alive in the United States. What does that say about his value to al Qaeda?
GRENIER: Well, obviously, this is someone who had that background in the United States, had the ability to move freely and is the sort of individual, perhaps among others, that al Qaeda would look to in order to carry out attacks in the future in the United States, particularly if their handlers and their trainers were to be captured or killed.
ZAHN: And describe to us what impact this whole concern about home grown terrorism has in the overall war on terror, Robert?
GRENIER: Well, obviously, any time that there are leads discovered overseas that point to individuals in the United States, then those leads are passed to law enforcement and they're followed up on very aggressively. What is much more difficult to track and is much more, a much greater threat, in a sense, are those individuals who decide on their own, either as individuals or as members of small groups, to take up the cause, who don't have links overseas and who therefore are going to be very difficult to discover in the United States.
ZAHN: And John, you were describing a little bit earlier on how this guy loses some of his anonymity by having his face plastered all over the Internet, our doing stories like we did tonight, which makes you wonder just how valuable you think average citizens are in this war, particularly in the search, perhaps, for home grown terrorists.
MILLER: Well, very valuable. I mean, you take a case like this, an airline ticket clerk, an alert border official, a citizen on the street, you know, people think that the match books, which are put together by the U.S. Department of State, as part of their rewards for justice program is kind of a long shot or a little quaint, yet it was the match books and the advertising of the reward that led to the capture in Pakistan of Ramsey Usef, who was wanted in connection with the bombing of the first World Trade Center.
So we know that some of these efforts, some of the rewards, some of the creative means of outreach, like a box of matches, actually work. But I have to agree with Bob. Aside from the high profile characters, like (INAUDIBLE), who we're seeking information on and advertise heavily, there is always the threat of that individual who is self initiating, self motivating, who is following the al Qaeda websites and bin Laden or Dr. Zawahiri's calls and decides to either act on their own or put together a small group, that's a concern too.
ZAHN: Something to, something else to worry about tonight as we all are tucking in our kids. John Miller, thank you so much for your time. Robert Grenier, your perspective as well.
Our top story coverage takes us back to Afghanistan in just a minute. Anderson Cooper has some shocking video to share with all of us. Did this suicide bombing really take place or is it just propaganda video? He's got the real story behind the pictures when we come back.
ZAHN: Coming up in this half-hour more of our special top story coverage, trail of terror. We want you to send your questions into Anderson, who will be reporting from Afghanistan, by e-mailing them directly to iReport@CNN.com. You see the instructions there on the screen. He'll answer them in just a little bit.
And then a little bit later on just listen to this.
You may find this hard to believe, but this young man is autistic. He couldn't even tolerate the sound of any music when he was little. Stay with us for an amazing Mystery of the Mind.
And then coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," former President Jimmy Carter takes on the Bush administration.
We're back on the trail of terror tonight. Our top story coverage moves to what could be a chilling look at the war in Afghanistan from a very different point of view, that of a suicide bomber attacking U.S. and allied forces there.
Anderson Cooper joins me once again from Kabul, Afghanistan, with more. Anderson.
COOPER: Well Paula, there's been a real uptake, as you know, in IEDs, improvised explosive devices, set along the side of the road here. And also what they call VBIDs, Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devices, suicide bombers driving a vehicle laden with explosives into coalition troops, into a U.S. military convoy. It happened right here in Kabul just this past Friday, two U.S. soldiers were killed.
In most of these attacks it's Muslims who are getting killed. Afghan civilians in that attack on Friday here in Kabul. Two U.S. soldiers were killed and one was wounded, but 12 Afghans were killed, some 27 were wounded. It's rare, however, that you get to see a suicide bomber and hear them before the attack. What you're about to see is a tape which purports to show just that.
Now, we have not been able to independently verify that the attack you'll see on this tape actually took place and or took place as described by the al Qaeda members on this tape, but this is a tape put on the Internet by al Qaeda, by al-Sahab, which is the video arm of al Qaeda, which puts out these sorts of tape. At the very least it is a clear example of the kind of propaganda they put out on a regular basis. Take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): The video starts with the animation for al- Sahab, al Qaeda's production company, a flag map of the United States blown up by missiles. The tape titled "The American Inferno in Afghanistan" first surfaced on the Internet and was translated by Memory, an Israeli monitoring service. We found the translation pretty accurate but CNN could not determine where and when, or even if the events depicted in the tape took place. On the video we see a man showing off a trunk filled with mortar rounds. Mortars like these are commonly used in suicide car bombs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translation): I pray to Allah that this operation will be vengeance upon the American pigs and their apostate collaborator dogs.
COOPER: The would-be suicide bomber, called Abu Mohammed, makes a statement. From a name we hear later on the tape, he appears to be from Yemen.
"To my family and friends, I say: We will meet in Paradise, Allah willing."
The video then cuts to inside the bomber's car. A crudely rigged detonator is attached to a wooden board.
"This is the board that Abu Muhammad, may Allah protect him... we will carry out the operation within a few minutes. Test it for the last time, Muhammad. Only 10 minutes left until the operation."
"What do you feel, Abu Muhammad?"
"I feel a great calm."
"In your heart?"
"Yes. I pray that Allah accepts me. I've never felt so calm in my life."
For a brief moment, we see the man who recorded these pictures. He urges the bomber forward.
"Allah willing, your prayers and ours will be answered. Can you see the American cars?"
The two men survey their target. A voice says the vehicles are American.
"These are the American cars."
There is an edit in the tape. Now the suicide bomber is driving on the road. His white car clearly visible.
The video is shot from a distance while the bomber talks to the cameramen on a walkie-talkie.
"Can you see them in front of me?"
"Did you see the American in front of you? Go on a little further, and you will see them in front of you."
"Abu Muhammad, there are Muslims behind you. Move a little faster, they are in front of you now. Place your trust in Allah, Muhammad. Remember paradise, my brother. Remember paradise."
You can hear the cameraman's heavy breathing waiting for the explosion.
The U.S. military says it has no record of such an attack. It's not clear whether this video is purely propaganda or a blend of propaganda and an actual attack. On the tape, the cameraman drives off, rejoicing.
"Glory to Allah, His Prophet and the believers."
ZAHN: All right. So Anderson, you've just shown us how the video came directly from al Qaeda's own production company. What else have you learned about how they're able to recruit terrorists?
COOPER: Well, certainly the use of the Internet is a prime way. Al Qaeda as you know, has really morphed and changed since 9/11 because of the efforts by the United States.
It really has become this ideology, philosophy, which is available on the Internet, and which while they -- some cells may not even have direct contact with al Qaeda representatives, but sort of they have ideological contacts and most of the contact comes literally on the Internet. They see a video like this, they form a cell of their own and they try to start operations, Paula.
ZAHN: Anderson, thanks so much. See you back here in a couple of minutes and that's when you get to fire off your questions to Anderson about the war on terror and then also a story you don't want to miss seeing or hearing. This young man is autistic. He has an incredible gift to show us all tonight. Our doctor Sanjay Gupta joins me to explain this amazing mystery of the mind.
ZAHN: Now it's your turn to do a little work tonight. Time for our "411: War on Terror." We've asked you to e-mail us some questions about the war on terror. Anderson is back with us from Kabul, Afghanistan to answer them. This is -- I don't think this is going to be stump Anderson, tonight. We're going to move on to our first question Anderson, from Ashley from Louisville, Kentucky. It's a good one. She says: "We see so much on the news on the troops and the Taliban. But what impact is the war in Afghanistan having on the civilians over there?" What have you seen, Anderson?
COOPER: Obviously it's having an enormous impact on the civilians. As I said earlier, these IEDs, these suicide attacks, they're killing Afghan civilians by and large, certainly more so than U.S. forces or coalition forces. It's the Afghan civilians paying the price. In many ways, this is a counterinsurgency and the U.S. is trying to win over the civilian population.
In some of these outlying areas, that is a very difficult thing to do. They are intimidated by the Taliban. And after three decades really of war, it is very difficult for civilians here to feel that this government is here to stay, the government of Hamid Karzai, to feel that the U.S. is here to stay, that the Taliban won't come back.
So in many cases, people are sort of sitting on the fence trying to see which way the wind is going to blow before they make decisions. Also with the opium crop is a thriving, up 49 percent this year alone, there's a lot of narco money out there, a lot of drug money and a lot of corruption, and that really undermines the civilian support and belief in the central government.
ZAHN: And I think it was really interesting for folks who were with us earlier on, just showing how this battle is being played out, in some villages just a pencil at the time that we saw in Nic's piece.
Second question from Robert in Lynbrook, New York. He says, "If we know all these top al Qaeda suspects are operating out of western Pakistan, why can't the U.S. conduct a major military campaign to capture and kill these terrorists in these areas of Pakistan?"
I'm sure he's referring to the remote areas of Pakistan along the Afghanistan border.
COOPER: Yes, and certainly a lot of troops no doubt would -- a lot of the enlisted guys I've been hanging out with the last two guys would love nothing more than doing that. Obviously the government of Pervez Musharaf does not allow U.S. operations in particular large scale U.S. operations on Pakistan soil. It's an issue of sovereignty. They take it very seriously.
When the U.S. did launch an air strike against what they believed was a meeting that Ayman al-Zawahiri, this No. 2 man in al Qaeda was attending, they thought it was a dinner party, it killed a number of Pakistanis. Al-Zawahiri was not -- escaped at least from the blast, or was not there at all. And that caused major demonstrations throughout Pakistan.
So the government of Pakistan very sensitive to being perceived as a puppet of the United States, very unwilling to allow U.S. operations to take place on Pakistan soil, even though militarily and strategically from the U.S. perspective, it would certainly be a big help in the war on terror.
ZAHN: All right Anderson, you covered a lot of territory for us this evening and some extraordinary reporting as you went on patrol with troops, giving us a really good idea just of how dangerous all of this is. Anderson, we will look for you later on tonight on your show, anchoring an "A.C. 360" special, five years after 9/11, live from Afghanistan, the "Ground Zero of Terror." Coming up in just about an hour and 11 minutes from now.
Right now though, we're going to move on to a quick biz break.
ZAHN: And finally our "Crude Awakenings" tonight, we look at gas prices all over the country. The states with the lowest prices in green, the highest in red. The average today for unleaded regular, down again to just about $2.57, and the downward trend, keep your fingers crossed, continues.
There are only about 100 people in the world with the gift you are about to see and hear.
This young man happens to be autistic, and when he was much younger, he couldn't even stand listening to any music at all. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us tonight to explore this incredible Mystery of the Mind. Please stay tuned.
ZAHN: I hate to tell anybody out there how to think, but I think this next story is going to absolutely amaze you. It happens to be our Vital Signs story tonight. You're about to meet a teenager with autism, but blessed with a talent so rare, it completely baffles scientists. A boy who once hated music, couldn't stand to hear it at all, but now dazzles people with his extraordinary musical ability. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has this Mystery of the Mind.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Matt Savage finds expression on the 88 keys of the piano. This is what a hurricane sounds like to Matt.
MATT SAVAGE, AUTISTIC: It kind of transfers from the brain to the fingers. It goes through your body. That's how it feels.
GUPTA: The home-schooled 14-year old has recorded six CDs on a label his parents started, Savage Records. But Matt is a little different. He's autistic. As a child he didn't like to be touched and he couldn't bear the sound of music. DIANE SAVAGE, MATT'S MOTHER: Our house had been completely quiet. I mean, no TV, no music, no sound. I mean, it was just always quiet. And then my husband and I just heard London Bridge being played perfectly down in the play room.
GUPTA: Matt was six and a half. His first CD came out a year later. Dr. Darold Treffert has studied savants for more than 40 years. He was an adviser on the movie Rain Man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much is 5,343 times 1,234.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 5-3-5-9-2-6-2.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a genius.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.
GUPTA: Treffert says Matt Savage is what is known as a prodigious savant, one of only about a hundred in the world.
DAROLD TREFFERT, UNIV. OF WISCONSIN MEDICAL SCHOOL: Savant Syndrome is a condition in which somebody who has a developmental disability, including autism, for example, has some spectacular island of genius, and we tend to thing of ourselves, when we're born, that we have a blank disk and this marvelous piece of equipment called a brain, and what we become is everything that we put on our disk. There's much more to us than that. We come with software attached. Matt Savage comes with that music chip installed.
GUPTA: Other researchers disagree. They say Savants are simply able to overcompensate for a weakness or damage to the left side of the brain.
(on camera): What do you want to do with your life?
M. SAVAGE: I want to play Jazz.
ZAHN: That's an absolutely amazing kid. I think the thing that's so hard for us to get our arms around is why doesn't seem to be any agreement at all about just why he is this good. You're the brain doctor, a practicing one at that. Help us understand that divide.
GUPTA: Yes, I found this fascinating as well. When you look at the world of savants, is it a question that these people who are savants just have these islands of genius in their brains, specific things that they do really well or is it, on the other hand, they have some catastrophic problem, maybe autism or something else, and they're really over-compensating, the brain, sort of, learns to compensate in an amazing way, in this case playing the piano because they're overcoming some sort of disability. It's unclear. People are so, they have not come to terms with that. One of those two theories, I'm sure, is correct, Paula.
ZAHN: All I know is I love what I heard coming out of Matt. GUPTA: You're the musician. You would know.
ZAHN: What a gift. I've never played anything like that, really enjoyed it. Thank you very much Sanjay.
We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Thanks for joining us, good night.
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