Return to Transcripts main page


Former Green Party Leader Alexander Van der Bellen Narrowly Defeats Far-Right Opponent Norbert Hofer in Austrian Presidential Election; Baltimore Police Officer Acquitted in Freddie Gray Death; Poaching Endangers Two Sea Animals in Bay of California; U.S. Lifts Arms Embargo on Vietnam; Search for EgyptAir's Black Boxes Continues; Attacks Near Russian Installations in Syria; U.S. Confirms Afghan Taliban Leader's Death. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 23, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:13] LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Strongholds under assault. ISIS kills dozens of Syria's coastline in areas the government thought it had under

control. How are Syria and its key ally Russia responding? We'll go live to Moscow.

Plus, the battle for Fallujah. The Iraqi army rolls into action, but doesn't have what's needed to break the grip of ISIS. Analysis just ahead.

And then...


LE TAN, FISHERMAN (through translator): First they took our fish, then the essential equipment. If they liked it, they took it. If they didn't, they

threw it away.


KINKADE: Targeted again and again, we meet fishermen caught in a struggle over territory in the South China Sea.

Hello. I'm Lynda Kinkade in for Becky Anderson. And this is Connect the World. Those stories just ahead. But first, we begin with breaking news

out of Austria. Alexander Van der Bellen has won the hotly contested presidential election. The candidate, backed by the Green Party, narrowly

beat his far-right rival Norbert Hofer after postal votes were counted.

Let's go straight to CNN's Kellie Morgan who has been following this story from London.

This was a very tight election, but a victory for the former Green leader.

KELLIE MORGAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It was a nail biter, wasn't it? I mean, he's essentially won just over 50 percent of the

vote there in that presidential election, very narrowly winning over the Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer who was really on a knife edge of

becoming the first far-right head of state inside the European Union.

Now that is -- would have been a huge political earthquake not just in Austria, but across

Europe, because we need to remember that we're seeing this rise in populist nationalist parties right across Europe -- Germany, The Netherlands, UK,

Greece, and of course in Austria off the back of largely off the back of the market crisis which has swept the continent

the last 12 months or more, Lynda.

KINKADE: So, what can you tell us about the new leader, Alexander Van der Bellen?

MORGAN: Well, he's a popular man for those 50 percent or so people who voted for him. He -- he stood as an independent in this presidential

election, because it is essentially a ceremonial role. He is showing his - - how he's being nonpartisan about this role. But he's well liked by a lot of people. He is a science professor, an academic, a self-confessed

supporter of the European Union, vastly different to his candidate who platformed, or who campaigned of a platform of euro skepticism, anti-

migrant, and anti-establishment.

But both of these candidates in this presidential election were going to shake up the political landscape in Austria either way that it went,

because what we need to remember is that in this country there have been two parties that have dominated the political landscape since the end of

the Second World War, so whichever way it goes these are two men who have popular more or less 50 percent to each of them so a huge shake up,

Austria, and now doubt the populist parties in those other countries across Europe will be watching this, will have seen the result and seize on it as

possibly a chance for themselves to gain some power as these kind of elections come up over the next two years or so -- Lynda.

KINKADE: OK, Kellie Morgan live for us from London, thank you very much for bringing us details on that breaking news.

And we will bring you more on this fast-developing story in about a half hour's time when we'll get the view from Austria. so, stay with us for


Well, ISIS has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in two Syrian government strongholds. State-run news says at least 78 people were

killed in seven coordinated explosions. The attacks hit Jableh and Tartus. Russia has bases in or near both those coastal towns.

Our Matthew Chance has been following this story and joins us now live from Moscow.

Matthew, these areas that were targeted were Assad strongholds and a key ally Russia has a naval base and an air base in those areas.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. And that could have been one of the reasons why they were targeted, but I think

first and foremost clearly these are areas that are strongholds of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian

president and the Alawite community from which he comes.

So, there are family heartlands of the Assad family. And really it's the first time in five years of dreadful conflict in Syria that they've been

targeted so effectively in such a brutal way with such a heavy loss of life. And so it really will be a major blow to Assad and the people

particularly of the Alawite community who are affected by this violence so completely.

But you're right, Russia also has a military presence in Syria, as we've been reporting over many

months, and its two centers of force strongholds are in these two areas. At Tartus it has a naval base,

its only base on the Mediterranean in fact. It's been and a crucial supply port for the military effort of the Russians elsewhere in Syria.

And then at Jableh, which is just a bit north on the western coast -- Mediterranean coast of Syria, that's close by to where the air base is, the

Latakia air base from where Russia has been carrying out its thousands of air strikes across Russia against various rebel groups

opposed to Bashar al-Assad.

There's been a statement from the Russians, the Russian foreign ministry within the past hour or so, although I have to say, that no Russians are

known to have died in these attacks and it's not clear or there's no evidence to suggest that Russian military interests have been

directly affected by these attacks, but this is what the foreign ministry says, "another bloody crime committed by terrorists on

Syrian soil, which deserves the strongest condemnation," they say. They say that they see this as a brazen challenge to the government and the

citizens of Syria, but also the credibility of the international community which -- and a challenge to the political solution which is being hammered out, of course, partly at the behest of the Russians.

They haven't just intervened militarily but have also used that military pressure to bring all the sides to the negotiating table, or most of the

sides to the negotiating table. These attacks, the Russians say, are an attempt to undermine that peace effort, Lynda.

[11:07:01] KINKADE: Yeah. OK. We'll have to leave it there for now. Matthew Chance for us live from Moscow, Thank you very much.

Well, now to the question desperately being asked by everyone from Paris to Cairo and right across the world, what happened to EgyptAir flight 804.

Now a submarine has been deployed to help search for the wreckage in the Mediterranean

Sea. The priority right now is to find the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders which could help explain what went wrong.

There are several theories. You've probably heard of some of them. But Egyptian authorities say no conclusions can be drawn from what's known so


For more on this let's go to Egypt where Nic Robertson is live for us from Alexandria.

Nic, the clock ticking no doubt. We don't have Nic, but he has filed a report for us. Take a listen.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of feet below the Mediterranean Sea, the search for EgyptAir 804 continues.

Egypt deploying a submarine, scouring the bottom of the ocean floor, 200 miles off the coast of Alexandria, hoping to retrieve the plane's black

boxes in waters nearly two miles deep in some parts.

PILOT: Hello, hello, EgyptAir 804 flight level 370.

ROBERTSON: This is audio recordings of the two men flying the doomed flight are released. The pilot making this final, now haunting call into air

traffic control.

PILOT: Thank you so much. Good day, have a good night. ROBERTSON: Just minutes before falling off radar.

TURKISH 814: 804, this is Turkish 814. How do you read me?

ROBERTSON: Flight data obtained by CNN indicate multiple smoke alerts occurring near the cockpit minutes before the crash. The smoke indicators

providing a new clue for investigators. Was it mechanical failure or something deliberate, like terrorism, that made Flight 804 suddenly drop

38,000 feet out of the sky?

SAMEH SHOUKRY, EGYPT FOREIGN MINISTER: That is certainly an important element in a jigsaw puzzle that has to be fully compiled.

ROBERTSON: A French official telling passengers' families that no theory had been ruled out.

SHERIF FATHI, EGYPTIAN CIVIL AVIATION MINISTER: We cannot, at this stage, come up with any conclusion. Stop making, how do you call it, speculations

without having facts.

ROBERTSON: Wreckage found over the weekend, reminders of the 66 lives lost, including a purse and a child's pink backpack.


KINKADE: And for more now we do go to Egypt where we do now have Nic Robertson

joining us live from Alexandria.

Nic, a lot of theories still out there, but the clock is ticking to find the black boxes before the batteries die.

ROBERTSON: It is. I mean, typically the batteries have a month plus or minus maybe a week that sort of -- that sort of time, so for the -- for the

Egyptian authorities right now, the clock really is ticking. They're find something debris, but the depth of the ocean there is significantly deep.

At its deepest point it is about 5,000 meters. Their submarine can go to about

3,000 meters, which is the depth of some parts of the sea in the vicinity of the area that they're searching for.

But what we know from the French -- from French officials today is that they now haves this patrol ship that's arrived on-site to help the

Egyptians. It also has a small submarine. It can't go down as deep as the Egyptian submarine, but significantly it has acoustic detectors and it's

these acoustic detectors that should be able to detect the pings from the transmitters on the black boxes, and of course it's those transmitters that

have these batteries that give them a life of around about a month.

And what the French are saying, it gives us pause for thought as well because they're saying at

the moment it's too soon to put those audio detectors in the water, acoustic detectors in the water, because they don't have a specific enough

location. More searching needs to be done.

So at the moment the weather is hampering the situation out there, the debris is going to be

the best clue on the surface where the plane might have gone down. And as the waves are choppy

it makes seeing that debris much harder, Lynda.

[11:11:14] KINKADE: Yeah, it certainly is a vast search area. Nic Robertson for us live from

Alexandria in Egypt, thank you very much.

Well now for some other stories on our radar today. 18 schoolgirls were killed when a fire swept through their boarding school in northern

Thailand. It happened on Sunday night. Police managed to rescue 20 other girls who were inside. The cause of that fire is still not known at this


The Indian Prime Minister Nerenda Modi is on his first official visit to Iran. A formal welcome ceremony was followed by talks with Iranian

President Hassan Rouhani and Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani. The three nations have signed an agreement to develop a port in southern Iran.

At least 43 Yemeni military members and recruits have been killed in two ISIS suicide bombings. The attacks took place in the southern city of Aden

where the country's exiled government is now based. One bomb had targeted a recruitment center while a second blew himself up near a group of

soldiers downtown.

Well, let's turn to the world of football now where we're waiting for Manchester United to comment on reports about whether they have sacked

their manager Louis van Gaal. Speculation has been building that the Dutchman will be replaced by self-proclaimed Special One Jose Mourinho who

was sacked by Chelsea in December.

Staying across this story for us is our World Sport's Amanda Davies who joins us now from London. Good to have you with us.

As we stand by waiting for this news from Manchester United, just explain for us how they have dealt with these situations in the past?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN WORLD SPORT: Well, waiting is very much the operative word, Lynda. We've been talking about this for nearly 48 hours now now and

people suggested that Manchester United's handling the sacking of David Moyes, which then led to the appointment of Louis van Gaal wasn't handled

in the right way, that perhaps lessons would be learned. But you have to say once again we're left in this protracted long, drawn out affair which

is being played out in the media without any official word from the club.

It was straight after Manchester United's FA Cup success at Wembley, you might remember, that

Louis van Gaal wasn't being asked about bringing his first piece of silverware to Manchester United, or United's first major piece of

silverware, since Sir Alex Ferguson left, he wasn't asked about that success. But instead, was being asked about reports that he had just lost

his job. It was very clear at that point that he didn't know.

My understanding is that he was informed by the United hierarchy on Sunday evening that he was going to be relieved of his duties and that there have

been negotiations and severance discussions going on since then, not only with Louis van Gaal but also his assistant manager Ryan Giggs. But we

still haven't had any official confirmation at all from the club.

Of course we've got all these noises being made from the Jose Mourinho camp that he, indeed, is the Special One, he is the one who has been chosen to

replace van Gaal at Old Tratford. He has made no secret of the fact for the last six months or so that he wants to take up the post at Manchester

United, but nothing official has been confirmed as yet.

We expect Mourinho to be talking to United's hierarchy on Tuesday, his representatives are flying in to the UK. But very much it's a watching and

waiting game, Lynda.

KINKADE: Yeah, wait and see we do.

But for now, do you think the club has been struggling since the reign of Alex Ferguson ended

to replace him, to fill his shoes?

[11:15:01] DAVIES: It was always going to be a very tough ask to replace a manager who had been so successful over 26 years. And history proves we

saw with Sir Matt Busby the great, late Sir Matt Busby leaving Manchester United there were six managerial changes to

get from him to Sir Alex.

This was always going to happen. And it's certainly a very different club to the one Sir Alex

Ferguson left, not only because Sir Alex left, but also because David Gill, who was such a senior pivotal figure in the board room left at the same


But I think United really feel that they just have been put into a corner in recent times, not only

because of Louis van Gaal's failure to lead United into Champions League, European football next season, with them finishing fifth, but also, because

of Manchester City, their great rivals, signing Pep Guardiola, the fantastic -- the pinpoint really of the managerial game at the moment. He

chose to go to City, not United, so United feel they have to take action.

Jose Mourinho may be not the manager they would have chosen long-term but he certainly got a history of winning in the short-term.

KINKADE: That is true.

Well, we will stand by and come back to you when we have some confirmation.

Amanda Davies from London, thank you very much.

Still to come, caught on the front line, the unsuspecting victims of a much bigger dispute raging in the South China Sea.

Up next, as the U.S. hails from the Taliban leader's death the terror group scrambles to find his replacement. That story ahead as well.


KINKADE: You're watching CNN, and this is Connect the World with me, Lynda Kinkade, welcome back.

A Taliban splinter group tells CNN the Afghan terror group is holding talks about picking a

new leader. This comes after the White House confirmed the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed on Saturday by an American drone strike

inside Pakistan.

The U.S. has called Mansour an obstacle to peace and President Obama says his death is an important milestone.

Well, for more on his death and its impact our Nick Paton Walsh joins us now from Beirut.

Nick, some are calling this the biggest battlefield win against the militant group in years. Who is now likely to take the helm?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's possibly the biggest battlefield group (ph), because of what we've seen in the past year

or so has been losses frankly against the Taliban who according to even U.S. officials are in their best position territorially in Afghanistan

since 2001. But, yes, killing the head of the Taliban in such a precise and well executed drone strike is a significant messaging victory, frankly,

for the Americans and the Afghan government here.

Now, what we will see likely in the days ahead is continued chaos and disarray perhaps in the Taliban ranks. As you mentioned earlier, there was

a meeting yesterday in Quetta we're told by some Taliban sources to try and find a successor. That was not successful. That's not really surprising,

in all honesty, we know for a fact that when Mullah Omar, the long-term leader of the Taliban died in about 2012, 2013, that was kept secret as the

Taliban struggled to work out who would take his place.

It was Mullah Mansour who came to the helm. The key question is what does this period ahead mean for the violence in Afghanistan, which has seen

record deaths of Afghan security forces, 5,000 last year alone, thousands of Afghan civilians dying as this violence picks

up in the summer fighting season.

Now, the concern is that whoever seeks to succeed Mullah Mansour who we can pretty much definitively now say is dead, now Barack Obama has come forward

with his statement, whoever seeks to succeed him may attempt to prove, like Mullah Mansour himself did, his prowess on the battlefield, military

effectiveness to try and shore up the many different factions that now comprise the Taliban to see off, quote, his rivals.

That's the fear right now. And if you look, took, Lynda, at the list of people potentially thought as viable successors, well, right at the top of

it is Saraj Haqqani (ph), a man who the U.S. call al Qaeda's chief facilitator in Afghanistan, far from moderate, a radical, frankly. And

other individuals, too, including Mullah Omar's son, other deputies as well.

Nobody really thinks those people will do what the White House is trying to spin this assassination as causing, and that potentially remove Mullah

Mansour who they thought was the man stopping peace talks. It's peace talks that the Afghan and American governments have as their main strategy against this insurgency here, but

it doesn't look like Mullah Mansour's successor is going to make them any more likely. Mansour rejected them entirely. The hope his successor may

be more pro-them, but frankly given how well the Taliban are doing on the battlefield the idea of them suddenly seeking a diplomatic track is

unlikely, Lynda.

[11:22:02] KINKADE: Right. So, talking more about the impact of his death on the already

fractured Taliban, could it potentially weaken the group if they can't find a leader, they can't agree on a new leader?

WALSH: Well, they're not going to have a problem finding a new leader, the question is whether or not that person is able to unite all the different

factions within the Taliban.

As I mentioned, there are a variety of different figures there, Saraj Haqqani (ph) has some military potency but there are detracting factors

like how he's perceived to be closer to Pakistan's intelligence services, that may put some people off.

As, too, potentially might his public face so close to al Qaeda may make some elements of the Taliban nervous, but frankly they're not seem to be in

a particularly moderate mood at the moment. Mullah Omar's son is another potential figure as well as is another deputy, Habadullah Akhund (ph) who

is also led different parts of the Taliban under Mullah Mansour.

All these names being moved around, but as we saw it took months, possibly even over a

year, we don't know quite exactly how long for Mullah Mansour to cease the infighting and take the

helm. We could be in for a messy time.

But none of that is necessarily going to stem the violence this fighting season seeing in Afghanistan, Lynda.

KINKADE: OK, Nick Paton Walsh in Beirut, Lebanon, thank you very much.

Well, now to Syria where the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, General Joseph Votel has just taken a secret tour.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr was there and this is her exclusive report.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the first images ever shown publicly, from a U.S. special operations training camp in

Northern Syria. From here, and other secret, nearby locations, the U.S. military is racing time to train enough local Syrian forces so they can

push South towards Raqqa, ISIS's declared capital.

CNN was the only television network with General Joseph Votel on this secret, day-long trip to Syria. Votel oversees the war against ISIS.

GENERAL JOSEPH VOTEL, CENTCOM COMMANDER: My principal purpose was to meet with some of the Syrian Democratic (force) leadership in multiple

locations. And also to meet with our advisor teams.

STARR: General Votel has come to Northern Syria under extraordinary security conditions. In fact, we've been asked not to reveal a number of

details on how we all got here. But Votel considers this part of the war a top priority. He is here to meet with the U.S. military advisors that are

helping some of these local troops that you see, work to defeat ISIS.

Votel went to multiple locations, we've been asked not to disclose. Meeting with key local leaders in the Syrian Democratic forces. An umbrella

organization overseeing many of these young Arab fighters the U.S. is training. A spokesman for the Arab forces being trained here is critical of

U.S. efforts. He says his group urgently needs more ammunition and weapons. Beyond the few ammunition supplies, he says the U.S. has delivered.

[11:25:13] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We've been given a limited number of old rifles.

STARR (voice-over): Due to security concerns, we are not allowed to show details of the base. Our cameras are restricted. Security is so high here,

the U.S. advisors want their faces shielded. But they do want to talk about the training.

You're a military advisor here. What do you guys do here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here training the Syrian Democratic forces. Now when I say training, generally that's consisting of basic level weapons

training, shooting AK-47s and shooting larger machine guns.

STARR (voice-over): Their 4-star General taking an extraordinary step to see it all firsthand.

VOTEL: I have responsibility for this mission, I have responsibility for the people that we put here. So it's imperative for me to come and see what

they're dealing with, to share the risks that they are absorbing on a day- to-day basis.

STARR (voice-over): Even as the Arab fighters here patrol the surrounding fields and stand watch, getting ready for whatever their future holds.


KINKADE: The new battle against ISIS is raging now in Iraq. The military has launched an

operation to retake Fallujah.

The city is about an hour's drive from Baghdad and has been under the militant's control for

more than two years. The military has told families who can't escape to raise white flags so government troops nowhere to find them.

Now I want to bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman who spent years covering the Middle East especially Iraq.

Ben, this city has been under ISIS control longer than any other in Iraq. Tell us about this offensive. What are you learning?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand that this is going to be a very difficult offensive announced last night by

Prime Minister Haider al Abadi. It's called Operation Break Terrorism.

Now the problem is, of course, that ISIS has been in control of Fallujah since January of 2014. And we understand that most of the fighters, ISIS

fighters, in Fallujah are actually from there. Don't forget that Fallujah is a traditionally Sunni stronghold, a city that fought a hard and long

battle against the U.S. military during the American occupation of Iraq, so this is really going to be a serious battle.

Now, on the Iraqi government's side, it's going to involve the Iraqi army, police forces,

anti-terrorism units, and what's known as the popular mobilization units. These are Shia-led, often

Iranian trained and supplied military forces which in the past we've seen in places like Tikrit and Baijit (ph). They were really the force that

took the lead as opposed to the Iraqi army.

It's only starting to recover since the rout that took place in June 2014 when they retreated

from Mosul. So we can expect, for instance, they're going to be a lot of IEDs, a lot of booby-traps, a lot of suicide bombings that was the case

certainly in Ramadi as well which the Iraqi government managed to retake earlier this year, the other large city in Anbar Province.

But it's going to be a challenge. And, of course, you have, according to the U.S. military, anywhere between 60,000 and 90,000 civilians still left

in the city and unfortunately it's going to be the case that civilian casualties are going to be inevitable given the scale of fighting we can

expect in Fallujah -- Lynda.

KINKADE: OK, Ben Wedeman, we will have to leave it there, thank you very much.

We now have breaking news just in to CNN. A Baltimore police officer has been found not guilty in the death of Freddie Gray. Officer Edward Nero

was charged with second degree intentional assault as well as other charges. Gray's death while in police custody in

April sparked nationwide protests and accusations of police brutality. Officer Nero was the first of six officers to stand trial.

Now following this case is our reporter Miguel Marquez who is live outside the courthouse. Miguel, bring us to scratch. What's the latest?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just a tiny clarification. This was a huge verdict by this judge, by the way. Tiny clarification on this. He

was the second to stand trial. The first officer who stood trial that trial ended in a hung jury.

The lawyers for this officer decided to go with what they call a bench trial. So, there was no jury. It was the judge himself, an African-

American judge, very experienced, Barry Williams, who heard testimony in this.

There were four separate charges, one of assault, the prosecution saying that Officer Nero was

guilty of assault because when Mr. Gray was arrested, that arrest itself constituted assault, that he was wrongly arrested, essentially. The judge

not agreeing saying that Mr. Nero, or Officer Nero wasn't even there for the arest, it was another officer, Officer Miller who actually arrested and

cuffed Mr. Gray. and the only thing that Mr. Nero had to do at that point was to walk Mr. Gray from the sidewalk to the van.

That famous video that we've seen that was shot of Mr. Gray's arrest, Edward Nero is seen in a piece of that video walking Freddie Gray to the


On the second charge of misconduct in office, the judge saying simply, look, if he didn't conduct the arrest then there is no misconduct because

that's what that second charge rested on.

The third charge was -- had to do with reckless endangerment. And this is about whether or not that seat belt on Mr. Gray should have been Officer

Nero's responsibility. At the second stop of the van -- there were five stops that day -- on the second stop of that van, Officer Nero helped put

alleged shackles on Mr. Gray and then slide him into the van. The prosecution saying that at that point Officer Nero should have either put

Mr. Gray in a seat belt, or told somebody to put him in his seat belt. The prosecution -- the defense saying that just didn't happen. The judge

agreeing with the defense saying it just wasn't a crime -- Lynda.

KINKADE: Miguel Marquez, staying across it there for us courthouse the courthouse in Baltimore, thank you very much.

We're going to take a quick break. Stay with us. We'll be right back.



[11:35:08] KINKADE: The U.S. president is dismissing suggestions he's trying to counter China's influence by lifting an arms embargo on Vietnam.

In a joint news conference with his Vietnamese counterpart, Barack Obama said the move is part of a deeper cooperation on defense. The ban on

weapons sales to Hanoi has been in place for decades, part of the fallout from the Vietnam war.

Well, whatever Mr. Obama's intentions are, lifting the arms embargo is likely to raise serious concerns in Beijing. Relations between China and

Vietnam have worsened as territorial disputes in the South China Sea drag on. In the meantime, people who depend on those

waters for their very survival are paying the price.

Our Saima Mohsin reports.


SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Like his father before him, Le Tan makes his living from the sea. He's fished theirs waters for

31years, but lately, his job's become a lot more dangerous.

LE TAN, VIETNAMESE FISHERMAN (through translator): First they took our fish, then the essential equipment. If they liked it, they took it. If

they didn't, they threw it away.

MOHSIN: Tan describe a day when Chinese men boarded his boat, stole his equipment and

threatened him and his sons. This happened last year, but he says his boat has been targeted four or five times over the past decade.

TAN (through translator): once they tased my son, three times in his spine.

MOHSIN: Tan says he is being targeted because he fishes in the Paracels, the chain of islands claimed by Vietnam, China and Taiwan.

Vietnamese authorities say hundreds of fishermen from Le area, a small island off the east coast of Vietnam, report being intimidated, beaten or

robbed by men on Chinese flagged boats within the Paracels.

Yet, despite the danger, the local government says it's encouraging men to keep fishing these waters calling them defenders of Vietnamese territory.

The Chinese foreign ministry says it has no knowledge about Vietnamese fishermen being beaten or chased away and the Paracel Islands are its

sovereign territory along with most of the South China Sea.

China is building man-made islands, laying down air strips, deploying surface-to-air missiles

in defiance of competing claims by other regional players. And the U.S. has weighed in to the fight

challenging China by running freedom of navigation operations in the region and calling for an end to the militarization of the area.

Washington's message seems to have done little to sway local opinion.

PHAM THI HUONG, VICE CHAIR, LY SON DISTRICT PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE (through translator): Concerning America's idea of a peaceful solution between

Vietnam and China, even with this peaceful solution, the right to Vietnam to these islands are undeniable.

MOHSIN: CNN wasn't allowed to speak to the fishermen without a government minder

present, but Vietnamese officials are keen to show them off as victims of China's aggression.

TAN (through translator): We protect our country for the next generation.

MOHSIN: It's an elevated calling for the fishermen of a remote island nightly song (ph). In its ongoing dispute with China, Vietnam is mustering

defenders wherever it can find them.

Saima Mohsin, CNN.


KINKADE: Well, Turkey has become the latest contentious issue in the debate over the UK's future in the European Union. Campaigners of Briton's

exit from the EU, or Brexit as it's known, have published this poster suggesting Turkey is joining the EU and its influx of Turkish migrants

would potentially be going to the UK.

Well, our Phil Black is following the story and joins us now live from London. Phil, the camp voting to leave the EU seem to be playing on

xenophobic fears by bringing up Turkey.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the criticism, Lynda, no doubt. But the Leave campaign says it is reasonable to campaign

on this point because it is Britain's stated policy to support Turkey's ascension to the European Union. And so it says when that happens, well, a

big influx of Turkish migrants will follow. That will put stress on public services, notably the health system as well. So that's what they're

pushing for here.

Now, But they've gone further than that, and they've even said that this is a risk because they say Turkey has a higher birthrate than the United

Kingdom and it's also talked about the security threat posed by Turkey's alleged higher rate of crime and higher rate of registered gun ownership,

that's where they've really gotten controversial and has been branded really quite broadly as divisive, desperate Trump-like, yes, even racist.

Now, the British Prime Minister David Cameron who is campaigning for Britain to stay

in the European Union, he says that it is not reasonable, not accurate to suggest that Turkey will become a member of the European Union imminently,

let alone at all.

The ascension talks have been going on since 2005. And this is the detail that the Leave Camp

doesn't go into. Going on since 2005, little progress has been made, and indeed it is a point a that all members of the European Union, including

the UK, get a veto when it comes to new members, that includes France and Germany who have always been against the idea of Turkey joining the

European Union. And then there's also the issue with Cyprus. Turkey doesn't even recognize the government of Cyprus and European Union member


So, all of this would need to be overcome. That's obviously not going to happen quickly.

So, what all of this shows is that the Leave campaign is doubling down on an issue that it feels is one of its strongest among its supporters and

that is the issue of immigration and concerns about Britain being able to decide who comes and goes and who stays here in the future.

[11:41:06] KINKADE: And Phil, just quickly, speaking of the Prime Minister David Cameron, he continues to face stiff opposition for his position even

within his own party.

BLACK: And this Turkish question is another example of that, Lynda. You're right. So, you've the prime minister campaigning to stay, many

senior members of his own party and government leading the campaign to leave. And when it comes to Turkey, the Leave campaign has released a

video that says David Cameron can't be trusted on Turkey.

Now this isn't just members of the same party disagreeing on the issues, in this video they are calling into question the integrity of the prime

minister, which is a few significant steps further than that.

And that's really the other big question here at the moment, after Britain makes its decision

in June about whether to stay or leave the European Union, the next big issue will be whether or not the

ruling Conservative Party can come together and heal the many wounds that have been inflicted sover the course of this increasingly bitter and

divisive campaign -- Lynda.

KINKADE: Certainly is divisive. Phil Black for us live from London, Thank you very much.

Well, immigration has also played a big role in Austria's presidential election. The independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen has narrowly

beaten his far right rival Norbert Hofer. It was a very close race. Hofer was boosted by growing anxiety in Austria about the influx of migrants and


Well, we're joined now by Zeke Turner, our correspondent for The Wall Street Journal who joins us now via Skype from the Austrian capital of

Vienna. Great to have you with us.

Hofer has marginally lost this election, but it has been a victory of sorts for his party. As he pointed out, 11 years ago they only 3 percent of the

votes. Today they've got almost every second Austrian voting for them.

ZEKE TURNER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yeah. You're exactly right. That's what Hofer said last night at his election after party in Vienna. It's

been an amazing ascendance for yeah, the Freedom Party, which is a party sort of right of Austria's ruling government right now and definitely sort

of right -- far right parties, nationalist parties across Europe are watching his rise and taking great sort of optimism for that.

KINKADE: Do you think his movement is linked to the Brexit fever and the fear stemming from the migrant crisis?

TURNER: Definitely the migrant crisis. I wouldn't say from Brexit. I think it sounds nice to connect the two in London, but perhaps yeah sure

you can make in broad strokes across Europe we have nationalist sentiment, sights on the refugee question certainly in that light, the British

referendum and the Austria presidential election are together on that front.

And yes, I mean you're exactly right, Hofer is someone who has favored a cap on migrants entering the country and tighter border security so this

absolutely became a race about that question.

KINKADE: What sort of president do you think the former Green leader, Alexander Van der Bellen, will make?

TURNER: That's a great question. My very personal opinion is that he is presidential, he's an academic. The president of Austria should be a

moral compass. He should do state visits. Van der Bellen is perfect for that.

He's an economist. He's been a speaker for the Green Party. He's someone who measures his words as far as I can tell listening to him yesterday.

After he cast his ballot in the second district of Vienna yesterday he asked the press corps for a moment of silence because there had been a

shooting in Austria the night before at a concert.

And that's just -- I mean, for me those are characteristics that will show he's fit for the job.

I mean the thing is, it's not someone who is really involved in the day-to- day running of the government, so I think he will be presidential in that respect.

KINKADE: That's right. It is quite a ceremonial role.

Nonetheless, Zeke Turner from The Washington Post great to have you -- sorry from The Wall Street Journal, great to have you with us. Thank you.

TURNER: Yeah, thanks, Lynda.

[11:45:08] KINKADE: we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back. Stay with us.


KINKADE: You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World with me Lynda Kinkade. Welcome back.

A Muslim group in Indonesia is hoping to stop terrorism from spreading even further by tithing people who could be lured to join in the fight. The

organization has launched a campaign to fight extremist ideologies. Our Ivan Watson has that story for us from Jakarta.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It starts with a prayer and then one of the world's largest Muslim organizations declares ideological

war on groups like ISIS and al Qaeda.

YAHYA STAQUF, SECRETARY GENERAL, NAHDLATUL ULAMA: We are like a traditional opposition to supremacist Islamism.

WATSON: Here in the world's most populous Muslim country, senior Indonesian clerics Yahya Satquf argue that the global jihadi movement

cannot be defeated until world leaders and Muslims first acknowledge a basic fact...

STAQUF: We keep denying the source of the problem, namely, some elements within Islam itself.

MAGNUS RANSTORP, SWEDEN NATIONAL DEFENSE COLLEGE: I don't see any other Muslim leaders coming to Europe, standing up like a tower and saying, look,

we are prepared to take this on.

WATSON: Counterterrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp says these Indonesian Muslim leaders are breaking new ground by proposing to make changes to

Islamic law to better fit the modern era.

RANSTORP: This has to be resolved by Muslims, you know. The west can't come from the

outside to try to reinforce that.

WATSON: Indonesia has struggled with jihadi terrorism, most recently last January. Indonesian ISIS militants launched a deadly suicide attack in

downtown Jakarta. ISIS has already attracted several hundred followers from Indonesia to its stronghold in Syria, and propaganda videos like this

try to attract fresh recruits.

The teachers at this Islamic boarding school say they're most urgent mission is to protect these children from extremist ideology.

The faculty here says they teach theological basics to help young Indonesians resist extremist

messages, delivered via Facebook and other social media.

[11:50:46] STAQUF: The emergency that we are having now is to protect this mass of Muslim, (inaudible) the propaganda of extremism. We have to find a

way, to find a strategy to -- to protect them.

WATSON: Indonesians are proud of their tolerant Southeast Asian version of Islam and they're horrified by the religious wars that are tearing apart

the Middle East. By sounding the alarm, these moderate Muslim leaders are trying to protect their fellow believers from

descending down that nightmare path.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Jakarta.


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

Still to come, they call it aquatic cocaine but it's not a drug. We'll explain how smugglers are making big money from endangered fish when we

come back.


KINKADE: You're watching CNN, and this is Connect the World with me Lynda Kinkade. Welcome back.

Well, in today's Parting Shots police along Mexico's border are no stranger to drug busts but an increasing number of authorities are not intercepting

cocaine or cannabis, but rather fish bladders. Our Kyung Lah reports.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A massive Mexican military operation at sea, on land, in the air, not to fight illegal drugs, but to

save endangered fish that live only in the remote and isolated Gulf of California in San Felipe, Mexico.

This (inaudible) the local was trapped here. This is the fish that we're talking about, the totoaba. Its bladder is the merchandise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a fresh bladder of a totoaba fish.

LAH: Poachers can make as much money from these bladders as cocaine. They're smuggled out, just like illegal drugs.

The buyers are in Hong Kong. Like rhino horn, and elephant ivory, totoaba bladder is sold on

the black market for a supposed medicinal and anti-aging properties. Selling endangered animal parts is illegal in Hong Kong, but that doesn't

stop it.

This shop owner claiming he doesn't have any on hand showing CNN photos of dried totoaba bladder.

Estimating this large one costs $100,000 U.S. dollars.

It's the best of the best, he says, it will make you more beautiful.

Is it possible that the fishermen could have their pathway as extensive as this without the cartel's help?

[08:55:13] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's obvious organized groups are trafficking this product to other countries. It's obvious.

LAH: Poachers have fished the totoaba to critically endangered levels. Another marine animals, the vaquita is the same size as the totoaba,

trapped in the same nets by accident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The vaquita's head gets stuck.

LAH: So, the head swims through here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, once it tries to back up it's trapped.

LAH: Can't get out. It's trapped.

And now nearly extinct, only 60 vaquita's remain.

Why at night, environmental groups Sea Shepherd patrols the protecting waters where fishing

is illegal searching for poachers.

Why are they fleeing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, poachers will flee when they're caught.

LAH: At daybreak, evidence of their crime surfaces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're looking at is a totoaba that's been cut open. You can see that there's no swim bladder.

LAH: If a couple of species die in this one little bay, why should anyone care?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not looking at protecting just the vaquita or just the totoaba, but you need all those little parts to make the whole

system work. And if the whole system doesn't work, we're part of the system. So, it eventually affects us as well.

LAH: This is the end of the line. What they've done is cut that large net in half. This is the half they've been able to pull up.

Sea Shepherds environmental activists hunt for illegal nets and lines, found too often.

Is this a war?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a fight, a battle that we're fighting.

LAH: A battle against a black market that spans the Pacific Ocean.

Kyung Lah, CNN, San Felipe, Mexico.


KINKADE: And it certainly is a big battle to save those fish. We know that in the last two years about -- the numbers vaquitas have dropped by

about 40 percent. So that fight continues.

Well, Connect the World team is always looking for your stories. And we try to fit them into the

show so you can check out other things that we are following for now. Head to our Facebook page. And you can learn more about the artists who are

taking photographs in the same way people did hundred years ago. They've now made the largest photograph of its kind ever. For all that and much

more, head to

I'm Lynda Kinkade. Thanks for joining us. That was Connect the World. The International Desk is coming up with my colleague Robyn Curnow. Stay

with us for that.