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Israel-Hamas War; Israel: Hamas Tunnel Beneath UNRWA Headquarters; IDF Allegedly Getting Ready for Ground Assault on Rafah; Would Not Defend NATO Partners Against Russia, According to Trump; Trump Attacks Deployed Spouse of Nikki Haley; Nikki Haley Reacts to Trump's Attacks About Her Husband; White House Launches Attack; in Response to Special Counsel Report; Six People Died in a Helicopter Crash, Including Nigerian Bank CEO Herbert Wigwe; In Time for the Big Game, Taylor Swift Finishes Her Shows in Tokyo; As Super Bowl LVIII Approaches, Strict Security Measures are in Place; U.S. Aid for Ukraine and Israel; Family of Five Killed in Russian Strikes; Russia's War on Ukraine; Zelenskyy Pushes for Reorganization of Top Military Leadership; Final Pakistan Election Results Are In; Far Right in Germany Gaining Both Backers and Detractors; China's Disinformation Campaign. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 11, 2024 - 04:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Anna Coren Live from Hong Kong. Ahead on "CNN Newsroom".

Israel claims it has found a Hamas tunnel below the UN Relief Agency headquarters in Gaza. The discovery comes amid fears that an assault on Rafah is imminent.

An alarming suggestion from Former U.S. President Donald Trump on the campaign trail. What the future of NATO could look like if he is re- elected.

And ramping up security ahead of Super Bowl Sunday in the U.S. Details.

Plus, we've got pictures of one of Superfan's rivals in the States.

Israel says it found a Hamas tunnel under the headquarters of the UN Relief Agency in Gaza. The Israeli military released this video claiming to show the tunnel, including what Israel says was an electrical connection to UNRWA headquarters. The UN agency says it left the building on October 12th after Israel ordered evacuations. It says it has no knowledge of what might have happened there since, nor of the tunnel's existence.

Meanwhile, Israel is said to be preparing for a ground offensive in the Southern Gaza City of Rafah. More than a million people are sheltering there. Countries in the region are warning that a ground offensive in Rafah could lead to serious repercussions. And an Israeli official tells CNN that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his war cabinet the IDF operation in Rafah must be complete by March 10th, the start of Ramadan.

Well, journalist Elliott Gotkine is live for us in London with more. Elliott, tell us about this Hamas tunnel discovered under UNRWA H.Q.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN JOURNALIST: Anna, quite a striking discovery. The IDF says, that it has discovered, if not under the noses of UNRWA H.Q., then certainly under the feet. This tunnel, in total, runs to about 700 meters in length, the IDF says, and at a depth of 18 meters, and directly underneath the UNRWA headquarters in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

It says, it not only found copious amounts of weapons and also areas where Hamas militants would have been able to sleep, but also a data center running their servers that Hamas was using for to gather intelligence and to deal with its own operations. Moreover, it says that it discovered cables that ran from the UNRWA headquarters directly underground to this data center. In other words, that Hamas was drawing its electricity from UNRWA to power its servers in this data center.

Now, as you say, UNRWA has denied all knowledge of this tunnel or of this data center. And moreover, it doesn't have the capabilities and shouldn't be expected to know exactly what is going on underground. But certainly, this comes at a very delicate time for the Palestinian Refugee Agency, given the allegations by Israel that at least a dozen of its employees were actively involved in the Hamas led terrorist attacks of October the 7th, prompting a large number of countries to suspend their funding to the organization.

And of course, this UNRWA at the same time is trying to get them to unfreeze these funds. And Israel will, for its part, hold this up as yet another piece of evidence for them to say, look, UNRWA is not fit for purpose and should be disbanded. And of course, that then raises the question of what would follow and what organization would be able to provide all the humanitarian aid and provide for the humanitarian needs of all of those Palestinians who have been displaced, especially all of those now crowding into Rafah in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Anna.

COREN: Elliott, let's talk a little bit about that, because we know this ground offensive in Rafah is imminent. Where are the 1.3 million Gazans there expected to go?

GOTKINE: So, we don't know specifics, Anna, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an interview on "ABC News", did say that they could, for example, move to areas north of Rafah which the IDF has now cleared. But he is adamant that Israel will provide safe passage for the Palestinians in Rafah to ensure that Israel can then go in and deal with what it says, four battalions belonging to Hamas.


And Netanyahu also saying in that interview that anyone that says Israel shouldn't go into Rafah is effectively saying that Israel should lose the war and that Hamas should stay there.

So, Israel determined to go in to launch a ground operation into Rafah. It says that it will provide safe passage for all of those Palestinians. But we know now we're talking about more than a million, 1.3 million Palestinians there right now, around about half the entire population of the Gaza Strip crowded into Rafah. Many have been displaced multiple times, moving that amount of people to areas which, wherever those areas are, is not going to be an easy task. Anna.

COREN: Elliott Gotkine, joining us from London, thank you for the update.

For more now, we're joined by Shaina Low in Jerusalem. She is a communication adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council. Great to have you with us. This imminent ground offensive of Rafah has been described as potentially disastrous, condemned internationally. What are your staff in Gaza telling you about the situation on the ground there?

SHAINA LOW, COMMUNICATION ADVISER, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: Most of our staff in Gaza are in Rafah and they described to us that they are trapped between Israeli tanks on one side and the Egyptian border on the other. There is simply no safe place in Gaza. There is no safe place for Palestinians to flee to. And would Israel to expand its ground offensive into -- ground operation into Rafah it would greatly hamper if not completely stop the ability for aid organizations, such as the Norwegian Refugee Council, to deliver aid to Palestinians desperately in need of relief.

COREN: Shaina, the German foreign minister has said, "The people of Gaza can't disappear into thin air." Now, we've just heard from our reporter, Elliott Gotkine, saying that Israel will assure safe passage of the 1.3 million Palestinians in Rafah, but where are they supposed to go?

LOW: That's a great question. Yes, I really don't know where they're supposed to go at this point. It's also important to remember that Israel has claimed in the past to issue evacuation orders. These were not evacuations. These were unlawful, forcible transfers of the Palestinian population in Gaza. In order for there to be an evacuation, there needs to be not only safe passage, but guarantees of safety where Palestinians are being asked to leave to and guarantees that they will be able to return home.

Over the last four months, we've seen Israel issue a number of directives calling on people to leave. Oftentimes, they were faced -- they faced tremendous violence, hostilities, even death while trying to flee. They faced hostilities, ongoing bombardments in the places that they were told to flee that they were safe. And now, they see that there's no ability for them to return home if there's anything left there. So, this is incredibly concerning. Palestinians have nowhere to go, and they must not be forced to flee.

COREN: The search for food, water, and medicine, we know, is now a daily struggle for Gazans. Tell us what your staff is seeing and how they are able to assist. LOW: You know, the needs continue to grow and grow and outpace the ability of humanitarian agencies to respond. There are still delays getting in aid and obstructions to getting in necessary aid at the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings. We've seen Israeli protesters prevent necessary aid for our humanitarian response for the humanitarian response from entering through the Kerem Shalom crossings.

People are desperate. It is difficult to find food. The prices have risen so much that even those with money cannot afford to buy a simple goods in order to feed their families. What we're hearing also is that we're -- earlier in the hostilities, a family -- extended families may have been able to provide for one another. Now, people are so desperate that they are really only able to focus on their immediate families and that people are in the streets begging for whatever they can get. There simply is not enough aid and for things that are still available on the market, they're too expensive for most people who fled with nothing to be able to buy.

COREN: Shaina, Israel says that it must wipe out the last remaining Hamas stronghold in Gaza, that it's located in Rafah, that there are four battalions there. What is your response to that?

LOW: You know, we've seen the last four months, the devastation and destruction that just seems completely disproportional and disproportionate to -- and in many cases, appears to be violations of international humanitarian law.


Israel and all parties to this conflict need to remember that there are laws, international laws around, distinction proportionality. And the -- and what we've seen is that these laws have not been followed over the last four months. So, the only way that this conflict can be resolved is through diplomatic means, not military might. We've seen that the civilian cost -- the civilian toll is simply much too high and we need to continue to push for a ceasefire and for the parties to resolve this through negotiations, not through fighting.

COREN: Shaina Low from the Refugee -- Norwegian Refugee Council, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

LOW: Thank you.

COREN: U.S. military officials say they conducted what they called self defense strikes in Yemen Friday against Houthi weapons targeting ships in the Red Sea. They struck five missiles and two unmanned surface vessels. Saying they posed an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and commercial vessels in the region. The U.S. targeted several other drones and missiles in Houthi controlled territory over the past few days.

Remarks from the likely U.S. Republican presidential nominee could alarm Europe and impact relations with NATO allies. Take a listen to what Donald Trump said about encouraging Russia when it comes to NATO allies who don't contribute what he considers to be their fair share. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I came in, I made a speech, and I said, you got to pay up. They asked me that question. One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, well, sir, if we don't pay and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said, you didn't pay, you're delinquent. He said, yes, let's say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.


COREN: Well, the comment is extraordinary in many ways, not least because it goes against the core premise of NATO collective defense, and NATO countries are not delinquent on any financial obligations or pay their share of the common budget.

The White House blasted Trump's remarks in a statement saying, "Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged, and it endangers American national security, global stability, and our economy at home.

Well, Trump made those comments in South Carolina, putting on a big show in the home state of his Republican rival, Nikki Haley. In Trump's speech, he celebrated the failure of a $118 billion border deal and aid package earlier this week. He criticized President Joe Biden for his border policy and accused Haley's husband of abandoning her campaign.


TRUMP: Where's her husband? Oh, he's away. He's away. What happened to her husband? What happened to her husband? Where is he? He's gone.


COREN: Nikki Haley pointing out her husband isn't gone. In fact, he's deployed with the U.S. Army National Guard in Africa. It's his second active-duty deployment overseas. And Haley says, it is outrageous for a former U.S. President to criticize a service member while he's serving.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump had a rally today. And in that rally, he mocked my husband's military service. And I'll say this, Donald, if you have something to say, don't say it behind my back. Get on a debate stage and say it to my face. If you mock the service of a combat veteran, you don't deserve a driver's license, let alone being President of the United States.


COREN: At the same rally, Trump took aim at that special council report that recommended President Joe Biden face no charges for his handling of classified documents. Trump claimed falsely that the conclusion proved political bias against him, even though the report detailed the many differences between his case and the current president's. But Trump also tried to weaponize language in the report that suggested Mr. Biden's inability to recall some details was caused by lack of mental fitness. Have a listen.


TRUMP: More proof that we have a weaponized two-tier system of justice in this country. Crooked Joe got off scot-free. But they said he was a disaster mentally, and he willfully stole gigantic numbers of classified documents, willfully. But because of his condition, mentally, is this guy going to make it to the starting gate seriously? Well, it shows you the power of incumbency, doesn't it, if that happens.


COREN: Meantime, the First Lady is adding her voice to criticisms of the language in that special council report. In an e-mail late Saturday, she argued that the president's age and expertise are assets.


CNN's Priscilla Alvarez reports from Washington on the White House pushback.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House is going on the offensive and taking direct aim at Republicans and President Joe Biden's critics over his age, saying in a newly released memo on Saturday, "This undeniable record referring to the president's legislative accomplishments speaks to why it's no surprise that Republican officials continue their desperate and inadvertently self- undermining age attacks after many years of failure. They're afraid of Joe Biden."

Now, this memo also goes on to make notable mentions of people like General Mark Milley and Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who have called the president alert and engaged. But of course, this comes on the heels of that special counsel report that also mentioned the president's age and apparent memory lapses.

Now, this had aides to the president fuming over the course of the week who pushed back and said the president is sharp and tireless. We also saw that anger spill into public view from the president himself, who took particular issue with the special counsel, suggesting that he had forgotten the day his son died.

Now, all of this is part of what is going to be a defining theme for the presidential election year, that being the president's age and fitness for office. Senior campaign officials say that the president is best when he is out on the campaign trail, engaging with voters. And we have seen an uptick in traditional retail politics stops for him to do exactly that. And that is ultimately them, the voters, who are going to pass judgment on whether the president is fit to serve a second term.

But of course, polls show that there's still some concern here about how old he is. But again, campaign officials and White House officials well aware of that, see it as something that they can navigate and remind the American people who he is and what he is like when he engages on the campaign trail.

Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, Washington.


COREN: Six people are dead after a helicopter crashed in San Bernardino County, California on Saturday night. And the victims include leading figures from the world of finance and philanthropy in Nigeria. For more on this story, we're joined by CNN's Stephanie Busari in Lagos.

Stephanie, what can you tell us about the victims of this crash?

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN SENIOR EDITOR, AFRICA: Anna, we're learning this morning that banking executive CEO Herbert Wigwe, his wife, Chizoba, and their eldest son we're among the victims of this crash. As well as Bimbo Ogunbanjo who is also a financial executive, quite a prominent one here in Nigeria.

Now, we're learning that this chartered airbus helicopter was flying from Palm Springs, California to Boulder City where we understand to -- for the crew -- team to watch the Super Bowl game when it crashed. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, it crashed just around 8:45 p.m., local time and, near the interstate in Halloran Springs, California.

The nation has been plunged into mourning here, Anna, because this is considered something of a national tragedy. Herbert Wigwe was a hugely popular banker, but also a philanthropist who cared passionately about education, particularly amongst underprivileged Nigerians.

Family sources tell me that he sponsored thousands of children home and abroad. And he was also in the middle of building and cementing his own personal legacy with the building of the Herbert Wigwe University in his hometown. And that institution, he vowed, would be world class, not just for Nigeria, but for Africans so they could compete globally. And he had also earmarked thousands of scholarships for people in that institution. Still ongoing and remains to be seen whether that will be completed.

Wigwe was also a patron of the arts and was a huge art collector, and also sponsored the show on "CNN African Arts and Culture Show, African Avant-Garde". But really many are taking this loss personally. Herbert Wigwe was very bullish on African development and had many transformational projects on the go. Anna.

COREN: Yes, huge loss for Nigeria. Stephanie Busari, we appreciate the context. Many thanks. We'll be right back.



COREN: For everyone wondering, Taylor Swift will apparently make it to the Super Bowl after all. Phew. At one point on Saturday, the jet thought to be carrying the pop superstar from Tokyo to Los Angeles was the most tracked aircraft in the world. I think that is quite sad. It seems coverage of American football may not be complete these days without a mention of Taylor Swift's whereabouts.

Her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, is playing, in case she didn't know. Well meantime, Swift fans who caught her in action during the Tokyo leg of her Eras tour say it's something they won't soon forget. One concertgoer says she too hit the skies to make the performance.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My first-time seeing Taylor Swift and flying to an international country just for Taylor Swift.


COREN: And what would the Super Bowl be without the Budweiser Clydesdales? The majestic horses wowed onlookers at a shopping center in Las Vegas on Friday, drawing their carriage, which harkens back to the olden days. They made a ceremonial delivery of Budweiser beer to a bar and grocery store. The Clydesdales have been a mainstay of Super Bowl TV commercials for decades. Bud's ad this year called Old School Delivery tells how the horses brought the refreshments to customers through a snowstorm. Beautiful animals.

Well, of course, the reason behind all the hoopla is a football game.


The reigning NFL champs, the Kansas City Chiefs, are hoping to score back-to-back titles as they take on the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium. And security preparations are underway to keep the Super Bowl and travelers flying to the game safe. CNN's Josh Campbell explains.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: As fans await Super Bowl kickoff, law enforcement in the United States has been planning for months for this big event. The hundreds of thousands of fans who will be in and outside Allegiant Stadium will be protected by this massive deployment of law enforcement officers.

Some of the resources they're bringing include physical scanners for everyone going into the stadium. There are explosive detection canines. There are also sensors that are being deployed that essentially sniff the air for any type of chemical, biological or nuclear type threat. That's what's happening on the ground.

In the air, a national security temporary flight restriction will be instituted just about an hour before kickoff, that will be enforced by military fighter jets. Now, one area focused for law enforcement pertains to drones. Drone technology is obviously very cheap to obtain. There are a number of ways that bad actors could cause harm using a drone.

And so, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have brought in counter drone technology. The capabilities include being able to technically take over a drone, either drop it out of the sky or perhaps take control, move it to another area if there's concern that it might contain a dangerous payload.

Now, at this point, all of this is precautionary. Law enforcement tells us that they haven't identified anything specifically gives them concern, but they're ready.

CATHY LANIER, CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE: There is no known specific or credible threats to the game or any events surrounding Super Bowl. As always, you will see an increased security presence, not only around the stadium on game day, but also around all of our other events.

SPENCER EVANS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: We have FBI personnel stationed in our own emergency operations center and at every joint command post and intelligence center operating throughout the Las Vegas Valley. We are monitoring and sharing every scrap of information that indicates a potential threat with all of our interagency, law enforcement, and appropriate private sector partners.

CAMPBELL: Now, the work of law enforcement doesn't end with the final score of the game. They still have to get all of these people safely home. We're told by TSA that they will have increased personnel at Harry Reid International Airport. All security checkpoint lanes will be open for a period of about 48 hours. Of course, we know that not everyone leaves Las Vegas a winner, particularly for crestfallen fans from the losing side. TSA will be making their exit just a little bit smoother.

Josh Campbell, CNN, Los Angeles.


COREN: The U.S. Senate is set to start voting on a bill that contains more aid for Ukraine and Israel. But the legislation is already facing a possibly fatal pushback from Donald Trump. That's ahead.

Plus, a horrific ending for a family of five after Russian strikes on Ukraine's second largest city.



COREN: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong. This is "CNN Newsroom".

You are looking at live pictures of the U.S. Capitol where the Senate is set to begin voting on Ukraine aid later today. The bill would set aside more than $60 billion for Kyiv, along with money for Israel and other foreign priorities. The final vote is expected next week, but there's no guarantee the House will even take up the bill if it passes in the Senate.

But the bill's uphill battle in Congress got even steeper on Saturday. Well, that's when Former President Donald Trump railed against the legislation on social media. He already helped to sink an earlier bipartisan border security deal that included money for Ukraine.

A family of five was killed after being trapped in a fire caused by a Russian drone strike on Kharkiv. They're among seven people who died when a drone hit a fuel depot and set part of the neighborhood on fire. A 10-month-old and two other children were among the victims.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is forging ahead with a reboot of its top military command. On Saturday, President Zelenskyy appointed five more senior commanders that came just days after he replaced his top military chief. The new leaders are under pressure to act as Russia reportedly makes new gains near Avdiivka. A Ukrainian open-source mapping site shows Russian troops in control of a railway line just north of the town and possibly just a few hundred meters from its main supply route.

For more, we're joined by Oleksiy Goncharenko, a Ukrainian parliament member. He's speaking with us from Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine. Great to have you with us. Let's begin with a shakeup at the top. Obviously, it's much anticipated dismissal of General Zaluzhny to then be replaced by General Syrskyi. Do you support the move and how will it affect morale of frontline troops?

OLEKSIY GONCHARENKO, UKRANIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: I do not support this move, but that is a decision of president and he has all the right to do. General Zaluzhny was a very popular commander in Ukrainian society, so that was a very good factor which was increasing the morale of people. But the president decided that he should be changed, maybe he has more information definitely than I have. And he is politically responsible for this decision. So, now I wish all the best to our new Chief Commander General Syrskyi.

COREN: But tell me, what message does this send to Western allies, this shake up at the top?

GONCHARENKO: It's nothing super special. Generals can be changed. Commanders can be changed. So, the message -- I don't think that here there is a message to the West or Western allies. Ukraine is ready to fight and we will continue to fight no matter who is our chief general.

COREN: But do you trust General Syrskyi's leadership considering what went down --

GONCHARENKO: Well, General -- COREN: -- in Bakhmut?

GONCHARENKO: General Syrskyi is a very strong leader and he also -- he was in charge of defense of Kyiv, the most important moment of the war in February, March 2022. He was responsible -- he was in charge of Ukrainian counteroffensive in the fall of 2022, extremely successful near Kharkiv.


So, he is a very well-known in battle hardened general. So, I think he can be a strong leader of Ukrainian military forces.

COREN: Mobilization is a huge issue in Ukraine, and there is no consensus on how to proceed. It was a sticking point for Zelenskyy and Zaluzhny, a very public spat. They need to replace the exhausted troops on the front line who've now been fighting for two years, plus the mass casualties, numbers that Ukraine will not release. What do you believe should be done?

GONCHARENKO: That is the most important. I am one of those. I started to speak about this year ago, that we need to have a clear system. And our men and women on the front line, they also should understand when they will be changed. So, that is very important. And we need to adopt the law which will clearly determine the term of service. And my proposition was 18 months plus three.

Now, we have a proposition of the government about 36 months. But the most important that these terms should be determined and clear because for the moment it is not and that is a very big problem, both for the troops which are fighting and also for other people because it definitely does not motivate you when you understand that you can be mobilized but you don't know for how long will you serve.

COREN: But what sort of numbers are we talking about? Because we know that Zaluzhny was pushing for 450,000 to half a million troops, extra troops to come into the system. Are those the numbers that Ukraine requires to fight Russia?

GONCHARENKO: I'm not -- I don't have responsibility to speak about this because I just don't know the exact numbers. By the way, I never heard from Zaluzhny himself, these numbers, 450,000 or 500,000, people that were said by the president on the press conference in December.

But for me, the most important is not number of people. The most important is ammunition, drones, and what these people have to fight with. Because we're not in medieval times, we can't fight with the numbers. And also, Ukraine cannot compete against Russia with the numbers. Russia is just much bigger in manpower than we are. So, we need to have a very strong strategy and strong weaponry.

COREN: Well, let's talk about that foreign aid package, $60 billion dollars for Ukraine, making its way through Congress. Although its passage is far from assured, Donald Trump obviously bragging about the fact that he can rally support against these measures, as we saw him do with the bill that tied aid to a border deal. You've been to Washington. What is your message to lawmakers that may want to support the bill, but don't want to incur the wrath of Trump and his supporters?

GONCHARENKO: You know, we are very concerned about what's going on. The United States said that it will be with us as long as it takes. But now, for months, the decision about support of Ukraine is in the Congress without any decision. That is very disappointing. And not only us are watching, but the whole world.

Is really the United States the ally you can rely on? Does really United States keep their word and promises which were given? And I just want to remind to those lawmakers who are against support of Ukraine, I'm speaking about with charity, not charity, that 30 years ago Ukraine voluntarily gave up its third biggest in the world nuclear arsenal under the pressure of the United States of America. And other under the guarantees that United States will secure us if needed.

If we would have this nuclear arsenal, we would never be attacked and killed like what is happening right now every day. I just want to remind this, this is not a charity from the United States. It's a clear obligation of the United States of America to help to Ukraine. And that is very important, not just for us, but for the whole planet.

COREN: Oleksiy Goncharenko, we appreciate your time. Thank you for joining us.

GONCHARENKO: Thank you very much.

COREN: Well, Pakistan has finally released the official results from Thursday's election, the winners and losers, and what's left to determine in a live report after the break.

Plus, the far right in Germany is gaining both backers and detractors. We'll have the story from inside an AfD meeting in Brandenburg.



COREN: Official election results in Pakistan are now in after days of protests and vote rigging allegations. Independent candidates backed by the country's jailed ex-leader Imran Khan won a plurality of seats but no majority in the assembly after Thursday's vote. Before the results came out, Khan had apparently sent word that protest should be held today outside polling offices where his party says election results had been withheld and delayed.

Well, joining us now with CNN's Sophia Saifi in Islamabad. Sophia, tell us what is happening on the streets of Pakistan as we speak?

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Anna, there are protests happening. However, those protests, which was supposed to be on a wider scale as announced by Imran Khan's party, the PTI, are not as widespread because they have claimed that they do not want to walk into a situation where they are entangled with the authorities. So, those protests that were supposed to be wider are now just outside polling offices. And it is not only the party of Imran Khan that is protesting. It has chosen today as a day of protest, but there are other smaller parties who also claimed rigging and manipulation of the polls.

So, again, none of the parties have received the majority of seats that they need to form a government. That means that there will be coalitions formed with the PPP, Nawaz Sharif's Party, the PMLN -- sorry. The PPP, which is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's party. The PMLN, which is Nawaz Sharif's Party. Along with other smaller parties would potentially be forming a coalition. It remains to be seen what happens with these independents affiliated with Iran Khan's party, which did win the most seats in the final tally that was released many days after the election by the election commission of Pakistan.

And what is going to happen in terms of who's going to be the next prime minister? Who's going to be leading this nuclear-powered country, this nuclear armed nation? There's a lot of anger on the streets amongst young voters who feel that their vote has not been respected.


Will that anger spill out to a wider movement in tandem with the other parties who have also made accusations of rigging? These few days ahead are important for stability in this country. So, we'll just have to wait and see how they play out. Anna?

COREN: Sophia Saifi in Islamabad, many thanks.

In Europe, German politics seem to be getting much more volatile. The far-right AfD Party is garnering both traction and critics. CNN's Sebastian Shukla has our report.


SEBASTIAN SHUKLA, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): It's boots on the ground in Freienthal for the alternative for Deutschland, the AfD. In this tiny Brandenburg village, Germany's far-right party are doing what many say their government aren't, talking to them. But as night falls, protesters spring with a message. Germany has been down this path before, never again means now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The AfD's plans only reveals these xenophobia, hatred and bigotry that exists in this country.

SHUKLA (voice-over): Views that are not hard to find across the road in the village hall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm glad that someone is taking care of all this scum that has spread in our country, in our beautiful Germany.

SHUKLA (voice-over): Pro and AfD curious supporters have gathered to hear from party officials. The message even has Trumpian undertones. Our country first, posters say.

SHUKLA: Part of the AfD call for voters is about luring people away from some of Germany's largest political parties through transparency, they say. But some of what's being discussed in this room is warped. Questioning things like the COVID pandemic and whether climate change is even real.

SHUKLA (voice-over): As the meeting concludes, many leave content with what they have heard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The AfD is finally standing up for the citizens and is slowly doing what we want. And what we want is to be part of the government.

SHUKLA (voice-over): Omid Nouripour is part of that government and he acknowledges that public image is partly to blame for their ailing poll numbers.

OMID NOURIPOUR, GREEN PARTY LEADER: No doubt that we have to improve a lot of things, especially the performance of our coalition, or giving the impression that we just shout at each other. We are not. But the feeling is there and we have to improve that.

SHUKLA (voice-over): Following an explosive investigation from the news outlet, "Correctiv", AfD lawmaker. Dr. Hans-Christoph Berndt hailed the so called remigration plan discussed as a promise. At this hotel, far-right, leaders suggested mass deportations, including for German citizens of foreign origin.

HANS-CHRISTOPH BERNDT, HEAD OF THE ALTERNATIVE FOR DEUTSCHLAND, BRANDENBURG (through translator): It is not only legitimate, it is necessary to think about remigration. Since 2015, more than 10 million foreigners have entered the country and a large proportion of them are not willing to integrate and live in German society, but are instead building parallel worlds. The federal government is not putting the interests of the indigenous population first.

SHUKLA (voice-over): In the real world, the report sparked waves of anti-AfD protests. Berndt's response is to shout conspiracy.

BERNDT (through translator): Yes, without the government campaign, people wouldn't be out on the street. I am very positive.

SHUKLA (voice-over): Sebastion Shukla, CNN, Brandenburg, Germany.


COREN: The AfD is now distancing itself from the reported secret meeting. They say it was not an official party event.

Well, coming up, the U.S. government says China is weaponizing social media, using it as a vehicle to spread dangerous disinformation. We'll look into those claims ahead.


COREN: A bizarre scene in the middle of an apartment complex in Florida. An emergency call helped lead authorities to this building in Tampa on Thursday morning to help get this kangaroo back where he belonged. In a Facebook post, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says, it was able to reunite the marsupial with its owner with the help of the department's agriculture team. There's no word yet on how the kangaroo got loose.

I didn't know people had kangaroos as pets in the U.S.

Well, the Chinese New Year rang in yesterday with celebrations happening all around the world. Mexico City's Chinatown was no exception as it was decked out to welcome the Lunar New Year. Of course, there were dragon dances. It is the Year of the Dragon, after all. Travel is a big part of New Year celebrations in China as millions board planes and trains to visit their hometowns.

Well, China is capitalizing on the deep political divisions inside the United States, spreading rumors and blatant disinformation on Chinese social media sites. The U.S. government is paying attention and warns the lies could have ramifications across the entire world. Will Ripley reports.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a world where information is power, where fact and fiction collide, a digital drumbeat of disinformation from China, the U.S. State Department says, threatening the very fabric of the free world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There are concerns in the U.S. that the conflict between Texas and the federal government is going to turn into a civil war.

RIPLEY (voice-over): One of Beijing's latest campaigns focusing on Texas, a tidal wave of disinformation surging across social media in China in recent weeks. Zeroing in on tensions between Texas and the White House over illegal migrants spilling over the border from Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Texas declared independence from the United States --

RIPLEY (voice-over): Chinese social media users captivated by videos like this, speculating about Texas declaring independence. Online chatter of a looming U.S. civil war getting hundreds of thousands of likes, shares, and comments, mostly untouched by Beijing's army of online censors.


RIPLEY (voice-over): And not an isolated incident, the State Department says. Releasing its first ever report on what it calls, the People's Republic of China's information manipulation.


RUBIN: When you look at the pieces of the puzzle and you put it together, you see a breathtaking ambition on the part of the PRC to seek information dominance in key regions of the world.

RIPLEY (voice-over): What the U.S. calls a multibillion dollar coordinated campaign of distortion and disinformation devised by the Chinese government, exploiting divisions within the United States. China's foreign ministry firing back, accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy for being the first nation to weaponize global information. Beijing blasting the State Department report as disinformation that misrepresents facts and truth, labeling America an empire of lies.

The U.S. says, China's digital authoritarianism accelerated in recent years, magnifying perceptions of chaos in America. A welcome distraction, analysts say, for Beijing's communist leaders grappling with a growing pile of problems at home.

From China's real estate crisis, new homes never finished, prompting protests by angry buyers, to a plunging stock market, skyrocketing youth unemployment, and rapidly aging populations. Beijing and Washington battling for information dominance.

RIPLEY: One key point on this fake news of a looming civil war in Texas, this is not the first time, just the latest example on the Chinese internet of information being twisted and manipulated. The U.S. says it's part of a much bigger campaign by the Chinese government. An almost Orwellian attempt to poison the information space crucial for democracies to function, weaponizing disinformation, exploiting existing fault lines in the U.S. and beyond, and trying to reshape global opinions all to benefit China.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


COREN: That wraps up this hour of "CNN Newsroom". I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. Thanks so much for your company. I'll be back with more news in just a moment.