Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
Biker Brawl In Texas Leads To Nine Deaths; EU Moves Closer To Military Action Against Human Traffickers In Libya; Ramadi Has Fallen, What Next For Iraqi Security Forces?; Tehran Becoming Art Capital?. Aired 11:00- 12:00p ET
Aired May 18, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:15] MAX FOSTER, HOST: Ramadi in ruins, thousands flee for safety after ISIS scores a big military victory in a key Iraqi city.
Hello, I'm Max Foster in London. Tonight, we'll look at the plan to recapture the capital of Anbar Province.
Also ahead, a bloody gun fight between rival biker gangs in Texas kills nine. We'll tell you what you need to know about the gangs at the
center of it.
And later, the EU moves closer to taking military action against human traffickers in Libya. We'll ask a member of the European parliament
whether it goes far enough.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.
FOSTER: Now that they control Ramadi, there are reports that ISIS militants are heading towards a nearby Iraqi military base where a
counteroffensive is being planned.
Ramadi is the provincial capital of Iraq's Anbar Province. This is a video posted a short time ago on YouTube purporting to show Ramadi since
ISIS took over. It shows the city's government complex, its great mosque and militants roaming the streets as well. One of them attaches an ISIS
flag at a roundabout in central Ramadi.
Well, the fall of Ramadi comes after a prolonged offensive by the terror group using explosive laden bulldozers and other vehicles driven by
The Iraqi government says reinforcements are already on their way, but there are concerns this hour about what ISIS might do to residents of the
city before those forces arrive, especially anyone seen as sympathetic or working for the government in Baghdad.
Now Ramadi is just 110 kilometers west of Iraq's capital. The Habbaniyah base where that counter attack could come, sits between those
For more on the situation on the ground, I'm joined by the Anbar Province spokesman Hikmat Sulaiman, thank you very much indeed for joining
Can you confirm that ISIS controls the whole of Ramadi or are there still some Iraqi forces holding out there?
HIKMAT SULAIMAN, ANBAR PROVINCE SPOKESMAN: No. I can ensure that (inaudible) just control the whole of the city of Ramadi, which is between
the two rivers.
FOSTER: How many people are left in the city that you might be concerned about with ISIS taking control?
SULAIMAN: Well, most of them we have been able -- managed to get a road for them to withdraw, but until now we have not quite (inaudible) on
the name of the -- been able to withdraw from the city, but still we (inaudible) left tens of them.
FOSTER: At what point did you give up the fight? Was there a decision made at a particular point to withdraw?
SULAIMAN: No. First of all, at the beginning of the situation we've witnessed attacks on many fronts around the city, especially from the north
one that comes from an area already occupied a few weeks ago, which is Al Faraj (ph). And the tribal fighters (inaudible) were able to stand against
them, but when ISIL succeeded to reach the headquarters with (inaudible) very armed car bombs, then destroy the whole buildings around the
governmental complex, then we (inaudible) leadership for all fronts around, but we -- which send troops to reinforce the situation over there. They
controlled the situation.
But sadly the next morning we witnessed unexpectable or un- understandable withdraw by the Golden Division and the entire forces from Ramadi, left (inaudible) with no help and no support.
FOSTER: Are there civilians left in the city, or did they manage to get out before the troops?
SULAIMAN: Well, a lot of them managed to get out, but yet we have a lot of civilians kept over there. And we have news that a lot of them were
executed, especially the families of the policemen.
FOSTER: Can you confirm that Shia militia are on their way to support the Iraqi forces on any counter offensive, particularly around the
Habbaniyah base, which I know you're still trying to defend?
[11:05:11] SULAIMAN: Well, we were in a security meeting this morning at the NSA headquarters in Baghdad. And yet the decision has been taken by
the prime minister. But each part of the militias, (inaudible) mobilization send their own explorers to see the situation in there and how
to manage to collect their own troops in the base of Habbaniyah.
Now we are in a plan to reach about 3,000 individuals to collect with the reinforcement coming from the Iraqi army there and to sit a plan armed
to how to conjugate of those forces under one leadership and also in a plan to reliberate the Ramadi city.
FOSTER: OK, Hikmat Sulaiman, appreciate the time. Thank you very much indeed.
Well, civilians are flooding out of Ramadi, according to our reports, prompting new fears of a humanitarian crisis there. Our Nick Paton Walsh
has been following developments from Beirut.
And Nick, first of all just describe the strategic importance of the city.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, it was the capital of Anbar Province. It's really a vital hub for so much of the
populated areas to the west of Baghdad. And Anbar is one-third of Iraq's territory and also a key Sunni heartland. I think the hope amongst the
Iraqi government was they would be able to force ISIS from that and somehow find amongst Sunni tries those who are willing to ally themselves and
lessen some of the sectarian nature many feel the fighting in Iraq has had for quite some time.
But that has not been the case.
And I think stark what we heard in that Iraqi spokesperson's interview just then was how unexpected, quote, the departure of elite forces like the
Golden Division were from Ramadi in just the past 24 hours.
He also mentioned remarkably how families of the police were potentially being executed at this stage by ISIS. I think many are hoping
that those reinforcements who will arrive will be able to amass and unite under the joint command he was talking about to perhaps retake that city,
but it is at one stage it was home to nearly a million people perhaps as few as about 400,000, maybe even less now, many having fled remarkably.
And the video you played earlier shows deserted streets, obviously many terrified for the violence that's been swirling around for the past
But once Ramadi is fully in ISIS hands, and it seems like that is increasingly the case, they run the risk of having freer -- there are still
a lot of Iraqi security forces, troops, on that route. But freer passage towards Baghdad.
And previously that had been an issue for the Americans when they fought a war there. The freedom of movement through those Sunni heartlands
-- Ramadi, Fallujah, into Abu Ghraib into the capital.
So, vital strategic importance. The roads there that Ramadi is at the center of, plus also it does provide a hub close to the Syrian border where
ISIS have a lot of freedom of movement as well that they could exploit.
But, it's vital in the days ahead that the Iraqi security forces manage to get together enough numbers to perhaps begin to push in, but
fighting to reclaim an urban area extraordinarily fraught. ISIS adequately versed in how to defend a city like that. And I think we could see very
bloody days ahead, Max.
FOSTER: And what about the idea of Shia militia again going into what is a Sunni city, right?
WALSH: Yes. I think that is a key concern. So much of what had been hoped would be the campaign for Anbar would be about getting Sunni tribes
to back the military and their work, but it looks like given the departure of the Iraqi security forces much of the work, as was the case for awhile
in the northern city of Tikrit will fall to Shia militia, the track record of human rights, of atrocities in the battlefield deeply troubling. And I
think many were concerned, in certainly newer circles that that will be a severe impediment for the coalition adding it muscle to this campaign.
They managed to find some sort of resolution in Tikrit where the Shia militia stood back and then U.S. air power could clear the way for the
But the mess really that surrounded Ramadi, people will still be trying to unpick right now. Quite how did this months' long campaign to
defend the city crumble so fast. It was well known that they may would need constant reinforcement, ammunition to keep that city in their hands.
Its vital need was well recognized, too, by the Iraqi government even though American officials often tried to play it down.
So, the autopsy, of course, vital, but most importantly right now trying to keep any remnants of that city in Iraqi government hands -- Max.
FOSTER: You mentioned the Americans. We had John Kerry, secretary of state, talking today briefly about this and he seemed quite bullish about
managing to turn around the tide of the ISIS progression in the city and managing to, you know, suggesting that they could take it back relatively
quickly. But is that realistic?
[11:10:10] WALSH: Well, it's all I think part of -- bear in mind the U.S. is at war here in this campaign. It has special forces somewhere in
the mix at times, advising, and it has planes on the ground. So, of course their rhetoric will be bullish. Of course they will say this is all part
of the ebb and flow of battle.
But I think anybody in the Pentagon recognizes the last 72 hours have radically redrawn the map of the fight against ISIS in both Iraq and
Syria. The narrative about how ISIS were on their back foot now as quite the reverse. And I think the U.S. had tried to suggest Anbar wasn't that
strategically significant, and that was at a time when they were also trying to persuade the Iraqi government to head north towards Mosul rather
than tackle Anbar first.
But we're now dealing with a stark recognition that we could see a long stretch of territory to the west of Baghdad leading up to its outer
circles in the hands of ISIS and Iraqi security forces. At this stage looking at limited in their power to try and reverse that trend -- Max.
FOSTER: OK, Nick, thank you very much indeed. We'll have more on the fighting in Ramadi later in the show.
We'll look at what the government is doing to try to regain control of the city and the implications of sending in those Shia militia into a Sunni
And the Iranian defense minister arrives in Baghdad. What kind of role could Iran play in the fight against ISIS? That's in about 20 minutes
The Saudi-led coalition has resumed airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, meanwhile, now that a five-day humanitarian ceasefire is over.
Three strikes targeted an airport in the southern port city of Aden on Monday afternoon, two local government officials tell CNN a Houthi fighter
The United Nations convoy to Yemen had called for the ceasefire to be extended to allow more aid into the country.
Shifting now to the U.S. state of Texas and what one veteran police officer describes as the most violent and gruesome crime scene he's ever
At least nine people were killed, and 17 were wounded, in a shootout involving rival biker gangs. The fight erupted inside a restaurant, then
spilled into a parking lot where police were on standby having suspected trouble would break out. CNN's Nick Valencia is in Waco. He joins us now
with more on exactly what happened.
And this picture that's emerging about this fight, I mean it just seems so shocking for an area like that. But what more details have you
had about it in the last few hours?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly a bizarre scene here, Max. And not something that's unique to Waco, Texas -- biker gangs
present all across the United States. Here, though, it really came to a head.
A heavy police presence still, that crime tape also still up, the perimeter established around here, only media and local law enforcement
officials allowed inside. We heard from police a little while ago. They say about 170 people were arrested as a result of yesterday's shootout.
All of them will be charged with engaging and organized crime. Some will face capital murder charges.
SGT. PATRICK SWANTON WACO POLICE: These are very dangerous, hostile biker gangs that we are dealing with.
VALENCIA (voice-over): Erupting in broad daylight: close to 200 members of rival biker gangs broke out in a deadly fight Sunday. First,
fists, chains, a club and knives, escalating into a fierce gun battle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was really, really scary. We didn't know if somebody was going to come back.
VALENCIA: One hundred miles south of Dallas in Waco, Texas, at a Twin Peaks restaurant, as many as five criminal motorcycle gangs started
fighting over a parking issue, according to police. You can see some of the groups names, like The Cossacks, on the back of their jackets. The gang
meet-up, known to police for weeks, members of the SWAT team were already monitoring the scene when the brutal fight began.
SWANTON: We were in marked cars. They knew we were here. It matters naught to them. That tells you the kind of level of people that we're
VALENCIA: Police also exchanging fire with the bikers. The parking lot filling fast with law enforcement officials to secure the scene. At least
nine are now dead and nearly 20 more injured. Some customers and employees taking cover in the restaurant's freezer.
SWANTON: There were a lot of people. A lot of innocent people could have been injured today.
VALENCIA: Police say they recovered more than 100 weapons at the scene, a frightening indication that this may not be the end to the deadly
SWANTON: We have been getting reports throughout the day that bikers throughout the state are headed this way.
VALENCIA: While police say there is no threat to the public, there is concern, though, for still more violence to come. Police tell me that
there are credible threats against local law enforcement officials, anyone really in a uniform from other biker gangs who want to sort of finish the
job here. People still very tense in this area.
Twin Peaks, for what it's worth, behind me this restaurant, has been closed for the next seven days. The strip mall as well will be closed to
the public -- Max.
FOSTER: OK. Nick, thank you very much indeed for bringing us that from Waco.
Still to come tonight, we turn a spotlight on the dark underworld of biker gangs. An expert will tell us about the various illegal enterprises
that keep them running.
And creeping dangerously close to Baghdad, ISIS militants reportedly advance past Ramadi now. How Iraqi and U.S. forces hope to stop them from
reaching the capital.
[11:17:39] FOSTER: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Max Foster. Welcome back to you.
Now returning to our top story, and that's the fall of Ramadi. Just a day after ISIS ceased control of the strategic Iraqi city, there are
reports the militant group is already advancing east towards a military base. That base site between Ramadi and Baghdad.
Reuters reports Shiite militia fighters have been gathering there preparing for a counteroffensive. ISIS released this footage purporting to
show the city of Ramadi under its control.
But the Iraqi government says the fight is far from over. So how do Iraqi and U.S. forces plan to stop the ISIS advance? Here to help answer
that is Sajad Jiyad. He's a senior researcher at the Al-Bayan Center for Studies and Planning. He joins us via Skype from Baghdad. Thank you very
much indeed for joining us.
So, obviously we've had the debates about Ramadi. It has fallen. But now there's a huge amount of concern about this base between Ramadi and
Bagdad. Do you think they can hold that one off if they get the Shiite forces in there?
SAJAD JIYAD, AL-BAYAN CTR. FOR STUDIES AND PLANNING: Yes. Yesterday, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi authorized the mobilization of the
PMU, he Shia militias and they began to arrive in large numbers early this morning. And they continued to gather in that particular base that you're
referring to and also in other bases nearby around 30 kilometers away from Ramadi.
So it looks like the operation to take back Ramadi begins from today. It will probably take quite awhile until they're ready to launch the
operation on the city, but I think the prime ministers made sure that like Tikrit, it simply has to be regained by the Iraqi security forces.
FOSTER: You're referring there to Tikrit where Shia militia helped Iraqi forces to take that city back. So you're seeing a similar success,
are you, in Ramadi. How sure can you be of that?
JIYAD: I think, you know, prime minister, the Americans, all the elements involved, the local population, the politicians, all recognized
that Ramadi being the major city in Anbar, the provincial capital, has to be regained by the Iraqi security forces if they're able -- if they want to
push on and defeat ISIS elsewhere in Mosul and the rest of Iraq.
So, it's a question of when rather than really if it needs to happen.
And I think all signs are committed to that. I think the Americans realized how dangerous it is to have ISIS controlling another city and
controlling parts of the strategic highway that linked Syria to Iraq and is essentially the road to Baghdad.
So, I'm pretty confident that over the next two months, the Iraqi security forces will be able to launch an effective assault to retake
FOSTER: What price are they paying by effectively having Iranian backup to make that possible?
JIYAD: I think all sides accept that it's necessary. It was necessary to retake Tikrit and some other areas in Diyala and Saladin
Province, and indeed in Babil Province.
I think the Americans have accepted that there's not enough men on the ground. The police have showed that they were insufficient number and
unwilling to stand their ground in some parts. And these are locally recruited people.
The army has shown itself not capable of, you know, manning checkpoint, holding territory, and also assaulting against ISIS.
So, where are the numbers going to come from? They have to come from these PMU, the popular mobilization units. And they have to come with the
support of the Iranian advisers and their artillery support and so on.
I think the Americans accept that and the Iraqis (inaudible) accept that and it's now just a matter of time.
FOSTER: But what about Sunnis who may still be in Ramadi when they're liberated. We hope that there will be some people -- civilians that
survive this. But the price of, you know, of Shia militias going in there and their motivation partly -- I mean, what's the motivation for the Shia
militia to go into a Sunni town? It's probably better for you to describe that.
JIYAD: Yeah. I mean, the mobilization units, the Shia militias, are under the command of the prime minister who acts as the commander-in-chief
for the security forces. So, he has ordered them to mobilize towards Anbar, specifically towards Ramadi. So they are under his effective
control. That's part of it.
The part is, I was out this morning in the western part of Baghdad, and I saw, you know, large numbers of people gathered on the outskirts of
Baghdad trying to get into the city. It seems as if Ramadi is moving towards a Tikrit situation where it's going to be effectively evacuated of
all civilians and it will just be ISIS militants inside the city.
Now, the local -- the provincial council, the Anbar provisional council, which oversees cities like Ramadi, has formally requested
intervention from the Shia militias. And so it's a matter of all sides working together to fight the common enemy, which is ISIS and trying to of
course minimize any damage to civilians and infrastructure. But like we saw in Tikrit, it's possible, you can do it and minimize the amount of
damage, but it will take time to manage all that.
FOSTER: OK, Sajad Jiyad, thank you very much indeed for joining us in Baghdad.
Live from London this is Connect the World. Coming up, the European Union forwards with proposals for tackling the migration crisis. Details
on what sorts of actions could be authorized today.
But first, locals once called it the world's worst road. A new highway between Nigeria and Cameroon is now a key trade route. We look at
what's changing and why. That's in Transformations next.
[11:25:00] KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Locals call this the worst road in the world. Etched into the northwestern hills
of Cameroon, drivers could be stranded here for days during the rainy season, navigating mud, sharp turns and pot holes.
Yet for Endon Serectin, her livelihood depended on it bearing fruit between Cameroon and Nigeria.
ENDON SERECTIN, FRUIT VENDOR: The road was so bad you can carry oranges from Nigeria, reach in (inaudible) it take about two weeks reaching
in Vermanda (ph) the oranges would get bad.
LU STOUT: But just a few meters away the African Development Bank and other co-funders have finally paved a better path. The 443 kilometer Eugu-
Bamenda highway forms one part of the TransAfrican Highway, the planned road network linking cities from Cairo to Dakkar through Cameroon and
across to Mombasa.
PATRICE AMBA SALLA, MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS, CAMEROON: You cannot unite if you don't have the roads linking your countries. The aim, the
objective of this is to have a continent integrated the one market one continent.
LU STOUT: It's an idea that was conceived more than 40 years ago by UN committee, but Nigeria and Cameroon only signed on in 2007.
Siffhou Guy was in charge of a 64 kilometer stretch, which took four years to completely.
SIFFHOU GUY, PROJECT COORDINATOR: First is the mountainous area. It's this kind of (inaudible) of an area is very difficult in terms of
work, because when you start to build a road you need to be sure that the slope will stick without any falling.
LU STOUT: With a smooth highway for drivers, truck traffic has increased by 30 percent, shaving precious hours off the transport of goods
between the two nations.
SERECTIN: For now we have free roads, we can move more freely. We can take just a day from here to Nigeria. It helps others to spread the
LU STOUT: And faster turnover brings a new abundance of fresh produce to this marketplace, driving local businesses to greater heights.
SERECTIN: We are happy, because we go and come back, go and come back.
[11:30:06] FOSTER: This is Connect the World. The top stories this hour. Just after Iraqi forces abandoned Ramadi to ISIS, Iranian-backed
Shia militia are arriving at a nearby military base to help retake the city. Iran's defense chief is in Baghdad now meeting with senior Iraqi
More than 170 people are facing organized crime charges in the U.S. state of Texas after a shootout between rival biker gangs left nine people
dead. Police say they were tipped off to the violence and were nearby, otherwise they say it would have been worse.
Amrak has resumed train services between New York and Philadelphia less than a week after a derailment killed eight people. Cruise spent the
weekend installing new speed controls on the curve where the train derailed in Philadelphia.
Now back to the situation in Ramadi where ISIS is said to be firmly in control and advancing east towards an Iraqi military base.
Let's bring in CNN's Sunlen Serfaty who is monitoring developments outside the White House for us, also our senior international correspondent
Fred Pleitgen, he's in Berlin.
Let's start with Sunlen. What are the Americans saying about this? Because this morning we had John Kerry saying he could, you know, he could
see the tide turning in Ramadi and the Iraqi troops could retake the city. But it's such a challenge, isn't it? What are they saying they can make
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, U.S. officials have recently been taking pains to downplay the significance of the city of
Ramadi, saying that they were not necessarily singularly focused on this city, and certainly their reaction to ISIS moves over the weekend gaining
control in Ramadi echo that downplaying of the significance.
A Pentagon spokesperson saying that this doesn't mean the tide of the campaign is shifting or turning saying, in their words, that there are ebbs
and flows that happen on the battlefield. And as you reference secretary of state John Kerry who was traveling in South Korea and he basically said
in essence that he believes that the fight for Ramadi is far from over. Here is a bit of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It is possible to have the kind of attack we've seen in Ramadi. But I am absolutely confident in the days
ahead that will be reversed. Large numbers of DAESH were killed in the last few days and will be in the next days, because that seems to be the
only thing they understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And on Friday before ISIS really was able to take full control over the city of Ramadi, the White House here announced that they
were expediting weapons shipments into Iraq and that was communicated on the phone between Vice President Joe Biden and the Iraqi prime minister.
We also know that will continue in addition to, of course, the coalition airstrikes.
I should note, though, Max on Friday, an administration official said that they believe that they were blunting the momentum of ISIS and
certainly this latest moves in the important city of Ramadi certainly is undercutting that argument -- Max.
FOSTER: You know, let's bring in Fred on this, because to downplay the significances of Ramadi is quite something isn't it, Fred? It is a
crucial city and it's strategic.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. It's a crucial city in many ways and it is strategic as well, certainly because
it's the capital of Anbar Province. And one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that now that ISIS has Ramadi, they are in control of three
provincial capitals in Iraq and in Syria. They have Raqqa in Syria, they have Mosul in Iraq and now Ramadi as well.
Certainly it's also of course very important because it is the place where the Iraqi government was going to take a stand. They said that after
liberating Tikrit from ISIS they were going to move on to Anbar province next. And so certainly it's very important also if you think about the
fact that the Iraqi government at this point in time is trying to bring the Sunnis in Iraq on to their side, is trying to get them to turn on ISIS. It
certainly in that respect at least is a very significant place.
Also, of course, the largest province in Iraq, even though not population wise, but certainly as far as the size is concerned. It comes
at a very significant time, also, that today, Max, Iran's defense minister is actually in Baghdad to talk to the Iraqi government. And he said there
that the Iranians would do whatever it takes to defeat ISIS in Iraq. They said only, though, if the Iraqi government actually wants that.
The question now is, is that something that could indicate that the Iranians might be willing to increase their involvement in Iraq. Certainly
if you speak to the Iranians -- of course I was in Tehran just a couple of weeks ago. They believe that they are the ones who are actually making the
difference on the battlefield, they are the ones who have been training and equipping these Shiite backed militias that now are being called on by the
Iraqi government to try and take the fight to ISIS there in Anbar province.
It's going to be very, very difficult. And certainly, if you look at these militias that have now been called in, they certainly are in quite
foreign terrain form themselves, this being very much a Sunni province that they're moving in to. So certainly it's a different situation as the
Iranians by no way -- by no means are saying that they believe that Ramadi is not significant. And they certainly are saying that they are willing to
aid the Iraqi government more. It's going to be very interesting to see, especially if you might have a situation where you would have Iranian-
backed Shiite forces on the ground and the U.S. potentially providing air strikes for them, Max.
[11:35:15] FOSTER: Yeah, but it's happened before, hasn't it, in Tikrit. And it was very successful. It's interesting that the Iranians
are having success where the Americans aren't.
PLETIGEN: Well, they're having success to a certain extent. I mean, it is still a very difficult fight also with these militias. And the big
problem then is what happens when these militias get into places that are simply Sunni dominated. What's going to happen there?
Of course, there are big issues when these Shiite militias went into Tikrit. In the end, many people believe that that campaign was successful.
They certainly liberated from ISIS. But there was also talk of widespread looting going on, for instance, in Tikrit. So it's a very difficult
situation when you cross these sectarian lines.
Of course, Iraq still has a big sectarian rift that it's dealing with. But, yeah, I mean, there have been cases in the past where U.S. airstrikes
might not have been there to directly help these Shiite militias, but certainly did in effect do all of that.
It is at this point such a difficult situation there, though in Ramadi that as we've seen the Iraqi government has called for the support of these
Shiite militias. And the Iranians are saying that there's already some 3,000 of them on their way or already in the vicinity of Ramadi.
FOSTER: How do they -- how do the Americans play this, Sunlen? Because working -- it can be interpreted, can't they, if you've got the
Iranians working on the ground and you've got the Americans in the air and the Iraqis doing the communication between the two sides you could argue
that the Iranians and Americans are working together. I know obviously the White House would play that down, but how is that playing in Washington?
SERFATY: Well, absolutely, Max. I would expect for White House officials to play that element down. It certainly complicates the
situation on the ground when you're talking about these sensitive sectarian issues. And it, as you've rightly point out you have this potentially
being a situation where the U.S. is indirectly siding with Iranian militias. And that's certainly something that puts them in a precarious
But again, these are sensitive issues, sectarian issues on the ground that this really tapped into. But it will be interesting to see what the
White House reaction is going forward if this, indeed, does go forward -- Max.
FOSTER: OK. Sunlen, thank you very much indeed.
Also, Fred in Berlin, thanks for bringing us your context on that as well.
Across a border from Iraq in neighboring Syria, ISIS has withdrawn from the area around an historic site. And that's the ancient city of
Palmyra. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says fighters have pulled out of northern parts of the town. These images from Syrian
state TV show the army in the area.
Syria's antiquities chief told Reuters the military is in control there and the ruins are unharmed. Besides being home to UNESCO protected
monuments, Palmyra and adjoining Tadmour (ph) are strategically located on a crossroads leading to Homs and Damascus.
Europe is inching closer to deciding how to handle its migration crisis. Foreign and defense ministers are meeting in Brussels today.
The bloc wants a United Nations mandate to strike smugglers boats in Libyan ports.
Now the Libyan coast guard arrested some 400 people over the weekend for allegedly planning to board boats for Italy. Libya is where many, but
not all migrants take the boat for Europe with smuggling gangs taking advantage of the power vacuum there.
The UN refugee agency says more than 50,000 people have arrived in Europe fleeing war or poverty since the start of the year. The EU's
foreign policy chief says action could be taken within weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEDERICA MOGHERINI, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: Today, the main point will be taking the decision to establish the operation, the EU operation
and seek to dismantle the criminal networks that are smuggling people in the Mediterranean.
I would expect this decision to be taken today so that we can move forward with the planning and possibly launch the operation in the coming
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman has been covering this story for us. He reported from a dock site in Sicily
last month as hundreds of people set foot on European soil for the very first time.
He's now sent us this report on the latest arrivals, hundreds of women and children picked up off the Libyan coast by charity-run rescue ship.
WEDEMAN: They arrive on the shores of Italy, huddled masses of Eritreans, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Syrians and others yearning to be free of
war, of oppression, of poverty and hopelessness.
The latest to arrive 407 men, women, children and babies picked up off the Libyan coast by a ship run by a search and rescue charity, the so-
called migrant offshore aid station, or simply MOAS.
Imad, an Arabic teacher from Syria, came with his family of seven. His odyssey began four years ago and isn't over yet.
"I went to Libya to get away from the war in Syria," he tells me. "And then war broke out in Libya. My brother had a car workshop in
Benghazi, but it was robbed. He lost everything."
He hopes to join relatives in Germany.
From the ship, Mohammed (ph), also from Syria, says he paid $1,200 for the journey from Libya.
28-year-old Fartoum (ph) from Eritrea fled his country to avoid open- ended military service, mandatory for every Eritrean man and unmarried woman between the ages of 18 and 50. He hopes to find work in Italy as a
The number of migrants expected to arrive in Italy will probably increase every month until late Autumn. And as those numbers go up it's
expected that among ordinary Italians, the milk of human kindness could go sour.
From behind the fence, Messina residents watch as the latest migrants disembark. Some political parties in Italy are calling for a crackdown on
Marika (ph), a teacher, isn't opposed to immigration, but acknowledges it's a sensitive issue.
"At this moment of crisis in Italy, it's easy to say we don't want them," she tells me. "It's a way to get support from the part of the
population that's against immigration."
For now, though, the milk of human kindness is plain to see.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Messina, Italy.
[11:41:55] FOSTER: The International Organization for Migration estimates that 1,829 asylum seekers and economic migrants died trying to
reach Europe from the start of the year to May 7, would you believe. That compares to 207 deaths for the same period last year.
The IOM says Italy had the most arrivals at more than 34,000 people. It was also the deadliest route with 1,800 -- sorry, 1,780 migrants dying
trying to reach its shores.
Greece saw nearly 28,000 arrivals with 31 lives lost according to the IOM. 1,000 migrants reached Spanish shores, 18 died trying to reach Spain
and the Canary Islands.
Let's speak now to William Lacy Swing who is director-general of the International Organization for Migration. He joins me now from Geneva.
Thank you for joining us.
Obviously the key moment here in Europe is this meeting of European EU ministers trying to find some sort of solution to this, so it sounds as
though they're going after the traffickers. Is that something that you think is going to be an effective solution to this crisis?
WILLIAM LACY SWING, DIR. GEN. INTL. ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION: Clearly, the smugglers, the criminal gangs to smugglers are a major part of
the issue, but this has to be part of a larger overall comprehensive plan. And I think that they have taken some initial steps that are very good in
that respect, because the boats will keep coming even if the smugglers aren't there. They will find a way, because of the many -- there are
unprecedented conflicts in the world from the western bulge of Africa across to Asia, also development failures, political repression that keep
pushing people onto the boats looking for security and a better life.
FOSTER: How do you then tackle the demand for places on these boats effectively? How do you choke off the need for people to leave. The
problems are just too big, isn't it?
SWING: Well, I think we've discussed with European Union a number of ways in which we in the international community and our sister agencies,
how we can be helpful. We can help by trying to set up migration processing centers along the migratory route to explain the dangers of
taking smuggling boats, to in some cases to identify people who clearly qualify for international protection, in some cases people who are going to
join their family in northern Europe, that's a possibility also.
And then ultimately for those who do arrive, they will be properly screened and in some cases we can help put them into different categories
either into the labor migration field. Some will have to return and we can even assist with that.
But I'm very pleased that the European Union is now focusing on saving the life. If we don't save life, the other options are not useful.
FOSTER: This. I mean, it's interesting isn't it that that debate, that idea that do you save migrants is part of the debate, because you
couldn't really imagine that in other circumstances, in other situations, can you? But it seems as though that in itself is a debate: do you
actually save them from the water?
SWING: This should not be a debate at all. If we have any political courage or any moral fiber left in ourselves, we're going to say that
saving life has to be the top priority. But once you have that, then there are options available that allows migrants to be helped.
You know, it's our position is that these migrant floats across the Mediterranean there -- it's not an issue to be solved, it is a reality to
be managed. It's going to continue. So we want to look at it from that angle, a positive angle. And we want to be helpful.
[11:45:35] FOSTER: OK, Ambassador William Lacy Swing, thank you for joining us. We'll wait to see what comes out of that EU meeting. We'll
bring it of course to you as soon as we have it.
Are you affected by the crisis? What did you think of the EU's plans to deal with it? Let us know your thoughts and follow the stories we're
working on throughout the day. You can go to our Facebook page -- Facebook.com/CNNConnect. You can tweet me as well @MaxFosterCNN.
Live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up a shootout between biker gangs left nine people dead in Texas. Next, an expert takes
us inside the violent world of what police say aren't just clubs, they are organized crime rings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SGT. PATRICK SWANTON, WACO POLICE DEPARTMENT: At this point, we have eight confirmed dead here on the scene and another individual has been
pronounced deceased at one of the hospitals. There's not a whole lot more I can give you at this point other than to tell you that there are numerous
other individuals that have been injured. No officers have been injured in the shooting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Max Foster. Welcome back to you.
That was Sergeant W. Patrick Swanton of the Waco, Texas Police Department speaking about the deadly biker gang shooting, which left nine
people dead. Remarkably all of the dead are believed to be bikers. No police officers were injured in the shootout.
For more on what could have pushed the gangs to violence, I'm joined now by Tony Thompson. He is author of "Outlaws: Inside the Hell's Angel
Thanks so much for joining us.
Just explain to us what these biker gangs are. Obviously, you know, within America, within Texas people understand the criminal elements of
them. But how would you define what these biker gangs have become?
TONY THOMPSON, AUTHOR: Well, initially there are some cultures -- their way of life for the members, but within that subculture there are --
there is an inner circle of members who use the way the gangs are set up and the way that their separate from mainstream society to carry out
criminal activity, often across international borders. You're talking about crimes like drug smuggling, crimes of violence, lots of theft, that
kind of thing.
So, the clubs themselves aren't pure criminal organizations, they're not like the Mafia. But within them, there exists some very serious
criminality as we've seen with this murder.
FOSTER: I know we don't know all the details about it yet, but it seems to have been based on some sort of turf war. What is that just, you
know, who looks after which patch?
[11:50:08] THOMPSON: To a degree, yes. There are three main international gangs in the world: the Banditos, the Hells Angles and the
Outlaws. There are lots of smaller gangs. And most of those smaller gangs are allied to one or other of the bigger gangs. So within this -- this
particular incident we have the Banditos on one side and a smaller gang called The Cossacks on the other side who are allied to the Hell's Angels.
Most of the battles that take place in the world, and they do take place on a fairly regular basis, are the Hell's Angels against other gangs
basically. I mean, they're the two main rival factions.
FOSTER: It started off as some sort of fist fight and it escalated very quickly when they started using sort of weapons and ended up obviously
with guns involved. How unusual is that?
THOMPSON: It's not that unusual, unfortunately. I mean, I think back in 2007 we had an incident where a Hell's Angel was shot on the motorway in
the UK, and then a few months later we had an incident at Birmingham Airport where the Outlaws and the Hell's Angels faced against each other in
sort of brought various weapons into play. If that fight hadn't taken place inside airport security, and I'm pretty sure that firearms would have
But we've seen incidents around the world where there have been multiple shootings and very serious injuries and deaths when these gangs do
FOSTER: How do they coordinate internationally?
THOMPSON: Well, you can't just form a branch of one of these clubs on your own. You have to actually go into what they call the Mother Chapter,
which is the place in the world where the gang started. So for the Hell's Angels that's California. For the Banditos it's Texas. For the Outlaws
it's Florida or Chicago.
You have to go there. You have to plead your case as to why you should be a member, why you should be allowed to start up a chapter of that
gang wherever you are and then get permission.
All of the patches that they wear that are highly valued by club members, these are all copyrighted symbols. You know, these aren't just
clubs, these are major corporations that make huge amounts of money both legitimately and illegitimately and protect their interests very seriously.
FOSTER: And how are they making their money?
THOMPSON: Well, some of it is made through events. The Hell's Angels in the UK have an event called the Bulldog Bash, which is just a big biker
rally. People go there. They listen to music, they eat food, and that makes them huge, huge amounts of money.
Elsewhere in the world, particularly in Scandinavia huge amounts of money are being made in the drug trade. And we saw a very serious conflict
over there that went over several years in the mid-90s between the Hell's Angels and the Banditos fighting for control of certain towns in order to
control drug trafficking.
FOSTER: So, is there an individual that runs the gang, or how does the power structure work?
THOMPSON: Well, each gang has a president who is (inaudible) in charge of the entire gang, but all the chapters are fairly autonomous, so
they run within themselves.
When we had the (inaudible) Hell's Angels in 2007 it was what you could call a rogue chapter of the Outlaws who decided on their own back to
often attack a random Hell's Angel in order to promote the cause of the club.
It's very easy for the organization's national to deny what the individual members do or individual chapters do, because they can say we
have no control over these people. It's not being run from the top down, it's being run as a series of cells.
FOSTER: OK, Tony Thompson, thank you very much indeed. It's a frightening thing, isn't it?
Live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up, art cropping up in a very unlikely place. We'll tell you where these billboards now dot
the city skyline. That's next.
[11:55:07] FOSTER: Welcome back. This is Connect the World.
Now Rome, Paris, New York, just a few cities that come to mind when you think of art. But another capital has jumped into the mix, and it's
not the one you might expect. In tonight's Parting Shots, we'll show you how Tehran is bringing masterpieces to the people in a fun and unusual way.
AMIR DAFTARI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Matisse, Hawkin (ph), Picasso: works by some of the world's most acclaimed artists dotted across
the highways and byways of a sprawling metropolis. But this isn't your typical art capital of Rome, Paris or even London, this is Tehran in the
Islamic Republic of Iran. In an effort to promote the city's museums, the mayor has exchanged ads for art. More than 1,000 billboards, usually
covered in commercials for things like household appliances and mobile phones have now been replaced by prints of famous works.
Fish Magic by Swiss-German painter Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso's Harlequin as well as works by Iranian artists.
The project is impressing many local residents. One woman wrote on an Iranian website, "when I woke up this morning something strange had
happened, I thought I was dreaming. I couldn't believe what I seeing. Tehran had turned into a museum."
The citywide exhibition runs until the end of the week.
Amir Daftari, CNN.
FOSTER: You there? Pop in.
I'm Max Foster. That was Connect the World. Thank you very much indeed for watching.