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Doctors Treated Victims of Suspected Chemical Attack in Syria; Russian Authorities Identify Suspect in Metro Bombing; Russia's New Generation of Protestors; 49 Years Since the Assassination of MLK. Aired 2- 2:30p ET
Aired April 4, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, horrifying, an outrage crime against humanity. Some of the international condemnation of
what could be one of the deadliest chemical attacks in Syria's civil war. Scores are dead, hundreds are wounded, a doctor who treated victims tells
us that he's never seen anything like it.
Also ahead, the St. Petersburg metro attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, a Russian national from Kyrgyzstan. Analysis from "The Washington
Post" Moscow bureau chief David Filipov.
And what it's like to be an American journalist in Putin's Russia.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Scores of people, including at least ten children,
have been killed. And hundreds more have been injured in a suspected chemical weapons attack in Idlib, in Northern Syria today.
Witnesses say air strikes released bombs full of, quote, "a poisonous gas" that caused victims to choke, vomit and foam at the mouth. The nature of
the substance has not yet been confirmed. But the Idlib Media Center says that it's believed to be the deadly nerve agent Sarin.
If so, it would be the deadliest chemical attack in Syria since 2013, when the government killed more than a thousand people near Damascus. That
attack crossed President Barack Obama's notorious red line for military intervention, but he eventually backed away from that.
Syria categorically denies that it launched any chemical attacks today. But if Assad crossed a red line once again, how will the world respond?
We'll talk about that in a moment.
But first, I've just been speaking to Dr. Feras al-Jundi, who was one of the first responders on the scene of today's horrific attack.
AMANPOUR: Doctor, welcome to the program.
Can I ask you, when you rushed to help at the hospital, had you ever seen anything like this before?
DR. FERAS AL-JUNDI, TREATED VICTIMS IN IDLIB (through translator): When I entered the hospital, there were many, many atrocious things to see. The
bodies were all over the place in the hospital and injured people as well. And the staff who -- the staff in the northern part of Idlib was not able
to handle all these injuries by their own -- on their own. There were cases of suffocation and cases of burning.
A lot of dead bodies on the ground who died immediately after being exposed to the gas. And I noticed people who were in their last breath and we were
not able to rescue them, they died on the scene.
AMANPOUR: Doctor, we understand several children were killed, too, and whole families died.
AL-JUNDI (through translator): Correct. I saw children dead. And I saw an entire family consisting of a mother and three children, all dead. And
I didn't see any one of military nature among the dead. There was no one who appeared to be a fighter at all.
AMANPOUR: Doctor, we see people in the hospital washing those injured, hosing them down. How have you been able to treat them and to try to save
some of those who are injured?
AL-JUNDI (through translator): The best thing -- the first thing to do is to rinse the body of the victim with water to remove as much gas as
possible from the body, water and soap. Until we remove the gas or as much gas as possible from the body of the victim.
AMANPOUR: Doctor, had you ever had to deal with this kind of thing before, and do you know what the poison was?
AL-JUNDI (through translator): I have never in my life seen anything like that. I have seen that on the TV. These were the pictures that I watched,
but I've never seen them directly except today. And the view was heartbreaking. It makes you tear blood.
AMANPOUR: It makes you cry blood. Do you know what the poison was?
[14:05:00] AL-JUNDI (through translator): A description of the injuries that I saw, such as slobbering and fluids coming out of the mouth, and the
-- all the symptoms that I saw indicate that it was nerve gas. And also there were parts of the barrels that were located. These parts of the
barrels could be sent to any lab and it could be scientifically analyzed.
AMANPOUR: Doctor, I just wanted to ask you, this war is entering its seventh year. As a Syrian and as a doctor, what does a day like this make
AL-JUNDI (through translator): I feel frustrated. I feel frustrated because of the international community and the United Nations, that have
not forced the regime to abide by the -- these Security Council resolutions.
That the international community has been watching and doing nothing, which enables the regime to continue bombing the people with cluster bombs, scud
missiles, and now gas. And it's strange that no one has been prosecuted by the international criminal court.
AMANPOUR: Doctor al-Jundi, we hear your frustration. And thank you so much for joining us on this really terrible day.
AL-JUNDI (through translator): And I also wish that you convey my message to as large number as possible of viewers, the chance that can put some
pressure on the U.S. government and other western governments to do something about it.
AMANPOUR: So will his plea be heard? Will anything be done about it? Condemnation has come in thick and fast. Turkey, which has been moving
closer to Assad's main ally Russia nonetheless called it, quote, a crime against humanity.
The former NATO secretary-general says that if it is confirmed that Assad launched a chemical attack, the West should finally enforce its red line.
And the U.S. Senator John McCain tells CNN what he expects from President Trump and he calls the Syrian war another disgraceful chapter in America's
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I wanted him to hear him say we're going arm the free Syrian army. We are going to dedicate ourselves to the
removal of Bashar al-Assad. We're going to have the Russians pay a price for their engagement, and we will not sit by and watch chemical weapons
being used to slaughter innocent women and children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: As of now, that seems unlikely. Here's the U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley last week.
Quote, "Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out. Do we think he's a hindrance? Yes. Are we going to sit there and
focus on getting him out? No."
Nonetheless, she followed that up yesterday by calling him a war criminal. Today, we could not get any government officials anywhere to talk to us
about what happens next. And whether the perpetrators will ever be held accountable.
Joining me now from New York is Elise Baker, the Syrian lead investigator for "Physicians for Human Rights."
AMANPOUR: Elise, welcome to the program. You've seen the pictures. You are also trying to figure out exactly what the substance is. First and
foremost, what do you think it is and what are you trying to investigate and how will you get proof?
ELISE BAKER, SYRIAN LEAD INVESTIGATOR, PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: So "Physicians for Human Rights" this morning has been looking through dozens
of photos and videos, talking to sources on the ground in Idlib, trying to figure out you know exactly what happened. What type of attack this was.
And everything we've reviewed, you know, the photos and videos showing patients with clear respiratory distress, people that have shrunk down to
the side of just tiny pinpoints that are non-reactive to light, foaming at the mouth, dozens of people, you know, up to maybe hundreds of people who
are showing these symptoms across the board, all of this is consistent with nerve agent exposure such as Sarin gas, but you know, without having tests
or samples from the ground. You know, there is no way of absolutely confirming what chemical this may have been.
AMANPOUR: What stake do you put in Doctor al-Jundi saying that there are fragments of what he called barrel bombs lying around and those can
actually be conclusively analyzed. Is he correct?
BAKER: Yes. So if, you know, weapons fragments can be sent to labs and you know might have residue of chemicals on them, that is something that
could be used to identify what specific chemical was used or samples taken from patients who are, you know, suffering from these injuries right now,
[14:10:00] AMANPOUR: And, obviously, many of the injured, those who are fit to be moved, are going to Turkey.
Can anything be told from examining the actual victims?
BAKER: So, you know, all of the symptoms that I described are consistent with nerve agent exposure. So seeing, you know, dozens of people across
the board exhibiting the same sort of respiratory distress, sometimes seizures, nausea, vomiting, foaming up the mouth, all of this is consistent
with nerve agent exposure, especially with absence of any other, you know, cause for this distress.
There are no traumatic injuries on these patients that we are seeing and there are dozens across the board. So all of this, you know, it's hard to
think of anything else that could cause this besides exposure to a chemical agent.
AMANPOUR: Now the Syrian military has categorically denied it. Russia says it wasn't conducting any air strikes in that region today. But you,
physicians for human rights, even a few days ago, just to the end of last week put out a statement raising the alarm, saying that civilian
structures, including hospitals and other such things, were being targeted, even around and near Idlib.
Tell us what you have been watching. What pattern of attacks and who's been conducting them?
BAKER: Absolutely. Since the start of the conflict, Syrian government forces have been targeting medical facilities, medical personnel, the
entire health care system across Syria. And as you said just this past week, we've seen an increase in these attacks in the area where this
chemical weapon attack occurred today.
So just last week, we documented two attacks on medical facilities in this area and we understand that this morning following the bombings that had,
you know, the chemical agent, the medical facilities, where the victims of these attacks are being treated were bombed themselves.
This is a pattern we have seen throughout the entire conflict. Physicians for Human Rights so far has documented over 400 attacks on medical
facilities. Over 90 percent of these can be attributed to the Syrian government or their allies. So this is, you know, this is a pattern we
have seen throughout the conflict.
AMANPOUR: And very quickly, obviously, as I said no government officials, no U.N. officials, nobody will talk to us on the record about this today.
There are peace talks going on.
Do you imagine that there will be any retribution for what happened? And specifically, what does Physicians for Human Rights do in terms of war
crimes trials, evidence for those kinds of things?
BAKER: Yes. So Physicians for Human Rights has been gathering documentation on attacks on medical facilities. These are war crimes. We
have been gathering documentation and are amassing it so that it could be used in a future court some day to get justice and accountability for these
violations. And today we are calling for an independent investigation into this alleged chemical attack so that we can, you know, find out exactly
what happened to the perpetrators are, and so that those perpetration can be brought to justice, because without justice and accountability, these
violations will only keep happening in Syria and possibly elsewhere in the world.
AMANPOUR: Elise Baker, Physicians for Human Rights, thank you so much for joining us.
AMANPOUR: And when we come back, Assad's ally, Russia, is dealing with a deadly attack of its own. The St. Petersburg suicide bomber has been
identified and the Russian foreign minister said it's cynical and mean to link it to its intervention in Syria. More on that, next.
[14:15:00] AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
A suicide bomber who targeted the St. Petersburg Metro yesterday killing 14 people has been identified by Russian authorities. They've named him as
22-year-old Akbarzhon Dzhalilov from Kyrgyzstan.
It's a Central Asian state once parted the former Soviet Union. The Russian police are still trying to work out his motive. No group has
claimed responsibility for the attack.
My next guest is reporting on the story for "The Washington Post." He is the Moscow bureau chief David Filipov and he joins me now from there.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program. You have been, you know, looking into this, obviously reporting on this breaking news. What significance to you
is it in the identification of this suicide bomber? Do you think it is ISIS or Islamist connected or is it more of a domestic terrorist attack for
DAVID FILIPOV, MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Right. I mean, there's so much searching right now, because there hasn't been a larger entity like the
ones you mentioned that has taken responsibility. And one of the things that you've heard people talking about today is the Boston bombers.
Somebody who came here six years ago. Somebody who live an ordinary life. I mean, he was a sushi chef for crying out loud and then suddenly he gets
He's from a part of Kyrgyzstan, which has been known as a source of Islamic radicalization, and he gets radicalized. He gets the idea in his head to
do this thing. So who helped him? I mean, these bombs were sophisticated enough that a 22-year-old guy isn't going to be able to figure out how to
do it in his kitchen. And these are the questions that everybody is looking into. Nobody can figure it out yet.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, we're at a moment where the message is very, very important and sometimes difficult to get to the actual truth.
What do you make of President Putin at a joint press conference with the president of Belarus yesterday as this was going on and never once
mentioning the attack? What is the message that the Kremlin is trying to give. What is the view that the Kremlin is trying to project to its own
FILIPOV: Well, it was a surreal moment. Right after the attack, Putin did go on TV and express condolences and say that, you know, authorities were
looking into it. The moment you're talking about, it's the 8:00 p.m. news and it's the second story.
He goes on and starts talking about gas and oil tariffs with Belarus. But you have to also look at it from the point of view. This is his hometown.
This is the Russia that he created with all the security. There hasn't been a subway attack in seven years and suddenly this happens. He has to
be taken all by surprise. I don't subscribe to any of the theories that I've heard that this is some sort of, you know, calculated idea, some sort
of conspiracy theory. It's an explosion that took place right down town, right in Putin's heartland and he was kind of shocked how to respond to it,
AMANPOUR: Well, let's broaden that out a little bit, because a few things have happened in the last few weeks that sort of raise perhaps the
temperature or raise the pressure on President Putin.
I think everybody was surprised a week or more ago when there were those weekend protests that Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader organized. And
tens of thousands from all over the country joined in these protests.
How significant do you think as a reporter and as a long-time observer of the current, you know, Putin era.
How significant are those protests?
FILIPOV: Two things going on here. One is the idea that Alexei Navalny, who by the way, Putin and all of his people, they never mentioned his name.
They don't want him to become a thing.
The idea that he was able to organized protests and that many people came out all across Russia, including places where people don't usually
demonstrate, that's a sign that he has a lot of influence, despite all the efforts to make him into a non-person. And when they bring him up they
say, whoever that guy is, he's not popular and he's trying to grab attention. Don't pay attention to him.
That's one part of it, but the second part is who came up. We've heard a lot about how there were young people, school, students and everything who
get their news from the Internet, not from TV, which is controlled by the Kremlin. But there's also this large population of people who just came
out because they said, we want people to know we're here. We were told this is a band rally. We were told we shouldn't be. We were told nobody
is going to come out. We want the government to know that we're here, we're unhappy and we're unhappy about the corruption.
The message that Navalny is trying to get through, but (OFF-MIKE) for him. They were there to make a point to their leaders, and that had to have
taken Putin and all of the government by surprise. The fact that there was this no longer silent majority of people at this protest who were just
upset about the way things are in Russia right now.
AMANPOUR: And let's move on because, obviously, the relations between Russia and the United States are really strained right now. I mean, with
all this going on in Congress and all the accusations of Russian interference.
[14:20:00] As a prominent journalist for a very prominent American newspaper, how are you looked at there? I know you go to great length,
actually to engage with the Russians.
You go on state television. You try to, you know, join in some of the debates that are going on. How are you treated?
FILIPOV: All right. So going on state TV, I did one great thing, which is when I go into a crowd of people and say, hey, I'm David Filipov from "The
Washington Post," they're like, yes, we saw you on TV, which is good, because a lot of times when you say "The Washington Post," the first thing
people say is yes, the State Department.
I mean, they assume that you are part of the (OFF-MIKE), the system and that you are in on it and you are here to get Russia down and you're not
really there to just find out a story. You're really here to keep Russia.
There's just this huge wall of things that people associate with the United States 27 years after the Cold War, trying to keep Russia down, blaming
Russia for everything, and you're the face of that.
And when I was on TV, a lot of the times, people would just turn to me and say why do you, guys, hate Russia so much? And I'm like, no, no, I studied
Russia. I know Russian poems. I sing Russian songs. I love Russia. No, you hate Russia.
AMANPOUR: Let me give an example of that, because we have a little clip where you are speaking in Russian, and I think heroically so, it's amazing.
Here's a clip of one of your appearances on their program there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FILIPOV: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
FILIPOV: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, there you are more than holding your own, speaking the language. When you challenge the Kremlin's state view, propaganda, how
does that go down on those appearances?
FILIPOV: Well, you saw that they got applause when they tried to stop me. That applause track is a person pushing a button and everyone gets a
signal, hey, applaud. And the day I got my own applause for saying something, that was pretty cool.
I think my Russian is not great. Your Russian speaking viewers will hear that there's a strong American accent. I make mistakes and stuff like
that, but I got fast and I shout back at them. And they love that, because it's great TV.
I don't get to win any arguments. And in this case, I was just saying, you know, you're just in love with Trump now because he hasn't done anything to
you yet. That wasn't really a difficult argument to make.
When I was trying to explain, hey, you know, the way that people will stop thinking of Putin as the most powerful man in the world and somebody you
afraid of, he should run for president and lose like Hillary Clinton did. Then they'll stop talking to him, and nobody knew how to handle it.
FILIPOV: That was, you know, not the best thing to say. But they're very well prepared and they do a great show. It's just -- the point of it is to
say, hey, what we've been telling you all the time, look at this debate, that American, he's out of his mind, we're right.
AMANPOUR: Well, keep at it and maybe one day they'll start believing you a little bit more.
David Filipov, thank you very much indeed.
AMANPOUR: And when we come back, a violent attack of the past as America marks the 49th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader
Martin Luther King, Jr. We imagine, though, a legacy of leadership, rising from that terrible moment in history.
[14:25:35] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on this day, 1968, 49 years ago. His death still evokes
powerful emotions amid the tragedy of race relations in the United States. But, tonight, we imagine a world where leadership stepped in to calm a
grieving people and head off a combustible situation.
As news of the shooting in Memphis, Tennessee broke on April 4th, 1968, then presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was campaigning nearby in
Indiana and he immediately stepped out into a crowd of Kings greeting supporters. He stood on the back of a truck and he tried to console their
breaking hearts with an appeal to peace and unity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not
hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness. But is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another. And a feeling of
justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And 24 hours after that terrible attack, the soul singer James Brown took to the stage in Boston amid protests and some violence across
the nation. The mayor of Boston, Kevin White, organized for the James Brown concert to be broadcast live to keep people watching TV at home, not
demonstrating on the streets.
He said, "Let's all enjoy James Brown and pledge that no matter what any other community might do, we in Boston will honor Dr. King in peace."
And it worked. Boston was one of the few peaceful cities this time 49 years ago. And out of tragedy and violence and political division, for one
brief shining moment came a presidential candidate, a new mayor and America's biggest soul star to lead, to heal, to join together a broken
And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast. You can see us online @Amanpour.com and you can follow me on
Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.