Return to Transcripts main page


Chechen Opposition Leader Speaks about Boston Bombings and Suspects; Online Magazine Inspire Discussed; Iran and UN Sanctions

Aired April 23, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

As downtown Boston opens for business today, returning to normal life, the condition of the bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been upgraded from serious to fair. Reports so far indicate that Dzhokhar and his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed by police, were not directed by any international terrorist group.

Instead, they appear to have been radicalized by Islamic extremist literature and video available online.

"The Washington Post" reports that Dzhokhar says that he and his brother were also motivated by America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Like her son, Tamerlan, the suspect's mother became increasingly religious in recent years. From the start, she has refused to accept that her sons did the Boston bombing. She insists they were framed, as she told CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in a phone interview.


ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEVA, SUSPECTS' MOTHER: My sons were innocent. And I love them and I want the whole world to hear about it. If they're going to kill me today I will be happy. Happy, OK? OK. And I will say, "Allahu akbar."


AMANPOUR: Clearly distraught.

The Tsarnaev family are ethnic Chechens. And ever since the marathon bombing, investigators have questioned whether their ties to Chechnya, a troubled region of Russia with its own history of terrorism, has anything to do with the crime in Boston.

In a moment, I'll put that, that question, to Chechnya's exiled opposition leader. But first, here's a look at the other stories we're covering tonight.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Tightening the screws on Iran.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of our efforts, Iran is under greater pressure than ever before.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Iran's finance minister tells us sanctions do hurt but won't stop the nuclear program.

And imagine putting a brake on the Internet. Decades ago, someone tried to print the recipe for a hydrogen bomb. Unlike today, it was possible then to stop the presses.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to all of that in a bit. But first, Akhmed Zakayev is a Chechen opposition leader living in exile in Britain. He joins me now for an exclusive conversation from our London studios.

Mr. Zakayev, welcome; thanks for joining me.

AKHMED ZAKAYEV, EXILED CHECHEN OPPOSITION LEADER: Thank you for inviting me. (Inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Yes, sir. Let me just ask you, because I can see you've got a response to these terrorist attacks.

What is your response and do you believe these brothers had any link to anything going on in Chechnya?

ZAKAYEV: No, of course not. The terrorist attacks which took place in Boston (inaudible) people including child dead and many of victims was injured and wounded. On behalf of Chechen people, first of all, and behalf of Chechen government exile and now my own behalf, I would like to express deep condolences to the families of those who were killed and speediest recovery to (inaudible).

Their -- our greatest regret, suspects of this crime, ethnic Chechens, it's true. But I can show you, however, Chechens people do not have any -- do not -- have had any motives or reasons to have some feelings of hesitate (sic) and United States of American citizens. But anyway, it's happened and only the Russians high echelon politicians and Russian regime have some -- have gift for this event.


ZAKAYEV: I could explain it because you know.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Zakayev, let me ask you, I think what you want to say is that Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, always warned the West about Chechen asylum and about taking Chechens in.

But what I want to ask you is the fact that Tamerlan Tsarnaev went back to Dagestan, may have gone back into Chechnya, do believe there's any way that he could have received any training, instruction or anything from there?

ZAKAYEV: If it's -- if this happened in Chechnya or Dagestan or in Russia, it wasn't happened without knowledge Russia Secret Services. And even more, you know, we read some status, some articles that Russian special services contracted with the FBI and ask him about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

But after that, he came to Russia and he have been there six months on several times, have been in Russia and they didn't ask him. And nothing. And this is suspicious. Why I am talking about Russian Secret Services? You know, during the first war, all Chechens were have branded as bandits, fascists, some kind of sorts.

But never Russian politicians have been to call and ask fundamentalist Islamist terrorists or international Islamic terrorists. And what happened in Boston now and Putin last -- maybe 15 years -- tried to persuade Western leaders to recognize his policy to the world's Chechnya as a struggle of international terrorism, against international terrorists (ph). And so maybe he has now succeeded.


ZAKAYEV: But Russia already has some -- you know, Russia already has some experience to link the Chechen issues with the international problem. During Second World War when Stalin deported entire nation to Kazakhstan and Siberia, and he has accused Chechens, they are collaborating with the German fascists. Even now, Nazis have been in Chechnya (inaudible) Republic.


ZAKAYEV: (Inaudible) democraticalize (sic) in Western world. They find understandable this statement. But this time around, too, in what happened in Boston and rest of leaders will be following Putin's -- took Putin's explanation. It will be -- will start -- go back and Chechen nation will be -- have responsible for --

AMANPOUR: Mr. Zakayev?

ZAKAYEV: -- this individual.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Zakayev, I hear what you're saying, that the Chechen people are going to pay for what these two boys did in Boston or alleged to have done in Boston.

But let me ask you, they -- some are saying -- and there have been reports that they were inspired by a lot of Internet videos, by various things, but also by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And I know that there are Chechens who have joined anti-American forces in that region and in various countries there.

Tell me about that. How -- do you think that played any role?

ZAKAYEV: I don't think so. But I'm -- I can explain you one thing, Chechens -- and we have more information, a lot of information, Chechens enjoyed some Afghanistan war against Americans and English. But we never have approved of it, because that's Chechen demonization.

Yes, of course, I am -- I should -- I should admit, in the North Caucasus this time, we have -- we have really radicalization, Islamic movements. But why it happened? It's conflict which started 1994 as a puny (ph) political country. They now inverted Islamic country.

And people and movement in North Caucasus, which we claim as fundamentalist and international Islamic terrorists, they have become them because leader of this organization, he is directly works with Russian special services. And this time, of course, we have some problem in (inaudible).

But it's not -- but it's not fault of Chechens nation because, of course, we are not single social segment. We -- the result is this war. We lost 250,000 people. And as a result of this war, we now divided, are three parts. One of part are who collaborating with Russian occupation regime, Kadyrov. Another part, it was written by Dokka Umarov, radicalize --


AMANPOUR: Yes, and he himself --

ZAKAYEV: -- radicalized --

AMANPOUR: -- he himself has denied -- Umarov has -- or his party and his group has denied having anything to do with the Boston bombings and saying that they are not at war with the United States.

Mr. Zakayev, I really appreciate you coming in. Pleasure to talk to you and thank you very much for joining me.

ZAKAYEV: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

And of course, we continue to seek Russian comment on all of this as well.

Investigators are trying to get to the bottom of how the Boston suspects learned to make their bombs.

One of the things they're looking into is the jihadist online magazine "Inspire." It's an English language magazine that was the brainchild of the suspected American terrorist, Anwar al-Awlaki. He created it in Yemen back in 2010, and its recipes for bombmaking have been followed by extremists on both sides of the Atlantic.

CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank has read and analyzed every issue of the magazine "Inspire," and he joined me earlier in the studio.


AMANPOUR: Paul Cruickshank, welcome.

I've been fascinated by "Inspire" ever since it started in 2010. It just seems to be, hey, this is the how-to manual.

How seriously do you take "Inspire" as a sort of inspiration for the Tsarnaev brothers?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, authorities have seen this in very serious terms indeed. They're investigating whether "Inspire" magazine was actually downloaded by the brothers, whether they actually downloaded a recipe to make pressure cooker bombs.

And we saw in one issue of "Inspire" magazine back in the summer of 2010 a recipe to build these sorts of devices, very similar to what we're hearing about the devices in Boston.

AMANPOUR: And as we have it -- and we're talking, I mean, this is one of the pages; "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom."

And then it also does talk about using a pressurized cooker, as they put it.

So is there anything else that could have been it? Or is it that?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, it could have been any number of explosive manuals. There's a lot out there, as you know, both Islamists and also non-Islamist groups have put a lot of material on the Internet.

But there are striking parallels. There's the pressure cooker aspect, the explosive powder used, the sort of shrapnel, right down to some of the very specific parts of it, like the fact they were gluing the shrapnel inside the pressure cooker. That's very similar to what "Inspire" magazine was telling followers in the United States to do, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And all of these recipes that are out there, are they automatically successful if you take -- you know, if you follow the recipes, that's it, you've got a bomb?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, we've been talking to explosive experts about this. And they say the quality, a lot of this material put out online is very, very low, like two or three out of 10. So for these people downloading this sort of stuff, it's really hit and miss. And they could really injure themselves.

And actually, building a successful device is actually quite difficult. So it's very possible that they actually tested this in this case.

AMANPOUR: Is there any way to put this -- so you're saying they may have tested it somewhere?

CRUICKSHANK: It -- I think they're looking at that very closely, whether they may have tested it, perhaps in the United States, because to get it right the first time 'round, that would be very difficult.

AMANPOUR: Is it possible to put this genie back in the bottle?

Or is it now open season?

I mean, there's so many avenues online to get any and all kinds of nefarious subject matter.

CRUICKSHANK: Unfortunately, this stuff is out there; it's sort of all over the Internet. If authorities try and take one link down, they put up another 10 links -- extremely difficult to take down this sort of material.


AMANPOUR: And are they trying to take this down, "Inspire"?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, some authorities in some Western governments are trying to sort of do that, my understanding is. But it's just very, very, very difficult.

AMANPOUR: And let's just go through the Tsarnaev brothers released Tamerlan, for sure, after the bombing and when people realized who it was, looking on YouTube, looking on Facebook, there were all these Islamist videos; there was a playlist that said "terrorists."

Should that have been a red flag?

CRUICKSHANK: Certainly, you know, there's always a concern when people seem to subscribe to Al Qaeda's ideology, that the United States is at war with Islam. There were links to certain videotapes, certain preachers who have supported that Al Qaeda ideology, notably an Australian preacher. So there were certainly red flags here, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And of those, is that preacher, you know, potentially dangerous?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, anybody who encourages people to support Al Qaeda's world view is dangerous in some respect. They may not themselves be operational, but they can encourage others to act. And we've seen this time and time again with American Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, encouraging followers in the West to launch attack in Al Qaeda's name.

AMANPOUR: Yes, and of course, he was the intellect, if you like, behind "Inspire."

CRUICKSHANK: Absolutely. He founded this magazine with another American, Sameer Khan (ph), an individual from North Carolina. And this magazine is still being put out today.

AMANPOUR: Even though those two have been killed by drone strikes.

CRUICKSHANK: They trained other Westerners in how to put this magazine together. It's still going out every few months. There's still practical advice going on the Internet for how to launch terrorist attacks in the United States and other Western countries.

AMANPOUR: So from everything you've learned, are you surprised that these guys seem to have been radicalized inside the United States?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, we've seen time and time again, this happening in the United States. We've seen several dozen cases of Islamist terrorist (inaudible) people being inspired by Al Qaeda's ideology.

Now in the last couple of years, we've actually seen a slowdown in the number of these cases; but, of course, we've now seen what happened in Boston.

AMANPOUR: So again, in trying to combat this, the State Department had what may or may not be a quixotic attempt to troll some of these Islamist, you know, chats to try to, you know, I don't know, take them down or whatever, disrupt them.

Is that -- is that just wishful thinking?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, in terms of taking down the stuff online, I mean, I think that is wishful to a certain degree. There's just so much of it out there. Unfortunately, the way we're living with this threat for quite a long time, Al Qaeda's ideology is still resonating; it's only a small radical fringe in the United States. But there are people here who do subscribe to that ideology of violent extremism.

AMANPOUR: As we go forward and try to pinpoint more questions, and more answers, rather, what are you looking for? What are you -- what would you like to know most next?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, one of the biggest questions is are there any links to any overseas terrorist groups. Now what we're hearing from the early indications of what this brother is saying is that there are not any links to overseas terrorist groups.

Obviously, the investigation will proceed; that's only a claim at this point. The elder brother spent six months in Dagestan, other parts of Russia, so they'll be looking at that very, very closely.

But it's certainly possible that what we're dealing with here is just an Al Qaeda-inspired plot that these individuals did not have links to overseas terrorist groups, that they've downloaded instructions off the Internet. Perhaps they tested it and were able to succeed that way.

AMANPOUR: Paul Cruickshank, thank you very much indeed.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, we'll turn to Iran, where Western sanctions are hurting the people but missing the mark.

But before we take a break, an extraordinary photo of the Boston Marathon bombers, taken from the family album. That boy in the white T- shirt is Tamerlan Tsarnaev, with his arms around his two sisters. And in the foreground stands Tamerlan's younger brother, Dzhokhar.

The photo was taken in the family's old Kirgizstan home, now a lifetime ago. We'll be right back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And now we turn to Iran and efforts by the United States and its allies to derail the country's nuclear program.

The tactic of choice is still, quote, "crippling sanctions," efforts to isolate and penalize Iran by cutting it off from international markets and banking in the hope that it will come into compliance with U.N. resolutions. Here's President Obama making his case.


OBAMA: Few thought that sanctions could have an immediate bite on the Iranian regime. They have, slowing the Iranian nuclear program and virtually grinding the Iranian economy to a halt in 2011.


AMANPOUR: To get a sense of how big the bite is, I spoke to Seyyed Shamseddin Hosseini, who is Iran's finance minister. He's in the United States right now for an international financial conference. I started the interview by asking him about the Boston terror attacks.


AMANPOUR: Dr. Hosseini, welcome to the program.

SEYYED SHAMSEDDIN HOSSEINI, IRANIAN FINANCE MINISTER AND ECONOMIC SPOKESMAN (through translator): I am glad to participate in your program and I give my greetings to your audience.

AMANPOUR: I first want to ask you for your reaction to the terrorist attack in Boston.

HOSSEINI (through translator): In reality, we sympathize with the people of Boston and the people of the United States and we condemn such attacks. And in general, we are sorry for all such incidents. This conduct is condemned by everyone. No one supports such conduct.

AMANPOUR: Let me get to why you are in Washington. You are Iran's finance minister.

And I want to ask you right now, how is the economy doing? We understand very badly under these sanctions.

HOSSEINI (through translator): We can refer to the Iranian trade with foreign countries.

As you know, because of the currency situation in Iran and the restrictions on it, the price has gone up. In the initial stage, we sustained some inflationary pressures. But after a few months, these negative impacts turned into positive impacts.

Our non-oil exports grew. Our industrial exports grew 20 percent. And in comparison, our imports were reduced by 14 percent. as such that we met our foreign import requirements by non-oil exports. And this has caused an increase of 47 percent in our price index.

AMANPOUR: The international community says that these are crippling sanctions.

Are you saying that they are not, they're not crippling the Iranian economy?

HOSSEINI (through translator): The countries or nations that have imposed such sanctions believe the same thing. I am not saying that they haven't had any impact on our country. But on the other hand, I don't believe that such sanctions have crippled us.

When we go to the production sites and we examine the situation, we realize that the sectors dependent on foreign imports have been weakened. And we can see the pressure and the effects of the pressures on other countries, including the countries that have imposed sanctions on us.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Minister, some analysts are watching and they're wondering, since it's very difficult for you to sell your oil products right now, once the sanctions, if they are lifted, do you worry about getting back into the oil market?

HOSSEINI (through translator): It takes time. But that's very possible.

I want to emphasize this sentence, that they must consider the impact of the sanctions on their own economy, considering the instability such sanctions have created.

AMANPOUR: There was some talk that the countries that have imposed sanctions on Iran would allow some relief in the gold and silver and precious metals markets, to be able to trade that.

HOSSEINI (through translator): Iranian activities are always challenged by the nuclear issue. We look at the modern technology and the nuclear knowledge as a way of progress. And we find it necessary for the welfare of our people today and in the future.

And we cannot forego the knowledge of today as many other countries enjoy. Iranian people are educated people; they enjoy a rich culture and history. They realize that today and tomorrow's economy depends on the people with complete knowledge. This is what our people want. This cannot be compromised by the relief or in a deal of relief like in transactions in gold or silver.

Assume you are on our side of the deal. Would you be willing to give up today's knowledge for a relief in transactional gold or silver?

AMANPOUR: Do you see any progress in the nuclear talks and what is Iran willing to give up?

HOSSEINI (through translator): I believe the Almaty talks 1 and 2 were quite productive because both sides were able to talk. I should also emphasize that the Iranian side always attended these meetings in good faith and I think the outcome should continue.

They made some proposals and they heard the Iranian responses as well. And the Iranian response within the framework from their point of view was toward the progress of negotiations.

But we are serious in our negotiations. And as I said, it was a transparent and fair negotiation. It was within the framework of the Iranian people's right and the right of other countries.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Minister, thank you very much for joining me.

HOSSEINI (through translator): I thank you and wish you luck.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, imagine a time not that long ago, when the flow of dangerous information had an on-off switch, putting the genie back in the bottle when we come back.



AMANPOUR: And finally, in our program tonight, we've been looking at how recipes for deadly weapons have appeared on the Internet, like the one for the pressure cooker bombs in Boston.

But imagine a world before cell phones and laptops, when it was still possible to stop the never-ending stream of dangerous information.

Back in the 1970s, a magazine called "The Progressive," long an antiwar advocate, set out to print instructions on how to make a hydrogen bomb. It may be hard to believe that anyone could build a nuclear weapon based on these drawings.

But before they could even be published, the U.S. government took the magazine to court. The argument seemed almost quaint in our Internet age: Freedom of speech versus national security. But in 1979, for the first time in American history, a federal judge issued an injunction to stop the presses.

However, when the same nuclear secrets began to appear elsewhere, some even printed on T-shirts, the government withdrew its lawsuit.

But the U.S. v. "The Progressive" is still studied in law and journalism classes. For us history teachers, even in the pre-Internet age, there's no exit off the information superhighway.

And that's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us at our website, Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.