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U.S. Drone Takes Out Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan; Ukraine: Troops Fending Off Russian Advances in East; Wounded Ukrainian Soldier Says He Wants to Rejoin Fight; Blinken: Russia Using Power Plant as Nuclear Shield; Weather Delays First Wartime Ukrainian Grain Shipment; Judge Slams Watson and NFL in Ruling on Quarterback's Suspension. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 02, 2022 - 04:30   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Max Foster. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up-to-date with some of the stories were following this hour.

At least 37 people are dead and hundreds are still missing in Kentucky's devastating flash flooding. The state's governor says the death toll is expected to rise. Search and rescue efforts into some of the more difficult to reach areas have begun on Monday.

Although U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan during her trip to Asia, officials in Beijing warn the U.S., China will take resolute responses and strong counter measures if Pelosi does visit.

The world's most wanted terrorist is dead. Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. drone strike at a safe house in Kabul, Afghanistan. Top U.S. officials say the Taliban knew Ayman al-Zawahiri was in the city and even tried to conceal evidence of his presence after the strike. The White House says no civilians or members of al-Zawahiri's family were killed. The strike happened on Sunday morning local time after months of planning. The al-Qaeda leader was heavily involved in plotting a number of terror attacks including 9/11.


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. [04:35:00]

The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. You know, 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.


FOSTER: The operation to kill al-Zawahiri is reminiscent of the 2011 raid that took out Osama bin Laden. Joe Biden was vice president at the time, seeing here at the White House situation room with then President Barack Obama.

The former commander-in-chief tweeted: Tonight's news is also proof that it's possible to root out terrorism without being at war in Afghanistan. And I hope it provides a small measure of peace to the 9/11 families and everyone else who has suffered at the hands of al- Qaeda.

U.S. President Biden worked for months with his top aides getting ready for the drone strike. Intelligence officials built a scaled model of al-Zawahiri's safe house for Mr. Biden to study as he weighed his options. An official says the president insists every precaution was taken to ensure there'd be no civilian casualties. Take a listen what two of CNN's military analysts had to say about the strike.


COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They talked in great deal about how they would hit the building so as not to make the building collapse on top of itself, that was critical if you want to avoid civilian casualties. And the fact that we went through that painstaking exercise to do this kind of operation really speaks volumes as to how the United States conducts these kinds of things.

Luckily it worked this time. Sometimes it doesn't work. But the effort is made very much to use precision intelligence to find exactly where things are, exactly where the vulnerable points are and exactly the place where you need to target.

The intelligence picture has to be well nearly perfect in order to pull an operation like this off. So, the overrising cape agents are the operational capabilities that we see with these drone strikes but also the intelligence that goes this to making the drone strikes possible. And the very fact that we did this shows that there's this really robust intelligence architecture that is watching over Afghanistan at this point in time.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The average American doesn't understand the detail, the level of effectiveness and efficiencies that go into this kind of targeting of individuals. But you know, the president can stand up on the balcony and talk about the operation, but there had been months and maybe even years going into the targeting of al-Zawahiri. I first heard about this guy in 1998 when I was at the War College. We had been wanting to get him for a long time. He is a leader within this organization and the strike that was conducted was effective and efficient.


FOSTER: Well, Ayman al-Zawahiri had been one of the FBI's most wanted terrorist for years. After the drone strike the Bureau updated its poster for the al-Qaeda leader adding the word "deceased" below his photograph.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, gas prices are falling despite Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine. We'll take a look at the latest price at the pump for you next.



FOSTER: On to Ukraine and the brutal fight for the country's south and east. Ukraine says its troops are still fending off Russian advances in the eastern Donetsk region, a key target in Moscow's push to seize the wider Donbas. But despite the heavy shelling along much of the front line, Russian troops don't appear to be making much head way.

At the same time Ukraine has been steps up counterattacks in southern regions like Kherson which may be forcing Russia to spread its troops even thinner. There are reports that some Russian forces are now being moved away from the eastern frontlines so they can protect Russian position in the south.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is accusing Russia of nuclear saber rattling in Ukraine. He also singled out Russia's use of a nuclear power plant as a military base saying they are using it like a nuclear shield to prevent Ukrainian troops from returning fire. CNN is covering the story from every angle. Clare Sebastian joining me here in London. First let's go to CNN's Jason Carroll live for us in Kyiv -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, whether it be intense fighting in the east or in the south, that seems to be encouraging more and more Ukrainians to join the military. We spoke to one soldier who has been sidelined by his injuries but he says he is eager to get back into the fight.


CARROLL (voice over): Yuriy Hudymenko is just out of the hospital after doctors spent more than a month tending to his injuries.

CARROLL: This is his shrapnel from the leg.


CARROLL (voice-over): An unwelcome souvenir of war. Another piece embedded in his chest. His leg shattered so badly, these rods now hold it together. This video showing the moments after Hudymenko was injured and rescued in June by fellow soldiers who were fighting alongside him on Ukraine's eastern front. An area where Ukrainians have managed in places to hold back the Russian advance.

Hudymenko was laying a mind when he was hit by Russian mortar fire. Doctors initially thought his leg needed to be amputated but they saved it and his life.

YURIY HUDYMENKO, INJURED UKRAINIAN FIGHTER: I feel the pain. But I feel also an angry and my angry is more bigger than the pain.

CARROLL (voice-over): Patriotism, a sense of duty, anger. There are a range of reasons for what continues to motivate Ukrainians to join the military. But anger is one reason this new soldier who will soon be deployed to the eastern front and gave up his job as a personal trainer to join the fight. Soldiers asked that we not show their faces to protect their security.

CARROLL: Do you have any worries about going there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, but my hate is much more than any worries.

CARROLL (voice-over): He says he did not tell his family he joined the military.

CARROLL: Do you think that's going to work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will be worried less for some time.

CARROLL (voice-over): Family not an issue for this young soldier who says his father is already fighting for Ukraine. And he says his decision to join was not about emotion.

But Yuri Hudymenko says it is hard for him not to give into his emotions.


He says as soon as he's well enough, he would like to go back to the front line despite his wife's objections. She says no woman in the world wants her man to go fight but respects his desire. One Hudymenko says is also personal.

HUDYMENKO: Now I have a personal motivation to because I need to revenge for this. I want to get all the enemies of my country and kill them. Kill them all.


CARROLL (on camera): You know, Max, as you know in the beginning of the war you would hear so many stories about Ukrainians who were leaving their regular day jobs to join the military as we were doing this story. You know, we continued to hear stories like that from soldiers who were leaving their regular jobs to join the military. So that motivation is still there. As for Yuri, again you heard from him there, anger one of the reasons

why he wants to get back there on the frontlines, another reason why he wants to get back out there, he says it is simply revenge -- Max.

FOSTER: Jason Carroll in Kyiv, thank you so much.

Clare let's talk about the nuclear plant because the suggestion from Ukraine is that the Russians are using it as a defense but also there is a lot of saber rattling going on right now.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the nuclear plant in the Zaporizhzhia region, the company that the Ukrainians and now the U.S. -- actually Blinken says they're extremely concerned about. The accusation is that Russia has essentially set up a military base inside this nuclear plant which really gives Ukraine nowhere to hide. They can't fire back obviously at a nuclear plant for risk of an accident. So, the U.S. is very worried about.

The Russian side actually denying this. They say they strongly reject those allegations that they are using this as a military base. And in fact, we had a tweet from the Russian mission to the United Nations that says that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, it says, which is located in the zone of the Russian SMO -- which I assume means special military operation -- was taken under guard for the sole purpose -- prevents nationalist -- Ukrainian nationalist formations and foreign mercenaries from making use of the current situation in Ukraine to carry out a nuclear provocation.

So, they say that they are trying to prevent a nuclear accident by setting camp in this. But meantime we have this nuclear nonproliferation review conference going on at the United Nations in New York. An attempt to sort of dial tensions that we've really seen growing not just from Russia -- which has been making veiled nuclear threats from the beginning of the war. It's actually Blinken slamming this from Russia. Take a listen what he had to say.


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


SEBASTIAN: That reference I believe, Max, to the speech that President Putin made on February 24th, the very first speech announcing what he still calls his special military operation in Ukraine.

Look, I don't think that Western officials think it's likely that Russia would use nuclear power, but they do take the threat seriously and are very concerned not only about that, but of course about this nuclear power plant in the Zaporizhzhia region.

FOSTER: And take us through the grain situation because we had this ship, which was a really momentous moment, full of grain coming from Ukraine ending up somewhere in Africa, I believe. But it's stuck in bad weather?

SEBASTIAN: Yes, there is bad weather in the Black Sea. It was supposed to arrive in Istanbul for an inspection by the Joint Coordination Center which was set up as part of this Black Sea Grain Initiative. We're told that instead of arriving at around 3:00 p.m. local time this afternoon, it's going to be more like very late Tuesday night or early Wednesday.

But look, it is still a momentous moment. This ship is carrying 26,000 tons of corn destined for Lebanon. The country is heavily reliant on Ukrainian grain. The inspection itself will be a critical moment if it reaches -- as it reaches Istanbul and is inspected. I think after that they can move on to scheduling other sailings. Because of course, 26,000 tons is the tip of the iceberg. 22 million tons in silos, in Ukraine, the current harvest is going to add many, many more million tons to that. So, look, all sides I think really hoping that this will go well.

FOSTER: OK, Clare, thank you.

In the U.S. the cost to fill up for gas continues to drop. AAA says the current national average is $4.19, already down from Monday. It's now the 49th day in a row where prices have declined. But the automobile association warns a slight uptick in demand for gas could end the steady drop in daily prices.

Now still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, a judge criticized both star quarterback Deshaun Watson and the NFL after an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations. Those details when we return.



FOSTER: A U.S. federal judge has harsh words for both the U.S. National Football League and quarterback Deshaun Watson in a ruling on Monday. The Cleveland Browns star has been suspended for six games without pay after an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations brought by dozens of women.

Judge Sue Robinson wrote: Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct, Watson's behavior is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.

The judge also expressed skepticism of Watson's denial of wrongdoing. She also criticized the NFL for asking for an unprecedented full season suspension and accused the league of only seeking that punishment after public outcry. The National Organization for Women condemned the outcome.

Saying, quote: Shame on the Cleveland Browns for rewarding Deshaun Watson and shame on the NFL for perpetuating a system where money talks and women aren't heard.

Now California has declared a state of emergency to bolster its monkeypox vaccination efforts as the virus spreads nationwide.


California is the third station following New York and Illinois to issue a statewide declaration related to monkeypox. And as you can see here, a vaccine line stretched for blocks at this clinic in San Francisco on Monday.

There's a new study out of Brazil about junk food and shockingly it might be that it's good for you. Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo found eating ultra-processed food for more than 20 percent of your daily calories can lead to cognitive decline. This includes parts of the brain involved in processing information and making decisions. The study followed 10,000 Brazilians for up to a decade.

Finally, how is this for a sweet gig. The online retailer Candy Funhouse is hiring a chief candy officer. It's a work from home job as well. And the responsibilities include leading candy board meetings, being the head taste tester and all things fun. The salary $100,000 Canadian dollars -- that's about US$78,000. The position is open to candidates as young as five years old and the company says it comes with extensive dental coverage.

King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley's legacy lives on meanwhile.


ELVIS PRESLEY, SINGER: Welcome to the jailhouse rock. Everybody let's rock. Everybody let's rock.


FOSTER: A collection of jewelry that Presley gave to his manager is going up to auction later this month to some lucky buyers. 200 items including gold rings, watches, cufflinks, chains and more make up the collection. Many of the pieces were provided by Elvis's former wife Priscilla Presley. Priscilla Presley says she supports the auction because she's so tired of seeing so many fake Elvis artifacts going up for sale.

Thanks for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster in London. "EARLY START" is next here on CNN.