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CNN International: Migrant Crossings Along the U.S. Southern Border Rising; Ukraine May Be Striking Wagner-Backed Forces in Sudan. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 20, 2023 - 04:30   ET



LAILA HARRAK, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Laila Harrak. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to speed with our top stories this hour.

According to "The New York Times" and ABC News, former U.S. President Donald Trump asked his former assistant, Molly Michael, to lie or mislead federal investigators in that classified document case. telling her, quote, you don't know anything about the boxes.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is expected to face House Republicans in the coming hours. Garland will testify before the House Judiciary Committee about accusations that the Justice Department's investigation into Hunter Biden's taxes was tainted by political influence.

There is an uptick in the number of migrants trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico. More than 8,000 people were apprehended on Monday. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports now from the border town of El Paso, Texas.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Growing lines of migrants cross between official border checkpoints waiting to turn themselves into U.S. border authorities in El Paso.

It's hard, this mother says, carrying a toddler she struggles to feed. This man holds his sign begging for work to buy a bus ticket. Please support me to complete my ticket.

There's a growing number of migrants crossing into the United States raising concerns, this could be the early stages of a renewed surge of illegal immigration. In recent days, a crush of people flooded into Mexico southern border and continued north. Large migrant groups have been spotted on trains heading to the U.S. southern border. In El Paso, city officials say they've helped more than 4,000 migrants in the last week.

JOHN MARTIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OPPORTUNITY CENTER FOR THE HOMELESS: As they come in, they're processing at that table.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): John Martin runs a network of local shelters and says they're already over capacity.

MARTIN: Just a few days ago we were up at 170 here at this location for a facility that comfortably should be no more than 120.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Daily encounters in El Paso are about 1,200 per day. Most migrant shelters are full. Some migrants are sleeping outside. But the city is using hotels like this one to handle the overflow. It's where we met Dorcas Escobedo (ph) and Mary Tino (ph). The couple left Guatemala a year ago.

LAVANDERA: They're telling me that they spent about a month in Juarez waiting to cross legally through the proper channels, but they started noticing many other people starting to cross illegally across the river and turning themselves in so they decided to do the same thing.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The crisis is not limited to El Paso.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've transported hundreds of people to the airport.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): A surge in San Diego has volunteers dealing with thousands of migrants. Many like this 24-year-old from Ecuador are on their way to family already inside the country. He says, wants what every person comes here to do to work and live here, breathe new air.

A homeland security official tells CNN, 8,000 migrants including families were apprehended Monday on the U.S. southern border. That number higher than the 3,500 per day average in May right after Title 42 COVID restrictions ended. But in El Paso, this migrant surge doesn't rival those during Title 42, at least not yet.

MARTIN: The only thing that I can affirmatively say we're starting to see the larger number of people and I think it should be heated as a warning.

LAVANDERA: The question now is whether or not this surge is an anomaly and short term or is this a sign of a more extended issue of migrants choosing to enter the country this way illegally. In a way that we really haven't seen since the end of Title 42.

In an interview with a dozen or so migrants here in the El Paso area today, they gave us a variety of reasons for why they were choosing to cross this way. Some were clearly victims of disinformation, being told that it was safe and OK to cross. Others say that they were just simply desperate and tired of waiting on the Mexican side of the border.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, El Paso, Texas.


HARRAK: Five Americans detained by Iran are now back on U.S. soil. They arrived at an army airfield near Washington early Tuesday after a long flight from Qatar. The U.S. released five Iranians and unfroze $6 billion in Iranian assets as part of the deal. But the U.S. says that money is only to be used for humanitarian purposes. As CNN's Fareed Zakaria spoke exclusively with the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi about the deal with the U.S. and here's part of their conversation.


EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We did something that was prompted by humanitarian motives and those individuals who were imprisoned in the United States, whom up to the point that we were informed, our information indicated that they were unjustly imprisoned.

But the folks who were imprisoned in Iran, they had committed crimes and their complaints had gone through the legal system and there were condemned. And there was an opportunity for this exchange to take place. And this exchange was, as I said, prompted by purely humanitarian motives.


HARRAK: And you can see the full interview with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Fareed Zakaria GPS. That's Sunday at 10 a.m. in New York, 3:00 p.m. in London.

Just ahead, a mysterious ground operation and drone strikes inside Sudan are raising the question, who's behind them? An exclusive CNN investigation indicates it could be Ukraine.



HARRAK: Ukrainian officials say Russian forces launched 24 attack drones overnight, though air defense has shot down 17 of them. One made a hit on an oil refinery in central Ukraine, setting a fire. On Tuesday, Russian attacks killed at least nine civilians across Ukraine. Two people died from shelling in the southern city of Kherson. At least six were killed further north in Kupiansk.

Well, early Tuesday Russia launched 18 attack drones on Lviv, a western city far from the frontlines. Three of those drones made it past Ukrainian air defenses, killing one person and destroying a warehouse full of humanitarian aid.

Well, the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine may be spreading far beyond Ukraine's borders. An exclusive CNN investigation has uncovered compelling evidence that Ukrainian forces have struck Wagner backed fighters inside Sudan. Well, it comes as Russia tries to expand its influence in Africa following the death of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. CNN'S Nima Elbagir reports now from neighboring Chad.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nightfall in a war-torn neighborhood in the Sudanese city of Omdurman. You are watching a thermal imaging video depicting military forces equipped in high-tech gear, far more sophisticated than the Sudanese have demonstrated to date.

And here, a series of high-precision daytime strikes raining down from the sky in and around the same city, hitting targets backed by Russia's Wagner mercenary group in Sudan.

A Ukrainian military source told CNN this is the work of a foreign military. Pressed on whether they would say unequivocally that Kyiv was behind the attacks, the source would only that Ukrainian special services were likely responsible, which would constitute a dramatic expansion in Kyiv's theater of war against Moscow.

A previous CNN investigations exposed that the Sudanese paramilitary rapid support forces, RSF, has been heavily backed by Wagner as they fight the Sudanese army in a war for dominance. CNN obtained a series of videos of the operation showing 14 different strikes on RSF weapons and equipment believed to be provided by Wagner.

We pinpointed seven different locations of the drone strikes in Omdurman, an ISIS stronghold that has become a focal point of the conflict. And we geolocated footage of the night raid to the same city by identifying the buildings seen here.

The drone video obtained by CNN had already been edited, but clues remain as to the identity of those behind the attacks. Text on the monitor of the drone controller seen here is in Ukrainian.

These commercially available drones are widely used by Ukrainian forces. They have a maximum video transmission range of around nine miles. That means we can tell that the pilots of the drones were in Sudan close by.

It's a common tactic in Ukraine, but not so much in Sudan. Drone experts consulted by CNN said this is the first-time drones like this have been deployed in this fashion in Africa. CNN shared the videos with a high-level source in Sudan's army for comment. Who said they had no knowledge of a Ukrainian operation in Sudan and did not believe it was true.

Sudan became embroiled in Russia's war against Ukraine last year, despite being thousands of miles from the frontline.

When as we reported, Wagner exploited Sudan's gold resources to help finance Moscow's Ukraine war effort, circumventing U.S. sanctions on Russia.


After a plane carrying Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin plummeted to the ground, late last month, many believed that Wagner's influence would recede. But just the opposite has happened.

Military whistleblowers in a number of African countries have told CNN that the Kremlin is consolidating its power over Wagner's networks in the Central African Republic, in Sudan, in Libya and in Mali. And now that network has expanded further, this time into Chad.

ELBAGIR: Chad has really been impacted by the fighting in neighboring Sudan. And yet, it's emerging as a key transit point for supplies to the rapid support forces in Sudan, part of an expansion of Russia's influence in Africa.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Cross-referencing testimony from intelligence and military sources active in the region with satellite imagery, CNN has uncovered evidence that Wagner arms crossed through Chad within the last two weeks to get to an RSF military base in Sudan.

If you look closely, you can see over a hundred vehicles including scores of trucks at the base, proof the supplies provided by Russia, Wagner, continue.

A strike on Wagner-backed forces in Sudan would constitute a blow to Moscow. If it is Ukraine, they will have raised the stakes for those willing to accept Wagner's backing in the future, a lesson illustrating the price they could be forced to pay for cooperating with Russia.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, N'Djamena, Chad


HARRAK: Just ahead, Russell Brand is losing a big online revenue stream -- at least for now -- with the actor and comedian now facing sexual assault allegations.



HARRAK: This week, the United Nations is marking the International Day of Sign Languages, which is meant to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with disabilities. According to UNICEF, almost half of all children with disabilities have never attended school. But a start up in the UAE believes that the right business environment can help change that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Jose Rubinger and Karla Galvao run Keys2Enable in Abu Dhabi. The startup developed an educational keyboard for people with disabilities.

JOSE RUBINGER, CO-FOUNDER KEY2ENABLE: So by doing this you have access to 144 commands in the computer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Jose moved from Brazil to Abu Dhabi in 2019 to take part in an incubator program held by Abu Dhabi's authority of social contribution, Ma'an.

RUBINGER: Ma'an, that means togetherness. So they were trying to bring together other innovations to the region to help and support people of determination. They brought to us, for example, professionals that were trying to help us, to support us with the pitch deck, with the design of our website, with the solution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Since it began 4 years ago. Ma'an has supported more than 70 startups with almost 140 million U.S. dollars allocated to social enterprises.

RUBINGER: We were looking for social impact, hubs, social impact accelerators. So it's sometimes very difficult to find those programs, those incubators that are specific for social impact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The startup business seen here is growing and fast. According to research and policy advisory firm startup Genome, the ecosystem value in the UAE capital is expanding almost three times faster than the global average.

CHRISTOPHER SCHROEDER, CO-FOUNDER, NEXT BILLION VENTURES: The strength of an ecosystem is essential to actually meet with entrepreneurs and say what do you really need in order to expand? It's effectively saying around the world, you can come here and you can succeed. And when you have that kind of sauce, when you have that kind of flywheel, really, really exciting things happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, everyone. Come and have a seat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Marianne is one of many students benefiting from Keys2Enable's creation using a combination of well spaced colorful keys, Mariam is able to take part in the class exercise.

RUBINGER: Every time that I see a child like Mariam, for example, trying and actually having success using any other tool. This is the most important that can happen to not only us, but to all these startups.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mariam, tell them the color. Just tell them the color, OK? Oh, yellow and purple, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): A sign that a solid start up ecosystem can impact much more than businesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good teamwork over there? Well done.


HARRAK: Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani says he underwent elbow surgery Tuesday and that it went very well. But it won't be until next year that baseball fans may see him back in uniform. Ohtani's surgeon says he should be ready to hit on opening day next year, but he's not likely to return to pitching until 2025. And it's not clear what uniform he'll wear when he does come back. He's expected to be a marquee free agent when his contract with the Angels expires after this season.

The head football coach for the University of Colorado is condemning death threats targeting a player for the school's rival, Colorado State. On Saturday, Colorado State safety Henry Blackburn threw a late hit on Colorado player Travis Hunter, which sent Hunter to the hospital. Blackburn's coach says the student athlete and his family have been receiving death threats ever since. Colorado coach Deon Sanders says Hunter is now out of the hospital and that he and the team have forgiven Blackburn.



DEJON SANDERS, HEAD FOOTBALL COACH, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO: Henry Blackburn is a good player who played a phenomenal game. He made a tremendous hit on Travis on the sideline. You could call it dirty. You could call it he was just playing the game of football, but whatever it was, it does not constitute that he should be receiving death threats.


HARRAK: And the stories in the spotlight this hour.

YouTube says it will temporarily demonetize Russell Brand's channel. That means that the actor and comedian won't be able to make money off videos he posts to the platform. Well, this comes after four women alleged that Brand sexually assaulted them between 2006 and 2013. Accusations he denies. Brand has built a substantial audience on YouTube in recent years, he's been accused of using his channel to spread conspiracy theories.

Bankrupt crypto exchange FTX is suing the parents of founder Sam Bankman-Fried. FTX accuses them of embezzling millions of dollars from the company. The lawsuit aims to recover funds that FTX leaders say were fraudulently transferred and misappropriated by Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried. Well, attorneys for the parents called the lawsuit completely false. The 31-year-old founder's fraud and conspiracy trial is scheduled for October 3rd.

Archaeologists have found new treasures in an underwater temple off Egypt's Mediterranean coast. The discoveries were made at the site of what was once a thriving port city, likely founded around the 8th century BC. Among the objects found silver instruments, gold jewelry and fragile containers for perfumes. While the site also includes a temple to a god where Pharaohs came to receive their titles as Universal Kings.

Thanks so much for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Laila Harrak in Atlanta. EARLY START is next right here on CNN.