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Al-Qaeda Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri Killed In U.S. Drone Strike; Pelosi Expected To Visit Taiwan; UN Warns That Danger of Global Disaster Is Rising; First Ship Carrying Grain Leaves Odesa In Deal To Ease Global Food Crisis. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 02, 2022 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, this is CNN Newsroom. Ahead this hour, hiding in plain sight, the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks and leader of al Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri is dead. Killed by two U.S. missiles targeted his home in downtown Kabul.

Nancy Pelosi is not so mystery tour of Asia, the Speaker of U.S. House expected to arrive at Taiwan soon. Cue the outrage from Beijing soon after that.

With water still rising and more rain on the way, officials warned the worst is yet to come. But Kentucky's deadly flood emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with John Vause.

VAUSE: Might just be where Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed and not just his death alone that will ultimately be of much greater consequence.

Over the weekend after months of surveillance and planning, U.S. intelligence was able to say with certainty that al-Zawahiri was standing on the balcony of his safe house in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, on the order of the U.S. president, a drone via two bonafide Hellfire missiles, hitting the balcony and killing Zawahiri.

One U.S. official confirms Taliban leaders knew where he was living with his family, and after the strike, tried to hide the evidence. Al- Zawahiri was considered the ideologue of the al Qaeda movement deputy to Osama bin Laden, and when he was killed by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011, al-Zawahiri became leader.

He was described as the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks was heavily involved in the planning of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. U.S. President Joe Biden was first briefed on al- Zawahiri location in April, and then spent months with Cabinet members and advisors planning this strike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.


VAUSE: In a moment, we'll hear from CNN's Alex Marquardt, the details on the operation but we begin with MJ Lee reporting in from the White House.


MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): A significant announcement from President Biden on Monday night that a U.S. airstrike in Kabul on Saturday had taken out al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri, of course, became the leader of al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden's death more than 10 years ago and is seen as one of the masterminds of the September 11 attack here in the US.

Now what we're told is that earlier this year, U.S. intelligence had gathered that he was in a safe house in Kabul, and that U.S. intelligence officials had spent months gathering information about his whereabouts, about his pattern of life, and had kept President Biden informed as he ultimately last week made the final decision to go ahead with this airstrike.

Now, the president indicating in a speech to the nation, that this is something that will hopefully give a little bit of closure to the families and victims of the September 11 attacks. But he said in his remarks to the nation that justice has been delivered.

BIDEN: Now, Justice has been delivered. And this terrorist leader is no more. People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer. United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm.

LEE: Now, this news, of course, comes about a year after the United States pulled out all of its forces from Afghanistan, a process that ultimately ended up being chaotic, and it ended up also being bloody at the time, the President himself said that the U.S. was going to continue fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, but that it doesn't have to be a ground war. He said at the time that it could be via over the horizon capabilities.

Now, we saw the President speak behind the podium outside at the Blue Room balcony. This, of course, is because the President is continuing to isolate after a rebound case of COVID. There's no question that this is going to go down as one of the most significant moments of President Biden's presidency so far. MJ Lee, CNN, the White House.


(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The U.S. operation that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri was months in the making the White House says going back to before April when President Joe Biden was first briefed on Zawahiri living in a safe house in the Afghan capital Kabul.


He was living there with his wife, his daughter and his grandchildren, the administration says, and while Zawahiri never left the house, the family was tracked and patterns were established. Now the women used terrorist tradecraft to avoid being tracked, a senior administration official said, and senior Taliban leaders were actually aware of Zawahiri living in that house in Kabul.

Now, Zawahiri himself would often go out onto the balcony of that house, and that's where he was killed early Sunday morning, Kabul time, by a drone that fired two Hellfire missiles.

The White House says they are confident that only the al Qaeda leader himself was killed not his family members and top White House officials said that President Joe Biden repeatedly asked during the planning process, how other casualties would be avoided.

In fact, a model of Zawahiri's house was even built and then brought to the Situation Room at the White House for Biden to inspect as the strength of the building was being assessed and discussed. Then on July 25, when President Biden was still recovering from COVID, he held a final briefing with his national security team and gave the green light. The strike took place five days later, and it took out a man with a $25 million bounty on his head.

This strike now being held up as an example by the White House of so called over the horizon capabilities to kill arguably the most elusive terrorist in the world, despite not having American military and intelligence assets on the ground following last year's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have welcomed the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri. In a statement, Majority Leader of the Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer wrote this, hats off to President Biden for this decisive action that brings final justice to a lonesome mass murderer. America has taken Ayman al-Zawahiri the ruthless leader of al Qaeda and perpetrated behind the 9/11 attacks off the battlefield.

Adam Kinzinger, a Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he told CNN Wolf Blitzer, al-Zawahiri's death is a blow to al Qaeda.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): If you imagine kind of a fighter on the ropes, this was a massive blow and knocked that fighter down. That's what happens when you lose your spiritual leader. We know that's what happened when Osama bin Laden died. A, we got a lot of intel from that. But it also was a gut punch to al Qaeda.

But that doesn't mean they're done. There will be somebody to come and replace him. He may have already had a successor he was grooming and their desire to kill us simply because of who we are has not changed.


VAUSE: Live out of Portland, Oregon, former CIA Covert Operations Officer Mike Baker. He's now CEO of the Portman Square Group which advises on global intelligence, security and risk management. Welcome to the show.


VAUSE: OK, so the U.S. president was fairly brief announcing that Zawahiri was dead. But he did make this point. This is the President. Here he is.


BIDEN: This mission was carefully planned, rigorously minimize the risk of harm to other civilians. And one week ago, after being advised the conditions were optimal. I gave the final approval to go get him. And the mission was a success. None of his family members were hurt. And there were no civilian casualties.


VAUSE: Are they confident that because Zawahiri was killed by these are 9x modified Hellfire missiles, which don't carry explosive warheads, but at the last moment, extended razor sharp blades, I mean, this sounds like something out of a James Bond movie, it sounds incredibly painful as well. So what do we know about these missiles and how they work?

BAKER: Yes, well, some of this is obviously for, you know, reasons of classification. You don't talk about necessarily some of the details, but what he's referring to, in terms of the work that goes into this, so they identify the location, that's obviously the holy grail you find. And then the identifying the location of Zawahiri in Kabul could have come from a multitude of sources, it could have come from communications intercepts, it could have come from someone as odd as it sounds from within the Taliban, it could have come from a liaison partner. It is a range of ways that this information gets to us.

But then what you have to do is you have to establish a routine. And that requires the sort of a very heavy lift and ability to basically watch the target over a period of time and identify this pattern of activity that then gives you at a certain point, that opportunity and then window of opportunity to be very small, but it tells you when you've got the opportunity to take the target with minimal collateral damage.

And so that's -- it's hats off to the Biden ministration, give them credit. It was a very important day to take al-Zawahiri off the board.


I would not argue that it's a deathblow to al Qaeda. They tend to have a almost bottomless well of potential candidates to rise up through the ranks. So I disagree with this notion that the fighters on the ropes, we always want to talk about that we take out one of their personnel or particularly one of their leaders. But it's an important day.

VAUSE: You talked about getting the location was the crucial part in all of this. And the U.S. did receive intelligence that he was in Kabul, he was living there with his family, multiple independent sources provided information about his daily routine. And there's this reporting from Reuters, officials investigated the construction and nature of the safe house and scrutinized its occupants to ensure the United States could confidently conduct an operation to kill Zawahiri without threatening the structural integrity of the building, minimizing the risk to civilians and l-Zawahiri's family.

There is an incredible amount of information, which has been gathered all this and this was done after the U.S. withdrawal. (INAUDIBLE) many said would not be possible.

BAKER: Yes, a lot was made of this idea that we're incapable of conducting a strike like this or other operations in Afghanistan after the withdrawal. And I was never a buyer, that concept, we can multitask very well. Now, it's a layered process. And by that I mean that this -- they talk about this over the horizon capability. It's not always going to work.

So but we do have the ability when the target is right, when the intelligence is right, we do have the ability to strike without, again, a military force on the ground. It's -- but it's -- it's kind of -- it's dependent on the particular operation.

So, you know, nobody shouldn't be out there saying, Well, we have the overriding capability, we're always going to be able to do this. No, sometimes we can, sometimes we won't be able to.

VAUSE: It's an imperfect science, I guess, if you like.

BAKER: It is. Absolutely.

VAUSE: I think he's living in Kabul. And the Taliban knew about it. Since they love they promise they made that they would no longer partner with terror groups, I think they don't even consider al Qaeda, the terror group actually.

BAKER: Yes, I wouldn't take any promise from Taliban for anything. So I don't read much into that. It's no surprise whatsoever that they would allow Zawahiri reside there with his family. It's much like the Pakistani ISI, allowing Bin Laden to live with his family and about (INAUDIBLE).

We deal in an imperfect world. We have relations with allies and partners that, you know, are sometimes imperfect. And the Saudis, it's a good example. But you have to be pragmatic about this. And every nation acts in its own best interests. The U.S. needs to do the same in terms of our dealings with various elements around the world.

The Taliban, we know what they're like. I don't think anybody within the intel community or military, you know, took their claims to not deal with terrorists seriously when they made them. And, you know, it. -- it's a very complex environment.

So again, there could have been a leak of information or some cooperative asset and could have come out of a myriad of groups, including Taliban, possibly ISIS. It's, at this point, a lot of its speculation as to where we got that targeting information. But the important part is that we got it. And then the administration, Biden administration followed through on it.

VAUSE: Just very quickly, this reaction from survivors of 9/11, in order to achieve full accountability for the murder of thousands on September 11, 2001, President Biden must also hold responsible the Saudi paymasters who bankrolled the attacks, financier is not being targeted by drones. They're being met with fist pumps and hosted the golf clubs.

You know, it's one thing to fire a missile from a drone, it's something altogether to confront the Saudi royal family. In fact, the United States government's doing the complete opposite of (INAUDIBLE). They've been covering up the role the Saudis played.

BAKER: Yes, again, I going back to what I said before, I mean, I know there's a lot of frustration at times, particularly obviously with, you know, families of victims of 9/11 when it comes to a relationship with the Saudis. The reality is every administration has struggled with that relationship going back for decades. And it's, you know, you can have the world that you'd love to have. And then you have a world that we actually live in. And you end up doing business, oftentimes with countries that don't align themselves with your same ideals. But we live in the real world, not the world that we would sometimes like to have.

VAUSE: Yes. Is that picking the least bad option I think at the end of the day, and that's what happens all the time.


VAUSE: Mike, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

BAKER: Sure, take care.

VAUSE: Now a statement from Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry which welcomed the death of al Qaeda's leader and added al-Zawahiri planned terrorist operations that killed thousands of innocent people including Saudis.


Now, it seems to be a question of when not if U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, her tour of Asia began Monday in Singapore. Assuming Pelosi does visit Taiwan, she'll be the first U.S. House Speaker to do so in 25 years. The last one was Newt Gingrich. Biden administration officials stress it does not make a shift in U.S. policy towards Taiwan or Mainland China.


JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR: It is very much in keeping with our policy and inconsistent with our support to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act. We're not -- we shouldn't be as a country, we shouldn't be intimidated by that rhetoric, or those potential actions. This is an important trip for the speaker to be on and we're going to do whatever we can to support her.


VAUSE: CNN's Selina Wang has the view from Beijing.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Destroyers open fire, missiles launch, warships shoot into the sea. It's a show of force ahead of China's military anniversary training for war in the east China and yellow seas. Soldiers also recently ran drills around Pingtan Island, China's closest point to Taiwan just over 77 miles away, renewing fears of a cross strait crisis.

Triggered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's possible trip to the island. She's already in Asia and released an itinerary with no mention of Taiwan. But Taiwanese and U.S. officials have told CNN she's expected to visit Taiwan this week and stay overnight.

In a call with President Joe Biden last week, Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned those who play with fire will perish by it. A prominent hawkish voice in China even suggested that if U.S. fighter jets escort Pelosi is playing into Taiwan, China's military should forcibly dispel Pelosi's plain ineffective, then shoot them down. The tweet has now been banned.

He doesn't represent the official government stance, but state media has been promoting his threat. It's not just that Pelosi would be the most powerful U.S. official to visit in 25 years, but Beijing also sees her as a hostile figure. She's been a staunch critic of China for decades. In 1991, two years after China's military brutally crackdown on student protesters around Tiananmen Square, Pelosi traveled there and held a banner that read to those who died for democracy in China.

U.S. President Joe Biden has raised concerns over Pelosi's trip.

BIDEN: The military thinks is not a good idea right now.

WANG: This Chinese state media video says Pelosi is only going to Taiwan to boost her political career, and that America's fragmented government cannot agree on what to do about Taiwan. Neither side can afford to look weak. If Pelosi doesn't go, it could look like the U.S. is caving to China's bullying, where Xi Jinping is just months away from a key political meeting, where he's expected to seek an unprecedented third term. SUSAN SHIRK, 21ST CENTURY CHINA CENTER: Given the overreaching that Xi Jinping has been doing, I don't believe we can count on his good judgment.

WANG: For now, he's keeping the world guessing as to whether the threats are just bluffing. Or if Beijing is actually ready for a crisis that could escalate into a war that no one wants. Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


VAUSE: A short break. But when we come back, UN warring with every global crisis from COVID to climate, the world is one step closer to nuclear disaster. We'll explain how in a moment. Also, a glimmer of hope of the high seas, first grain ship leaves port in Ukraine under a deal broken to ease the world's food crisis.



VAUSE: A grim warning from the UN Secretary General rising global tensions could lead to a nuclear disaster. Antonio Guterres delivered that warning and a nuclear treaty conference Monday. He said the pandemic, climate change, human rights violations, economic instability or contributing to growing distrust around the world, along with the war in Ukraine and tensions in on the Korean peninsula. Guterres says the world is just one misunderstanding away from calamity.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UN SECRETARY-GENERAL: The clouds that parted following the end of the Cold War are gathering once more. We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. Nor is it the shields from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflicts. Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding when miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.


VAUSE: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accuses Russia of being part of that nuclear threat. Speaking at the same conference, we can call on Moscow to live up to its obligations under the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. And he said Russia's use of Ukrainian nuclear power plants as a military base in quote, the notion of having a human shield to an entirely different and horrific level. Here's the Secretary of State, Monday.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It's engaged in reckless, dangerous nuclear saber rattling with his President warning that those supporting Ukraine's self-defense, quote, risk consequences such as you have never seen in your entire history, end quote.


VAUSE: Ukraine officials announced on Monday that heavy weapons from United States and Germany have arrived. Hours after that, the White House promised additional ammunition as part of a $550 million aid package.

Meantime, Russia keeping up its relentless attacks in the south and east. Local officials in the city of Mykolaiv say Russian shelling hit several civilian buildings and destroyed a hospital trauma center. To the east, Ukraine says its troops are still holding off Russian advances in the Donetsk region out of Moscow is pushed to seize the wider Donbas.

But those efforts make it more difficult with Ukrainian counter attacks forcing Russia to shift focus to the south. Ukrainian says Russia is sending more forces to bolster its southern positions and at least some of those troops are coming from the Donbas region.

As the fighting grinds on, there is a glimmer of hope for easing the global food crisis, which was sparked by Russia's war. For the first time since the invasion, ship carrying Ukrainian grain left the port of Odesa on the Black Sea and it's now headed to Lebanon. Ukraine's President welcomed the news. It says it's too early to celebrate. CNN's Eleni Giokos has more.


ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After weeks of negotiations, the first ship leaves port in Ukraine, a slow sail and only a drop in the ocean to alleviate the grain crisis. The Razoni carrying corn expected to arrive in Istanbul on Tuesday for inspection set up by grain deal between Russia and Ukraine.

Before setting sail to Lebanon, Tripoli ports, the UN a broker of the grain deal inked in Istanbul welcome the development. Turkey who spearheaded the negotiations and now hosts the Joint Coordination Center says more ships to depart soon.

The shipment is very positive, according to the Kremlin spokesman, while the U.S. Embassy struck a more cautious note about the deals future.

The agreement remains shaky, with Russia hitting the Odesa port just after the signing last week. The first ship has left the port. But the success of the deal and ending global grain shortages will depend on whether or not the grains precious transport, keep sailing. Eleni Giokos, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


VAUSE: Matthew Schmidt is an expert on strategic analysis of foreign affairs as well as defense and intelligence issues. He's an associate professor of National Security and Political Science at the University of New Haven. Welcome to the show.



VAUSE: OK, for the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a ship loaded with grain was safely left the port Odesa, it is a slow and dangerous journey to reach open waters. Here's the ship's engineer.


ABDULLAH JENDI, RAZONI CARGO SHIP JUNIOR ENGINEER (through translator): To be honest, I'm scared by the fact that there are naval mines, waiting around two to three hours to exit Ukrainian waters. We hope that nothing will happen, that will not be any mistakes. That's the only thing I fear during this trip. As for the other things, we're used to them as sailors.


VAUSE: Right now Ukrainian officials say 16 warships are waiting to leave. But just getting the cargo takes out of the area takes a lot of risks. And there's also the issue of maritime insurance. So, there are factors here beyond the wall, like just actually getting a harvest in wetsuit in the middle of an active war zone.

SCHMIDT: That's right, insurance is difficult to get because of course you're going through a minefield. I'm unclear as to who is providing the insurance for Ukrainian flagships. So that's an interesting question to find out either from the Ukrainian government or from Lloyds in London, and if the UK is allowing that to happen if Lloyds is underwriting at a reasonable price.

Secondly, like you've heard, you've got 16 ships backed up, and this is going to take two or three times longer than normal to move the ships out through those minefields. But I think the thing you brought up, that's even more important is how to get the grain to the ships. And I grew up in a wheat farm in the middle of America. And I can tell you, it's not easy. You got a situation here where you have low yields in the harvest this year, because of the heatwave across Europe. You have unexploded ordnance in fields all over the country. So farmers are worried about getting into those fields to try to harvest.

You have a situation where Russian troops have either stolen equipment outright, or have sabotaged it, because they don't want to leave tractors and combine harvesters around that can operate because they can be used as tanks.

And then on top of all of that, you've got the rainy season coming. And you have a question of thunderstorms, flooding fields and making it hard for you to get a harvest rain without getting stuck. When you put all of that together, John, you're talking something like 50 percent of your normal yield might get out.

VAUSE: And then there's a deal which is making this happen, the deal which was brokered by the UN in Turkey, between your Moscow and Kyiv. If it holds, and it's a guarantee that it will, but it's raising hopes that there will be an easing of this world food shortage. I want you listen to the Ukrainian president.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): As of now it is too early to make any conclusions and predict future events. But the court has commenced working export movement has started. And this can be called the first positive sign that there is a chance to stop the development of the food crisis in the world.


VAUSE: So even if everything goes right, is Ukrainian grain shipments alone, will they be enough to make much of a dent in the food crisis?

SCHMIDT: So it's not so much about the Ukrainian grain getting out to market. So in the U.S. we've had good yields, and we're putting more out sort of cover this, it's about prices being the right price to feed the part of the world in North Africa and the Middle East that needs it.

Prices have already dropped. They're down to about $8 a bushel on the U.S. Chicago market right now. That's well down from what it was just a few months ago. The question is, is if it stays there. So if a ship strikes a mine, for instance, you're going to see those prices skyrocket back up, and then we're back to where we were before.

And I think the real thing to keep in mind here is there's about a 40 million tons shortfall of we're looking at this year in wheat worldwide. You might fill 20 or 30 million tons, but you're almost certainly going to continue to have a shortfall. And that shortfall will be drawn out over the course of the rest of this year because of what you're looking at to ship this out of Ukraine and Russia.

And one more thing is that this is a long term problem for Ukraine, because Ukraine also needs fertilizer coming in to fertilize and plant in August and September for next year's crop. And they're not getting that because much of that comes from Russia.

VAUSE: Also over the weekend came word for the man known as Ukraine's grain tycoon, Oleksiy Vadatursky was killed alongside his wife by a Russian missile strike on his home. Suddenly this was a targeted killing. If that is the case, why?

SCHMIDT: Running a market, creating a market is a complex thing figuring out how to set up local silos, right, local -- we call the U.S. cooperatives, to pull grain from individual farmers together and then to market those grains in larger quantities, better for the farmers, you know, better for the country to get more grain out more efficiently you need storage to do it. This is something you don't want every farmer to do themselves. You want to pull this grain together. All of this takes a lot of skill, right? It's a specialty.


Losing the man who ran the company that was essentially setting up a modern grain market for Ukraine is a massive loss in the long term for the country.

And it's my belief that this is most likely a targeted killing. He wasn't killed in his office, right. He was killed at home. There's no obvious military value -- obviously military value except for what he does as a green merchant. It's hard.

VAUSE: That's an interesting point finish on. Matthew, thank you for being with us. Matthew Schmidt there, expert on (INAUDIBLE) foreign affairs.

SCHMIDT: Thank you.

More than 20 years after 9/11 and the so-called mastermind behind the attack is dead. Ayman al-Zawahiri killed by two U.S. missiles. The most wanted man in the world is now no more.


VAUSE: Welcome back everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

We're following a major story out of Afghanistan where a U.S. drone strike has killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri Sunday morning, local time at his safehouse in Kabul.

A U.S. official says Taliban leaders knew al-Zawahiri was living in the area, even tried to hide his presence after the strike.

Ayman al-Zawahiri was 71 years old. He came from a distinguished Egyptian family. And for many years was Osama bin Laden's closest adviser and deputy.

After bin Laden was killed in 2011, al-Zawahiri became the leader of al Qaeda. He was also a trained doctor, once bin Laden's personal physician. Al Zawahiri was also said to be the ideological driving force behind al Qaeda. And is believed to have played an important role in planning the 9/11 attacks in fact, he was the mastermind, some say. He was indicted in the U.S. for alleged roles in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Africa.

He was on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list with a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture.

President Joe Biden says al-Zawahiri was killed in a precision strike, the result of the extraordinary persistence of America's intelligence community.

And just like Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump behind before him, Biden addressed the nation on Monday announcing the killing of a major terror leader.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Justice has been delivered. And this terrorist leader is no more. People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer. The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our

capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. We make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.


BIDEN: After relentlessly seeking al-Zawahiri for years under Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump, our intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year. He'd moved to downtown Kabul to reunited with members of his immediate family. After carefully considering a clear and convincing evidence of his location, I authorized a precision strike that will remove him from the battlefield once and for all.

This mission was carefully planned to rigorously minimized the risk of harm to other civilians. And one week ago after being advised that the conditions were optimal I gave the final approval to go get him, and the mission was a success.

None of his family members were hurt. There were no civilian casualties. I'm sharing this news with the American people now after confirming the mission's total success through the painstaking work of our counter-terrorism community and key allies and partners.

My administration has kept congressional leaders informed as well. When I ended our military mission in Afghanistan almost a year ago, I made the decision that after 20 years of war the United States no longer needed thousands of American boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm.

And I made a promise to the American people that we continue to conduct effective counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We have done just that.

In February our forces conducted a daring mission in Syria that eliminated the emir of ISIS. Last month we took out another key ISIS leader.

Now we have eliminated the Emir of al Qaeda. We will never again -- never again allow Afghanistan to become a terrorist safe haven because he is gone and we are going to make sure that nothing else happens.

You know, they can't be a launching pad against the United States. We're going to see to it that won't happen.

This operation is a clear demonstration that we will, we can and will always make good on the solemn pledge. My administration will continue to vigilantly monitor and address threats from al Qaeda, no matter where they emanate from.

As commander-in-chief, it is my solemn responsibility to make America safe in a dangerous world. The United States did not seek this war against terror, it came to us and we answered with same principles of resolve that have shaped us for a generation upon generation. To protect the innocent, defend liberty and we keep the light of freedom burning a beacon for the rest of the entire world because this is a great and defining truth about our nation and our people. We do not break. We never give in. We never back down.

Last year on September 11th, I once more paid my respects to Ground Zero in New York City at that quiet building (INAUDIBLE) at the Pentagon and at the Pentagon. Standing at the memorial at Ground Zero, seeing the names of those who died forever etched in bronze is a powerful reminder of the sacred promise we made as a nation.

We will never forget. I will also borrow the quotation from Virgil. No day shall erase you from the memory of time. No day shall erase you from the memory of time.

So we continue to mourn every innocent life that was stolen on 9/11. In honor of their memories, to the families who lost fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and coworkers on that searing (ph) September day. It is my hope that this decisive action will bring one more measure of closure.

No day shall erase them from the memory of time. Today and every day. I am so grateful for the superb patriots who serve the United States intelligence community and counterterrorism community. They never forget.

Those dedicated women and men who tirelessly work every single day to keep our country safe to prevent future tragedies. It's thanks to their extraordinary persistence and skill that this operation was a success. It made us all safer.

To those around the world who continue to seek to harm the United States hear me now. We will always remain vigilant and we will act and we will always do what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe.

Today we remember the loss. We commit ourselves to the safety of the living. And we pledge that we shall never waver from defending our nation and its people.


BIDEN: Thank you all, may God protect our troops and all those who serve in harm's way. We will never -- we will never give up.


VAUSE: Still to come here on CNN. Sudan's military rulers on the hunt for those who talked to CNN about our exclusive report on Russia plundering the African nation's gold supply.

Also ahead, why growing protests between two Shiite groups threaten to escalate tensions and push Iraq deeper into political crisis.


VAUSE: In Italy, growing outrage after onlookers just watched as a Nigerian man was killed in broad daylight. The 39-year old street vendor was chased and fatally attacked last Friday. The alleged assailant apparently also stole the victim's mobile phone.

Bystanders captured the incident on video but take a look, nobody is seen actually intervening or anything. The victim's widow says she wants justice.


CHARITY ORIACHI, VICTIM'S WIFE: I need justice for my husband. (INAUDIBLE) you help me. I need justice for my husband. That is what I want. I need justice. It's too much. The pain is too much. The pain is too much for me. I need justice.


VAUSE: Police have told CNN the killing was now racially motivated. The 32-year-old Italian man has been arrested for murder and robbery. One of his lawyers tells CNN that his client has psychiatric issues and they intend to file a psychiatric report.

A manhunt is under way in Sudan for anyone suspected of talking to CNN for our report on Russia plundering Sudan's gold. CNN sources say relatives of those suspected of providing information to us have been threatened by military officials.

Meantime protesters are calling for a return to civilian rule as well as prosecution of Sudan's military ruler for corruption.

CNN's Nima Elbagir is following all of these developments.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: The ramifications in the aftermath of our CNN investigation into the exploitation of Sudan's gold by Russia with the complicity of Sudan's generals continue.

While,. of course, the pro-democracy movement has been incredibly active in Sudan and activists have taken risks week after week on Sudan streets calling for a return to civilian rule.

There seem to be from what sources on the ground are telling us renewed vigor in protests that were called in the aftermath of our investigation, specifically called activists say the revolutionary committees organizing the demonstrations say to demonstrate against the military rulers and what they called their corruption calling for a prosecution for rulers.

We're also incredibly concerned to have heard from many of our sources on the ground, that those suspected of having spoken to CNN of having contributed to our investigation are now being targeted.

One source says that this is proof that the generals are scared and they say that they will persevere, continuing to call for change, and also continuing to call for accountability.

Nima Elbagir, CNN -- London.



VAUSE: CNN has repeatedly reached out to Sudan's military rulers for comment but we are yet to receive response.

A rift tearing apart Iraq's Shia Muslims was on full display in Baghdad, Monday. These protesters backed by the pro-Iranian factions rallied against the occupation of parliament by supporters of the powerful cleric Muqtada Al Sadr.

This as the outgoing prime minister calls for talks to end months of political deadlock, and he warns of dire consequences for Iraq if a political solution is not reached.

CNN's Nada Bashir has more.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The center of Iraqi politics, now at the heart of some of the biggest protests Baghdad has seen in months.

For three days now, these protesters have occupied parliament, the vast majority, ardent supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, the influential Shia cleric calling for an uprising.

SAMIR NAEEM, PROTESTER (through translator): We want free and fair elections and we want to amend the Constitution. But the most important thing is to put an end to corruption. If we end corruption, then we win.

AMIR AL-UKEYLI, PROTESTER (through translator): Politicians do not represent the people, their legitimacy is over. Now the legitimacy is for people only.

BASHIR: Protests have sparked a week ago following the nomination of a new prime minister by Iraq's pro Iran coordination framework Alliance. Their pick, rival Shia leader, Mohammed al-Sudani.

The move follows months of political deadlock over the establishment of a new government and a mass resignation by al-Sadr's lawmakers who accused the opposition of serving the interests of Iran over the Iraqi people.

Now as frustrations mount over the country's dire political and economic situation, al-Sadr is calling on the Iraqi people to take to the streets despite the outgoing prime minister's appeal for dialogue.

MUSTAFA AL-KADHIMI (through translator): The political bloc's must sit down, negotiate and reach an understanding for the sake of Iraq and the Iraqis. A thousand days of quiet dialogue are better than a moment in which a drop of Iraqi blood is shed. BASHIR: Water cannons, tear gas, and even stun grenades were used by security forces over the weekend in an attempt to push protesters back outside the perimeters of the Green Zone. Amid the chaos, at least a hundred injuries.

Western leaders have expressed concern over the further destabilization of security in Iraq. But the implications of this latest crisis could prove far reaching. Al-Sadr's movement, if successful, could cut political parties aligned to Iran out of the Iraqi Government, dealing a major blow to Tehran's growing regional influence.

And as these protests gain momentum, there are fears that already delicate regional dynamics could be pushed into even greater uncertainty.

Nada Bashir, CNN -- Istanbul.


VAUSE: An Iranian journalist, an activist is calling on President Joe Biden to expel Iranian diplomats from the U.S.

Masih Alinejad is an American and an outspoken critic of the Iranian government. She says she's being targeted by Iran on U.S. soil and she's speaking out again after them with a rifle was arrested near her home in New York.


MASIH ALINEJAD, JOURNALIST: I want to tell you (INAUDIBLE) go to hell. I am not scared of you. I have only one life. You care about power. I care about my dignity and freedom like millions of other people inside Iran.

I am not scared of you. You can kill me but you cannot kill the idea. The idea is just fighting for freedom and dignity.


VAUSE: Authorities have yet to determine if the suspect in custody was trying to harm Alinejad. She was a target of a plot to kidnap -- or kidnapping plot last year.

Still to come here on CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's nothing left. Everything is destroyed.


VAUSE: Reeling from flash flooding in Kentucky, residents are now trying to move on with their lives despite the water still rising. We'll have the latest on recovery efforts after the break.



VAUSE: In California, the Bikini fire has grown to be the state's biggest wildfire of the year burning more than 55,000 acres, and it has turned deadly with two bodies found inside a burning vehicle on a residential driveway.

Thunderstorms and lightning have complicated efforts to contain the blaze. An historic drought in western states and man-made climate change making these annual fires more frequent and much more severe.

At least 37 people have now died from flash flooding in the U.S. state of Kentucky. Floodwaters began rising last week, continued through the weekend and are expected to keep rising overnight.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher has more on their continuing rescue efforts.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): Certainly the deadliest and the most devastating, of my lifetime.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kentucky's governor confirming today at least 37 people are dead in the flood stricken commonwealth including four siblings from Knott County, the youngest just two years old.

CHIEF PRESTON HAYS, HINDMAN VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT: Just knowing those people's IT'S heartbreaking. this is our community, it's our town, it's our home.

GALLAGHER: This, as the desperate search for hundreds of missing people continues with the looming threat of more rain.

BESHEAR: There were hundreds of unaccounted for people, minimum. And we just, we just don't have a firm grasp on that.

GALLAGHER: Floodwaters knocked out vital power, washed away roads and bridges. And overwhelmed eastern Kentucky communities making some rescue efforts nearly impossible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water came so quick that the fire department started getting calls for water rescue and cell phone communications, emergency radio contact, communications went down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That river is going to be dangerous.

GALLAGHER: Randy Polly shot this video, showing someone jumping into action to save an elderly woman and her family.

RANDY POLLY, WITNESSED FLOOD RESCUE: He was in there for like two minutes, what seemed like an eternity. Then he come back out and said, I finally found them.

GALLAGHER: Another rescue, a 17-year-old saved herself and her dog by swimming to a neighbor's roof when flash flooding started last Thursday. Her dad, writing on Facebook, we lost everything today, everything except what matters most.

Emergency shelters are opening across eastern Kentucky, including Gospel Life Baptist Church in Hazard. Nicole Neace is staying here with her family.

NICOLE NEACE, FLOOD VICTIM: I woke up at 4:50, I heard a loud noise and I got my flashlight, and I looked at the window and it was already halfway up our living room window.

GALLAGHER: She tells us they got out with only the clothing on their backs.

NEACE: There's nothing left. Everything is destroyed.

GALLAGHER: Neace's sister Karen Daughtry says this isn't the first tragedy for her family.

NEACE: Two years ago, we lost everything to the fire. And, we were just now getting back on our feet. I mean, it's just devastating that we have to go through it again so soon.

GALLAGHER: To give you an idea of how fierce this flooding was. Look, we've seen houses that were lifted off of their foundation, the force of the water actually this fire truck here and pinned it underneath this bridge.

We're seeing scenes like all over eastern Kentucky and look, their biggest concern is there going to be more rain that's going to cause additional flooding.

Look, they want to see if there are those hundreds of people that are out of communication right now, bringing the comms up in the area, if that will help reunite them. But in talking to rescuers here and Hindman they acknowledge that oftentimes it's no longer a rescue missions and instead these one's become recovery.

Dianne Gallagher, CNN -- Hindman, Kentucky.


VAUSE: Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri, standing by at the CNN Weather Center. Ok. So what's the forecast here? Is it more rain, likely?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, over the next couple of hours, possibly the final chance here to see a significant amount of rainfall and then we see conditions improving there come Tuesday afternoon into essentially Wednesday.

But it's of course, really devastating when you see how much rainfall has come down, the devastation left behind in eastern Kentucky in particular. And really the force of water cannot be overstated because you think about water and just bring that up to about 30-40 centimeters, knee high water moving at about 11 kilometers per hour, has about the same force per unit area as an EF5 tornado. [01:54:57]

JAVAHERI: So we're talking just water flowing at 11 kilometers per hour having that sort of force. And it speaks to why we see the damage we see on the ground across this region.

And about 4 million Americans in this area underneath flood alerts as far north as Cincinnati, Ohio and on to areas of West Virginia as well. And in fact, in West Virginia, right next door there we had a lone tornado reported across the United States coming down as well.

So it kind of speak to the inclement weather across this region. And here's the concern. We do have a marginal risk which on a scale of 1 to 4, is a 1, includes portions of the entirety really of the state of Kentucky, but notice, going into Wednesday, that risk is removed. So one more day we think around say 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., we have these strong thunderstorms that move in right around the region that has been very hard hit.

This is a forecast model of course, and if the vast thunderstorms move a little farther towards the north or the south it can make all the difference. But we're watching this play out, and notice how it gets much quieter and the storms become much more scattered in nature beyond later into Tuesday morning local time in this area.

But rainfall amounts generally going to be light with the exception of thunderstorms. But anything that does fall becomes problematic because, you know, the ground water levels have already risen quite a bit.

The water table's quite high, so anything here becomes surface flooding. And that is the concern moving forward for that region.

Heat is also a big concern around portions of the western United States with the fire risk firmly in place. And in fact, northern California, the McKinney fire has consumed about 130,000 hectares of land, still sitting at zero percent containment.

There's some thunderstorms here that could bring in some beneficial rainfall which is pretty unusual for this time of year. But firefighters getting some help here from Mother Nature as rains move in towards areas of northern California, John.

VAUSE: Pedram, thank you, we appreciate your update.

Well, a little piece of Elvis bling could be yours if you're willing to pay for it.


VAUSE: Ok, a collection of jewelry that Presley gave to his manager Is going up for auction later this month. 200 items including gold rings, watches, cufflinks, chains -- a lot of that collection and more. Many of the pieces were provided by Elvis's former wife Priscilla, according to Reuters.


PRISCILLA PRESLEY, FORMER WIFE OF ELVIS PRESLEY: Well it brings back memories for sure. You know, Elvis loved jewelry as we all know. But the rings here and the pieces really bring joy. There's a lighter here that I absolutely love.

And we have pieces of course, here that I remember very well him not knowing exactly what to give and then we would pick out the pieces together.


VAUSE: Priscilla Presley says she supports the auction because she's tired of seeing so many fake Elvis artifacts being sold. So how that all works out, I'm not entirely sure.

But thank you, thank you very much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

CNN NEWSROOM continues with my friend and colleague Rosemary Church in just a moment.

I'll see you right back here tomorrow.