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Syrian Islamist Fighters Claim Suicide Attack Conducted By American; 14 Dead As Pro-Russian Separatists Shoot Down Helicopter; Sudanese Woman Sentenced To Death For Being Christian

Aired May 29, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JIM CLANCY, HOST: Shot down in flames: dramatic video purporting to show the moment a Ukrainian helicopter was attacked by separatists. All 14 aboard were killed.

Also ahead, looking in the wrong place: it's back to square one in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370.

And sentenced to death for choosing her religion. We'll examine the case of this Sudanese woman set to pay the ultimate price for apostasy.

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

CLANCY: We're going to begin in Ukraine, that is where at least 14 people now, including a general, are reported dead following the downing of a military helicopter.

It happened near Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told parliament the helicopter was shot down by, in his words, terrorists. Pro-Russian militants are claiming responsibility.

Video that purports to show you the moment that the helicopter went down has appeared on social media. We're going to show that to you now, but we need to know what is often the case in these scenarios, that CNN cannot confirm its authenticity.

Here is the video.

As you can see, the helicopter fully engulfed in flames as it went down, gunfire still ringing out.

Nick Paton Walsh is covering all of that scene for us. He is live from Donetsk -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, as you saw those images I'm sure will strike a powerful cord amongst those in Kiev looking for stronger military action here in Donetsk. 14 dead, as the interim president said, including a key general. This happening on the outskirts of Slovyansk.

It seems the helicopter, according to a separatist militant spokesman, having taken off from Kramatorsk where there's an airfield where the Ukrainian military are gathered in number.

This seems to be the worst single loss of life for the Ukrainian military since this operation began, but it comes on a day of, frankly, troubling numbers of death tolls.

We're learning the full extent of the dead from Monday's onslaught by that same Ukrainian military against the separatists as they took the international airport here in Slovyansk.

As far as we understand, 33 Russian citizens were amongst the dead on the militant side there, a stark admission from the separatists, because they have for weeks maintained that there are no Russians fighting alongside them, this is entirely indigenous Ukrainian insurgency here. But today all of them saying off the same script 33 Russian citizens, identified, being sent back to Russia for burial there, places like Grozny, Penza (ph), Moscow, Rostov on Don where they original hail from.

Some them paid $100 a week for cigarettes and various things and fed by donations, they say, from the local population.

That's a stark change. They also admitted perhaps 20 to 30 Ukrainian citizens were, in fact, killed during that onslaught on the airfield, plus or so 15 maybe bodies are still in that territory under Ukrainian military control. Potentially 70 separatist militant dead in that one day alone, making that potentially the worst day in terms of loss of life since this whole crisis began when there was that shooting in central Kiev on Maidan Square way back in February.

CLANCY: More than two weeks ago, Nick, the government was saying it was going to move in its troops, take over some of those road blocks, clear them out, reassert its control. What has happened to that?

WALSH: We're seeing the ATO, as its called, the anti-terror operation in Kiev's parlance, moving on. It has slowed in the past few days. And another casualty like -- casualty incident like the helicopter being brought down will of course make many question how much there is in terms of military resolve to push this forward.

But I have to tell you, Jim, we've seen some very interesting things, too, happening here in the center of Donetsk. Behind me is the regional administration building, that's where the self-declared people's government of Donetsk has had their headquarters for a long period of time.

Now just after we were at the morgue talking to their leaders, a large group of armed militants turned up at the DPR -- sorry, DNR headquarters, that building I was just talking about, encircled it, and then said they were cleaning it out looking for looters.

Now what we understand has happened is bulldozers have come in and cleared away from the front of that building some if not all of the barricades that have been in place for weeks, creating a sort of slight sense of lawlessness, anarchy, frankly, when you went in. A lot of men in masks holding sticks, not really quite clear who was in charge, everyone asking do you have the right paperwork, where are you from, what are you doing, push people around, a messy situation. That now appears to be ebbing.

A spokeswoman for the separatists say that they cleaned up, instilled order, and they'll give a press conference soon. Suggestions, maybe, of rifts between separatist factions here. But it's pretty clear right now there are a lot of armed men from one unit clearing the barricades away around that group. They are separatists. And they seem to be trying to instill their own version of discipline there.

An interesting time here in central Donetsk, Jim.

CLANCY: A day maybe a pause, but a lot of uncertainty about what lies ahead there in eastern Ukraine where we find our Nick Paton Walsh in Donetsk. Thank you.

The crisis in Libya heating up. Renegade war planes bombed armed Islamist groups and the U.S. advises all of its citizens in the country get out.

Libya's acting prime minister is refusing to yield to a newly elected leader. As Jomana Karadsheh reports, people there fear the country could now descend into civil war.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Life seems to be relatively normal here in Tripoli, but as the country's political and security crisis deepens, ordinary Libyans are increasingly worried about their country's future that they say is very uncertain right now.

Many Libyans feel the international community is partly responsible for the current chaos and instability. They say NATO and other countries that helped overthrow the Gadhafi regime in 2011 should have done more to stabilize the country after the revolution by helping disarm and demobilize militias, by building the security forces and supporting Libyans to establish state institutions and push for national dialogue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, they liberated us from the Gadhafi regime, but then stopped. They didn't complete the mission and we need their help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm afraid that they leave us like they leave Syria. (inaudible) that they leave us to (inaudible) civil war. And so it's very, very, very bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They helped us, the international community, and we thank them for that. I mean, (inaudible) I thank them for that. But finish the job, a, that you through the United Nations, through the international organizations, that you say many things they can help the people stand and make constitution, make organizations, start a democratic government. And they can. And they have. They have done (inaudible). They can do it.

KARADSHEH; While western government are calling for calm and dialogue, some Libyans fear it might be getting too late for that.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Tripoli.


CLANCY: Australian authorities conceding now the missing MH370 aircraft, that Malaysian jetliner is not, not where they've been focusing their search efforts. 850 square kilometers of the Indian Ocean were closely searched by the underwater probe Bluefin-21. Officials concentrated on that zone after they detected what sounded like pings that were thought to be coming from the black boxes aboard Malaysian Airlines flight 370.

But now, it turns out those pings were not from the black boxes.


WARREN TRUSS, AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No signs of aircraft debris have been found in the autonomous underwater vehicle since it has joined the search effort. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has now advised that the search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections can be considered complete. And it is professional judgment, the area can now be discounted as the final resting place for MH370.


CLANCY: CNN's Rene Marsh joins us now from our bureau in Washington.

Those pings were the only thing that proved that the calculations with the satellite handshakes were valid. Where do we go from here?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORREPSPONDENT: Right, that's a big question.

You know, well we know that the search area will now have to expand. They just do not have a choice. This is after about seven-and-a-half weeks of Bluefin searching that area. We know now from a U.S. Navy official who was on the record with CNN that the U.S. Navy, or essentially the crews involved, they're saying that those promising underwater sounds were likely not from the plane's black boxes. And not only were the black boxes not in that search area, they also say neither was the plane.


MARSH (voice-over): It was the most promising lead and now we know it's false. New information the U.S. Navy has concluded these four underwater signals were not from the missing plane's black boxes.

(on camera): From the U.S. Navy standpoint, these sounds were most likely not from the black boxes.

MICHAEL DEAN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR SALVAGE AND DIVING, U.S. NAVY: Yes, I'd have to say at this point based on all of the imagery data that we've collected and looked at, if that black box were nearby we would have picked it up.

MARSH (voice-over): When detected in April, the pings boosted confidence the plane would be found.

ANGUS HOUSTON, AUSTRALIAN CHIEF SEARCH COORDINATOR: The four signals previously acquired taken together constitute the most promising lead.

MARSH: But now the Navy says the sounds could have been from the search ship itself or other electronics.

DEAN: We may very well have been in the wrong place, but again at the end of 30 days there was nothing else to listen for.

MARSH: After searching 329 square miles of ocean floor, the Bluefin- 21's mission is over. The search continues in August when private companies take over. Meantime, a new potential lead. CNN has learned a sound that could have been the plane crashing was detected by underwater microphones.

MARK PRIOR, COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY ORGANIZATION: Our analysis is designed to detect nuclear of that sound and earthquakes. And my understanding is yes, that Curtin University are looking at the data specifically with a view to finding if there's any evidence of any impact from the Malaysian aircraft.

MARSH: The United Nations Nuclear Test Ban Organization has a network of 11 hydrophone stations that pick up many sounds, even ice breaking thousands of miles away in Antarctica. But could it hear a plane hitting the water?

PRIOR: It's possible but the circumstances that would allow it would have to be very particular.


MARSH: Well, hours after our report first aired, the U.S. Navy released a statement saying Michael Dean, the official you saw in our piece, his comments were speculative and premature.

It is important to point out I did call that same spokesman who put out that statement and asked two very specific questions. Was anything in that report inaccurate? And his response was no. We're not saying that there were any inaccuracies, we're just saying that it was not Dean's place to say what he said.

We also asked if the navy believed the pings were, indeed from the black boxes and the response was it's not our place to say. It is up to the Australians.

So, Jim, it really looks like it's all about formality, because very much from the beginning that navy official in our piece has been in the know during this entire underwater mission -- Jim.

CLANCY: Rene, I've been on this story since day one in Kuala Lumpur. And more than ever, I just dread going home and facing, or even walking into the newsroom and facing the same question, Jim, where is the plane? And I think we know less today than we've known at any other point, because a lot of us were depending on those pings being valid. We're being told now they are not.

Rene Marsh...

MARSH: Absolutely, Jim.

CLANCY: All right. Thank you much. Stay on the story. One of these days we'll have something to report.

Well, still to come tonight, sentenced to die for her beliefs, this mother of two is facing execution in Sudan because she says she's a Christian. We're going to take a look at the legal issues and more of her case. That's coming up.

And as Nigerians continue to demand to bring back our girls, their president vows war against terrorism. We're going to bring you the details of that. Stay with us.


CLANCY: This is CNN. I'm Jim Clancy. And you're watching Connect the World. Welcome back everyone.

Here's another story that we're following with overtones of misogyny. Pakistan's prime minister is calling for an investigation into the brutal killing of a pregnant woman outside the high court in the city of Lahore. Prazana Parvene (ph) was beaten to death with bricks by members of her own family on Tuesday because she had married a man she loved rather than submitting to an arranged marriage with her cousin.

Her husband and a witness tells the Reuters news agency police failed to stop the attack or come to her aid.


RAI GHULAM MUSTAFA, LAWYER (through translator): The actual culprits must be punished. They should not get the benefit of honor, because they had pre-planned the entire thing. There were about 28 or 29 of them, including three ladies. They must be punished as this was not a single, but a double murder, because Farzana Pravene (ph) was pregnant. Her heirs are saying she was pregnant. And it has been formally mentioned in the first information report that she was three months pregnant.


CLANCY: Police have arrested the murdered woman's father. They say he admitted to his role in killing his daughter. And he expressed no regrets.

Warrants have been issued for the other attackers allegedly, including her brothers and a cousin.

Well, next week a Sudanese appeals court is going to decide the fate of a woman who is sentenced to death for her Christians beliefs.

Miriam Yaya Ibrahim (ph) was convicted of apostasy two weeks ago after refusing to renounce her Christian faith. She's being held in a women's prison in Khartoum where she gave birth to her second child on Monday this week. Her husband, Daniel Wani (ph) who is also a Christian wasn't allowed to attend that birth of his own child.

Now Ibrahim's lawyers hope to get her apostasy conviction turned over, because Sudan's constitution does guarantee on paper at least freedom of religion.

Let's bring in Manar Idriss, a Sudan researcher with Amnesty International and get a closer look at this case. She joins me now from London.

And Nabil Adib Abdalla, a constitutional and human rights lawyer joining us from Khartoum, Sudan.

I want to begin with you, sir, there in Khartoum, what is the law? And is it possible this woman could actually suffer the death penalty?

NABIL ADIB ABDALLA, CONSTITUTIONAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: Yeah. The law says that a Muslim cannot renounce the religion of Islam. And if he does, he will be executed unless he recounts and does it within the time given by the court to do so. If he doesn't, then he will face the capital punishment.

CLANCY: Manar Idriss, a common occurrence here, or something that is whipped up, used for political purposes whenever a community feels under pressure?

MANAR IDRISS, SUDAN RESEARCHER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Well, this is the first case of its kind since the 1991 criminal code was enacted in the sense that this is the first time someone was found guilty of apostasy and sentenced to death on that charge.

There have been cases that Amnesty International has documented over the years where people were charged with apostasy, however when they were given a few days to recant, the did change their mind and recant their faith and therefore weren't sentenced to death.

CLANCY: All right. If she decides she wants to affirm her Christian faith, she doesn't want to renounce it, what happens then in this case?

IDRISS: Well, as Mr. Nabil mentioned, apostasy is -- carries the death penalty under Shariah law as practiced in Sudan. However, Sudan's constitution enshrines the right to freedom of religion, including prohibiting someone to recant their faith under pressure.

And so we are continuing to call for Miriam Ibrahim's (ph) unconditional and immediate release, because Amnesty International believes that she's a prisoner of conscience who was detained solely for her religious belief.

CLANCY: Nabil, I've got to believe that this young woman has been known to be a Christian for some time. Who advanced this case, made a complaint against her?

ABADLLA: Well, there are conflicting, you see, reports about that, but her brother supposedly is claiming to be half-brother, but he is denying that, is the one who started these proceedings. And he says that she was never a Christian. She has always been a Muslim. She was born into a Muslim family. And she disappeared, she ran away.

While on the other hand, she says that her mother was a Christian. And she was raised in the Christian faith.

So there are conflicting, you see, actually reports here.

CLANCY: OK, Manar, let me go back over to you. We have in this case, as well as in the case in Pakistan a situation where it is the family that is really attacking one of their own daughters. Is this common? And why?

IDRISS: It's difficult to say whether it's common that families are attacking their own children, however what's important here is the fact that these -- and these different cases, and specifically in Miriam's (ph) case, she's been charged with apostasy, which is abandoning one's religion, which shouldn't be criminalized in the first place. This is a personal choice, it's a personal decision, and under international law the right to freedom of religion is enshrined as well as under Sudan's constitution.

And Amnesty International has repeatedly called over the years for Sudan to repeal these provisions that criminalize acts such as apostasy, or even adultery, which are personal choices that people make in their lives.

CLANCY: All right. Just final question for Nabil, Nabil when will the court make its decision? And how do you think it will go?

ABDALLA: Well, you see maybe the court of appeal will take a few months to have a decision, but then there will be another court, that is the supreme court. If not her case is being taken to the constitutional court, which is only concerned with constitutional matters.

But it's my...

CLANCY: It's months away, any decision?

ABDALLA: Only for the first appellate court.

CLANCY: All right. I want to thank Nabil Adib Abdalla as well as Manar Idriss for joining us, getting a little bit of perspective there on the legal issues that are involved, what Amnesty International is trying to achieve in this case, and hoping for the best for this Christian woman who is now in prison. Thank you both.

Well, live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World. And coming up, they want action, action to bring 200 abducted schoolgirls back to their homes. Now the Nigerian president says he is doing something about terrorism. We're going to speak to one of his top advisers.

Also, suicide attacks, nothing new in Syria's civil war, but militants say this one has an American connection. We'll have a live report on that straight ahead as well.


CLANCY: You're looking at thousands upon thousands of Syrian nationals going to cast ballots in this presidential election in Syria, but they are actually in Beirut, Lebanon and casting their ballots there. They shut down traffic. They caused a lot of consternation among the Beirutis there. It gives you an idea of how many Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon.

But it was a political event sponsored in large part by Hezbollah and used as a rally in support of Bashar al Assad, drawing sharp criticism from many other Syrian refugees and some Syrian factions who say that the refugees in favor of Bashar al Assad should be sent home, because they are not suffering like the ones who have opposed him and are being told to kneel or starve.

They all wanted to cast early ballots Wednesday in the presidential vote.

You're watching Connect the World. We're live from CNN Center.

Radical Islamist in Syria say one of the men who pulled off a recent suicide attack was an American. They say the attack took place near the city of Areeha (ph) in northwestern Syria Sunday. Syrian activists say four vehicles loaded with explosives were used.

Mohammed Jamjoom is following the developments for us from our Washington bureau. Mohammed, what do we to make of this? Do we have an identity on this individual?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, the nom de guerre that's being used for this man is Abu Horaiya al-Amriki (ph), or in other words, Abu Horaiya (ph) the American.

Insurgents in Syria, many of them affiliated with al Qaeda, or al Qaeda linked groups, are saying this is the first American suicide bomber in Syria, that this bombing happened on Sunday, that the truck that Abu Horaiya (ph) was in was packed with at least 17 tons of explosives and that the target was a government checkpoint in Idlib Province there in Syria.

Now we're seeing these videos that have emerged online, some of them showing artillery shells that are being loaded into one of the trucks that was used in the attack. As you mentioned, four trucks, we're told, were used in this attack.

It's unclear which truck exactly Abu Horaiya (ph) the American was in.

What's interesting here is that despite the fact that jihadist forums are lit up with the fact that there was an American suicide bomber in Syria, the American law enforcement officials that we've spoken with thus far refusing to say if this man was an American citizen. They say definitely a link to America, that he is a U.S. person, that he might be a U.S. resident, but they say they will not be able to confirm if this is actually a U.S. citizen until they can conduct tests on the body.

But judging by the blast that you see in that video, which is so powerful and created such shockwaves, it's really looking less than likely that there would be any remains that they would actually be able to test and find out for sure if this man is an American, Jim.

CLANCY: There are foreign fighters who come from all different parts of the world, and some of them specifically choose that task to carry out suicide bombings, but that gives counterterror organizations, police all across Europe and in the United States, you know, heart palpitations, because they understand, you know, the terrible significance of that.

I'm just wondering whether you can address why that heightens fears so much?

JAMJOOM: This is really becoming a nightmare scenario, Jim. You're absolutely right, this does heighten fire.

The reason for this not so much that there are American and other foreign fighters that are fighting alongside al Qaeda affiliated groups, or groups that aren't even affiliated with al Qaeda anymore because they've gotten so extreme like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, what they're more concerned about is what happens if these fighters are able to leave Syria, come back to the U.S. or other countries, and then carry out attacks there.

What they're worried about is a repeat of a 9/11 type scenario. They don't want to see that happen. And that's something we heard even from the FBI director last week who stated that that's what their most concerned about when it comes to foreign fighters that have gone into Syria. Syria has become a real hornets nest. It's opened up to the point that so many people are coming in, there are so many different insurgent groups, so many al Qaeda affiliated groups. Now there are foreign fighters there, and they're really worried about those foreign fighters leaving, coming back to other parts of the world carrying out attacks there, Jim.

CLANCY: A killing ground cum training ground if you will in Syria today.

Mohammed Jamjoom, good to have you with us.

Well, the latest world headlines are going to be just ahead.

Plus, Nigerians have not been at all happen with their government's response to the mass abduction of schoolgirls. We're going to talk about those criticisms next with an advisor to Nigeria's president. Stay with us.


CLANCY: This is CNN, you're with CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Jim Clancy, and here are your headlines.

Pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine have shot down a military helicopter. The attack happened near the rebel stronghold of Slaviansk. There was some YouTube video purporting to show the helicopter as it was shot down.

CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of that. Others have reported it is not the plane -- it is not the helicopter, but video from an earlier incident. The acting president reports 14 people were killed aboard that helicopter, including an army general.

Australian authorities have conceded that the missing Malaysian plane is not where they focused their search efforts after all. Officials concentrated on that zone after they detected what sounded like pings thought to be coming from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Now they say those noises could have been produced by the search ships themselves.

Egypt's former military chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, on track for a huge victory in the country's presidential election. Ballots are still being counted. Thus far, exit polls show that he has more than 95 percent of the vote. But voter turnout was low.

Last week's deadly rampage in California prompting calls for a law allowing -- and I'm quoting here -- a gun violence restraining order. The proposed legislation would allow police to temporarily bar a mentally unstable person from buying or possessing firearms if that person's family or friends call police.

Twenty-two-year-old Roger -- or Elliot Rodger, I should say, was the suspected shooter behind that killing rampage that left six people dead over the weekend before he took his own life. A friend of Rodgers described him as "awkward," and "lonely." One film critic says his murderous rage might have been fueled by the movies. Nischelle Turner reports Hollywood is pushing back on that one.


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: In the bloody aftermath of the Santa Barbara mass killings, "Washington Post" film critic Ann Hornaday sees Elliot Rodger's video diatribe against society --

ELLIOT RODGER, YOUTUBE VIDEO: All you popular kids, you've never accepted me.

TURNER: -- and writes a column tying his murders to his life as a director's son growing up on the fringes of Hollywood. In it, she writes, "Rodger's rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike."

ANN HORNSBY, FILM CRITIC, "WASHINGTON POST": He had created this video on YouTube that seemed to be such a product of the entertainment industry that he did grow up in, literally, and also just as a member of the culture.

TURNER: But her column specifically points to Seth Rogen's recent film "Neighbors," and other comedies made by writer/producer/director Judd Apatow asking --

HORNSBY: How many students watch outsized frat boy fantasies like "Neighbors" and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of, quote, "sex and fun and pleasure."


TURNER: Those comments inspire a celebrity backlash on Twitter, with Rogen tweeting, "I find your article horribly insulting and misinformed. How dare you imply that me getting girls in movies caused a lunatic to go on a rampage." While Apatow added, "She uses tragedy to promote herself with idiotic thoughts."

For her part, Hornaday says she didn't mean to single out or directly blame Apatow or "Neighbors."

HORNADY: The movies that we watch that are primarily created by men and primarily pivot around male fantasies of wish fulfillment and vigilante justice, how that might inform not just someone suffering under really terrible mental illness, but the culture at large.

TURNER: A culture still struggling to understand what could drive a young man to murder.

Nischelle Turner, CNN, New York.


CLANCY: The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, has declared war on the terror group Boko Haram. It follows the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls that happened on April the 14th. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the abductions.

Nigerian officials have revised the number of girls that escaped that night. They say 57 have now been accounted for. That leaves 219 still missing.

Doyin Okupe joins us from our Washington bureau. He's a senior advisor to President Goodluck Jonathan on public affairs. Doyin, great to have you with us here. You're in Washington, where there has been some outspoken critic -- criticism about the Nigerian government's handling of this kidnapping, as well as the military's capabilities when it comes to possibly rescuing these young women.

DOYIN OKUPE, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN: Jim, thank you very much. We are not unaware of these criticisms, but most of them are largely unfounded. Let me take you from the point of view of the military. The military -- the Nigerian military is perhaps one of the best in the continent of Africa. We have records of excellence and commended performances which have been attested to by the United Nations and other countries in the world.

Now, the issue that we're handling here is an issue of insurgency. Insurgency is an asymmetrical warfare without borders, without boundaries, and without frontiers or even without any rules. So, we are -- we were totally unprepared for this. Military is not trained in the act of counter-terrorism. We're just acquiring these things.

And Jim, let me tell you, you are very much aware that in the last 40, 50 years, there's no nation of the world that has actually been able to defeat insurgency anywhere in the world. So, it's not a super power. It's a difficulty.

But we have done very well in Nigeria, because when Boko Haram started, they were -- they infiltrated about 11 states in the north, and the city of Abuja was bombed on a weekly basis. It was a horrendous experience.

But the military and government have been able to push them to only about three states in the north and main activity mainly in Borno state.


OKUPE: Before the advent of this kidnapping of these hundred girls.

CLANCY: Doyin, then, based on that success, what is the next move? Because the schools in the north, in Borno state and other states in some of those more remote areas, literally shut down, entire villages have been burned and abandoned by Boko Haram. What is the government's next move here? Will more troops be put in?

OKUPE: Well, I can assure you, contrary to what was initially believed, because the Nigerian president did not make a show of his activities, once this issue of Chibok broke out, more than 20,000 soldiers were deployed to strengthen the attack and the fight against Boko Haram.

About two weeks ago, further deployment of the Nigerian soldiers have also been made. So, government is actually doing everything possible.

And recently, the effect of the -- the follow-up of what happened in Paris, now I'm happy to announce that for the first time, the security agencies in our neighboring countries of Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, have agreed and are ready now, working in close connection with the Nigerian security agencies. And this is the greatest development following this matter that we are in, because in the --


CLANCY: The US is also involved, and it has -- going to operate some drones, I understand, do some surveillance flights. You're there in Washington, now. Is that in conjunction with that coordination? What do you hope to get from that kind of cooperation?

OKUPE: Well, we are still going to be -- it is our military that will provide the manpower to do anything that has to be done about Boko Haram or the rescue of these girls.

Our foreign partners, United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, China, et cetera, what they're doing for us, because I said it earlier on - - we do not have any serious expertise in this insurgency affair.

In other states, in Britain and all these Western nations, have had a longer experience in dealing with --



OKUPE: -- rescue operations and dealing with --

CLANCY: Doyin?

OKUPE: -- insurgency.

CLANCY: Is president Goodluck Jonathan going to get his girls back to their parents?

OKUPE: Jim, I told you before, and I'm saying it again, if there's anything that President Goodluck Jonathan will do, he will ensure -- he has said it before, and he's a man of his words, he has delivered virtually on all promises he made to the Nigerian people. And this is not going to be an exception. He has said it, and I am on his side --


CLANCY: All right.

OKUPE: -- and I know what government is doing. The girls have been located. The girls will be freed, and they will be safe. And they will be safely returned to their parents.

CLANCY: Doyin Okupe, with the Nigerian presidency, I want to thank you very much for joining us this day from Washington.

That is our report for now. I'm Jim Clancy, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching. We're going to leave you with some of the most memorable quotes from Maya Angelou, the author, poet, and human rights activist who left us on Wednesday.


TEXT: "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud."

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."



LEONE LAKHANI, HOST: This week on MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST, Qatar is flying high with the opening of a mammoth airport. Can it compete with its neighbors for regional travelers?

And we speak to the CEO of the country's national carrier on how moving its headquarters to its new home will expand business.

The Middle East has its latest airport destination with the opening of this, Qatar's gleaming new Hamad International Airport.


LAKHANI (voice-over): Well-known for its huge investments in art, football clubs, and its hosting of the 2022 soccer World Cup, the tiny island of only 2 million people are also seeing its riches being put to work locally.

LAKHANI (on camera): Doha's not the only city that's investing heavily in aviation. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are in close proximity, but is there enough trade and tourism in the region to go around?

LAKHANI (voice-over): After a decade of construction and a four-year delay, flights are finally taking off at Qatar's new airport. Named after the former emir of Qatar, Hamad International Airport will eventually occupy 29 square kilometers, roughly a third of the size of Doha City itself.

For the country's national carrier, it couldn't have come soon enough.

AKBAR AL BAKER, CEO, QATAR AIRWAYS: It gives us unlimited opportunities. Doha International Airport was very congested. It was overcrowded. We could not give the standard of service you would prefer our passengers to have on the ground.

LAKHANI: The airport will have a capacity of 50 million passengers. It'll include public spaces for art exhibitions, a VIP terminal inspired by Arabian sailboats, and an aquatic-themed mosque.

LAKHANI (on camera): This new facility cost $15 billion. It's part of Qatar's 2030 vision to diversify its economy away from oil. But will big spending be enough to make this country the aviation hub it wants to be?

LAKHANI (voice-over): Analysts say Doha, like its Gulf neighbors, understand the power of aviation. Even Jordan inaugurated the brand-new Queen Alia International Airport last year.

JOHN STRICKLAND, DIRECTOR, JLS CONSULTING: There's a recognition by government that aviation plays a wider economic role. It doesn't only support direct jobs, but it supports trade, it supports ability to develop tourism. We've seen that that's been done very effectively, for example, in Dubai. Abu Dhabi is now investing in a similar approach.

LAKHANI: Still, the competition is stiff. Just last year, Dubai opened the doors of its second airport, the mammoth Dubai World Central.

PAUL GRIFFITHS, CEO, DUBAI AIRPORTS: Ultimately, we want to create the world's largest airport, an airport capable of accommodating up to 200 million passengers.

To give you some context, the current largest airport in the world in Atlanta, Georgia, is about 89 million passengers. So you can see the sort of scale and order that we're looking at now is many, many times larger than anything that's been seen before on the planet.

LAKHANI: Those plans may still be years off, but in the first quarter of this year, Dubai's current airport became the busiest in the world, with more than 18 million passengers, overtaking 16 million at London's Heathrow.

Next-door in Abu Dhabi, construction is underway for its Midfield terminal. That's set to open in 2017 with a capacity of 30 million passengers per year.

Three Gulf airports to support the ambitions of the region's main carriers, like Abu Dhabi's Etihad, which is not only pursuing developing markets in the east, but also the established markets in the west.

JAMES HOGAN, CEO, ETIHAD: Step by step, we're opening up the US, but we also are going to balance that with more cities in Southeast Asia, in the Middle East.

LAKHANI: Etihad and the other Middle Eastern carriers are gaining more passengers than any other region, according to the International Air Transport Association. Analysts day all the Gulf hubs are well-placed to tap into the emerging markets. Just eight hours' flying time from two- thirds of the world's population.

STRICKLAND: I don't think the big hub airports in the Gulf are particularly competing with each other. They're more competing with other parts of the world. And the Gulf is positioned between growing markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the airlines who operate out of these hub airports have very long-range modern aircraft.

LAKHANI: And each vie for a piece of lucrative pie in the sky.

Bigger and better airports are not the only way airlines are staying ahead of the game. Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways has raised the competition bar to new heights with its new above first class flight option know as "The Residence" on the A380.

It's exclusive, it's luxurious, and very, very expensive. Prices start at $21,000. The three-room suites come with an onboard chef, a private butler, and a VIP travel concierge service.

Most of these large airlines have the same fleet of airplanes, so it really is what's inside them that sets them apart.


LAKHANI: Up next, we speak to the driving force behind Doha's multibillion-dollar airport and hear his vision for the country's national airline.


LAKHANI: Akbar al Baker has waited many years and suffered many setbacks before the opening of Doha's new airport. Now that day has come, John Defterios sat down with the CEO of Qatar Airways to ask him about his company's move to its brand-new home.


AL BAKER: New Doha International Airport will give us a huge boost to expand, not only our network, but also bring larger-capacity airplanes. Because we want to be in the next five years exceeding 30 million passengers Qatar Airways alone.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: You're flying the flag for your A380 service to London. Why are you so excited? You're a businessman at heart, but you seem to be raising the profile of this one in particular. Why?

AL BAKER: London is a very important destination for Qatar. We have very huge investments in the United Kingdom. You also know that we own 20 percent of Heathrow Airport company. It is an extremely important destination, and this is why we should take our flagship airplane first to London.

DEFTERIOS: It's really a tilt to the east for growth, and a tilt to the south for growth into Africa. This is the blueprint, even though you still have destinations in America, but the real growth is east and south.

AL BAKER: Exactly. Asia is extremely important for any airline, because it has nearly two thirds of the world's population based in that region.

In addition to this, Africa is very un -- under-served continent. It is important that we show our presence there. And of course, don't forget South and North America.

DEFETERIOS: You're involved in a pilot program right now with Interpol to exchange databases as a result of the Malaysia crash that we saw here. Is it going to fundamentally change the sharing of security information, passport information for good?

AL BAKER: We have been talking about this to Interpol far ahead of what happened in Malaysia. We have been talking also to authorities in Germany and the UK, where we have been exchanging information on forge research, forged passports.

But what this whole thing will do now between us and Interpol, that it will do three benefits to both of us. First, it will stop people using Doha International Airport as a transit point for criminals. It will give us heads up about people using forged documents to travel on QR.

And at the same time, it will warn Interpol of the movement of criminals once we detect such forged documents being used by our passengers.

DEFTERIOS: I want to as you a political question here about GCC relations. You actually purchase airplanes, along with Emirates, at Fly Dubai, the last Dubai air show. But there's tensions within the Qatari position. Does it really effect business and GCC relations. They're trying to patch this up, but what's the reality.

AL BAKER: I have recently, after the tensions that you are mentioning about, started to operate to a second airport in Dubai itself. I don't think that political tensions that always happen, even in the United States with its allies, affects business.

We are an airline. We are not a political entity, so we don't get affected by any of the frictions that may exist. But I really don't think there is any friction between us.

DEFTERIOS: And with the spotlight on Doha for the World Cup, we hear about labor reforms that are taking place, and a system that's widely used in the Gulf states, the Kafala System, to sponsor an agent fee, paid back at home from migrant workers. Are we going to finally see a new standard that people can accept internationally and not just one that's been accepted regionally?

AL BAKER: The agency fees are not paid by me or by the people who are employing. The agency fees are being paid by the worker just to find a job. But this has not been collected by anybody in my country. It is connected as bribe in their home country for the people to find for them a job in the GCC.

DEFTERIOS: In the labor field, and with such a big global event, can this be the push to get Qatar to change its laws and treatment of workers, and the same around the region?

AL BAKER: Qatar has laws to protect both sides, the laborer and the employer. I think the people who are raising all these issues against my country are people who don't want 2022 to happen in my country, people who are anti such a game taking place in a Gulf country, and people who are in general enemies of our region.


LAKHANI: CEO of Qatar Airways speaking to our John Defterios there. You can see more on him and all our other stories on our website, You can also join us on Facebook.

That's it for this edition of CNN MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST, coming to you this week from Hamad International Airport in Qatar. I'm Leone Lakhani, thanks for watching.