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U.S. Allies Attack ISIS' Last Syrian Enclave; Trump Caps off Dismal Week with Long, Rambling Speech at CPAC; Bernie Sanders Holds First Major Campaign Rally; No Charges for Stephon Clark Killers; Interview with Cheryl Dorsey, Retired LAPD Sergeant, and Andrew Cherkasky, Criminal Defense Attorney; U.S.-South Korea Military Drills Start Monday; Tension in Kashmir Region; 20K Children Living in Slavery in Ghana. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 3, 2019 - 05:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The last ISIS stronghold in Syria on the brink of falling. U.S.-backed forces working to recapture that area in Eastern Syria. CNN is live near the front lines for you.

Plus the U.S. president delivers his longest speech ever. It was long, targeting his usual enemies and rallying his supporters with it.

Also ahead this hour --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When he says you should dive, you have no option. The fearful part is you might not come back. That's what I fear most.


HOWELL: These disturbing stories, fishermen in Guiana torturing children, using them as slaves. We'll have that exclusive report for you.

We're live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta and want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. The second hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: At 5:01, we start in Syria, where U.S.-backed forces are closing in on the last ISIS enclave in the eastern part of that country, amid reports of heavy fighting. Listen.


HOWELL (voice-over): CNN has been on the ground reporting from the front lines and, in this exclusive video, you see the battle waging through the night sky. There has been heavy gunfire and artillery; terrorists cornered in Eastern Syria for weeks now. This renewed assault started Friday after a pause to let civilians escape.


HOWELL: Let's go live to the ground now. Our team there with our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman on the front lines.

And, Ben, what more can you tell us?

We see the smoke in the background.

What is happening right now?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At the moment, it has calmed down ever so slightly. But what we saw earlier today was over there, behind my shoulder, was that it appears to have been an ammunition dump that was ignited somehow and saw some huge explosions.

Now throughout the morning we have been hearing planes overhead, there have been occasional airstrikes by coalition aircraft and lots of mortar fire into the camp as well. We have also been able to see, through our telephoto lens, actually people moving among the tents. So there are still human beings inside there.

We don't have any idea how many they could possibly be. Now we were speaking to the commanders in charge of this position, the commander, one of the commanders with the Syrian Democratic Forces.

He said what's going on is that the ISIS fighters are going and trying to go get more ammunition and weapons from their various ammunition depots within the camps. There is very good reason to believe there is a network of tunnels underneath there as well.

This position came under attack just a couple of days ago from inside the camp. They were able to repulse it. But ISIS, despite this around the clock bombardment, is still putting up quite a fight, George.

But nonetheless, this is an organization, a group, a terrorist organization that at one point was all the way from Western Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad. It is now restricted to a half-mile square area. That terrorist paradise for murderers and maniacs has been reduced to just a tiny speck of land.

And it is not clear how much longer this battle is going to last. But whoever is still inside is likely to die.

HOWELL: It is important to understand what we're talking about here. This is the images we're seeing, you're talking about war that is taking place, people die in war. We're watching as this plays out.

Ben, I want to get a sense from you, you described the people that are there, many of those people still believe, as you pointed out in your previous reporting, still believe in that twisted ISIS ideology, where they go from here. But what happens to them from here?

ISIS losing territory but still has some of its followers.

WEDEMAN: Yes. This has been underscored by officials in this part of the country, by officials with the -- from the United States and Britain and France is that, yes, the territory that ISIS controls is about to disappear. But their appeal, their absurd appeal to --


WEDEMAN: -- certain people remains. That's the real danger. What we have seen in the last 30 days we have been here in Syria is that there are sleeper cells operating throughout this part of the country and throughout many parts of Iraq as well that continue to pose a threat to civilian life.

And as far as the people who have left this last spot that ISIS occupies, they end up, the women and the children, end up in a camp called El Hul, several hours' drive north of here. It is an internment camp; they're not free to leave. But there are as many as 50,000 people inside that camp, obviously not all of them with any known affiliation with ISIS.

The question is, in the long-term, what do you do with these people, with the hundreds of foreign nationals who flocked to the so-called Islamic State at its height?

Countries like the United Kingdom have made it clear they will not accept those nationals who came -- flocked to the Islamic State, they won't allow them back in. So it leaves a huge burden on the authorities in this part of Syria.

What do you do with these people, not only the -- those from Syria, from Iraq but also from the U.K., from France, from Germany and elsewhere?

And it is a dilemma and they have appealed for help time and time again. But we have -- what we have seen is that these countries are very obstinate. They don't want these people back.

HOWELL: Ben Wedeman, on the front lines in Eastern Syria, following the developments, the last ISIS enclave in its final moments there. We'll continue to follow this with you, Ben. Thank you.

Now to U.S. politics and the U.S. president turning to his base on Saturday to salvage what he could from what you could say was a rough week for him politically. Surrounded by cheering fans, though, in this setting, Mr. Trump was the star.

The occasion was CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, and the president on stage for more than two hours, the longest speech in his presidency to date. Trump was mocking, he cursed and the crowd and the people there seemed to love every second of it. President Trump brushed off criticism for saying Kim Jong-un did not

know about the American student, Otto Warmbier, being tortured in a North Korean prison. In fact, the president barely mentioned his summit with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Instead, Mr. Trump returned to familiar territory: the special counsel Robert Mueller and the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference, even mocking his own infamous call for Russia to find Hillary Clinton's emails. Listen.


TRUMP: Unfortunately, you put the wrong people in a couple of positions and they leave people for a long time that shouldn't be there and all of a sudden they're trying to take you out with (INAUDIBLE), OK. (INAUDIBLE).

Robert Mueller never received a vote. And neither did the person that appointed him. And as you know, the attorney general says, I'm going to recuse myself.

And I said, why the hell didn't he tell me that before I put him in?

If you tell a joke, if you are sarcastic, if you are having fun with the audience, if you're on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena and if you say something like, Russia, please, if you can, get us Hillary Clinton's emails, please, Russia, please! Please get us the emails! Please!


HOWELL: Of course Mr. Trump did not stop there. He took jabs at two of his favorite enemies, the media and Hillary Clinton, and then accused Democrats of hating America.


TRUMP: Right now we have people in Congress that hate our country. And you know that. And we can name every one of them if they want. They hate our country. Democrat lawmakers are now embracing socialism, they want to replace individual rights with total government domination.

This is the new Democrat platform for the -- and I don't want to talk them out of it. I don't. I don't. I swear I don't. This is a killer. I got to get off this subject. I want them to embrace this --


TRUMP: -- plan. I want them to go and sell this plan. I just want to be the Republican that runs against them.


HOWELL: Let's talk more about all of this now with Scott Lucas, Scott teaches international politics at the University of Birmingham and a founder of "EA WorldView," joining us from Birmingham, England.

Good to have you, Scott.

SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Excellent morning to you, George.

HOWELL: Hardly a mention of the summit with Kim Jong-un but Trump was having fun on the stage, tearing into the Mueller investigation, playing to the crowds, cursing.

What do you take from it?

LUCAS: I'm not going to call it fun, George. I didn't even want to talk about this speech this morning. I wish it would go away. It was degrading to American politics. It is degrading to the office of the U.S. president. It is degrading to basic standards of decency and tolerance and it could constitute another attempt to block an investigation into what happened in 2016.

Let me be clear, we're now at the point where Donald Trump calls a legal investigation, one sanctioned to find out what exactly happened more than two years ago, is calling it, I'll use the full word, he's calling it B.S.

He's calling the investigators, the Justice Department, he's calling them dirty, effectively calling them criminals. He is mocking his former attorney general, who was a Republican senator Jeff Sessions.

He is deriding the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and he's lying -- and I'll use that word, George -- about every member of the Mueller team trying to do their job, making false allegations, for example, that they were in The Clinton Foundation.

Now he did it in a supportive atmosphere and I realize that this comes after the failure of the summit with North Korea, after Michael Cohen's testimony and Trump needs to go on the offensive. I realize that's the only way he flourishes is if he attacks rather than if he defends.

But make no mistake about this, this was not a joke. This was not sarcasm. This is an issue where Donald Trump may have colluded with Russia in broad daylight when he called on Russia to hack the emails of Hillary Clinton.

And he's trying to effectively defy all of that, that collusion in broad daylight is somehow acceptable as he runs for a second term as president.

HOWELL: Scott, you touched on this, it is a question that I posed last hour and I pose it to you again. This quote that I remember hearing, after Mr. Trump won the presidency, that some people take him seriously and not literally. Others take him literally and not seriously.

So the cursing, lies or mistruths, the allegations of affairs and misconduct, even mocking, as you point out a Southerner, Jeff Sessions, for his accent, do any of these things really make different to his diehard base, many who are Southerners, many who are evangelical voters, to name a few, who say he's getting things done, cutting regulations, building the wall and so on and so forth?

LUCAS: Well, I'm a Southerner. I take him both literally and seriously. What I say is, as long as you continue to go back to the question, what about his base, what about his base, you play up the image that that base dominates American politics. That that base, will, whatever their intentions, will allow him to get away with possible lies, with possible criminal activity.

At some point, we've got to stop talking about just the base. We got to talk to people outside CPAC, who are outside certain websites and say, many Americans may not actually want to support this spectacle.

Many Americans may find it degrading and that if there is a decent politics, you won't find it inside that room or playing up what happened in that room yesterday. You've got to go beyond Donald Trump or else he might win again.

HOWELL: It is important to point out his base does not represent half of the voters who took place in the last election. So of course, we will have to see how this plays out in the next election.

It was interesting to see Mr. Trump on stage at CPAC and in the split screen on many networks, Bernie Sanders also making his case for the presidency. Both represent the polar sides of their parties here, Scott. It is shaping up to be a polar 2020 presidential race.

The question here, do you see room for centrists like Vice President Joe Biden, should he choose to run?

LUCAS: You know, George, I appreciate the focus on Bernie Sanders, who ran in 2016. I appreciate the focus on former Vice President Joe Biden. But I don't want to make it as Trump versus Biden or Trump versus Sanders.

There is a whole group of Democrats who are hoping to run for president. Behind those Democrats there is a lot of people assessing the issues. Climate change, medical care, education, all issues that Donald Trump tried to deride as some type of dirty socialism yesterday. I think if we just reduce it to one versus --


LUCAS: -- one, we don't get to the fact this is almost a critical point in American society and that we are at a critical point, which was reduced yesterday by Donald Trump who talked about the Green New Deal, which raises some of these issues, and called a sitting congresswoman, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a lunatic, who called another senator, Elizabeth Warren, Pocahontas, focus on the issues, don't focus on the horse race and maybe, maybe we'll actually get our way out of this mess.

HOWELL: Scott Lucas, bringing his perspective for us. Scott, we appreciate your time today. LUCAS: Thank you, George.

HOWELL: The United States and South Korea are trying something different. Instead of a massive military drill, as we have seen many times before, they are taking a new approach, a smaller scaled-down approach. We'll have more on why that's happening.

Plus an unarmed African American man shot and killed. No charges for the police officers who shot him. What changes the mayor of Sacramento is promising.




HOWELL: In the U.S. state of California, two police officers who shot and killed an unarmed African American man won't face criminal charges. This according to the district attorney for Sacramento. Stephon Clark died almost a year ago, gunned down in his grandmother's back yard.

The district attorney described Clark as taking a, quote, "shooting stance" and one officer saw a light in his hand that they thought was a muzzle flash. Turned out it was just a cell phone.

Here's what the Sacramento district attorney had to say on Saturday.


ANNE MARIE SCHUBERT, SACRAMENTO COUNTY D.A.: So when we look at all these facts and circumstances, we look at all of it, everything.

We ask our question that we started out with again and that question is, was a crime committed?

There's no question that a human being died. But when we look at the facts and the law and we follow our ethical responsibilities, the answer to that question is no. And as a result, we will not charge these officers with any criminal liability related to the shooting death and the use of force on Stephon Clark.


HOWELL: And the body cam video from the night that Clark was shot and killed, it is crucial, it was crucial to the case. Sacramento police were responding to a call about a man --


HOWELL: -- breaking car windows. I want to warn you, the audio is graphic. Here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me your hands!



HOWELL: Clark's death and the lack of charges sparked protests like the scenes you're seeing here in Sacramento, California, taken by affiliate KCRA there. The news hit hard for his family and loved ones as well.


SE'QUETTE CLARK, STEPHON'S MOTHER: We're outraged. We're outraged. They executed my son. They executed him in my mom's back yard and it is not right. It is not right.

SALENA MANNI, CLARK'S FIANCEE: Please don't stop advocating for legislation and policies that could protect other families from suffering this overwhelming pain and sense of loss. And please continue to keep my family in your prayers as we continue to mourn the loss and navigate the world without our beloved Stephon Clark.


HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with Cheryl Dorsey and Andrew Cherkasky. Cheryl is a retired LAPD sergeant and Andrew a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, joining us this hour.

Thank you both for your time.

Cheryl, starting with you, from a law enforcement perspective, the district attorney said the officers thought it was a gun, turned out it was a cell phone.

Your reaction to the D.A.'s decision?

CHERYL DORSEY, FORMER LAPD SERGEANT: Well, as a supervisor, someone who has reviewed the use of force in the past, what I hear is codespeak and double talk from the prosecutor. Police officers are trained to know what they're shooting at.

We have shoot/don't shoot scenarios all the time because you need to be sure about what's in someone's hand when you fire your weapon. Understanding that cell phones are bedazzled (sic), different colors, they're metallic.

You don't get to shoot someone based on a belief. You're a trained professional, you need to have target identification before you let go a round. And then to fire 20 rounds, there was no assessing of the situation after two rounds and then determining whether or not there is really a need for 18 more?

It is outrageous and it is offensive to try to convince us of anything otherwise.

So, Andrew, same question to you. Some 20 times the officers fired. What was it about the evidence in this case that played into the

D.A.'s decision, in your view?

ANDREW CHERKASKY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The loss of any life and the loss of Mr. Clark's life is truly tragic. But every single case involving a police shooting has to be looked at independently and the facts in that case.

In this case, we have a 61-page report that gets into the gross details of exactly what happened in the moments leading up to the shooting, the shooting itself and the moments afterwards.

It is ultimately the duty of the district attorney to look at whether the officers had a reasonable belief that they were fearing for their own personal life. Not only did they have an actual belief of it but that it was reasonable under the circumstances.

The fact that someone shoots 20 times would indicate that they were shooting to kill. That's often what police officers are trained to do. When they fire their weapon, it is meant to kill the person that they're shooting at.

This is a tragic case.

HOWELL: So family members and now the ACLU are calling for policy changes and city officials were even quick to speak out on this. The mayor had this to say just shortly after that decision was reached. Take a listen.

DARRELL STEINBERG, SACRAMENTO MAYOR: The current 100-year-old standard defining officer involved shootings needs to change. Today's announcement only deepens my commitment to changing that long-held standard that allows officers to shoot, when objectively reasonable, to a clearer set of specific rules and standards that requires officers to do all they can to prevent a potentially lethal confrontation in the first place.


HOWELL: So Sheryl, would this act make a difference here?

Talking about policy changes, the mayor is speaking out on it.

DORSEY: Well, listen, you can change policy all you want. But what is very difficult to do is argue with what is in someone's head. And if a police officer says that they fear for their safety, I think they should be required to articulate why. I understand that you were fearful in the first firing of one or two rounds.

What was it that was going on that caused you to still be fearful by rounds 12, 13, 14?

Officers are not trained to unload a clip.

[05:25:00] DORSEY: You don't shoot bullets just because you have them. You're there to stop the threat and (INAUDIBLE). And this was excessive. It was over the top.

HOWELL: And, Andrew, the same question to you. When you hear the mayor talking about policy changes, do you feel like that would make an impact here?

What are your thoughts?

CHERKASKY: In this case I don't think a policy change to the law would make a difference because the circumstances leading up to the shooting were such that the officers thought that they perceived a shiny object, a weapon in the hand of Mr. Clark, and he was approaching them when they had already taken cover.

So in this case -- and the report lays it out in great detail -- not only did the officers fear this but, from an objective perspective, an outsider's perspective, someone in that circumstance would have had a feeling like they needed to fire those rounds.

Now the point that is being made about it being so many shots that are fired, again, it is unfortunate that, once a gun is fired, the point of shooting that gun is to eliminate the threat. In this case, even, those officers were checking themselves for wounds afterwards. They thought that they had been shot at.

So it is unfortunate, again, but this is one of those cases where the facts don't support prosecution.

HOWELL: Nearly a year after this happened, the decision has now been reached and certainly the family left in disbelief. Sheryl, Andrew, thank you for your time. We'll keep in touch.

DORSEY: Thank you.

HOWELL: Taking a different approach, a new tactic, the U.S. and South Korea scaling down their annual joint military exercises to help calm tensions in the region.

The question, will it work?

We take a look at that.

Plus, after a tough week, it seems the tensions between India and Pakistan may be slowly improving. But it is just the latest in a long history of troubles around the disputed Kashmir. That story ahead as NEWSROOM pushes on. Stay with us.




(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: Good early morning to our viewers here stateside, watching on

CNN USA and our viewers worldwide on CNN International. Welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell with the headlines this hour.


HOWELL: The U.S. and South Korea will start first of their new scaled-down joint military exercises on Monday and there is a difference this time. The two countries shifting their training strategy away from the big high-profile drills of the past.

This comes just days after the summit with Kim Jong-un and the U.S. president. Let's go now live to our Paula Hancocks, following this story for us in Seoul, South Korea.

Paula, what more can you tell us about the change in approach with these exercises?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, these military exercises are going to be very different to what we usually see at this time of year. Quite often, for decades, we have seen these annual massive drills during the springtime, which the U.S. and South Korea said were defensive in nature but had always irritated the North Koreans.

So what they have decided to do now is that they are canceling those two particular exercises, the Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, and replacing them with something much smaller. We understand from the defense ministers, from the U.S. and also here in South Korea, that they might just be unit level.

So is a lot smaller and some of them will also be virtual training. Now this, according to the Defense Secretary of the U.S., is so that they can help the diplomatic process and this can be in line with what we're seeing between the U.S. and North Korea.

There are, of course, skeptics, who are saying that this will affect the battle readiness of the allies, of the U.S. and South Korea, especially when you consider that many of the U.S. soldiers that are here are here on a rotational process. So they wouldn't actually have any kind of large-scale training.

We did hear though from the previous U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, last year, saying they were going to scale it down. But the timing as well is also questionable.

The fact that this happens just after the U.S. president Donald Trump walked away from that meeting in Hanoi with Kim Jong-un without any kind of agreement, it is being seen as a concession by the United States.

But we know that Mr. Trump does not like these military exercises. He said just last Thursday in Hanoi that they are very expensive. So he doesn't believe that they are necessary.

HOWELL: Curious to get a sense from people there in South Korea, because these drills are meant to show defense against North Korea.

What are people thinking about a new scaled-down approach?

HANCOCKS: Well, I think that the general feeling is not really very forceful here in Seoul. I don't think many people would be too concerned about it.

But from a military point of view, I've covered these drills for many years and every time you speak to the commanders that are carrying them out, they say how important they are to make sure that these two allies can fight side by side in a very successful way.


HANCOCKS: So certainly in the past they have talked about just how important they are. But now we are hearing that sort of positive spin being put on it by the U.S. and South Korea, saying they will still be battle ready, that these smaller, more compact drills will be -- will suffice to be able to make sure that the two sides will be ready.

Certainly a very different message to what we have -- from what we have been hearing over many years.

HOWELL: Paula Hancocks in Seoul, South Korea, with the reporting. Paula, thank you.

Now to Venezuela's power struggle. The self-declared interim president says he's about to return to Venezuela after traveling across Latin America to shore up support. Juan Guaido is currently in Ecuador and he says he will return back to Venezuela after his trip is over.

But he hasn't said how or when he will return and, here's the thing, when he does return, he could be arrested by the government of the sitting president, Nicolas Maduro. In the meantime, Mr. Maduro is rejecting new U.S. sanctions on officials aligned with his regime. He called the move an imperialist attack on his country.

India and Pakistan are set to resume cross-border train service. This after weeks of growing tensions between those two countries. Despite that, there is still violence in the disputed region of Kashmir. Pakistan's military said two civilians were killed Saturday by shelling from India.

Still, India and Pakistan are trying to resolve the most recent flare- up that took place. Our Nic Robertson reports the troubles between these two nuclear armed nations goes back decades.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: When Indian wing commander Abhinandan walked over the border from Pakistan Friday, he came back to a hero's welcome. His dramatic capture and release, the latest installment of a long-running nuclear-tipped drama that has many of the world's diplomats sitting on the edge of their seats. His MiG-21 fighter jet was shot down in an old-fashioned dogfight

Wednesday over Kashmir, a region so contested, its name has become synonymous with tragedy. It is the world's only hostile front line, where both sides have the utter annihilation of each other's populations at their fingertips.

It matters because, if those two sides, India and Pakistan, went to war, the world could feel the nuclear impact. Millions of people could be irradiated.

The confrontation goes back generations but remains on a hair trigger. It has its roots in 1947, the end of the British Empire in India. A bloody partition followed. Muslims, a persecuted minority in British India, formed Muslim majority Pakistan.

One of the most heavily contested areas was Jammu and Kashmir in the Himalayas. The U.N. established a line of control in 1949, which became a de facto border. It snakes high in the mountains. Troops still face off at the world's highest front line, the Siachen Glacier, 20,000 feet above sea level.

India got about 45 percent of the region; Pakistan, 35 percent and, China, the remainder. India alleges and Pakistan denies that Pakistan and its desire for more territory allows Kashmiri insurgents sanctuary, even arms and trains them, supporting their terror campaign against Indian forces on the other side of the line of control.

It is no simple or safe battlefield. Both sides regularly shell each other across the line of control, civilians sometimes killed and injured. But the terror attack mid-February, killing 40 Indian forces, was the biggest single loss of life in years.

And India's retaliatory strike this week, flying fighter aircraft into Pakistan on a bombing mission, ended decades of restraint, going after Pakistani-based militants they blamed for the deadly blast. Pakistan's government denying any involvement in the attack.

India's prime minister describing India as entering a new era, with potentially more airstrikes to come.

NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Today, we are in an era where the news reads, armed forces have full freedom to do what they want.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan has already put him on notice. He, too, is willing to use force.

IMRAN KHAN, PAKISTAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I told them they took any action, we would be compelled to respond --


KHAN (voice-over): -- because no sovereign country can allow another side that committed a crime.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It is not what the world wants to hear. The consequences possibly too dreadful to consider -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Islamabad, Pakistan.


HOWELL: We'll continue to follow the tensions between these two nuclear-armed powers.

Putting their lives at risk: still ahead, fishermen in Ghana are enslaving children by the thousands. We have an exclusive CNN Freedom Project report for you.




HOWELL: Thousands of children in Ghana have been stripped of a normal childhood, they're not going to school, they're not playing or having fun. Instead, these children have been enslaved. They work from dawn until dusk each day in deadly conditions. In our exclusive report, our Nima Elbagir shows us just how different childhood looks for them.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lake Valta, Ghana, just before the dawn. A column of boys heads off to work, all of them slaves. The International Labor Organization estimates there are 10 million children living in slavery around the world; 20,000 of them, they say, work here on this land.

CNN was granted unprecedented access on board --


ELBAGIR (voice-over): -- a boat, where these child slaves labor daily, some so young, it is almost unbelievable.

Typically, the children tell us, they are shouting for Samuel, the man they must call master. With our cameras trained on these children, Samuel only casts a watchful eye, as the boys look back fearfully.

A fishing net snags on an underwater branch. Without a word, Adam, who doesn't know his own age, understands what he must do.

These underwater dives can be deadly. Children are said to get caught up in the nets or tree branches and often drown. There's no telling how many unnamed bodies lay at the bottom of this lake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When he says you should dive, you have no option. The fearful part is you might not come back. That's what I fear most.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Back on land, Samuel explains how he justifies putting children like Adam in such danger.

SAMUEL, MASTER (through translator): If one of them dies while working on the lake, I sit down with the parents and we talk. We all know that working on the lake is very dangerous and anything can happen. In this world, if you don't set a trap, you can't catch fish.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Despite the dangers and the laws in Ghana against slavery and forced child labor, rescues here of children facing violence and abuse remain few and far between.

PACODEP, a local nonprofit, does its best to identify and rescue child slaves, pulling up alongside fishing vessels and, with the help of a policeman, forcing their way on board. With so many children on the lake and sparse resources to liberate and care for them, George Achibra's job can seem overwhelming. But by day's end, Samuel agrees to release all six boys under his control. Instead of fishing, Samuel will become a farmer.

GEORGE ACHIBRA JR., PACODEP: I think this is the best way. If we give him anything like money, net or anything, it means we're encouraging him to go for more children. But if you're taking him off the lake, into ground work, it means he can't go for trafficked children and use on the lake anymore.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): But in the long-term, the children here will need much more. The government of Ghana needs to commit funds to register every vessel on this lake and those working on them to end this scourge -- Nima Elbagir, CNN.


HOWELL: Join us as a CNN Freedom Project exposes Ghana's child slave trade in "Troubled Waters." The CNN Freedom Project exclusive documentary, it is coming up at the top of the hour and at 11:00 am in London and 7:00 in the evening in Hong Kong. Stay with us.

Also want to tell you about this, we also want to get this in, CNN partnering with young people around the world for a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery. That date is going to be March 14th. We want to know what makes you feel free. In Ethiopia, here is what one man in Addis Ababa had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What makes me feel free?

Knowing I have the freedom to be able to make the choices and decisions that help me fulfill my passions.

What makes you feel free? #MyFreedomDay.


HOWELL: Tell the world what makes you feel free. Share your stories using the #MyFreedomDay. We'll be back after this. Stay with us.





HOWELL: This happened just about 30 seconds ago. This was taken just a few moments ago. In orbit, an unmanned capsule has been firing thrusters and has just docked with the International Space Station. They're calling it a soft capture.

The Crew Dragon, built by the private American launch company, SpaceX, launched Saturday for a demonstration flight.

SpaceX hopes to show it can carry astronauts into orbit perhaps by July. Let's just wait a second here. We can see the docking happen. This is so cool to see.



HOWELL: Thank you for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. To our viewers here in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For our viewers around the world, "Troubled Waters," a CNN Freedom Project documentary, is ahead. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM.