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CONNECT THE WORLD
President's Adviser Says Terrorists' Network Has Been Dispersed; Officials Say Nine Suicide Bombers Carried Out Attacks; Funeral for Bombing Victims Held Under Heavy Guard; Suspected Sri Lanka Bomber Studied in England; Funeral Service Held for Slain Northern Irish Journalist; Kim Arrives in Russia for Summit with Putin; Trump "We're Fighting All the Subpoenas; Boeing Earnings tumble 21 Percent Amid Safety Concerns; Amnesty International Says Kingdom Uses Death Penalty to Crush Dissent; U.S. Ships in Mediterranean Send Message to Russia; Head of Military Council in Sudan Says, I Did Not Lead a Coup. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired April 24, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] CYRIL VANIER, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Cyril Vanier filling in for Becky Anderson here in Atlanta. And we are
tracking fast moving developments out of Sri Lanka this hour.
Details continue to emerge about the deadly Easter Sunday attacks. Officials have identified one of the suicide bombers as the mastermind
behind the attacks. Now a presidential adviser is saying the attacker's entire network has been dispersed. Other officials, however, warn that
some suspects may still be at large.
And we've just learned British security sources tell CNN that one of the bombers studied in the southeast of England in 2006. Will have more on
that in just a moment.
Sources also tell CNN Sri Lanka was repeatedly warned about possible terrorist attack, but that those warnings were ignored. Indian
intelligence sources alerted Sri Lanka three times. Here is the country's defense minister on their latest in the investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUWAN WIJEWARDENE, SRI LANKAN DEFENSE MINISTER: There are two groups from what we gather, the National Thowfeek Jamaath. I think there has a group
that has split from that main body and they have basically that is the group that has become quite extreme and from what we have gathered, is that
they are thinking is that only Islam can be the only religion in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: We're also getting new video obtained by local media. It shows two men carrying backpacks, walking through the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo
before the bombing that took place there. And the death toll from the massacre rises. It now stands at a staggering 359 people.
Sri Lankans are holding funerals for the victims. Ivan Watson was in Negombo, about an hour's drive north of Colombo has more. It's where more
than 100 people were murdered inside the Saint Sebastian church on Sunday.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sri Lankans are conducting funerals for the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks. One
after another, there's barely time for everybody to properly grieve.
This is taking place in an atmosphere of real insecurity. There are police and soldiers posted everywhere here in Negombo as these men carry the
coffin of a child for burial.
There are real concerns that there could be additional threats to the Christian community that has been so viciously targeted. We've heard a
controlled explosion of a suspicious object in this area in the last couple of hours. Now, the clergy of the Catholic Church have been urging their
communities to be peaceful and calm. This amid a claim of responsibility from ISIS, claiming responsibility for these unspeakable atrocities.
And the priests are telling us that as soon as they bury one of these victims, one of the hundreds of people killed, they ask the families to
disperse because they're afraid they could be targeted yet again. So this period of mourning is taking place in a real climate of fear.
VANIER: Ivan Watson is joining us now live from the capitol of Colombo. Ivan, a presidential adviser, as we were saying earlier, says that the
entire network has been dispersed. I mean, help us understand these words. Are they saying that they have caught everyone?
WATSON: Well, I think that's what he was suggesting, but the security posture that we saw at these funerals was -- suggested otherwise, that
there's real concern. And the number of scares we've heard about of large numbers of detonators found in the bus station two days ago, of a pipe bomb
that was dismantled suggests there are real concerns out there and there have been multiple controlled explosions as well.
The Prime Minister yesterday saying he still believed there could be threatening people on the run right now with explosives. So again, nobody
was taking any chances. It was disheartening to say the least to see that people didn't have time to properly mourn. They buried their dead and had
to move on as quickly as possible. Also in part to make way for the next loved one who had been lost, too.
[11:05:00] VANIER: Ivan, following up on the investigation now, we have a new piece of information, and I will cross to London in just a second about
that. Regarding the fact that one of the attackers apparently spent time in London, was educated there. Let's leave that aside for a second. What
else do we know about any international connections?
WATSON: Sure. Well we know that the security forces say they've detained at least 60 people. They say that all of the suicide bombers, nine of them
were Sri Lankans, one of them studied in the U.K., also did postgraduate in Australia. They've named one man, Inshan Seelavan, as one of the master
minds. He's believed to be one of the suicide bombers who hit the luxury Shangri-La Hotel on Sunday. And they say his wife, also, was a suicide
bomber. This was hours after the initial waves of suicide attacks on three hotels and three Catholic Churches. When police went to his residence in
Colombo, that's where they think she and her sister blew up explosives that killed them and also killed three police officers.
The profile that they have painted here is of upper middle-class Sri Lankans, well educated, financially independent and reportedly with some
political -- high level political connections. Such that the defense minister says he's very worried about this. That's the profile being
They've also been described as members of a home-grown Islamist extremist group called the National Thowfeek Jamaath. But the U.S. government, the
Sri Lankans are saying that they believe there must have been ties to some kind of international network. And of course, ISIS has come out claiming
responsibility and showing the leader National Thowfeek Jamaath, Zahran Hashmi, in their claim of responsibility for this. So there seems to be a
connection, an international connection, but also some very devoted home- grown Sri Lankans who joined this death cult and murdered hundreds of their fellow citizens.
VANIER: Ivan Watson reporting live from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. Thank you.
OK, Nick Paton Walsh in London with the latest on this new information that one of the bombers studied in England. Nick, what more can you tell us?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well in the last few minutes U.K. security sources have said that one of the bombers, his
nationality -- if you were listening to Ivan there -- possibly Sri Lankan. But at this point he's been named by U.K. security sources as Abdul Lathief
Jameel Mohamed. And they say that in about 2006 to 2007, so sort of 13 or so years ago studied at an institution in Southeast England.
Now minimal information at this point. No immediate suggestion that this points to dual citizenship or perhaps U.K. nationality here. I think
they're working that out. But this is obviously one of the nine suicide bombers here. And another security source that I spoke to, he's also
suggesting the terms of the Western analysis, they think an ISIS involvement or link, it's hard to tell how command and control structures
work in an organization that's been so heavily depleted as ISIS. They do believe some kind of ISIS involvement or link is highly likely at this
Now that's, of course, the assessment of intelligence agencies far away from the scene in Colombo, in Sri Lanka itself. But it points to the
increasing changing nature of the ISIS threat. In fact, one Western counterterrorism official yesterday was explaining to me, things have
changed an awful lot. Those nine men, for example, nine people you saw in that still photograph of the supposed ISIS-linked bombers in Sri Lanka,
before the blast.
Maybe they could have possibly met over social media. They could possibly have known each other from Iraq or Syria, if they were other there as part
of the so-called caliphate. The nature of the threat is changing a lot. The people, frankly, he may have struck up friendships or relationships in
that formerly held ISIS territory or elsewhere might potentially keep in touch and then perhaps return to their home country or elsewhere, that
could be the future sort of terror cell threat moving forward.
And that's I think the difficult nature of attributing responsibility of an attack like this to a group like ISIS. The former idea of a caliphate of
leadership, that's heavily shattered. The question now is what level of involvement does a group like ISIS have outside of it simply being the
twisted brand that attackers like this with a murderous intent choose to put on their act before they commit them -- Cyril.
[11:10:04] VANIER: Nick Paton Walsh reporting live from London. Thank you very much.
I want to bring in somebody who can tell us with the intelligence aspect of all of this in the investigation, former CIA operative Bob Baer. He's live
from Washington. Bob, first of all, we are getting day after day more and more indications that this was not just a Sri Lankan story as many people
had suspected, just based on the scale of these attacks, based on the coordination of attacks. There are more and more international aspects to
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, yes, exactly, Cyril. And you know, to have nine suicide bombers, to coordinate them, to
trap a safe house, in all these attacks, the fact that two suicide bombers were used at one hotel tells me there was some sort of training or guidance
I know this group was home grown. They may have done some training in Sri Lanka. But there's some sort of outside influence and it looks like the
Islamic state, at least based on the targets, the timing, Easter and the rest of it. I don't think this completely rose out of Sri Lankan soil.
That would be very odd.
VANIER: Sri Lankan authorities very early on in this process said we're going to get help, reach out for help for this investigation with foreign
countries and foreign intelligence services. How do you get everybody on the same page?
BAER: Well, Cyril, I think they already are. They're going to be getting into the metadata of these groups and find out --
VANIER: What I mean, is there any difficulty in getting the U.S., the U.K., possibly India, possibly other countries all sort of homing in on the
same things, that there's no overlap, no redundancies and that we're trying to get the results as fast as possible?
BAER: No, not at all, India is cooperating, the United States, the FBI is on the ground, the Central Intelligence Agency is working with Sri Lanka.
All the data that we have and Western Europe as well, is going to the Sri Lankans because there still threat there. And it's not only a threat
against Sri Lankans, it's against foreigners including Americans.
So you're going to see a lot of help. And frankly, this attack came out of nowhere. It surprised a lot of experts and a lot of people in the
VANIER: Yes, how do you explain that from a counterterrorism standpoint?
BAER: Because the Muslim community in Sri Lanka has not in any sense been oppressed or been active. I mean, in the past this group has defaced some
Buddhist statues, but the violence never. It's always been the Sinhalese Buddhists against the Tamil Hindus. The fact this group is radicalized
probably off the internet it looks like now, but it did come as a surprise.
VANIER: Yes, well there are parts of that Sri Lankan contacts that simply weren't on I think a global radar. I mean, there had been a radicalization
of some fringes of the Buddhist community in Sri Lanka in the years prior to this. But only now when we sort of connecting those dots.
What do you think of the ISIS claim of responsibility? Because that still doesn't tell us how much ISIS was involved, whether they were just an
influence or whether they were a direct organizer.
BAER: Well, right now if they're planning additional attacks in Sri Lanka. They're not going to put out all the details. But the fact that Mohammed
Zaharan was in that picture and the Islamic state had it with Islamic state flag behind him tells me they had some hand in this. And I go back to the
explosive and the detonators. You need somebody who knows, worked their way around explosives to plan and carry out an operation like this.
VANIER: Bob Baer, coming to us from Washington, thank you very much, we appreciate your insights.
Another important funeral was held today. This one in Northern Ireland. Lyra McKee, the freelance journalist shot to death while covering sectarian
violence last week was remembered as someone who broke down barriers and reached across boundaries. Among the mourners British Prime Minister
Theresa May, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, and Irish President, Michael Higgins.
Nic Robertson is at Saint Ann's Cathedral in Belfast. Nic, tell us about the funeral.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well Lyra McKee was remembered by her sister who spoke very eloquently saying that when she was
born and Lyra was the youngest of six children born 29 years ago, the 29th of March 1990, that when she was born, the family realized she was a gift
from God. What she said is that they hadn't realized was just how short they were going to get that gift.
But a friend that had spoken is a very unusual funeral service, not just because you had two Prime Ministers and a President there, but because
there was, you know, a real sense here of friends coming together. And that's what one of her friends said, that she would have been pleased to
see so many of her eclectic collection of friends there all gathered in the same place.
[11:15:00] But perhaps because you had those politicians and Northern Ireland's politicians as well of all political stripes here gathered
together, it was very poignant when the priest made what was a very strong and emotional pitch to those politicians. Essentially saying and quoting
at one point, one of Lyra's friends saying, that what the young people Lyra's generation in Northern Ireland need is not guns in the hands of
youngsters, but actually help getting jobs, help with education, help with the social services, all of these things. And at one point the priest's
speech literally brought people to their feet. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FATHER MARTIN MCGILL, CATHOLIC PRIEST: I command our political leaders for standing together on Creggan on Good Friday. I am, however, left with a
question. Why in God's name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: You get a sense of the frustration and anger to Lyra McKee's killing, but as somebody who was so inspirational, who could reach across
boundaries in this community, so many different boundaries, that she was killed. That somebody of the post peace agreement generation was killed
here, perhaps by people who were also of the post peace agreement generation. A worry for politicians and a chance today actually, things we
didn't expect to see at this funeral, the two Prime Ministers standing outside the funeral afterwards, side by side near Lyra McKee's family and
partner. Really if you will, looking the pain of that loss in the face. This is a rare thing for politicians to do and perhaps pondering the words
of a priest at the same time.
VANIER: Yes, Nic, you raise a great point that Lyra McKee was of the generation of the Good Friday Agreement. And that alone raises deeply
troubling questions going forward for Northern Ireland. Nic Robertson reporting live from Belfast, thank you very much.
Still to come on the show, North Korea's leader gets a military welcome in Russia. What he says he's going to discuss with President Vladimir Putin.
Stay with us.
[11:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VANIER: North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un has arrived in Vladivostok, Russia, for his summit with President Vladimir Putin. Russian television
showed him, showed Kim getting off the train that carried him from North Korea. The leaders will meet on Thursday. Kim says they will discuss ways
to resolve the situation on the Korean Peninsula, an apparent reference to stalled nuclear negotiations with the United States. Matthew Chance is at
the Vladivostok train station -- Matthew.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, thanks very much. Well it's just here behind me where Kim Jong-un got off that train
from Pyongyang just a few hours ago, made his way to where he'll be staying here somewhere in Vladivostok in the far east of Russia. It's not until
tomorrow though that the main event will take place and he'll be sitting down face-to-face for the first time with the Russian President Vladimir
CHANCE (voice-over): The North Korean leader arrived in Russia by train and was greeted with a traditional offering of bread and salt. This is Kim
Jong-un's first visit to Russia, something of which he said he'd long dreamed but only now got around to. That timing so soon after nuclear
talks with the U.S. broke down has not gone unnoticed.
His armored carriages then trundled on for another seven hours, eventually grinding to a standstill in the far Eastern city of Vladivostok and a
I hope this visit will be successful and useful, Kim told Russian state media. And that during the negotiations with esteemed President Putin we
can discuss resolving the situation on the Korean Peninsula and developing bilateral relations, he added.
The Kremlin says talks focused on the nuclear issue that had been scheduled for Thursday, but the exact itinerary remains shrouded in secrecy. Visits
to the theater, a food processing plant, even a zoo have been rumored. Amid tight security we were only permitted to view Kim Jong-un and his
arrival from a distance.
(on camera): Let's reiterate. This is an important visit for Kim Jong-un because he wants to show that he has basically he's not isolated
internationally, that he has powerful allies, not just China, but now Russian support as well. And he wants to send that message very much to
the U.S. President.
(voice-over): It was the failure of these much-touted nuclear talks between Kim Jong-un and President Trump in Vietnam in February that seems
to have given the Russian diplomatic effort new vigor. Moscow says it shares global concerns about Pyongyang's nuclear activity, but this is also
Russia's strong man President, Vladimir Putin, sensing an opportunity to assert himself once again on the international stage.
CHANCE: Already the Kremlin is attempting to manage expectations. They say although there will be a face-to-face meeting tomorrow between Putin
and Kim Jong-un, there will also be a dinner in the evening. There will be no joint press conference, not even a joint statement from the two leaders
VANIER: Matthew Chance reporting live from Vladivostok, Russia. You'll be covering that summit and that meeting for us. Thank you very much.
U.S. President Donald Trump talked to reporters at the White House before leaving for Atlanta with wife Melania for a conference on the opioid crisis
-- that's later today. He doubled down on his willingness to fight every Congressional subpoena after the release of the redacted Mueller report.
Here is what he had to say just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now we're finished with it. And I thought after two years we'd be finished with it. No. Now the House
goes and starts subpoenaing, they want to know every deal I've ever done. Now Mueller, I assume for $35 million checked my taxes, checked my
financials, which are great, by the way. You know they're great. All you have to do is go look at the records. They're all over the place. But
they checked my financials and they checked my taxes I assume. It was the most thorough investigation probably in the history of our country. Now
we're finished with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:25:00] VANIER: All right. Let's bring in Sarah Westwood. She's in Atlanta. The President is heading her way, our way, as we speak. So
Sarah, it's really quite remarkable, a week after the Mueller report detailed how the President tried to get in the way of the Russia
investigation at every turn, now he is trying to get in the way of Congress and Congress's multiple investigations.
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. President Trump making clear and saying explicitly what's been becoming more evidence that
the White House does plan to stonewall requests from Congressional Democrats. Sources had told CNN yesterday that the White House was
considering instructing White House Counsel Don McGahn not to comply with a subpoena if he were to testify, that perhaps exert executive privilege over
parts of his testimony.
The White House also instructed a former security official, Carl Klein, not to show up for a deposition with the House oversight committee. Because
the oversight committee had instructed Klein that he couldn't bring a White House counsel lawyer to sit with him for that deposition. So clearly the
White House doesn't plan to comply with these requests. It's clear their though process is that the White House has already complied extensively
with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Even though the investigators did find some evidence of obstruction and these
investigations in the eyes of the White House are more partisan and they plan to fight these requests for testimony and documents -- Cyril.
VANIER: All right, Sara Westwood reporting from Atlanta, Georgia. You'll have more from us throughout the day no doubt. Thank you very much.
And live from Atlanta, this is CONNECT THE WORLD.
Coming up. Boeing has released its first quarter earnings report. What the grounding of the 737 Max has done to the company's bottom line. When
we come back.
[11:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VANIER: You are watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Cyril Vanier. Welcome back.
All right, back to our top story now. We want to update you on the investigation into Sunday's deadly bombings in Sri Lanka. Here is what we
know so far.
A Presidential adviser tells CNN that authorities have identified the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks and we're told there are nine
suicide bombers that carried them out. One of them studied in England.
Sources also tell CNN that Indian intelligence sources warned Sri Lanka three times about possible terrorist attacks, but those warnings were not
heeded. And we're also learning that the terrorists have plans for a second wave of attacks across the country.
Now the grief is palpable throughout Sri Lanka as loved ones begin the grim task of burying the victims of Sunday's bombings. Will Ripley shows us the
sorrow in Colombo where the first funerals are being held.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this Central Colombo neighborhood, terror turns to grief. One by one, family members carry the
coffins of Anistie Napoleon, her husband, Prathap Kanagasabai, and the tiny caskets of their two daughters, 7-year-old Andreena and 1- year-old
The family didn't usually go to St. Anthony's. They decided to attend a special Easter mass, along with around 1,000 other people, including the
man who entered the sanctuary and blew himself up.
The clock on the church tower stopped at 8:45, the time the bomb went off. An act of brutality incomprehensible to Fazal Haniffa, a family friend and
FAZAL HANIFFA, FAMILY FRIEND OF BOMBING VICTIM: The children, small children, what do they know? I can't understand it. Are these people
humans? They are not human. They are animals.
RIPLEY: This family, like so many others, heard about the bombings on TV. They went to the hospital, the mortuary and finally the church. It was
there in the decimated sanctuary they found their loved ones in pieces.
FATHER JUDE FERNANDO, ADMINISTRATOR, ST. ANTHONY'S CHURCH: They're taking around 30 bodies from here and still they are searching, so 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
RIPLEY (on camera): There's so much raw emotion here, outside with one of the sisters, she was lying on the floor. She was sobbing. And she kept
saying, they need to catch the people who did this. They need to find them and they need to stop them before they do this to some other family.
RIPLEY (voice-over): 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.
VANIER: And other stories that are on our radar right now. More than 50 people have been killed in floods caused by heavy rain in South Africa.
Authorities say buildings, streets and walls have collapsed, destroying multiple homes in the area. The state-owned broadcaster puts the number of
people displaced at more than 1,000.
The Hong Kong court has jailed a prominent group of pro-democracy activists for their roles in the "Umbrella Movement" protests in 2014. The three
members of the so-called occupy central were each sentenced to up to 16 months in prison. Six others received lesser sentences. Amnesty
International is demanding the activists be released immediately.
And the President of the Philippines is threatening war with Canada over trash shipments. Roderigo Duterte says Canada must reclaim more than 2400
tons of trash delivered to Manila in 2013 and 2014. The garbage was labeled as plastics for recycling. But inspectors found that it could not
be recycled. Canadian officials say they're working on a solution.
After two deadly crashes involving Boeing's latest plane, the 737 Max, we're getting our first real look at how this is hitting Boeing's bottom
line. The American plane maker's earnings fell 21 percent during the first quarter.
[11:35:00] And Boeing said it can no longer stand behind its earlier profit forecast for the rest of the year. 737 Max airliners were grounded and
deliveries were halted after crashes in both Indonesia and Ethiopia. Boeing is still working on a software fix to resolve critical safety
questions. CNN business correspondent, Alison Kosik, joins us now. Alison, we're getting our first real look at how much this global disaster
has actually cost Boeing.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We certainly are, Cyril. We're also hearing from Boeing CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, who's actually on a
conference call right now with reporters and analysts. I had to leave the call to come talk with you.
What we've learned though is interesting because we heard Dennis Muilenburg say that executives really can't say when the grounding of the 737 Max will
end or when they'll be able to make deliveries again. One word stands out among all others during this crisis for Boeing, and that is uncertainty. I
just don't know at this point.
Now as far as when the plane will get back in the air, right now is it going through a process of certification. At least that's what the CEO
says. And that is sort of a process until regulators not just here in the U.S., but regulators around the world would be able to take a look at the
software fix that Boeing is in the middle of making and see if it's sufficient and can then deem the plane safe.
As far as the financial numbers go for what kind of hit that Boeing took, as far as the grounding of the 737 Max. Boeing is saying that it took a $1
billion hit, and that is because of all the work involving trying to come to some sort of solution to the problem. Its earnings fell 21 percent,
revenue coming in at 22.9 percent. You do see the stock up and that's because Boeing's earnings are meeting those lowered expectations. And keep
in mind earnings can wind up being a game where investors lower the expectations. So even if they come in really low, it's not such a huge
surprise -- Cyril.
VANIER: All Right, Alison, I'm glad you made that point. I want to make sure that everyone understands that the share price actually up slightly.
You saw it in the green. That is just relative to a very low expectations coming into this.
KOSIK: Yes. The stock has certainly taken a hit since the Max was grounded, but the stock is up for the year still.
VANIER: Alison Kosik, that is good background and frankly that is surprising. Not if you delve into the business aspect of this. Alison,
thank you so much.
KOSIK: You got it.
VANIER: Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD. The U.S. Navy is standing its ground with a new show of military might in the Mediterranean. And our
Fred Pleitgen gets exclusive access on the mission.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. military is extremely concerned about Russia's increasingly strong military
posture in this region. And with this deployment America is making clear to Moscow that it --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:40:00] VANIER: The U.N. human rights chief is condemning mass executions carried out across Saudi Arabia citing grave concerns that the
37 men put to death did not receive fair trials. Saudi officials say they were convicted of terror-related crimes. CNN's Arwa Damon is monitoring
this story from Istanbul -- Arwa.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Cyril. And as expected, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other organizations
really putting some very harsh statements regarding this. Especially given Saudi Arabia's track record when it comes to human rights violations. When
it comes to, as Amnesty International put it, sham trials, which is what it is saying is behind the vast majority of the way that these cases, these
men were executed were, in fact, carried out.
We understand from Amnesty International is that the vast majority of these men were members of Saudi Arabia's Shia minority. 11 of them convicted of
spying for Iran. Another around 14 or so of violence against the government that took place during antigovernment demonstrations in the
country's Eastern province back in 2011 and 2012.
And you know, Cyril, the families weren't notified ahead of time, at least not according to Amnesty International. So they weren't even able to say
goodbye to their loved ones. And Amnesty is really saying these sham trials have violated international fair trial standards and these trials
relied on confessions that were extracted through torture.
Now one of those who was convicted and executed is a young man who was detained when he was just 16 years old. And then there is one of these
other men who was also executed, now his case was one that the U.N. was also looking into back during a report that it was doing back in 2017. And
back then the Saudi government had told the U.N. that this man had, in fact, received a sentence of eight years. And following all of this,
Cyril, the Saudi government actually displayed one of the corpses of those it had executed in public as a warning, a deterrent to the rest of the
population it would seem.
VANIER: Arwa Damon reporting live from Istanbul. Thank you so much for those details. You mentioned Amnesty International. Let's get to them.
They're slamming the executions calling it a gruesome indication of how Saudi Arabia uses the death penalty to crush dissent. Philip Luther is
with us. He's Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director. You say the trials were grossly unfair. Tell us a bit more
PHILIP LUTHER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Thank you. The trials were unfair in a way that is all too common in Saudi Arabia. First of all, many of
those who were executed were held for several months in incommunicado detention, so completely isolated from the rest of the world, from any
lawyer or their family after they were arrested.
Secondly as has been mentioned in quite a number of cases, there are reports of torture, other or treatment. So during interrogations according
to our information, a number of those executed were beaten and then forced to confess to the crimes that for which they were then executed.
VANIER: Are you saying then that the men may not have committed the crimes for which they were convicted?
LUTHER: We don't know is the short answer. Certainly that question is always posed in a situation where the key piece of evidence is a confession
which is tainted. And it's tainted because there's a torture allegation. And in the cases where there were allegations of torture, the men told the
court that they were tortured, but the court didn't then proceed to an investigation. So that's another damming indictment of the justice system
in these cases.
VANIER: One of the young men who was executed was a teenager, 16 years old, as Arwa told us, at the time of the alleged crimes. And his alleged
crime was to have participated in antigovernment demonstrations. Tell us a little more about him.
LUTHER: This is the case of Abdel Karim al-Tuwaijri. He was just 16 we understand when he was arrested. He was arrested after taking part in
demonstrations in the Eastern province, a Shia majority province of Saudi Arabia.
[11:45:00] And he was convicted of taking part in illegal gatherings, of taking part in riots and of having thrown Molotov cocktails.
Unlike other individuals who were accused individually of having been involved in the killing of security force personnel, because there was,
indeed, violence by demonstrators in some of these demonstrations. We're certainly not saying there wasn't. But he was not. And so it's a
particularly shocking case. Because he was then held for five months without access to a lawyer or family. He reports he was beaten. He told
the court that, and forced to confess, and has been executed for a crime that took place -- if we believe it took place at all -- when he was only
16. And that's just flouts international law completely.
VANIER: I was going to point that out to our viewers. And you put that in your communique about this, that this is totally illegal in the eyes of
international law, to apply the death penalty, execute somebody who was below the age of 18 at the time the crime was allegedly committed. Is this
a message by Saudi Arabia? I should point out, also, most of the men who were executed were of the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia. Do you feel that
Saudi is sending a message?
LUTHER: That's what it looks like. Certainly according to our information at least 26 of the 37 individuals executed were from the Shia minority.
They were convicted of crimes related to their participation in demonstrations against the authorities. These demonstrations took place in
2011, 2012, the time of uprisings in the rest of the Middle East and North Africa region, accused of spying in some cases, 11 cases of spying for
There are others. The other 11, some of whom are certainly Sunni or from the Sunni majority, where the cases looked like more as it were classic
national security terrorism-related cases according to the authorities. But this appears given the numbers of individuals from the Shia minority
involved, looks to be sending a message that -- particularly with the one that was only 16 when arrested, are sending a message that this is the
price you pay for demonstrating or challenging a rule and particularly if you're there to do so, in a violent way.
VANIER: Yes, and I want to remind our viewers, also, that this is not a one-off. There are executions regularly in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty numbers
say that there have been 104 executions so far this year. 149 just last year. Philip Luther, thank you so much for joining us today.
LUTHER: Pleasure, thank you.
VANIER: You can call it diplomacy or deterrence. The U.S. Navy is beefing up its presence in a potential hot spot with Russia. In this CNN
exclusive, Frederick Pleitgen gives us an up-close look at a rare show of force in the Mediterranean.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An exclusive look as the U.S. military sends a message of deterrence to
Russia, moving two aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean and, in[11:50:00] a rare move, bringing America's ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, on
board, a clear signal to Russia.
JON HUNTSMAN, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: When you have 200,000 tons of diplomacy that is cruising in the Mediterranean, this is what I call
diplomacy. This is forward-deployed diplomacy. Nothing else needs to be said. You have all the confidence you need when you sit down and you try
to find solutions to the problems that have divided us now for many, many years.
PLEITGEN: CNN was on board as the USS Abraham Lincoln and the John C. Stennis are going to conduct operations on a scale unseen here since 2016.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN WADE, U.S. NAVY: Our senior leadership has mandated that our Navy become more lethal, more tactically proficient. It's very
important in the era of competition that we're in.
PLEITGEN: All this in an area where Russia is trying to expand its influence, deploying more war ships and submarines with cruise missiles.
(on camera): The U.S. military is extremely concerned about Russia's increasingly strong military posture in this region. And with this
deployment, America is making clear to Moscow that it --
(voice-over): Even as President Trump's associates claim there was nothing wrong with his campaign seeking information stolen by Russian military
intelligence in the run-up to the 2016 election, the U.S. Navy is also assuring America's allies that it won't waver on commitments to protect
against Russian aggression.
A Spanish ship even sailing as part of the carrier strike group.
ADMIRAL JAMES FOGGO, U.S. NAVY: We're not going to be deterred by any potential adversary, and we are going to support our interests as Americans
and also those of our allies as we stand throughout the world.
[11:50:00] PLEITGEN: With Russia increasingly assertive in the entire Northern Atlantic and Arctic region, the U.S. Navy is putting on its own
show of force for the Kremlin to clearly see.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Mediterranean Sea.
VANIER: This is CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up. We know what it sounds like when the earth shakes. But what kind of noise would a quake on mars
make? Will actually NASA has found out. We'll have that for you next.
VANIER: In Sudan demands for a transfer of power to civilian rule are growing louder. Protest leaders tell "Agence France-Presse" that they want
1 million people to march on Thursday, follows a breakdown in talks for the military transitional council that took power after the ouster of Sudan's
The head of the Council spoke with our Nima Elbagir about what comes next.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You ask 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 coup. Why? What drove you to be part of this?
ABDEL FATTAH AL-BURHAN, HEAD OF SUDAN'S MILITARY TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL (through translator): I am not having 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 are taking the side of the
ELBAGIR: And when the public wants you to go, will you go?
AL-BURHAN (through translator): Straight away.
ELBAGIR: What about the protesters themselves? Will you allow them to continue to occupying the space that they're occupying in front of the
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
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 no 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 in security matters.
ELBAGIR: We know that a process has begun to prosecute former President Omar al-Bashir for financial malpractice. But of course, there are bigger
allegations and bigger concerns. For example, the crimes that were committed in Darfur, the deaths of the protesters. What are you going to
do to make sure he faces justice for that?
AL-BURHAN (through translator): In Sudan, we have an effective, authoritative judicial system. They will take care of prosecuting him for
the allegations against him.
ELBAGIR: Do you expect he will be facing charges for crimes against humanity for what happened in Darfur here in Sudan?
[11:55:00] AL-BURHAN (through translator): He will face trial for all the allegations against him.
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.
VANIER: And in tonight's "Parting Shots," for the first-time scientists are able to hear what a quake on Mars sounds like. NASA's insight lander
has recorded and measured what scientists believe to be a Mars quake. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(RECORDING OF NASA'S FIRST QUAKE ON MARS)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: Some heavy stuff there. The insight team believes that rumbling noise came from inside the planet. Scientists are still studying the
recordings, obviously. One researcher says it's exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active.
I'm Cyril Vanier. This has been CONNECT THE WORLD. "THE EXPRESS" is next with Zain Asher.