Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


London Terror Trial; Jacques Chirac Announces he Won't Seek Third Term as President; Examining the Effects of Violence on the Children in Iraq

Aired March 12, 2007 - 12:00   ET


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Battling the psychological effects of war, Iraq's youngest victims and the help they need.
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Explosive new evidence for the prosecution. The images shown at the London trial of six would-be bombers.

CHURCH: And after 12 years as France's head of state, Jacques Chirac announces he'll soon say au revoir.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was enjoying her time in Moscow, and suddenly overnight, everything changed.


CLANCY: Were they targeted or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

It's 9:00 in the morning in Los Angeles, 7:00 in the evening in Baghdad.

Hello and welcome, everyone, to our report broadcast around the globe.

I'm Jim Clancy.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church.

From London to Paris, or wherever you're watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

Hello, everyone.

Well, prosecutors in the London terror trial of six accused would-be bombers have shown jurors yet another dramatic video. This one recreating what might have happened if the 2005 bombings had gone off.

Well, Paula Newton is outside the courthouse with more.

Paula, what we have learned from these mock bombs today? PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really was a chilling moment when they were played in court. And we can go to that video right now, Rosemary.

This is what was played to the jury. And you have to think of the force of this explosion inside a crowded subway car at the height of rush hour. The forensic scientist, Clifford Todd (ph), on the stand left no one guessing, saying that, look, this would have caused serious injuries and death. And it certainly would have destroyed the train cars that it was in.

Rosemary, we have to stress here that these are unprecedented tests that were taking place. The forensic scientists here said that they consulted other scientists around the world.

What they were doing, Rosemary, was to try and prove that if the failed bombers had gotten the formula right -- and the formula included concentrating hydrogen peroxide in flour -- if they had gotten that formula right, that there is no doubt that 21-7 would have been as bad as two weeks prior to that, the 7-7 explosions that killed 52 people in London, and perhaps even worse. Those failed bombers, prosecutors allege, fanned out to three subway cars and one bus on that day.

And as they continued to play the video, the jury, I have to tell you, was completely riveted. It was a stark contrast to the six defendants who barely glanced at the video. And I should say, Rosemary, that they all deny the charges.

CHURCH: Indeed. And Paula, what is the defense arguing in this, as we watch that chilling video?

NEWTON: This is really interesting, Rosemary. Their defense comes right down to the science of this. And we, in fact, can't even explain the real science behind it because we've been asked not to, because it may show other people step by step how to create one of these bombs.

But suffice it to say that it is concentrated hydrogen peroxide mixed with flour, attached to a very crude detonator, which is, again, a very crude about four gallon plastic container. That is it.

What these test are trying to prove, that when you concentrated that hydrogen peroxide, that it detonated every time. The defendants say that, look, we only meant for this to be a hoax. We knew that the explosive wouldn't detonate. But the prosecution says that considering the evidence that they found in the flats of these defendants, they say that there was a stovetop bomb factory in process at this address, and that they fully intended for that detonator to go off and for the explosions to be as violent as we've seen in those videos.

The reason this comes down to science is that the forensic scientist has testified himself in saying, look, if I wanted this to be a hoax, there is no way I would even start the process of concentrating that hydrogen peroxide. I would not start trying to make a stovetop bomb. I would simply put in the contents with a dummy detonator.

Because once you start concentrating that hydrogen peroxide on that kind of a stove, Rosemary, you're dealing with a substance that is so dangerous and so corrosive that if you cupped it in your hand it would destroy your hand. That is the kind of evidence we're dealing with.

Needless to say, as commuters here in London start to hear this, they will realize that this was not -- that this could have been something that was much worse. Especially if they believe the testimony of the scientists on the stand today.

We -- most people here, kind of had the impression that this might have been some kind of copycat to 7-7. The prosecutors here allege that it was no such thing and that this really, save for a little bit of bad chemistry, could have been a very dark day in London -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Indeed. All right. Paula Newton outside the courthouse there.

Thanks so much.

CLANCY: Everyone wondering what that's going to mean for a verdict coming up. But what about the verdict on a political legacy?

It is the end of an era in France. European newspapers all focusing on this story, because just ahead of the national elections, Jacques Chirac announcing he's not going to be seeking a third term as president. He's served in government now for nearly half a century.

Jim Bittermann has seen most of it.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was hardly unexpected, but after more than four decades in public life, French president Jacques Chirac addressed the nation to say he will not run again.

JACQUES CHIRAC, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): I will not solicit your votes for a new term. In a different fashion, but with enthusiasm and passion and tact, I will continue to lead the fights that I have led all my life.

BITTERMANN: It was an emotional moment for Chirac, whose long, if not always illustrious, political career had at its base his image as an approachable and affable every man. And not above the temptation of an extra helping of pate or a glass of wine.

But he was frequently criticized for his failed attempts to change and modernize France. And until only very recently, his inability to do anything to ease the country's chronic unemployment problems. The outgoing president said he wished he could have done more. CHIRAC (through translator): I would have preferred, of course, to do more to shake up conservatism and self-centeredness in order to respond more rapidly to the difficulties that some of you are facing every day.

BITTERMANN: Perhaps one of Chirac's deepest regrets was his failure to convince his countrymen to accept a constitution for Europe. He apologized to other European leaders that he was unable to better influence the outcome.

What remains to be seen is how Chirac may influence the election of his successor. He did not, in his remarks, endorse his protege, Nicolas Sarkozy. Instead, he at least kept his options opened to endorse the up and coming candidacy of Francois Bayrou by reminding the French that they should support those who can bring unity and not political extremism. Bayrou has built his campaign on just that.

And as the opinion polls continue to indicate the fortunes of socialist candidate Segolene Royal are falling, the centrist undecided vote is becoming more and more important.

As for the outgoing president, he promised to continue to fight for justice, peace and the grandeur of France. Although he did not say exactly how.

(on camera): For months, Chirac's aides have been predicting privately that the president would wait until the very last moment before announcing that he would not run in order to avoid a period of political uncertainty. But now France faces just that, because of the ever-tightening race among those candidates who would like to be his successor.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


CLANCY: All right. From France now to Iraq.

They were targeted on the way going, and now they've been target on the way back. "There is no god but Allah," they chant as they beat their chests. These chants, Shia pilgrims, as they mourn dozens of people killed on Sunday, all of them returning from celebrations and commemorations in the city of Karbala.

That's when a suicide bomber used his truck coming at high speed to ram the back of the truck that they were riding in and detonated his deadly load. Many of the victims burned alive. At least 32 lost their lives.

CHURCH: Now, as any parent can tell you, children often mimic what they see others doing.

CLANCY: And as you can imagine, it is difficult to shield children in a war zone from all the violence, all the negative images.

CHURCH: Jennifer Eccleston talks to mental health professionals about what's happening to the children of Baghdad.


JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's a brutal reflection of daily life in Iraq. "Die!" they shout. "Die now!" Plastic machine guns and pistols, a game of "kill the insurgents".

"We learned this from the American. It's my favorite game."

DR. SAIED AL HASHIMI, PSYCHIATRY PROFESSOR MALE: Our children are our sunded by violence. They -- in every direction they look, they see violence.

ECCLESTON: Car bombs, kidnappings, air strikes, and mass displacement. Doctor Saied Al Hashimi is a professor of psychiatry.

AL HASHIMI: Now I can say that almost -- almost all the Iraqi children, especially in Baghdad and around Baghdad -- these are what we call the hot zones -- most of them are traumatized.

ECCLESTON: Mustafa Karim (ph) is a seemingly happy young boy, despite living in a squalid refugee camp in the Shiite Baghdad slum of Sadr City. His family was brutally driven out of their village by insurgents. "They killed my father and uncle in front of my eyes."

Iraq's healthcare system is reeling from victims of the physical brutality of war, too overwhelmed to deal with the victims of the psychological battle. Many of Iraq's best and brightest doctors have either been murdered or fled the country.

Helping is left to a small team of doctors like Haidar Abdul Mosen. He runs a one-man psychiatric clinic. He says it's the only one in Iraq.

Despite meager resources, he treats up to 15 patients a day, patients like 8-year-old Dahra (ph). When bombs burst in her neighborhood, she suffers seizures. And 13-year-old Kita (ph). When she hears blasts, she hits her mother.

DR. HAIDAR ABDUL MOSEN, PSYCHIATRIST: Our children became very violent, became very aggressive. They talk badly. They behave in a bad manner. And we think this is one of the effects of war.

ECCLESTON: Sixteen-year-old Saman (ph) is severely depressed. She screams and cries in the middle of the night, too afraid to sleep.

Saman (ph) was kidnapped by someone, we don't know who, outside of her school. She was held for nine days in a windowless room with 20 other girls, beaten and forced to sleep next to the dead body of a girl who was raped and killed.

Her family paid $20,000 for her release. She asked us to conceal her identity. Saman's (ph) mother pleads with Dr. Haidar to help her daughter.

"It's OK. It's OK," he says to her. "Calm down."

But to me, he says a generation is lost.

Jennifer Eccleston, CNN, Baghdad.


CHURCH: Tragic stories there, Jim. And of course the plight of children, the problem is the plight of them is often forgotten.

CLANCY: It is overlooked, and shouldn't be, because 40 percent of Iraq's 26 million people are under the age of 15. That affects not only them today, that affects Iraq's future.

More on Iraq. The U.S. troop influx there isn't going to be complete until sometime in May, we're being told now. But the U.S. military and others say that they've already begun to see some positive effects coming from the current security clampdown in Baghdad.


MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: We're seeing some very positive initial indicators of economic progress taking place again inside of Baghdad that we have not seen over the last year. And so these are very positive things. And as that continues, and the people become more confident that they're security forces, both the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police, can provide the necessary security, we would hope to see even more economic growth take place.


CLANCY: Now, since February, Caldwell says they've launched more than 200 operations against al Qaeda objectives. The result, he says, more than 100 terrorists killed and more than 400 more captured -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right.

We want to check some other news that we're following today.



CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN International and YOUR WORLD TODAY.

CLANCY: That's right. We're covering the news of the world, what it wants to know, some of the major stories, and give you some perspective on those stories.

Well, we're just getting word that three top al Qaeda suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility appeared in a special hearing over the past weekend. The legal proceedings determining if the suspects are going to be classified as enemy combatants.

Now we have senior correspondent Jamie McIntyre joining us live with more.

Jamie, I want to get to that in a minute. One of the major stories in the U.S., because it's such a politically charged time here over the Iraq war, has been the treatment of veterans returning wounded from the Iraqi war, and there are some developments on that front.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Another top Army official has lost his job over this scandal about the treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Kevin Kiley, three-star general who was the Army surgeon general, the top medical officer, after having been embattled now for more than a week by questions about whether he should step down, has decided to submit his resignation, saying it should not be about one doctor, and he wants to clear the way for the Army to get a grip on this scandal. He said before that he thought he had the skills to help fix the problem, but again, Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley now submitting his resignation, submitting to the pressure to clear the way for a whole new leadership. And now a new surgeon general will have to be appointed, confirmed by the Senate, and approved by President Bush as this scandal continues to unfold.

CLANCY: All right. More on that perhaps a bit later. But I want to get to that hearing over the weekend.

You've got people -- Ramzi Binalshibh. You've got the man who -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who really planned the September 11th attacks. They are in U.S. custody.

How does this hearing relate to whether or not they might be brought to justice?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, what this reflects is the bringing of those people out of the sort of secret prison system that the CIA was operating overseas, into more of the mainstream, the U.S. military system.

They were moved to Guantanamo by President Bush, these 14 high- value suspects. Now they are receiving their first formal review. This is from a military commission that's determining whether they are enemy combatants.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected 9/11 mastermind, two other top planners, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Abu Faraj al-Libbi, all now facing a tribunal which is going to decide, based on secret evidence, whether or not they should continue to be held as enemy combatants. This is not a trial of their guilt and innocence, just whether there's enough evidence to continue to hold them.

But it's the first proceeding, but it's not completely in public. In fact, it's not in public at all. All the Pentagon is going to do is release a transcript of the proceedings after the fact, after an army of lawyers has gone over the transcript and blacked out anything that they think is classified material.

So, we'll get those transcripts later. But still, not a public process as these people are being held in Guantanamo, and being held and submitted, really, to their first formal hearing about their status -- Jim.

CLANCY: Still, people in the American public certainly are going to be asking questions, and that is, it would appear that the evidence against some of these people is overwhelming. Why not try them in a court?

Is the military saying anything about that?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, that may be the ultimate outcome of this, but the process has got quite a ways to go. These combatant review tribunals, by the way, are something that's scheduled to go on for months. Go on for a couple of months into the summer, and then there will be a decision about whether any of these will face tribunal. And of course there are legal questions about that, as well.

CLANCY: All right.

Jamie McIntyre reporting to us there live from the Pentagon.

As always, Jamie, thank you -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Well, U.S. President George W. Bush continues his tour of Latin America with a stop in Guatemala. But, with all his good intentions, street protests have been following him every step of the way.

Protesters near an ancient Mayan site oppose a planned visit by the president. Mayan leaders have already said they will spiritually cleanse the site after Mr. Bush's departure.

And we'll have much more on his trip a little later in the program.

CLANCY: That's right. We're going to take a little bit of a break here, Rosemary. But when we come back, we'll check the markets.

CHURCH: We'll do that.

And reports of people being poisoned. Where the victims have ties, to Russia, are nothing new.

CLANCY: But the recent case of that mother and daughter on holiday in Moscow defies any explanation. We're going to have more on that when we come back.



CLANCY: Hello, and welcome back to our viewers in the U.S., and from all around the world, some 200 countries, including the U.S.

CHURCH: Yes, and this is YOUR WORLD TODAY. I'm Rosemary Church.

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy. And these are the stories that are making headlines in your world. Hundreds of Shia pilgrims mourning in the streets at the killing of at least 32 fellow pilgrims who came on Monday in Baghdad. They were also killed on Sunday as they returned from a pilgrimage to the city of Karbala. A suicide bomber rammed from behind, coming at high speed into a truck they were riding in, detonating explosives and burning many of the victims alive.

CHURCH: U.S. President George W. Bush arriving in Guatemala City for a fourth stop on his Latin American tour. The president is expected to promote the benefits of free trade, visit a school where the U.S. military is providing medical aid, and travel to an ancient site of Mayan ruins.

CLANCY: From all around the world, tributes have poured in for the man who has shaped French politics for nearly half a century. President Jacques Chirac says he's not going to be there for a third term. An announcement that comes just ahead of national elections this spring. It wasn't entirely a surprise by any measure. But in France, reaction has been mixed about a leader who has had a generous share of both his critics as well as his supporters.

CHURCH: All right. Back to the U.S. president's tour and hot button issues like immigration and international adoptions may come up during that presidential tour.

CLANCHY: Now the U.S. is, of course, concerned about the adoption process in Guatemala. Officials say that that's, of course, an extremely poor nation and some women there just may be getting coerced into giving up their babies for the cash.

CHURCH: That's right. And as Alina Cho reports, the U.S. is threatening to bar adoptions from Guatemala unless the government takes action.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet 10-month-old Jorge Alberto (ph), a doe-eyed baby from Guatemala. William and Maria Gonzalez-Slattery's ultimate gift.

MARIA GONZALEZ-SLATTERY, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: It was like Christmas and your birthdays all rolled up in one.

CHO: The Slatterys adopted little Jorge because they couldn't have kids of their own. Last year more than 4,000 children from Guatemala were adopted in the United States, second only to China. Most of the adoptions are perfectly legal, but some are not.


CHO: A U.S. government official tells CNN the Guatemalan adoption industry, an $80 million a year business, is rife with abuse and driven by profit.

DIFILIPO: So you have situations in Guatemala where there are accusations that birth mothers have been induced, financially, to put their child up for adoption.

CHO: There are also reports of babies being sold by impostors posing as biological parents. Last month, Mary Bonn, a well-known adoption facilitator in Florida, was charged with smuggling a baby girl from Guatemala into the United States. Bonn pleaded not guilty.

MARY BONN, ADOPTION FACILITATOR: She's a baby. She deserved a chance.

CHO: That case prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a rare warning, strongly urging Americans to carefully consider their options before proceeding with adoptions in Guatemala. The Guatemalan government admits there is a problem and is working to fix it. Three out of four people live in poverty in Guatemala, a big reason why so many children are adopted.

JOSEFINA ARELLANO, ATTY. GEN. FOR MINORS & FAMILY: This child is going to really have a life outside of Guatemala, but a good life.

CHO: That's exactly why the Slatterys are trying to adopt Jorge's biological sister, four-year-old Maritsa (ph), but no one knows now if that adoption will ever happen.

SLATTERY: It would be a death. And more so worrying because you would never know what happened to this child, and what future that child would have. There would be no way of knowing. So for the rest of your life you would carry this with you.

CHO: Alina Cho, CNN, New York


CLANCY: All right. Well, U.S. President George W. Bush of course in Guatemala. Afterwards, he's going to be traveling to Mexico, one of the most important trips on his agenda. He's going to have -- first of all, it will be his first time to meet the new president, Felipe Calderon. There are a number of issues on the agenda but it's going to be interesting to see what's on the menu.

Jonathan Mann gives us some insight.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember the ethanol agreement that President Bush signed in Brazil last week? Well, in Mexico there is another side to ethanol, surging demand is being blamed for an enormous problem for the people and the economy of the country. Call it the tortilla twist. It will give you a glimpse of what happens when you grow corn to fuel cars, instead of feeding people.

It's a chain reaction, really. Start with oil prices that are going up over the long term. Those higher oil prices mean a bigger and better market for ethanol, and that in turn means more demand and higher world prices for corn, which is where the U.S. gets its ethanol. That rising cost of corn on both sides of the border means tortillas cost more, too.

Tortillas are a staple of the Mexican diet, especial leg for the poor, who get nearly half of their protein from them. And prices have tripled or quadrupled in some places over the last year.

ROSANA FUENTES BERAIN, EDITOR, FOREIGN AFFAIRS EN ESPANOL: We must bear in mind that the Mexican people, the poor and the rich, do eat tortilla. But, for the poor some of its basic consumption, and we're talking large numbers here. We're talking more than 50 million Mexicans that do need to eat tortilla on a daily basis. Just imagine yourself with between 20 and 30 percent increase in your food consumption. It is a shock.

MANN: Seventy thousand people marched through the streets of Mexico City earlier this year in protest, creating the first real crisis for new President Felipe Calderon. The government arranged a temporary deal to hold down prices but the deal ends next month. And some analysts are blaming the price increases for inflation, and not only that, the inflation is actually bringing down the value of the Mexican peso on world currency markets. Corn for cars has a different impact than a lot of people expect. Back to you.


CHURCH: All right. Jonathan Mann there with insight. And questions growing in Russia.

CLANCY: That's right. Another mysterious poisoning. But this latest case even more curious than ever. We'll have that story when we come back.



CLANCY: That's right. We're seen, of course, in more than 200 countries all around the globe, including here in the U.S. Well, U.S. energy services giant Halliburton has announced it's going to be setting up some new corporate headquarters. not in Houston, not even in New York. It's going to be Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

CEO David Lesar revealed the move at an energy conference on Sunday. He said this is a shift that's part of the company's strategy to concentrate on the Middle East, and markets in energy for Asia. Thirty-eight percent of the company's revenue was generated in the Eastern Hemisphere last year.

Now Halliburton's move could make great business sense for this company. Dubai is, after all, one of the most important trading hubs for the world's oil industry. But the move could also engulf the company in a political firestorm back home in the U.S. For more let's go to Maggie Lake in New York City.

Maggie, what do you have for us?

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jim. You're right. There is already -- we are already seeing a political reaction, congressman and senators not too happy about this. Now you'll have to remember there is some background here. Halliburton has been a political lightning rod in D.C. for some time now. They have been charged with winning no-bid contracts for servicing troops -- U.S. troops in Iraq, because of their political connections.

Vice President Dick Cheney was once a member of the executive board there, ran the company. They've been charged with that and also for overbilling the U.S. government. So they have been at the center of controversy for some time. This move is only putting them right back in the headlines in D.C.

A couple of voices coming out today, speaking out against it. One of them, Senator Patrick Leahy, is blasting the move. He calls it quote "an insult to U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts." Another congressman, Henry Waxman, also a longtime vocal critic of Halliburton, he is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, he says he might hold hearings on this.

Now, at issue seem to be a couple of factors in terms of the political implications. One of them is national security. They do, through their KBR unit -- which they are spinning off, but they do, of course, service troops, have national security contracts.

Another one is tax issues. Will Halliburton have to pay corporate taxes in Dubai? And also a lot of people are talking about what this means, at least symbolically. There's so much controversy, as you know, on the issue of outsourcing, of U.S. companies moving their operations overseas. What that would mean for jobs here in the U.S., all three of those factors coming into play when it comes to D.C. -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right. But, you know, beyond that, I don't know how much discussion there is in New York City about it all, but there's a real sense here that what the Democrats accomplished when they took control of the Senate and of the House of Representatives was to be able to control the agenda as we have seen.

You can hear it right there, when they say, we're going to hold hearings. And there's a lot of that expected in this year leading up to the election, where they could damn the Republicans, they could point a finger at the vice president, Dick Cheney, and at Halliburton, because literally hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars has gone missing. And you know, it's not fully accounted for by all of these things.

Does this mean that they're any less liable to appear before some of those committees because the company's no longer based in the U.S.?

LAKE: Well, possibly. But one thing to keep in mind is that the center of all of the controversy about that is KBR, and Halliburton has been spinning it off. The company has been trying to really get back to focus on its oil services, and sort of lose some of the other -- it had asbestos hearings it's now finished up with, and soon it will complete a total spinoff of KBR.

Will they have to get pulled up in front of those hearings? Possibly. And you are very right to point out that a lot of this is political posturing. We are heading into, even though it's a little far away, a very important election here in the U.S. So there is going to be a lot of that noise.

On the other side of that, a lot of people are stepping back and saying, hey, this makes very good business sense. A lot of the activities in the region, as you mentioned, 38 percent of Halliburton's revenues come from there. Merrill Lynch out with a note saying strategically this is very interesting and by moving their management there, they're making a statement that they are committed to the region and they are putting on a multinational face on the company.

So, business people are viewing this very positively. In Washington, it's another story, and we could well see them once again have to defend this latest move as they have had to with some of those KBR units -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right. Maggie Lake in New York City, good to have you there sorting some of this out for us. It's a very interesting case and we haven't heard the end of it.


CHURCH: All right. Just getting some new information on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Now before we were reporting the Army announcing the retirement of its surgeon general, Lieutenant General Kevin C. Kiley. Now he was under fire in that controversy over the wounded soldiers there at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Getting word now a senior Pentagon official is telling CNN that Kiley was actually fired from his position. The officials say it's acting Army Secretary Pete Geren requested Kiley's resignation and that Secretary Gates -- Robert Gates, approved the action. So getting word there that Kiley was actually fired from his position as the surgeon general at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Keeping an eye on this story and many others here on YOUR WORLD TODAY.

All right. Moving on now, though. The poisoning death of former Russian spy and government critic Alexander Litvinenko drew headlines from around the world back in November.

CLANCY: That's right. Those hospital shots of him. But still other Russians have been poisoned under mysterious circumstances. Thelma Gutierrez brings us the story of two women who fell ill and a family member who raced to save their lives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia, the country of her birth almost became the country of her death. Dr. Marina Kovalevsky of Los Angeles traveled to her homeland with her 26- year-old daughter Yana. But Marina and Yana mysteriously became ill, suffering headaches, stomachaches and shortness of breath.

DR. LEON PECK, BROTHER OF VICTIMS: They were getting the symptoms, they were in excruciating pain, in their legs, mostly. We all were thinking about food poisoning but nothing else.

GUTIERREZ: Doctors in Moscow discovered thallium, element 81 on the periodic table, a toxic metal once used in rat poison, was making Marina and Yana sick.

PECK: A few weeks ago I was working here, she was enjoying her time in Moscow and suddenly overnight everything changed.

GUTIERREZ: Dr. Leon Peck, an oral surgeon in California, is Marina's brother. Peck says Russian doctors told him his sister and niece might die and they couldn't find the antidote to thallium, something called Prussian blue.

PECK: I looked up this antidote on the Internet.

GUTIERREZ: Peck began a desperate cybersearch for the antidote, finding some Prussian blue in Germany and a larger batch in California. He paid almost $2,000. Peck then flew 6,000 miles to save his poisoned sister and niece.

PECK: Bought a ticket to Moscow, flew there and started to give it to them immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was their reaction when they first saw you?

PECK: They were crying.

GUTIERREZ: When they were well enough to travel, Marina and Yana flew 13 hours back to California, arriving last Wednesday. Russian and FBI investigators are now looking into how and why Marina, a doctor who practices internal medicine in Los Angeles, and her daughter, were poisoned.

DR. JONATHAN FIELDING, PUBLIC HEALTH DIR., L.A. COUNTY: The salts of thallium are colorless, are tasteless and can be dissolved in liquid. So it could be administered potentially to somebody unknowingly.

GUTIERREZ: It's a case eerily familiar. Last year, Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy living in London, was poisoned with what doctors first thought was thallium. Tests later showed he was given a lethal dose of polonium-210.

PECK: My sister is just a medical doctor. And she's not politically involved in anything. So I have no idea why she was chosen for this particular type of, you know, poisoning. Maybe, again, as I said before, they were just mistaken by somebody else.

GUTIERREZ: Whether they were poisoned by mistake or targeted to die, a mother and daughter are grateful to return to L.A., on stretchers, but alive.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.


CLANCY: It is every parent's worst nightmare.

CHURCH: Certainly is. Just ahead, the story of a baby stolen in an apparent act of desperation. The details when we come back.


CLANCY: All right. So we are getting some news in of a journalist kidnapped in Gaza. Few details available. His armored car was found empty and abandoned. He's a correspondent for the BBC. We got a message from the BCC a short time ago saying that now that they've spoken to his family they are issuing a statement on this. They say: "We're aware of reports concerning the whereabouts of our BBC Gaza correspondent." His name is Alan Johnston. The BCC goes on to say: "We're currently unable to contact him. We're concerned for his safety and we're trying to gather as much information as possible." Alan, they say, is a highly experienced and respected reporter. He has been based in Gaza for the past three years.

Now this is not the first time that reporters or producers have gone missing in Gaza in recent months. Some of the kidnappings are believed to be for money. Other kidnappings are political in nature. But at this time, we're continuing to wait and watch along with our colleagues in London, with the BBC. Just wondering how long it's going to be before this journalist might be released. Fortunately, there's a pretty good record here for these journalists to be released and be released safely.

CHURCH: All right, Jim. Watching that story, and another story we've been watching is police in Texas reuniting a baby girl with her mother. Now they've also arrested a woman in New Mexico in connection with her kidnapping.

CLANCY: That's right. And she's facing some extradition hearings going to Texas. The family telling reporters at the hospital that the Amber alert system helped police find their baby. Doctors have been very worried about the baby's health because she was born with jaundice.

Keith Oppenheim has details on the kidnapping as well as on the arrest.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Saturday morning, at 1:00 a.m., Mychael Dawodu was just 3 days old. But just as her third day of life started, young Mychael became a kidnap victim.

LT. SCOTT HUDGENS, LUBBOCK, TEXAS, POLICE DEPT.: A female posing as a hospital employee went into the hospital room, told the family that they need to take the baby for some tests and then left the room.

OPPENHEIM: Before the suspect was caught, she was caught on tape. Surveillance cameras at Covenant Medical Center captured what appears to be an African-American woman in her 20s walking in the hospital. There was tape of her before the abduction and later, leaving, wearing a puffy coat, and carrying a handbag.

Hospital officials said she was not an employee but posed as one, dressed in nurse's scrubs, taking advantage of the hospital open to the public.

GWEN STAFFORD, COVENANT MEDICAL CENTER: This individual was pretty sophisticated or at least knowledgeable of what happens in health care institutions.

OPPENHEIM: Lubbock Police got more than 200 tips. Then, at midnight Saturday, a caller said the suspect and baby Mychael were spotted about 100 miles away in Clovis, New Mexico.

HUDGENS: Clovis PD located the baby Mychael at a residence there in Clovis in the company of an adult female.

OPPENHEIM: Police would not release the suspect's name. But when CNN called the Curry County Detention Center in New Mexico about inmates who were recently booked, we were told 21-year-old Rayshaun Parson is being held as a fugitive of justice from Lubbock County, Texas, for kidnapping.


CLANCY: All right. It would appear that the parents very relieved tonight but a young woman, troubled obviously, is in jail. That has to be it for this hour, I'm Jim Clancy.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. Stay with us.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines