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Record Flooding In Southwestern England; Aid Agencies Evacuate Old Homs; Video Released Of Suspected al Qaeda Operative Capture In Libya

Aired February 10, 2014 - 15:00   ET


ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, desperate to escape, hundreds are evacuated from the city of Homs in Syria. But can aid agencies ensure the safety of civilians? We'll have a live report from a humanitarian worker in Homs.

Also ahead, dealing with a deluge, thousands of homes across the UK are at risk of flooding. Our forecasters say there's more rain to come.

And, responsible breeding or senseless killing? As outrage grows over the death of a giraffe at a zoo, we debate the issue with zoo's director of research and conservation.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World.

SESAY: Hello everyone, a new round of Syria peace talks is now underway, but this time the two sides are not meeting face-to-face. UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is holding separate talks with the Syrian government and an opposition delegation in Geneva. He's trying to get them to commit to negotiating an end to the violence and the formation of a transitional government. Brahimi wants to find common ground before bringing the two sides together again.

Well, so far the only tangible thing they've been able to agree on is a deal to allow civilians to leave besieged neighborhoods in the city of Homs. After days of very difficult evacuations, the UN announced a short time ago that the humanitarian pause in fighting will be extended.

Let's bring in our own Mohammed Jamjoom for more details on all of this. And Mohammed, the evacuations got off to a very rocky start over the weekend. What can you tell us about how they went today?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha, from what we're hearing they went much smoother today. Several more people evacuated. In fact, the UN Undersecretary General for humanitarian affairs Valerie Amos putting out a statement saying that so far since February 7 that over 800 people have been evacuated from the old city of Homs, that's an area there that has been under siege for well over 600 days now.

Also today, we heard that an aid convoy did enter the old city as well, that it was able to deliver much needed food and water and medical supplies, which is something that the people there that have been suffering so much really are in need of.

It looks as though today there has been a lot more progress made. And the aid workers on the ground that I've been speaking with hope that the cease-fire continues to hold and that they will be able to continue evacuating mothers and children and the elderly as well as delivering these much needed supplies for the days to come -- Isha.

SESAY: They're getting out of the old city of Homs, but where are they going? And what are they going to?

JAMJOOM: Well, we hear that most of them have gone to an area close by called al-Wair (ph), that's where most of the women, the children and the elderly and the wounded have gone to. Also, we're told, though, that several of the men with their families are still being processed.

Look, there is a lot of questions about where these people that have been evacuated will actually end up. One of the biggest points of concern for many of the aid workers as well as the evacuees is what is yet going to happen to the men that are remaining behind in the old city in Homs. Despite the fact that they may be receiving aid, the fact of the matter is that the al-Assad regime has stated on many occasions that it will not allow people they consider to be terrorists, which means rebels, to flee from the old city.

The fact of the matter is, also, that most of the men that are of fighting age that remain there are considered to be rebels by the al-Assad regime.

So what's going to happen to the rest of those men that have been left behind by their families that are fleeing, this is causing a lot of worry and there's something that the UN and other aid agencies hope to really get a concrete answer to in the days ahead -- Isha.

SESAY: And you talk about the worry. There's been great need there in the old city of Homs. People being trapped for over 600 days, as you pointed out, aid not getting in. So these people that have been taken to al-Wair (ph) that you just mentioned, what will happen to them there in terms of their access to aid and being able to get the supplies they need after they've already been through so much in the old city of Homs. Do we know?

JAMJOOM: No, we're not sure long-term what's going to happen to them. And that's a worry as well.

We know that right now they are getting the kind of aid that they needed for so long.

And we'd gotten really horrific reports the past few days from people on the ground, members of the convoy belonging to the World Food Program have told me that many of the people that have been evacuated have reported that the food that they're getting now, that this is the first actual food that they have been able to eat in well over six months. They say that they were subsisting on things like weeds and grass.

Now, this really isn't a surprise to a lot of the press that have been reporting on this, because we'd heard horrific reports of starvation that had been going on the past few months, because they were lacking in just those basic needs like food and clean water.

But what's going to happen to these people long-term, even after they get the most basic of needs that they needed for so long now, that also a very big concern, even though the UN is there, even though they're on the ground, finally getting this aid in which is a big sign of progress what's going to happen in the days and months ahead, that's what the concern will move to now -- Isha.

SESAY: Yeah, it is such a desperate situation. Mohammed Jamjoom joining us there from Beirut, Lebanon. Mohammed, always appreciated. Thank you.

Well, the World Food Program is involved in the humanitarian operation there in Homs. The groups director for Syria, Matthew Hollingsworth is in the city right now and he joins us now on the line.

Matthew Hollingsworth, good to have you with us. You've been there in Homs over the last couple of days. Describe what you've been seeing as the evacuations and delivery of aid have been underway.

MATTHEW HOLLINGSWORTH, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: It's -- it's been a hugely difficult four days, but at the same time a very moving exhilarating experience. We've not actually managed to get more than 1,100 people out of Homs safely, out of old Homs safely and we've managed to get food into the old city center to feed more than 1,000 people for a month.

Everybody that's come out is also receiving food assistance as well as other non-food items to help them reestablish their lives in the new locations they're going to.

As Mohammed mentioned earlier, most people are choosing to go to the al-Wair (ph) neighborhood, which is actually a contested area, but as part of the agreement, they've been allowed to make that choice. And we've been allowed to make sure that they can get there.

Some people, though, are choosing to move into the government held areas of the city. And obviously the men aged 16 to 50 are going to a processing for a day or two and that's what it's taking before they're being released as well.

SESAY: Matthew, Mohammed was just telling us about some of the stories of desperation. He has been -- he has been getting from aid workers as they speak to people on the ground in Homs. What can you tell me as you speak to people who have been in such desperate situation for months on end, what are some of the stories you've been hearing?

HOLLINGWORTH: Well, (inaudible) what we've been seeing. Unfortunately, I mean we spent eight hours in Homs two nights ago, two days ago, crawling through tunnels, looking through basements that were now living in a situation which is just absolutely dire. Children that have never eat fresh fruit, never eaten meat in their entire lives. You've got kids that we've been bringing out, been giving them a meal as soon as we get them out of old Homs looking at apples, looking at bananas, just not knowing what they are.

I had one little gal, beautiful child, who I helped to get out in my vehicle a couple days ago and her parents told me that she'd been kidnapped last year, the end of last year, and the ransom they paid to release her was one kilogram of wheat.

So the price for her return, something as meager as that. But that is the difference between life and death, has been the difference between life and death in many people.

The situation is, I've never seen anything that bad in my entire career.

SESAY: And Matthew, going forward there has been this temporary pause. Talk to me about going forward you know that challenges WFP faces in operating in such conditions, because there is still so much desperate need there in Homs.

HOLLINGSWORTH: Absolutely. I mean, you know, the entire (inaudible) has vast numbers of internally displaced people from around the country as well as from this region. The whole country is in this situation, you know. The (inaudible) is not something that we've really seen here. Homs is -- old Homs is only one of maybe 40 locations around the country which is (inaudible) others really suffered acutely.

And there are other areas of the whole country which are essentially blockaded because of different fighters on both sides stopping the movement, the free movement of aid and the accesses of aid workers.

So this is not an issue that is only about Homs, but I hope -- and we all hope -- that what we -- you know, over the last four days the progress made over the last four days to get people out that are choosing to get out and get food assistance in and other assistance, could be the beginning of something much bigger around the country.

SESAY: Yeah, well we wish you the very best with your operations. It is a desperate situation on the ground. We will continue to report on it. Matthew Hollingsworth with the World Food Program, thank you so much for joining us on the line from Homs.

Well, the humanitarian crisis outside of Syria is also dire, at least 2.5 million Syrians have fled the war and are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Established aid groups are overwhelmed by the crisis, so grassroots efforts are helping to fill in the gaps. CNN's Impact Your World is sharing some of these stories to show that individuals initiatives can make a difference.

We'll introduce you to several young women who refused to be spectators in the face of suffering. Read their very inspiring stories and other ideas to helping Syrian refugees at

Still to come tonight, he's in prison in North Korea, but American citizen Kenneth Bae still has hope.

Plus, soldiers having called into boost flood defenses as Britain braces for even more devastating rain. A look at some of the hardest hit areas coming up.

And a healthy giraffe was killed at a zoo in Copenhagen sparking a backlash from animal rights groups. We're going to debate it, that and so much more when Connect the World continues. Stay with us.


SESAY: Welcome back, everyone.

New video has emerged of the moment Abu Anas al Libi, one of the FBI's most wanted was captured by U.S. special forces last October. Al Libi is an alleged al Qaeda operative linked to the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania back in 1998. He was captured in Tripoli on the street outside his home on October 5 as he returned from morning prayers.

Take a look at this video with me now.

All right, for more let's cross over to our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson who is there in Jerusalem.

Nic, as we take in these pictures for the first time, I want you to give our viewers some context of what we're looking at, its significance and who this guy is.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNAITONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is believed to -- or alleged to have been involved in the -- or plotting or planning at least -- the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. And he has been living in Tripoli, in the open, in Libya for the past couple of years. His family had said he knew he was on a wanted list and had tried to clear his name.

We've been to the street outside his house where this video footage taken from a security camera mounted on the outside of his -- on the outside of the building that he was living in, we know that his family had given this video to the lawyer that the government has appointed to represent him in New York, which is where he is right now where he's being held and where he arrived just a couple of weeks after that video.

But what's significant and what we can learn about this video, there were questions at the time about the level of complicity of the Libyan authorities in aiding and assisting U.S. commandos in this raid. Abu Anas al Libi's wife thought she heard somebody speaking in Arabic with a Libyan accent, giving the impression to many people in Libya that perhaps Libyan authorities were involved in this operation.

The United States has said all along this was U.S. commandos.

We can see that this is a very professional raid. That white van pulls up next to the black vehicle Abu Anas al Libi just coming back from early morning prayers just after 6:00 am in the morning and immediately exiting that white van is somebody holding a gun, a light comes on inside the vehicle -- inside Abu Anas al Libi's vehicle. More people exit the white van.

We are told by his wife -- or reported -- his wife was reported to have said at the time that he had tried to reach for a hand gun that he believed -- that was believed to have been kept in the glove compartment of his vehicle. He didn't even have time to take that, we were told, and that's consistent with the video here we're watching that he is literally pulled out of his vehicle within a couple of seconds.

Very professional, very quick. And after the action, his vehicle takes off by itself across the road, an automatic vehicle without the car in front of it blocking it, then drives away.

So, there's no audio here. So we don't hear what people are shouting at him, or what languages they might have been using, but clearly a very professional, quick, slick operation. And he was taken from there to the airport in Tripoli right after, Isha.

SESAY: Nic Robertson, the question many of our viewers might have is this guy is allegedly an al Qaeda operative. The fact that he's been captured by U.S. commandos, does it have ramifications for al Qaeda as a whole?

ROBERTSON: Well, certainly when they watch this video that his family had given to his lawyer, which was -- they'd expected to be used in his defense, is now going to be in the hands of everyone who can watch it online, which includes jihadists, which includes al Qaeda members who will try to evade exactly this type of capture happening to them. So it's going to give them certainly a good heads up about how these sort of things are conducted.

And we know that al Qaeda practices these sorts of techniques themselves, as well, to abduct people themselves. So they will perhaps try and pick up and learn skills from that.

But it also show them very clearly that there is always the potential to be picked up. Of course the other thing that they know that can happen to them is they can be hit in a drone strike as well. And that's been happening a lot over the past few years.

But I would imagine there would be a concern in the security community that the tactics and techniques and operational procedures used here, even though it's dark, even though it's hard to see, are certainly going to give al Qaeda and others information, the security services were perhaps they rather don't have, Isha.

SESAY: Yeah -- and one last question for you, Nic, from the Libyan government's standpoint, remind our viewers of what their reaction was at the time of this raid, what they had to say, because they certainly came under some criticism from Libyans for allowing, if they were in cahoots, such a raid to take place on their own sovereign soil.

ROBERTSON: Yeah, well, the political situation and the security situation across the whole of Libya is not particularly stable. And at that time, within a few days of this, the Libyan prime minister was picked up by armed men overnight, kidnapped and not released until the next day.

I talked to the justice minister in Libya and asked him at that time if the Libyan government was aware this operation was going to go on and he said absolutely not. But the destabilizing effect of U.S. forces going into that was enough in a troubled government with lots of opponents to this particular prime minister for them to try to act against him, to kidnap him. They didn't have the momentum behind them. They were forced to back down.

But it really indicated just how fragile the political situation is in Syria -- or rather Libya, I'm sorry. Is in Libya. And obviously a warning, if you will, of sorts for the United States. If there are other people they wanted to pick up there, perhaps people involved in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, September 11, 2012 with the U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens and three others were killed, then their (inaudible) would perhaps be a high political price to pay in Libya if they went ahead and did that.

So there were certainly lessons to be learned from this arrest.

SESAY: CNN International correspondent Nic Robertson joining us there from Jerusalem with important insight and analysis. Nic, appreciate it. Thank you.

The latest world news headlines just ahead, plus there are no openly gay players in the NFL, but top draft prospect Michael Sam could make history with his public coming out.

A healthy giraffe was put down yesterday and then fed to lions. We'll have one of the zoo directors debate the merits of the move with an animal rights activist.

Plus, they had a ticket to ride and they used it. It's 50 years since the Beatles first came to the U.S. We'll give you a rare look at one of their early venues. Stay with us.


SESAY: This is Connect the World. The top stories this hour.

Good news for civilians still trapped by fight in the Syrian city of Homs. The United Nations says that -- a small mistake -- let's tell you about the situation in the UK where there's been some severe flooding and thousands of homes are at risk in the south of the country as severe weather continues to wreck havoc.

Weeks of torrential rain has sent the Thames and other rivers spilling over their banks. 16 severe flood warnings are currently in place as more viscous storms are expected. Matthew Chance has more.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not a lake or a sea, but a disaster in the heart of the English countryside.

They're no strangers to flooding here, but nothing like this, not since records began.

Well, it's been the wettest month for 248 years in this part of Britain. And climbing up this hill overlooking this part of Somerset in the southwest of the country you get a really amazing perspective on the impact that's had.

Take a look over here.

All of this land -- the environment agency here say 26 square miles of it has been inundated with flood water from the rain falls. It's having a huge economic consequence and the local communities are really feeling the impact.

In a bid to drain the fields and roads, thousands of gallons of rain water are being pumped into already swollen rivers. For many residents, it's a desperate race to save their homes.

All right, well we've got access to one of the houses that has been severely affected by the flooding. You can see, the water is absolutely everywhere. The owner of the property, Dave Donaldson here, he's been building up the flood defenses as best he can to try and protect the rest of his home from the flood water, but, you know, it's a scene of real devastation.

How does it feel seeing your home destroyed like this?

DAVE DONALDSON, FLOOD VICTIM: Well, yeah, it's quite upsetting really. But we've just got to deal with it, that's the thing. We've got no choice.

CHANCE: How much damage do you think has been done to your house in the past few weeks?

DONALDSON: I don't know. It's never happened before.

My son is disabled. That's his bed on the pallets there.

The fire brigade came to take him out with a special four wheel drive.

CHANCE: Outside, an army of volunteers is shoring up the flood defenses, including aid workers like Ravi Singh of the British based Khlasa Aid agency, normally deployed in disaster zones overseas.

How unusual is it for your agency to be called out to help people in Britain?

RAVINDER SINGH, KHLASA AID: Highly unusual. Actually, matter of fact, we've not really done anything before in Britain. And we, like other agencies, psychologically switched off, you know, they don't need anything they'll be fine. And when I heard some of the callers on the radio station a few days ago saying where are the aid agencies that appeal to us for international aid? And that really stuck home.

CHANCE: And forecasters predict more floods are indeed on the way as Britain's relentless rain storms look set to continue.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Somerset, England.


SESAY: So awful.

The latest world news headlines just ahead.

Plus, gold, silver and bronze, but the most prominent color in Sochi today was Orange. Much more on the Dutch medal sweep is just ahead.


SESAY: Hello, everyone. This is CONNECT THE WORLD, the top stories this hour. Good news for civilians still trapped by fighting in the Syrian city of Homs. The United Nations says the regime and rebels have agreed to extend the humanitarian truce, allowing evacuations to continue for another three days.

New video has emerged of the moment Abu Anas al-Libi, one of the FBI's most-wanted, was captured by US special forces last October. Al-Libi is an alleged al Qaeda operative linked to the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania back in 1998. He was captured in Tripoli on the street outside his home on October 5th as he returned from morning prayers.

Sixteen flood warnings are in place across the south of England as more vicious storms are expected over the coming days. Weeks of torrential rains have sent the Thames and other rivers spilling over their banks. The southwest has been hardest-hit.

The French president is in the US meeting with his American counterpart, Barack Obama. It is his first state visit to the US. The leaders are reaffirming the warm relationship between the two countries. Francois Hollande's trip comes amid his sinking approval ratings at home.

Well, it was the day of the Dutch at the Sochi Winter Games. The orange-clad team dominated the speed skating events with a clean sweep of gold, silver, and bronze in the 500 meter race. Twin brothers Michael and Ronald Mulder, took first and third place respectively.

The last medals of the day were just handed out in the men's moguls. It was a tight race, with Canada's Bilodeau winning gold. Well, Rachel Nichols is live in Sochi for us and joins us now. Good to have you with us Rachel.

Before the Games began, there were these concerns about the weather there in Sochi. Have the warm temperatures been causing any trouble with the events?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, actually. It topped over 10 degrees Celsius in the mountains today, and that has caused poor conditions on the halfpipe. In fact, two-time Olympic medalist Hannah Teter referred to the conditions up there as, quote, "crappy."

And that's a big deal, because the men's event is tomorrow, and the ladies' event is the day after. Some of the riders are so concerned that they're talking about banding together and trying to ask the US -- the IOC to change the schedule.

I'm not sure that's going to happen, but the issue is that where the riders land once they've done their tricks on the halfpipe, it's supposed to be flat. That's what you would want, right, after you spin a million times in the air? Instead, right now, it is bumpy. In fact, some of the riders have complained it's like a mogul course down there, and they're concerned that they're going to get hurt.

There's politics involved, too. The company that is supposed to be fixing the course is complaining that the Olympic Broadcasting Company won't get -- won't let them have access to it. The OBC has said that they have no idea what they're talking about. So, it's turned into a big mess.

It's raining right now, on top of all of that, so we're going to have to see what happens when we all wake up tomorrow, but we are anticipating an event, it just should be an interesting one.

SESAY: Oh, dear. All right. Meanwhile, you spoke with American figure skater Johnny Weir a little earlier today. What did he have to say?

NICHOLS: Well, it's been interesting, because Johnny was contemplating coming back here as a competitor. He decided not to do that. Instead, he's a commentator for American television. But he is openly gay, and therefore, there has been a lot of attention on how he would find the reception here in Russia with so much of the spotlight on Russia's anti-gay laws.

Now, Johnny has an interesting perspective, because he is an openly gay athlete who is here during the Games, but he is also married to a Russian partner. So he sees both sides of the coin, which is what he explained to me.


JOHNNY WEIR, FIGURE SKATER: I've been on both sides of this debate since it started. I'm a Russophile. I'm married to a Russian man. I speak the language. I travel here five or six times a year. I'm a figure skater and I'm an Olympian. And I'm gay.

And I choose not to choose sides. I choose passive activism as my way of -- as my method of change. I want to show the Russian public that I'm here, I'm normal, I'm not doing anything wild or obscene, and I hope that the local LGBT community feels my presence and knows I'm here and supportive of them.


NICHOLS: Johnny says that just by being here, it's a bit of making a statement. He also points out that he's been treated very well every time he's here, even though he is openly gay. But he did note that may have something to do with the fact that he's a world-famous figure skater and he pointed out he knows it's not like that for everyone.

SESAY: Rachel, I can't let you go without asking you about a certain bobsledder who got stuck for a second time. Tell us what's going on.


NICHOLS: Yes, American Johnny Quinn cannot seem to get out of small spaces. In fact, I would really recommend to him that he stay out in the open air from now on if he wants to make it to his event.

We of course remember over the weekend he got trapped in his own bathroom. That has been a problem in the athlete village, door locks jamming. He had to punch his way out of the door, big busted door pictures.

Now, he was in an elevator today with two of his fellow bobsledders and the elevator got stuck. The three of them were trapped in there. A lot harder to punch your way out of an elevator door, though. They did try to open it. They didn't have any success, so they were finally rescued.

But not a good weekend for Johnny Quinn. I don't know, he's got his event in a few days. He may want to stay out of small spaces.

SESAY: Yes, I'm with you there. He needs to stay outside. Our Rachel Nichols joining us there from Sochi. Appreciate it. Thank you, Rachel.

Well, a check now on the medal count so far. Canada and the Netherlands are neck-and-neck with seven medals in total and three gold each. Norway, as you see there, isn't far behind, with one less gold. Canada just won gold about an hour ago in the men's moguls. And of course, as we told you, the Dutch dominated in the speed skating events today. The US, Germany, and Russia, rounding out the table.

Well, some of the first medals awarded in Sochi are going to events we've never seen before in the Olympics, from halfpipe skiing to the figure skating team competition. CNN has everything you need to understand the new events, and we want to know what sports you'd like to see included in the Games and which ones you think should be dropped. It's all part of our Aiming for Gold coverage at

Now, American football could see its first openly gay player on the field if he's accepted in the NFL draft. Top college player Michael Sam has come out in a televised interview three months ahead of the draft. He said he told his teammates he's gay and did not suffer an repercussions.


MICHAEL SAM, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: This is -- to me, is just telling someone, another person that hey, I'm gay. And then it shouldn't be a big problem.


SESAY: Well, the NFL said they respect his courage. We heard earlier from openly-gay figure skater Johnny Weir. He reflected on Sam's announcement.


WEIR: I think it's so inspiring for so many young athletes and people that are struggling with their sexuality in the closet to have somebody in the NFL to look up to.


SESAY: Well, Lara Baldesarra joins us now with much more on all of this. Lara, good to have you with us. Let me ask you this: how should we read the timing of this announcement?

LARA BALDESARRA, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the timing here, it's certainly pretty interesting, for Michael Sam to come out and publicly acknowledge that he's gay because it's two weeks ahead of the scouting combo, and that's a week-long event, which allows potential NFL players to demonstrate their abilities on their field.

They really also get put right through the ringer in terms of looking into their personalities, into their mindsets, and how they would fit in with certain teams. So, this timing for Sam can come out -- or you can think of it in almost two ways. Number one, it was probably going to be discovered, and then it might end up looking like he was trying to hide something.

Or maybe even two, this is the type of announcement that could potentially make him more attractive to certain teams who want to be that first team to have an openly gay player, because that's something that could improve their fan base, and therefore it'll increase their revenue.

But it's also really important here to keep in mind that Michael Sam isn't exactly a player that's guaranteed to be drafted or even picked. He's not a superstar, and he's actually pretty small, especially to be playing his position in the NFL.


BALDESARRA: So, he's actually projected to be selected later on in the draft.

SESAY: So, let me ask you this: a lot of the players -- the athletes who have come out in the past have done so once they're in retirement. So the question is, what happens now? What happens next?

BALDESARRA: Right. Now, all of the teams, they have assess whether or not they want that spotlight of having an openly-gay player on their roster. And it's something that's -- that'll work in their own locker rooms, or if it's something that could end up being very divisive in there.

Michael Sam at the same time, he's also becoming quite the well-known person with even the American first lady, Michele Obama, tweeting to him for coming out and all that kind of attention. That's the kind of thing that brings in a lot of money, it brings in a lot of endorsements.

I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Sam, he's going to be making a couple of trips to the bank in the upcoming months, plus, we'll have to see in those three months if he will end up being drafted and playing in the NFL.

SESAY: One thing for certain, the spotlight is on him.


SESAY: Lara Baldesarra, appreciate it. Thank you.

Now, live from Atlanta, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. A healthy giraffe was euthanized yesterday. The zoo is defending its decision, but the move is sparking outrage. We will bring you the debate.

Plus, 50 years ago, Beatlemania infected America. We'll tell you about their anniversary celebrations and show you their old home away from home.


SESAY: Welcome back everyone. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Now for a story which is causing a huge stir. A young, healthy giraffe known as Marius shot and killed by the Copenhagen Zoo. Marius was dismembered in front of a crowd and fed to lions. The zoo says his death was necessary to avoid inbreeding, but his fate has sparked outrage. Fred Pleitgen reports.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Marius, a young giraffe still alive and perfectly healthy. But Sunday, the Copenhagen Zoo euthanized the two-year-old animal anyway, sparking an international outrage. A vet later described the process.

MADS BERTELSEN, COPENHAGEN ZOO (through translator): There was a zookeeper with some rye bread. It really likes rye bread, and he said, "Here you go, Marius, here is some rye bread." I stood behind with a rifle, and when he put his head forward and ate the rye bread, then I shot him through the brain. It sounds violent, but it means that Marius had no idea of what was coming.

PLEITGEN: The same vet performed a public autopsy on the animal in front of an interested crowd. Tens of thousands had signed an online petition to save Marius. Several zoos and animal parks volunteered to take him in, and a businessman reportedly even offered almost $700,000 to the zoo to keep the giraffe alive.

Even though Marius was perfectly healthy, many other giraffes at the zoo have a similar genetic makeup, so Marius was culled to prevent inbreeding. In an interview with CNN, the zoo's scientific director defended the culling.

BENGT HOLST, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AND CONSERVATION COPENHAGEN ZOO: You always make sure that the space available is filled up with animals that are genetically valuable. And when giraffes breed as well as they do now, then you will inevitably run into a so-called surplus problem now and then. Not very often.

PLEITGEN: And when there are too many animals with similar genetics, culling is standard policy in Europe. The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, EAZA, said in a statement, "EAZA fully supports the decision of the zoo to humanely put the animal down and believes strongly in the need for genetic and demographic management within populations of animals in human care.

"EAZA's breeding programs are at the forefront of efforts to safeguard endangered species and are a key part of the worldwide strategy to prevent the actions of humans from destroying the future of the natural world."

Scientific necessity will probably do little to curb public anger, especially since the Copenhagen Zoo also announced that parts of Marius's cadaver would be fed to lions and other carnivores at the facility.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


SESAY: We're going to discuss this further with our next two guests. Mirja Holm Thansen is a chairman of Denmark's Organization Against the Suffering of Animals, and Bengt Holst is the director of research and conservation there at the Copenhagen Zoo, where Marius was put down. Both join me now from Copenhagen via Skype. Our thanks to both of you for joining us on this day.

Bengt Holst, if I could start with you, help our viewers understand, because it still remains unclear to many, help our viewers understand why the Copenhagen Zoo felt there was no other alternative but to kill this healthy giraffe.

HOLST: Because he was, as it was said earlier, he was actually a surplus to the population, and as being part of a breeding program, we always have to make the population as sound as possible.

And you can only do that by breed them and then evaluate the genes of the various individuals in the population and match it to the space available. And then you have to find out whether -- which ones are going to stay there.

SESAY: The thing a lot of people have --

HOLST: And we cannot just put them somewhere. Sorry.

SESAY: OK, and Mirja, I'm going to come to you in a second, but Bengt, to follow up on that, the thing people have an issue with is you speak as if there are no alternatives. We know that a number of zoos had asked to take in Marius.

People want to know why that was not an option or why was it not an option to neuter him or give him contraceptives to he didn't reproduce. Help us understand why the alternatives were not acceptable to he Copenhagen Zoo.

HOLST: Well, I can say, one was the auctions do in the UK, and they are already part of the program and have been evaluated in the same analysis that stated that he was a surplus to the population. So, that was out of order from the very beginning.

Another zoo was a zoo in northern Sweden that doesn't work according to the same guidelines as we do with the same set of values, so -- and we don't want to send -- just to send them somewhere to get him out of sight. So we couldn't accept that either.

Eventually, too, if we would sterilize him, then he would still take space up for genetically more valuable giraffe, so that's not an option, either. And that's actually why.

SESAY: Mirja, you've heard what he's had -- what Bengt Holst says there. They had a duty to prevent in breeding, and we've gone through some of the alternatives and they say those weren't good enough. What do you say to that, to what you've heard?

MIRJA HOLM THANSEN, CHAIRWOMAN, ORGINZATION AGAINST THE SUFFERING OF ANIMALS: Well, I know that Bengt keeps talking about breeding programs, but it was a healthy animal that you executed due to rules and a genetic program. And it makes no sense.

So, I know that zoos frequently kill animals in captivity and the breeding programs are inevitably will result in a surplus to their needs. But I think that zoos operate like any other animal entertainment industry. They just argue that they have an ethical purpose.

SESAY: Bengt, do you want to respond?

HOLST: Well, we're back to the actual reason for having zoos, I think in reality, there's a reason for having zoos, and we can discuss that another stage.

But having animals in our care means that we have to make sure that the population is always healthy, otherwise the population will after a number of years go down, and then we will have no animals left. And if this argues against us, then there's no reason for discussing anything.

But I think you can agree that having animals, we have to take care of them as long as they are in our care, isn't that right?

THANSEN: But what you're doing is you're having animals in captivity. This is not nature. So, you need to have -- you need to put the animals in some environments that are suitable for the animals. And what you did instead -- actually, I would like to ask another.

Have you -- where's your compassion for this animal? You had several offers to save him. You could have proposed him. Or sold him. Where's your compassion? Where's your empathy? And I think that this case with Marius just shows that the zoo is in fact not the ethical institution that it wants to portray itself as being.

HOLST: No, because we -- we knew that these options were not options. They were options to those that offered them, but they were not options according to the way work in managing our population, because that would not keep the population sound.

So -- and then, to euthanize an animal because they're surplus, it's nothing else that is done every day in all countries all over the world, not necessarily in zoos, but in parks and in forests and on open land. We all do it, and that's a question of adapting the existing population of animals to their available space. That's exactly the same that's done in zoos.

SESAY: Let me jump in and pick up on something that Mirja just mentioned, this notion of compassion and also the question of whether zoos -- the issue of entertainment. I bring that up, because not only was this giraffe killed, he was then dissected in public, which has raised many questions about the Copenhagen Zoo's judgment.

Some have said that -- some have questioned what educational benefit could possibly arise from doing such a thing. And also, they've asked and questioned whether you are compassionate, because it seems rather callous and insensitive and maybe some are saying it was done for entertainment.

HOLST: No, it's not, not at all. It was done for education. What is wrong in seeing a giraffe, a dead giraffe? Dead is a natural thing in the wild and in the zoo and everywhere. And after birth comes death at some stage. There is nothing wrong --


SESAY: But would you not accept that the optics --

HOLST: -- and actually I think --

SESAY: -- strike slightly odd. You expect a zoo to be compassionate. We know you have a duty of care to the animals, so to see them treated in such a way, would you not accept that it comes across as odd and unfeeling? Would you not accept that?

HOLST: They're not -- what treating in what way? I mean, we treat them well. The main issue is that they are having a good life as long as they are alive, let it be two years, five years, or ten years, doesn't matter, actually. But they have to have a good life as long as they live, and that's very important for us, too.

And then we show the real thing. We shouldn't show the Disney World. We should show the real thing, and the real thing is that animals sometimes die. And there are big wonders inside a giraffe as well as outside on the giraffe. So, they have (inaudible) --


THANSEN: (inaudible)

SESAY: I want to give you a chance to jump in.

THANSEN: Sorry, this was a healthy animal. Yes, animals sometimes die, but this was a healthy animal that was being killed because it was a surplus. That was the only reason it was killed, so --


THANSEN: -- and you say that it's an educational purpose. I was standing outside demonstrating against the killing of surplus when a tall guy came out with a green plastic bag proudly telling me that there were pieces of Marius in the bag. So, again, I think this just shows that you are not the ethical institution that you want to portray yourself as being.

And I think, really, that it's time for people to know that they shouldn't go to zoos. The animals are not being treated well.

HOLST: I think it's difficult for you to judge what happened inside with the autopsy since you were standing outside. If you had seen those people attending the autopsy and asking the questions, which I actually -- a lot of kids asking questions, and adults asking questions --

SESAY: All right.

HOLST: -- and how they stayed there for a long time to watch.

SESAY: Sadly, I must jump in there and end this conversation, but my thanks to both of you for coming on CONNECT THE WORLD and sharing your viewpoints. We really do appreciate the insight. Thank you so much, Mirja Holm Thansen and Bengt Holst from the Copenhagen Zoo, thank you for your time today. Thank you.

All right. Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, for some, it may feel like "Yesterday," but it's 50 years since Beatlemania landed in America. We'll show you one of their little-known early homes.


SESAY: Hello, everyone. Fifty years ago, the Beatles were just beginning to make their mark on America. It was the band's first tour of the United States, and from that moment, Beatlemania gripped the world. But the Fab Four came from humble beginnings, starting out in a basement. Jim Boulden visits the Casbah Coffee Club to see where it all began.


JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 1959, the mother of two teenage boys, Mona Best, decided to open a rock and roll coffee house in the basement of her large home outside Liverpool. She called it the Casbah. She needed a house band, and booked the Les Stewart Quartet, as her son, Roag Best, remembers.

ROAG BEST, THE CASBAH CLUB: Unfortunately -- or fortunately, as time proves now, Les Stewart, eight weeks before the club's due to open, refuses to play the Casbah. He doesn't want to play here.

BOULDEN: Two of the quartet still wanted the gig: Ken Brown and George Harrison.

BEST: George comes to the rescue because he's got two friends he used to be in a group with, and they're not doing anything. He's sure they'll jump at this opportunity, which they did.

BOULDEN (on camera): And they are?

BEST: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

BOULDEN (voice-over): So, opening night, August 29th, 1959, the boys, known as the Quarrymen, played the Casbah. By 1961, they were known as the Beatles, with Mona's eldest son, Pete Best, as the drummer.

BOULDEN (on camera): So, as the story goes, the Beatles played here at the Casbah in June of 1962, and Pete Best was still the drummer. Mona Best paid them 15 pounds in total for the night.

BOULDEN (voice-over): And after that night, Mona closed the Casbah, to the surprise of everyone.

BEST: She was heavily pregnant with me. And she also felt that her job was done. The Beatles were on the way.

BOULDEN: On their way out of Liverpool for good, and surprisingly, Liverpool moved on from the Beatles.

BEST: Into the 80s, the Beatles are still being ignored. And then, from some reason, at some point in the 80s, the penny dropped. We shouldn't ignore this.

BOULDEN: The Best family cleared out the basement.

BEST: Stars on the ceiling were put up by John, Paul, George, Pete, Stuart Sutcliffe, Ken Brown.

BOULDEN: And Roag Best felt the place where the Beatles played before the Cavern Club needed to be on the map.

BEST: It's almost like the Casbah played no part. And if we don't stand up and be counted, it's going to go down in history that it really didn't play a part.

BOULDEN: So, now it's open as a tourist attraction, the old piano, back in place.

BEST: It's been played by the Beatles hundreds upon hundreds of times. It doesn't play anymore. When the Casbah closed, my father thought it would be wonderful idea to gut the inside and turn it into a piano bar. Which devalued it by about 350,000 pounds.

BOULDEN: Roag Best's father, Neil Aspinall, rose from being the Beatles' first driver to road manager to head of Apple Corps, the band's company. He was also Mona's boyfriend when her son, Pete Best, was replaced by Ringo Starr in August 1962. Neil thought of quitting.

BEST: At which point the whole family said to him, don't do that. The Beatles are on their way. We've got one casualty. We don't need another. Stick with them. And he did.

BOULDEN: Aspinall's place in Beatles history is firmly cemented. His son, Roag, wants his mother Mona and her coffee club firmly part of that history as well.

Jim Boulden, CNN, West Darby, England.


SESAY: What a great look back. I love the Beatles. I'm Isha Sesay, and that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching.