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Sri Lankan Prime Minister Says People on The Run with Explosives; ISIS Claims Responsibility for Sunday's Attacks; Trump to Make First UK State Visit in June; UK Parliament Gets Back to Work in Bid to Break Deadlock on Brexit; New IRA Claims Responsibility for Attack on Journalist. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 23, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones in for Hala Gorani.

Tonight --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Small children. What do they know? I can't understand. Are these people humans? They are not humans. They are



JONES: The grief, the horror, the anguish, Sri Lanka is burying its dead as ISIS claims responsibility for the terrorist attacks.

The U.S. President is heading back to the UK, a state visit planned for the start of June.

And the United States is sending aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean in a major show of force meant to deter Russia, we have exclusive access.

To our top story. Sri Lankan officials are racing to prevent more attacks. The Prime Minister warns that people are still on the run with explosives

following Sunday's coordinated bombings. ISIS claims responsibility and released a video showing eight men say they are the attackers. The Prime

Minister won't confirm the group's involvement but does say they are suspected links.

Sri Lanka is a country that is in mourning and holding funerals for the 321 people who were killed. Sam Kiley is in the capital. Let's talk about the

mood in the country especially given the fact that the government announced that there are people on the run and they are armed with explosives.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the mood is anxious. There are at least one truck bomb and a car bomb at large in the

capital city. At least certainly that was the warning they were putting out midafternoon before the Prime Minister confirmed that there were more

suspects in his terms on the run. Others might term it looking for targets.

This has come as a massive blow to Sri Lanka, but it's proving to be an ongoing nightmare really for the government which is now publicly reaching

out to the international community with a meeting between the President today and ambassadors from around the world for help.

Now help is coming in from Interpol, from the FBI, and now we've also heard that Indian intelligence is briefed to one of my colleagues at CNN, that

they gave advanced warning to the Sri Lankans based on an interview or interrogation or a member of the so-called Islamic State, that an attack

was being planned here in the country. And they even named one of the main suspects there.

That same name appears in a later document circulated by the Sri Lankan deputy inspector general for police to his colleagues and still there was

no increase in security around churches and hotels. Both of which were identified by the Sri Lankan intelligence as potential targets. There is a

deep sense of anxiety and the country is in a state of national emergency with overnight curfews nationwide as this group gets hunted down.

The Islamic state has claimed that they were indeed behind this. We have - - there is some degree of certainty that one member, his picture does appear in a video purporting to come from the so-called Islamic state and

has been identified by the governor of the western providence of Sri Lanka for us. So that connection to at least some kind of form of what was the

Islamic State is now being made pretty strongly, Hannah.

JONES: What's the view, Sam, amongst the people in Sri Lanka of how the government is handling this, given the aftermath may be very different, of

course, to how it's botched the communications in the very least in the run-up to this atrocity?

KILEY: I think there's -- most people I've spoken to have faith in the security forces and no real faith in the administration to deploy them

correctly. We went earlier on today to the scene of where three policeman were killed during a follow-up raid by two explosions on a home that was

lived in by people suspected of participating in these mass bombings, and the locals who were eyewitnesses to that police assault talked of them

being extremely brave as they leapt over the walls and in the three cases were killed by some kind of explosive devices detonated when they went on

that assault.

[14:05:11] That's in stark contrast of how they view their own government. The in-fighting between the presidency and the prime minister on that

assault. That's in stark contrast of how they view their own government. The in-fighting between the presidency and the Prime Minister is being

blamed for the failure of communication. But it's really -- there are some aspects of this that certainly in the words of one very senior former

police official that CNN spoke to, he talked of criminal culpability and the need for prosecutions. He was suggesting malls afore thought or

criminal negligence.

JONES: And, Sam, it's late in the evening where you are and the country is in a state of emergency, in a state of mourning, as well, given the first

funerals taking place today. Is there a nationwide curfew as well for all citizens?

KILEY: Yes, there is a curfew overnight but not during the day. It's from 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. that's been the case last night and tonight.

There's a real desire to get the country back to normal and start making this place feel like a friendly place for tourists to visit. Of course

that is at the moment a distance prospect when the police and the Prime Minister are both saying that they believe bombers are still out there.

And still armed with bombs, Hannah.

JONES: All right. Sam Kiley live for us.

As we mentioned, ISIS is claiming responsibility for the attacks. The group has released a video showing eight men that they say are indeed the

attackers. We're getting new information from one of the men from India's intelligence services. Paul, good to see you, the latest, we understand,

the intelligence the Sri Lankan authorities didn't act on was based on some warnings from one ISIS suspect. Tell us more.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: That information Sam was referencing coming from India, being passed onto the Sri Lankans

referencing a man who's believed to be a leader of an indigenous Sri Lankan jihadi group. They say that in that video that shows the fighters pledging

allegiance. So this connects quite a lot of dots and it does at least suggest that this ISIS video may well in fact actually show the attackers

and therefore ISIS may have actually had a significant role in this attack.

Of course it's possible that this cell only sent ISIS these videos, these stills after the attack. But it's possible that they were in league with

ISIS before the attack and that's certainly something which the Sri Lankan Prime Minister has been suggesting as sort of international terrorist

conspiracy, international travel, foreign links, training as well. All of that suggesting that this went well beyond Sri Lanka in terms of the

planning and the synthesis of the plot.

JONES: One would expect ISIS to claim responsibility because it gives them a certain level of credibility. But if it was not ISIS, who would the

other -- where are the other groups who would be capable of planning and executing attacks on this sort of scale?

CRUICKSHANK: You would look at al Qaeda, but that group has said that they should not launch attacks on places of worship and so I think all the

indications are that if there is a significant international connection, that it would be an ISIS connection, there are at least 32 known Sri

Lankans who have traveled to join ISIS in Syria.

One of the things they'll be looking at is if some of them came back to Sri Lanka to plot this attack or whether they were in touch with a cell in Sri

Lanka from overseas providing direction. But the fact that ISIS has put out this video and it does appear to show this individual who was linked to

all these intelligence warnings before the attack, that does start to tell you that it is very much possible that ISIS played a strong role in this


[14:10:09] JONES: Paul, what do you make of the suggestion made by the Sri Lankan authorities that these attacks were carried out in direct response

to the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand which was just last month. It's not that long a time frame.

CRUICKSHANK: That came from part of the Sri Lankan government and the Prime Minister walked that back a bit. He said they were looking into the

possibility of this. ISIS has made no reference to the Prime Minister walked that back a bit. He said they were looking into the possibility of

this. ISIS has made no reference to the Christchurch attack in New Zealand and any of their statements.

But after that attack in New Zealand, both ISIS and al Qaeda called for revenge attacks. Certainly possible that this was part of the motivation

but ISIS has been launching attacks churches and Christians well before this attack in New Zealand. They've been responsible for a string of

attacks against churches and Christians, whether it's in Libya,

Yemen, and various other parts of the world. They want to create a war between Christianity and Islam. If this is indeed an ISIS-planned in some

way, that would be part of this overall plan.

JONES: All right. Thank you very much.

Let's focus on the victims of these attacks. Emotions are raw as the nation grieves. Among the victims, two parents and their young children.

Will Ripley has their story.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In this central Colombo neighborhood, terror turns to grief. One by one, family members carry the

coffins of their family. The family didn't usually go to Saint Anthony's, they decided to attend a special Easter mass along with around one thousand

other people, including the man who entered the sanctuary and blew himself up. An act of brutality incomprehensible to a family friend and a Muslim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The children, the small children, what do they know? I can't understand. Are these people humans? They are not humans. They are


RIPLEY: This family, likes so many others, heard about the bombings on TV. They went to the hospital and finally the church. It was there in the

decimated sanctuary they found their loved ones in pieces.

REV. JUDE FERNANDO, ADMINISTRATOR, ST. ANTHONY'S CHURCH, SRI LANKA: They have taken around 30 bodies from here and still they are searching. We

don't know what is inside still.

RIPLEY: On a normal day, these coffins would be open, this is not a normal day. These pictures are the only closure they get if you can call this

closure. There's so much raw emotion here. I was chatting with one of the sisters, she was lying on the floor, sobbing and she kept saying, they need

to find the people who did this and stop them before they do this to some other family.

With sorrow comes anger and questions. Why did this happen? Why this family? The answers may never come. Certainly not today. Will Ripley,

CNN, Colombo, Sri Lanka.


JONES: Still to come tonight on the program, the U.S. President will be back on these shores. He'll make a state visit to the U.K. in June. Will

the blimp be back too? And then CNN speaks with the head of the Sudan's transitional military council as a stand off heats up with protestors

demanding civilian rule. We are live in Khartoum ahead.


JONES: The pomp and the pageantry and the Quality time with her majesty, the Queen. That's what President Trump will be treated to in his first

state visit. Still it caused quite a stir, bringing mass protests and you might remember the appearance of a giant blimp in the President's image.

This time the President has accepted an official invitation from the Queen.

Here's the latest. Max, last time there was zero interaction between the British public and the real-life U.S. President. Might it be different

this time? What can we expect from a state visit?

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: It was informal, it was a set of working visits, effectively, spending time with the Prime Minister, the

country residents and also with the Queen outside London as well. This is in central London, ground transport will be involved. He'll go to

Buckingham Palace for a state banquet. This is an open area. We're hearing from some of the climate change protestors that they're going to

turn out. I think there will be protests and he'll be able to see them.

Whether or not he'll be affected by that is another thing. As long as those protestors represent causes, he's not particularly concerned about, I

think he'll be able to brush it off. And also, quite clever, when he sees a crowd, he might see it as a welcoming crowd. We never know quite how to

interpret things, Hannah.

JONES: It's one thing taking on the public. It's quite another taking on the politician of course. Will Donald Trump address both Houses of


FOSTER: Getting the impression from downing street, they want to see that happen because they want to impress this major world leader of course and

potentially look towards a trade deal post Brexit. Because of Brexit, all sorts of communications have broken down. Downing Street might be pushing

for it, but Parliament, appears to be pushing back on the idea saying it might not be appropriate for the President with his particular views to

receive this honor. So I don't know what's going on behind the scenes. But it does appear that there's some attention there. They're not

committing to whether or not it's going to happen. Normally in this stage in the organization of these events, we would know whether the President

will be presenting himself to both Houses of Parliament.

JONES: And we're looking at President Trump with the majesty, and last year it was tea at Windsor Castle. He will be invited to Buckingham

Palace. Will he be staying?

[14:20:00] FOSTER: He won't be staying. He broke protocol by walking in front of her. He's not staying in Buckingham Palace. It's been

refurbished so there's not room for him to stay. That's one difference from the Obama visit. But there's a reason for it. Traditionally, yes,

these heads of state, on a state visit, would be hosted by the Queen of Buckingham Palace.

JONES: Thanks very much, Max.

Now, if like many people you enjoyed a break from work over the holiday weekend, you probably also enjoyed a break from Brexit. Unfortunately,

though, it's back, after a short and welcome reprieve. British MPs return to work today and Prime Minister Theresa May resumed talks with the

opposition Labour Party hoping to break the Brexit deadlock before those European elections just next month.

But it seems little progress has been made so far. Both sides blaming each other for the lack of compromise. Earlier on today, I got the latest with

Nina dos Santos.


JONES: Easter is over and Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has been on a working holiday in Wales, we understand that. The last time she came back

and called a snap election. This time she might not be calling all of the shots.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: It was that ill-fated decision to call that snap election, left her so weakened that Brexit has become this never-

ending saga and it costs her political clout inside the House of Commons. It's one of the reasons why she's appealing across party lines to the

Labour Party as part of they see cross-party talks that have been happening since the start of April to try to rally enough support to make it, who

knows, a fourth time lucky.

JONES: It might not be her battle to fight long term, if she's ousted as party leader, and they're gunning for the job?

DOS SANTOS: She's under a huge amount of pressure. Because obviously the Conservative Party has made it clear they don't want to be taking part in

these European parliamentary elections. It could be extremely embarrassing for them if the two pro and anti Brexit parties and also Change U.K. which

is another party that's campaigning for Brexit not to take place.

If they eat away at some of the support that the Conservative members have enjoyed, that could be extremely embarrassing.

JONES: You mentioned, sisters of want to be Tory party leaders, Rachel Johnson, Boris' sister has stated her case.

DOS SANTOS: That's right. She's one of the 70 potential candidates that are going to be fielded by the pro-European, so anti-Brexit party. This

used to be what was called the independent group, this is a party that rallied together, conservative, disaffected Conservative members of

Parliament who felt there was no voice for them around the Brexit table.

They didn't like the way the government was pandering to back benches and obviously there were members of the Labour Party as well who decided to

jump ship. They've decided to field a number of candidates. They got 3,700 applications for the job. But they are going to put forward 70 that

they have selected. Among them is Rachel Johnson, is pro-EU. But her brother is one of the beasts in the Leave campaign, also somebody who could

take Theresa May's job. Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary.


JONES: Nina dos Santos speaking to me a little earlier on.

In Northern Ireland, a group calling itself the New IRA has claimed responsibility for the murder of a journalist Lyra McKee who was shot dead

as she covered riots in Londonderry on Friday. The "Irish Times" released a statement from the group that offered full and sincere apologies for her

death. But it also accused her of standing too close to quote, "enemy forces."

Meantime, a woman was arrested in connection with the killing and was released from custody just a short time ago. Now the New IRA are a group

of republicans intent on seeing a return to violence in Northern Ireland. Our Nic Robertson reports the group faces a backlash in the very community

it seeks to control.


[14:25:00] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Even before the New IRA admitted killing Lyra McKee her friends targeted the offices

they believe are its political wing, bloodying its walls with red paint handprints. Industries where we she was murdered in the Catholic

neighborhood where the ideal of a united Ireland.

The new IRA are facing a backlash, admitting her murder and saying they are sorry, that they'll tell their gunman to take better care in this

community, smacks of damage control. It's signs like this that give an indication of the strength that the New IRA is messaging, and a sense of

the intimidation they inflict on communities like this.

Local councilor Brian Tierney's car was set on fire when he stood up to the New IRA a few months ago. He believes poverty helps her recruiting.

BRIAN TIERNEY, SDLP COUNCILOR: People who are intent on dragging this community back, they're using young people to advance their political goal.

This conflict spoke 21 years ago and said that the best way to achieve our united Ireland is by peaceful process.

ROBERTSON: The stark reality of Lyra McKee's killing is that a generation who grew up in peace is now being dragged back into yesteryear's war. Both

victim and killer. And that's worrying police.

JASON MURPHY, DETECTIVE SUPERINTENDENT, PSNI: My broader concern is we're seeing a new breed of terrorists coming through the ranks. And it's a

worrying situation.

ROBERTSON: A new breed of terrorists but the same old tactics, intimidation, and the same old problem, getting witnesses to speak up.

MURPHY: I think there's a real fear because individuals continue to exert influence over communities. Not just in the Creggan but across other parts

of Northern Ireland as well.

ROBERTSON: Over the weekend, the police arrested and quickly released two teenagers who they said were members of the New IRA involved in McKee's



JONES: Nic Robertson reporting there. Still to come tonight, a father is heartbroken after losing two of his children in the Sri Lanka bombings, but

he has a message of love. He speaks exclusively to CNN.

Also two U.S. aircraft groups have arrived in the Mediterranean Sea. We'll tell you what's behind this dramatic show of strength.


[14:30:00] JONES: Welcome back. We return to our top story, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister warns that people connected to the bombings are still on the

run and they have explosives. The government admits the attacks could have been prevented. Today the President visited one of the churches that was

bombed on Sunday. He says he could have stopped the terror plot, but he never received the warnings from intelligence officials. Nick Paton Walsh

joins me now. As we search for the perpetrators, we cannot forget the victims and you've been speaking to one man whose life has been ripped


NICK PATON WALSH, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Over 300 dead, but one particular father who lost both of his teenage children, he traveled

with them, leaving their mother and two other children back in the United Kingdom on a family holiday. A well-traveled family, they loved to explore

the world. But one and a second blast in the Shangri-La hotel left him with the unbelievable scene of taking both of his children to the hospital

in the hope of saving their lives, but ultimately failing.

[14:30:00] We spoke to him just a little this afternoon.


MATT LINSEY, SURVIVOR & FATHER OF TWO SRI LANKA BOMBING VICTIMS: And when the bomb went off, and, you know, it's hard to describe, it's like a wave

coming through.

WALSH: The pressure.

LINSEY: The pressure is hard to describe. My children were so nice. They had actually went down to the buffet for me and got the food for, for me.

They filled up my plate and then I went a little bit more to drink. I was going to get my (INAUDIBLE) and then the bomb went off and they both were

running toward me, and I'm not sure whether that's what killed them or not. But we started -- and I knew there'd be another bomb. Because they're

always doing these things. And another bomb went off --

WALSH: So your instinct was to get out across the street?

LINSEY: Yes, as soon as possible.

WALSH: To move them with you?

LINSEY: Yes. Maybe I should have just stayed and covered them with my body.

WALSH: And it was the second blast near the elevator?

LINSEY: They both were unconscious. My daughter seemed to be moving, my son wasn't. The woman offered to take my daughter downstairs to the

ambulance. I needed help moving my son. Someone helped me move him down the stairs and they both ended up in the same hospital.

WALSH: And you traveled with them to the hospital or --

LINSEY: I traveled with my son because my daughter went down before. And I traveled with my son to the hospital.

WALSH: Do you recall in the hospital finding your daughter?

LINSEY: I mean, this was the worst part because I got -- I yelled for help, that's why I lost my voice for my son and trying to massage his heart

and the people were very helpful. The rudimentary facilities there. They did their best. I mean, a doctor there has been kindly took me to the U.S.

embassy. I was there eight hours. They got me out of the country. And they were very, very efficient and very kind. I want that to be noted.

That's really important.

If anyone important and state department is watching, whatever, please, the job done by your U.S. embassy and Sri Lanka was fantastic.

WALSH: Incredibly hard to explain to anybody on what it must be like to live through a situation like that. Has it left you full of rage?

LINSEY: My daughter and I, one of our favorite songs was this song called "Love is the Answer." And when my dad passed away, my daughter and I that

became sort of our song. And she was only six. And, yes, you want the government to do what they have to do to stop these people. I agree with

that completely.

But also, the people on the other side, you know, love is the answer, ultimately, and helping people and what would be good is giving Sri Lanka -

- helping the medical facilities there, money to go to the country to help. Because a lot of local people died. And probably unnecessary. And my

children, maybe they could have survived if there was right medical facilities.

But I took that risk going to that country and I have to blame myself for that.


HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Just unbelievably heartbreaking listening to that man. And we heard earlier from the UNICEF,

as well, saying that among all the victims, there were 45 children. And, obviously, that one man suffered the loss of two children in that.

And we've seen funerals taking place in Sri Lanka throughout the day today. What will happen to his children? Will they be coming back to the U.K. or


WALSH: As far as we know. And obviously, he's a man who's still dealing with frankly the terrifying facts of what happened to him. But he had

nothing but praise for the United States embassy, even remembered the name of one of the U.S. Marines that have offered him the greatest sympathy,

Wolfe (ph) and said, I'm pretty sure obviously they will be helping with the repatriation of those bodies.

I would imagine to the United Kingdom, but still a family there, unpacked luggage in the hallway. A 12-year-old brother scorning family pictures,

apparently, asking when the siblings will going to be coming home. Impossible for a family to digest this. And I think they're still in this

point in the early stages of simply trying to work out what's happening, what's been taken from them in the last 72 hours.

JONES: And to see him they're just being held up, held together by somebody else, another relative, presumably.

Nick, thank you very much for that report. We appreciate it.

Well, earlier today, I spoke with Bobby Ghosh. Bobby is an editorial board member for Bloomberg. I asked him, what kind of groups has the resources

to carry off an attack of this kind of magnitude?


BOBBY GHOSH, BLOOMBERG EDITOR & EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: There was an expectation that a large international group was involved and there are

very few groups that have the capability of pulling out of -- pulling off an attack of this scale, this level of sophistication that requires this

much planning and this much of mission.

ISIS would be one of them, Al-Qaeda would be another. There are a couple of groups in Pakistan that might -- that might have the capability. The

fact that ISIS has claimed it is not definitive. There have been incidents where they have made claims that later turned out not to be not true. But

more often than not, it does turned out -- turned out to be true that when ISIS claims that they were responsible.

[14:35:07] It suddenly also runs against the argument that a small local group was responsible for this because the group that was mentioned by Sri

Lanka authorities yesterday is too small, no track record of pulling off any kind of violence and much less something this sophisticated and this


So it's certainly credible. Whether that's a 100 percent guaranteed that ISIS did it, not yet.

JONES: And I know you've written about this. This small group that -- as we know at the moment, is the group that has been called as -- called out

as the one responsible for the attacks, NTJ, National Thowheeth Jama'ath.


JONES: You've written about the fact that there isn't so much incentive or perhaps motivation for such a small group, not just because of the

resources that they might have available to them, but just because they don't have that much of a problem with the situation in Sri Lanka right


GHOSH: That's true. The Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka don't have a long history of ranker or animus amongst each other. They're both very

small minorities. No group has been lording over the other.

Well, typically, when ISIS or Al-Qaeda work with local actors, whether they'd be individuals or small local groups, they're taking advantage of

some local motivation, that those suicide operatives want to take revenge for something, that does not apply here. Which is why right from the

beginning when the government named the NTJ, it sounded -- it didn't sound like that that was the full story. We needed to know more about how this

thing was pulled off.

Also, a group that small is unlikely to have the confidence of ISIS. It's unlikely that ISIS or Al-Qaeda would place that much faith and confidence

in a small group that has no track record. This is the kind of thing they tried to -- remember, this is now the single largest in terms of

casualties, the deadliest attack in Asia ever. And that means -- that makes it even more unlikely that a group that previously has never fired a

shot in anger should be able to pull off something like this.


JONES: Bobby Ghosh speaking to me earlier.

To other news now. Saudi Arabia has executed 37 Saudi citizens for terror- related crimes, according to the kingdom's official news agency.

One of those executed was later crucified, the news agency says. On its Twitter page, the agency announced, quote, "The death penalty was

implemented on a number of criminals for adopting extremist terrorist ideologies and forming terrorist cells to corrupt and disrupt security as

well as spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife."

The country has one of the highest death penalty rates in the world.

We turn out attention now though to a tensed situation in Sudan where talks have broken off between protesters and Transitional Military rulers, not

only are protesters ignoring calls to clear roads around army headquarters in Khartoum, but their numbers are actually swelling, as hundreds of people

from Central Sudan arrive by train to join in the demonstrations. Protesters there are demanding a swift transition to civilian rule.

Well, CNN has just learned some dramatic news about the head of Sudan's Military Transitional Council. Sources say there were attempts on his life

after the ouster of longtime dictator, Omar al-Bashir.

Our Nima Elbagir spoke today with the Military Transitional Council chief. She joins us now live from Khartoum.

Nima, obviously a very tense situation. What did you learn from the military side?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand that there were in fact multiple attempts on General Abdel Fattah al-

Burhan's life which speaks to how sensitive this situation really is, Hannah.

And General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, when we spoke to him, seemed very cognizant of the responsibility that's currently on his shoulders. Take a

look at this.


ELBAGIR: You were somebody who has had a lengthy career in the Sudanese army. You were the inspector general. And now, you find yourself at the

head of a -- of a coup, why? What drove you to be part of this?

GENERAL ABDEL FATTAH AL-BURHAN, HEAD OF SUDAN'S MILITARY TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL (through translator): I am not heading a coup. The armed forces

took a decision to side with the people. This is the wish of the people. What the armed forces are doing now is not a coup, but taking the side of

the civilians.

ELBAGIR: When the public wants you to go, will you go?

AL-BURHAN (through translator): Straight away.

ELBAGIR: What about the protestors themselves? Will you allow them to continue to occupy the space that they're occupying in front of the

military headquarters?

AL-BURHAN (through translator): Yes. We are waiting for them to initiate the end of protests. They are civilians and force will not be used to

disburse them.

[14:40:02] ELBAGIR: Let's talk a little bit about your relationship with the United States. A U.S. delegation just came to see you and to speak

with you. What is your biggest priority when it comes to your relationship with the United States?

AL-BURHAN (through translator): We promised the United States that we would work on transferring power to the people as soon as possible. Our

cooperation will continue in all matters. There is room for negotiation and cooperation and security matters.

ELBAGIR: What would be your message to the world? What would you ask the world to do for Sudan?

AL-BURHAN (through translator): We want everyone to trust that the Sudanese Armed Forces are working with civilians. We want to transfer

power and move from the injustice and oppression of the past to a new democratic and free era.


ELBAGIR: It does feel though, Hannah, that things are at an impasse here. The protestors, as you pointed out, continue to swell in numbers. The

Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been leading a lot of the activism around this has suspended dialogue with the military council and

it feels like the road ahead seems very, very unclear.

The U.S. has echoed the cause of the rest of the world to say a way must be found through this. That a transition to civilian rule has to come and it

has to come quickly, Hannah.

JONES: The military leader that you spoke to there, Nima, he said that force would not be used against the protestors. What are the protestors

saying about whether they would turn to violence?

ELBAGIR: Well, so far, and this is what has made what is happening in Sudan so unique in so many ways. In the four months of demonstrations when

they were consistency met with live fire by Sudanese authorities and tear gas, they have maintained that this has to be a peaceful movement. But

that doesn't, of course, mean that they will stand idly by if forces used against them.

They have been very specific that the people will not stand for any attempt to dismantle the barricades that they've set up to dismantle what they

understand really is their source of their power. They will not seed the ground outside of the military headquarters, they say, until a civilian

government is sworn in. Hannah?

JONES: Nima Elbagir live for us there in Khartoum. Thank you very much, Nima.

And still to come tonight on the program, North Korea's leader is set for another historic meeting, this time, it's not with the U.S. president, but

with the president of Russia. Details straight ahead.


JONES: Welcome back now. With nuclear talks with the U.S. stalled, North Korea's leader is going to Russia. The Kremlin confirms that Kim Jong-un

will meet with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Vladivostok. That's on Russia's pacific coast. It will be the first ever

meeting between the two leaders.

CNN's Moscow bureau chief, Nathan Hodge is standing by with the details for us.

[14:45:01] Nathan, Kim Jong-un has been keeping something of a busy schedule of summits of late. Is this one expected to be ending at least

slightly more satisfactorily than the last?

NATHAN HODGE, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Right, Hannah. Well, one almost wonders if Kim is trying to make Trump jealous by meeting with the Russian

leader in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.

Russia and North Korea have relations that go very quiet far back. And Putin does like to position himself as being an important global player.

He has brought Russia front and center on the world stage and this is just another example of Russia's rising diplomatic clout.

The meeting which is taking place about seven time zones east of Moscow, that's far -- we've not had a whole lot of detail about what's going to be

happening. And the Kremlin somewhat set expectations saying that they don't expect a statement to be coming out of this. But the symbolism, of

course, is going to be quite rich here with Putin meeting with Kim in a city that's not that far from Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.

And as we understand from Russian state media, according to various sources, that seems that the train of Kim is on its way, Russia shares a

border with North Korea to Vladivostok. So I'm sure that there will be an interesting picture upon his arrival in the Russian far eastern city,


JONES: And, Nathan, the reason the talks between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un broke down was largely over the issue of denuclearization. Is

Russia, as fixated on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as the U.S. is?

HODGE: Well, Hannah, Russian officials have told us all along that they're keen to see the conflict on the crisis on the Korean Peninsula resolved and

Russia does have an interest and it is a neighbor of North Korea.

Very often, Russia's views have been very much in tandem with that of China and they've taken a very different view of how this needs to be resolved


But certainly Russia does have a keen interest in what the outcomes are and is very interested in helping shape those outcomes. So it'll be very

interesting to see what kind of readout we get following this meeting on Thursday, Hannah.

JONES: And I'm sure the U.S. will have very, very close eyes on what comes from this summit. Might we see perhaps another U.S.-North Korea summit if

Vladimir Putin is seen to have succeeded where Donald Trump has so far failed?

HODGE: That's a great question. I think that this is sort of the constant dance that seems to happen in diplomacy. One of these -- this meeting

between Kim and Putin may end up just being long on symbolism and short on substance. We still don't know. But certainly, the Kremlin has really

tempered expectations ahead of this meeting on Thursday.

JONES: All right. Nathan Hodge live for us in Moscow. Thank you.

Now, staying with Russia and the country has been working to increase its influence in many parts of the world. That includes increased Russian

naval activity in the Arctic Ocean and the Black Sea. And there are reports the Kremlin is close to reaching a deal to lease Syria's a port of

Tartus. That's on the Mediterranean Sea.

Now, the U.S. navy is pushing back, stepping up its own activity in the Mediterranean. Two U.S. aircraft carrier groups are operating there for

the first time since 2016. Naples, Italy is the home port for the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

CNN is the only network there with this story. Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen joins us live. So an uptick in the military

prowess and the military force shown by the U.S. What have you learned, Fred?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, massive uptick in the military, of course, that the U.S. is showing there in the

Mediterranean. You have those two carriers that are operating there side by side. Obviously, a lot of planes that are involved, a lot of

interoperability as well.

And so certainly, the U.S. really flexing its muscle there in the Mediterranean, obviously, sending of a clear message to the Russians that

the U.S. is not going to back down in the Mediterranean region. You were saying that the Russians right now trying to get that lease in Tartus,

putting a lot more ships in the Mediterranean as well.

So it's an important signal to the Russians but also, Hannah, to America's allies as well. It's quite interesting to see. Because the carrier strike

group that I was on today, the Abraham Lincoln strike group, also had a Spanish ship with it as well. Obviously, the Spaniards are very much

wanting to see from the Americans that they are going to remain strong there in the Mediterranean region.

One of the interesting things the Americans also said they actually also put the U.S. ambassador to Moscow on the Abraham Lincoln as well. That, of

course, very much a diplomatic sign towards the Russians. But he also said, Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, he said, yes, it's very

important for him to come to that region because there, he can see firsthand what exactly is going on in the Mediterranean, what the Russians

are doing there in Mediterranean and with how the U.S. is reacting to it as well.

[14:50:01] But the other thing that he also said, and I think this goes to the heart of a lot of things that we keep reporting about Russia, whether

it's the meeting with Kim, a lot of the things that Vladimir Putin does, he says look, when he sits down with the Russians, it's very important for

them to have seen that he was on that ship, that he has the U.S. military power, the talks of the U.S. military behind him.

He said it creates a whole different atmosphere and it certainly leads up to a lot more clout when he goes into those tough meetings with the

Russians, with all these issues that right now are dividing the United States and Russia.

Of course, a lot of Russia's military deployments in the northern Atlantic region and, of course, in the Mediterranean as well. But then all the

other political issues that also make things so difficult between the U.S. and Russia, and that big power struggle that seems to be going on once

again, Hannah.

JONES: And, Fred, as far as war games are concerned, I mean, Russia knows how to play ball with all of this. What kind of retaliation, if any, might

we see to this U.S. force?

PLEITGEN: Well, I'm not sure. I'm not sure we're going to see much in the way of retaliation. But I do think that the Russians will very closely be

monitoring what the United States is going to be doing. There's certainly will be, I expect some sort of statement from the Russians saying that this

could be some sort of escalation or a provocation that something that they've said in the past.

But, of course, Russians for a very long time, have been stepping up their own activities. If you look at the Mediterranean, there's a lot more

submarines there from the Russians than were there before. Those were equipped with cruise missiles. A lot of those ships that the Russians

have, also a lot more capable than they used to be.

So certainly, I was speaking today to Admiral Foggo, who's in command here, down here in Naples. And he was saying he very much respects the Russian

navy and he says that they have become a lot more capable over the past couple of years. So you do see that there is a lot more of a confrontation

that's going on. You do see that the ante is being upped on both sides. And certainly the Americans, from their part, today, very much making clear

that they show no signs of backing down in all of those and that they are obviously in this region very much to stay, Hannah.

JONES: We just lost you just at the time when that plane has gone past.

Fred, thanks very much though. All very clear, live there from Naples, Italy. Appreciate it.

And up next on the program, making their case in a crowded field. Five of the nearly two dozen U.S. democratic presidential contenders try to pull

away from the pack in a CNN town hall.


JONES: Democrats battling for the chance to challenge President Donald Trump. Well, first, have to get by their own party's front-runner.

We've now confirmed that Joe Biden will finally get off the sidelines and join the somewhat crowded field of democratic hopefuls on Thursday. Five

other candidates tried to pull away from the pack last night speaking separately to college students at a CNN town hall.

Let's bring in CNN White House reporter, Stephen Collinson, for all the details. He's live in Washington for us.

So, Stephen, on the question of impeachment, you've got Nancy Pelosi on one side saying it's not worth it. Let's just wait until the election. Now,

you've got all of these presidential hopefuls coming forward saying, yes, we should start proceedings. Where do Democrats broadly speaking sit on


STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it's very interesting the division that's opened up between some of those presidential candidates

like Elizabeth Warren and House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who's been very weary of moving ahead with impeachment, because she fears that voters might

see this as overreach and she wants Democrats to be talking about the issues that voters care about the most, health care, college costs, that

kind of thing. So I think we're seeing a debate within the Democratic Party.

[14:55:01] What is going to happen is although they're not calling it impeachment, the Democrats are calling out key figures to testify on

Capitol Hill in the House about the Mueller report, including potentially Robert Mueller in the months to come and the Attorney General William Barr.

So what you're going to see is Democrats making a case that President Donald Trump is not fit to be president, not fit to serve a second term,

which they'll put before voters in 2020 and leaving for later the question of whether they go ahead and try and oust the president before then via


JONES: As far as the Mueller report is concerned, Stephen, who has the most to gain, the most to lose from leaning on it or drawing on it so much?

Because I guess it depends on which side of the fence you sit on as to whether you think it was in your favor or not?

COLLINSON: Well, I mean, I think the Democrats saw a lot in that report to bring to voters. Although the special counsel, Robert Mueller, did not

find evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia and didn't make a decision about obstruction of justice, a lot of the evidence

that he put forward paints a very damning picture of this presidency, a culture of lies and intimidation inside the White House, there are multiple

instances in that report of the president using his power to try and thwart the investigation. So that's where the conversation has turned to


Now, the president is going to turn around and say I was completely exonerated. That's not true. But that's the thing his supporters want to

hear and that's the narrative that the conservative media propaganda machine is going to put before voters as well.

JONES: And going back then to this crowded democratic field, it's about to get more busy, Joe Biden who's long been seen as the front-runner, the

former vice president, of course, with Barack Obama, he's set to make an announcement on Thursday. Why has it taken him so long?

COLLINSON: I think there's a number of reasons. Biden has been, I think, genuinely deciding whether he wants to run, whether he thinks that he has a

good chance of winning the democratic nomination and as he's the most well- known Democrat in the field, the biggest political figure potentially in the democratic race. He's had the luxury of not having to jump in right at

the beginning when some of the more candidates are mixing it up.

I think the big question that Biden will face is although that he's strongly positioned in some national polls in most of the early states, is

his profile a good fit for the modern Democratic Party? He's an aging white male and this is a party that's increasingly turning on the energy of

young, female, and diverse voters.

JONES: Stephen, we have to leave it there. We appreciate it though. Thanks very much.

And thank you for watching tonight. Do stay with us here on CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up at the top of the hour.