Return to Transcripts main page

Connect the World

4 People Dead, 159 Unaccounted for as Search Continues; Family of Paraguay's First Lady Among Those Unaccounted For; Demands to Investigate Palestinian Activist's Death; Jury Deliberates in Trial of Woman Who Killed Rapist Husband; Airstrike Kills At Least 30 People at Tigray Market; From War Refugee to Olympic Athlete. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired June 25, 2021 - 11:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN, Abu Dhabi, this is "Connect the World" with Becky Anderson.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNNI HOST: This hour we're following a tragic building collapse near Miami, were more than 150 people are still unaccounted for.

We begin with the urgently unfolding situation in Florida where four people are confirmed dead and 159 others are, as I say, unaccounted for after the

collapse of a condo building, just north of Miami Beach in the town of Surfside.

This footage obtained by CNN gives a snapshot of the challenges facing emergency workers you can see heavy machinery being used to lift the rubble

as well as the intense smoke that crews are now encountering. The Mayor of Miami-Dade County has outlined the number one priority right now.


DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA MAYOR: We will continue search and rescue because we still have hope that we will find people

alive. That is exactly why we're continuing. And that that is why we're using our dogs and our sonar and our cameras everything possible to seek

places where there may still be people to be found.


ANDERSON: Well, Randi Kaye is on the scene with the very latest. And Randy describe what you've been seeing and what people have been telling you?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's been just a tragic scene here. I mean, we've been talking to not only rescuers, but also to family

members. So there's - it's sort of twofold because the rescuers are doing all they can to try and find those who may still be buried underneath that


I mean, you have now three more victims being found. So the total number of dead now being four so of course, now more families are getting this tragic

news that they're waiting at this community center not far from the site, they have pillows and blankets.

They've told us that they just refuse to leave. They want to know what happened to their loved ones. How this could have happened? How this

building could have collapsed? And then you have the rescue workers who are refusing to leave the site as well.

They're actually being pulled out of there at times, because they don't want to give up. They're so passionate about trying to give these families

some peace of mind and find some survivors. But here's what some of the families are saying take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A friend of my nephew was here with wife and three more children, you never lose hope. I'm just asking God because they're in

the affected area is unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mom is an absolutely amazing person. She's a fighter, and she fights her every single one of us. And we won't stop until - we

want to stop fighting until we find her.


KAYE: And one of those tragic stories we're hearing about our three grandmothers that are missing, they were out together the night, just hours

before this collapse. One of them has a condo in this building, and they decided to stay there for the night. And now they are among the missing.

ANDERSON: It's a tragic story. Are we getting any closer to knowing exactly what happened here? What caused this collapse Randi?

KAYE: Well, we know that there were some roof works being done on this building. So perhaps there were some heavy equipment, but officials really

aren't saying right now, as you said their priority is finding survivors.

They will spend every hour every minute of the day working on that they will eventually they hope find the cause of this. But that is not their

priority at this moment. There are a lot of different scenarios that might have happened, but again, not their priority.

ANDERSON: So describe exactly what's going on with this search and rescue effort? Who's involved? And is the state getting the support that it needs

at this point?

KAYE: Yes, FEMA, our rescue effort - rescue group is there. They are on the ground. They are bringing federal supplies, federal emergency management

supplies. But there have been fire crews on the scene. We have some of the best search and rescue teams located here in the Miami area from around the


They are here - they've been working in 15 minute shifts. And it's really interesting what they're going through, they're carrying 80 pounds of gear,

they have concrete saws, all kinds of equipment, because the building pancake, then it shifts and so they're also working with alongside them.

They have structural engineers to make sure that it's safe for the rescue teams to go through this building. And then at times, they have what they

call an all stop where they all stop and listen, for possible sounds of survivors voice and noise, somebody's climbing on something, anything that

they may have found underground to let someone know that they are there.

They're using listening devices and cameras that can bore through the holes in the slabs of the concrete and they're putting cameras into tiny spaces.

But it's very difficult conditions. It's been pouring heavily here, very hard rains, high winds; there have been small fires that have been breaking

out in the building that they've had to deal with. So it's been a very difficult rescue effort.

ANDERSON: Yes, these are the sorts of things that you generally only see in the wake of an earthquake for example, or indeed in a conflict zone

although sadly they remind me of the sort of images that we did see in Beirut last August.


ANDERSON: Let's just have a listen to one official involved.


KEVIN GUTHRIE, DIRECTOR, FLORIDA DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: The entire team that works in Tallahassee is activated, the men and women there

are ready to support as needed. And again, you know, as we've always said, at these disasters, FEMA helps federally support a disaster. The state

helps manage the disaster but everything is executed at the local level.


ANDERSON: And Randi, just for the benefit of those who don't know Surfside don't know, Miami, well just put this in context. I mean, obviously the

cameras are fully focused on this condo that's collapse, sadly, four people have lost their lives and over 150 still unaccounted for. Just step back

for as if you will. Where is this and what's the profile of, of the resident in this area?

KAYE: We are in Surfside; Florida is just North of Miami Beach. It's a very heavily populated area. It's a big beach community. It is a very popular

community. The building itself was full of families, children, there's even some bunk beds that you can see there on one of the balconies.

So it's that sort of community very heavily populated with the Jewish community here. It's also being so close to Miami. It's a big gateway to

Latin America. So it's a very mixed community and a very tight knit community.

Not a lot of snowbirds, as we call them where the building would have been empty and people have gone away to their homes in the north during the

summertime. This is a place where people stay full time.

ANDERSON: Randi Kaye on the story for you, thank you. Well, dozens of Latin American citizens have been caught up in this disaster, including the

family of Paraguay's First Lady. The First Lady herself is now in Florida as the search continues. There are also people from Uruguay from Venezuela,

Argentina, Colombia, and a relative that the Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

Matt Rivers following this part of the story and joining us now live. Matt, what details do you have at this point?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's these governments across South America, these families across South America are doing the same thing

Becky as so many families - so many American families right now in South Florida waiting hoping for any sort of news as these rescue efforts


But unfortunately, as every hour goes by the realization that there might not be good news kind of sinks closer to home. Let me give you the

breakdown of the foreign nationals that are missing are on accounted for.

At this point nine Argentinean citizens Becky, according to that government, six from Paraguay, six from Colombia, six from Venezuela, three

from Uruguay, and one missing from Chile. 31 in total at this point, as you mentioned, some of the people that are missing include the First Lady of

Paraguay's sister and her sister's family, including three small children.

You mentioned the First Lady of Paraguay traveled to Miami, she arrived there yesterday, actually to be there as these rescue efforts continue,

also a relative of Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

But this is going to be the kind of information that keeps coming out over the next hours the next days, the people that are involved, the families

that they've left behind, or the families that are waiting for any sort of news from all this.

And unfortunately, there is every chance that the number of people from South America that are going to be unaccounted for officially by these

different governments. That number has every chance of going up because this is a part of South Florida that we know is full of people from South

America, whether they live there permanently, whether they traveled there from time to time, whether they have a second home or an apartment.

This is an area well known for many different South American countries having representation there. And so this number might go up. And Becky the

last thing I'll say is that the consulates, many of these countries have consulates in South Florida.

And they've actually been taking the lead in liaising with the U.S. government trying to get information about their citizens that are missing.

Some of these consulates have actually taken to going to hospitals in the Miami area themselves to try and see what information if any they can get

about their citizens that are missing.

ANDERSON: Tragic. While I've got you Matt, I do want to ask you about the U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris's visit to the U.S./Mexico border today.

And you were on that border recently with some terrific reporting. What's the significance of her trip do you think?

RIVERS: You know she's the point person right for this monumental task of trying to slow down the number of migrants heading to the United States.


RIVERS: And we know we've talked about this before Becky that if you really want to address these problems, it starts well before the border wall. It

starts in Central America, addressing the root causes of migration, poverty, violence, chronic corruption, but there are a lot of problems that

Harris can look at the Vice President Harris can look at the border itself.

I mean, you're talking about wall construction of the last lack thereof; you're talking about what to do with all of the people that are getting to

the wall? What to do with all those unaccompanied minors? But also the smugglers, the smuggler that plays such a key role in getting these people

into the United States after the migrants pay them to do so.

And that's the reporting you're referring to not far from where the vice president will be today. We were on the other side of the border just a few

months ago, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where we watched one of those smugglers take two Ecuadorian migrants run them through the desert with a

makeshift ladder and put them up over the border wall into the United States.

How exactly do you stop that problem? And that is one of the huge issues that Kamala Harris and the Biden Administration have to deal with. They say

they want to target those smugglers. But it was so fascinating to see how that works where this smuggler just drove along the side of the wall until

he felt like he was far enough away from Border Patrol.

He ran the two migrants to the wall and he put them up and over. And then they ran into the United States. And we don't know what happened after

that. But that's just an illustration of all of the problems that Kamala Harris has to deal with, in this situation, going from Central America all

the way to the border wall itself.

It is a monumental task facing the administration. And that is the significance of her trip, I think at this point is acknowledging some of

those problems.

ANDERSON: Matt, thank you. Well, in the United States, the former police officer convicted in the death of George Floyd is set to be sentenced in

the coming hours. Derek Chauvin was convicted in April of murdering Floyd and could be sentenced to decades in prison.

Nearly a year ago cell phone video captured Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes. Floyd died gasping for air repeatedly

saying I can't breathe. Well, his death as you will likely remember set off mass protests not just in America, but around the world. Our Sara Sidner

reports Derek Chauvin could spend many, many years in prison.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Less than 24 hours from now former police officer Derek Chauvin is expected to learn his punishment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the defendant guilty, guilty, and guilty.

SIDNER (voice over): Two months after Former Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts, including second degree unintentional

murder in the death of George Floyd. Judge Peter Cahill, who presided over the trial will now decide Chauvin's sentence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --man. Let's get on and get in the car. Get up and get in the car.

SIDNER (voice over): The world watched Chauvin slowly took Floyd's life kneeling on his neck for nine minutes 29 seconds. That slow motion murder

captured on a cell phone prompted protests worldwide.

It also prompted Judge Cahill to find there were several aggravating factors in the case, including the slow death of George Floyd occurring

over approximately six minutes of his positional asphyxia was particularly cruel, during which the defendant objectively remained indifferent to Mr.

Floyd's, please, Cahill wrote. But on May 25th Floyd's pleas were heard loud and clear by eyewitnesses trying to save him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why did you do that?

WILLIAMS: Because I believe I witnessed a murder.

GENEVIENE HANSEN, EYEWITNESS AND FIRST RESPONDER: Had they let me into the scene I already had decided what his level of consciousness was. So I would

have requested additional help.

SIDNER (voice over): Prosecutors are asking for a 30 year sentence the defense is asking for probation, no prison time beyond time served. But

because of sentencing guidelines and aggravating factors, it will likely be something in between.

MARY MORIARTY, FORMER CHIEF PUBLIC DEFENDER, HENNEPIN COUNTY: The fact that the judge found aggravating factors simply means he now has the authority

to give a sentence greater than our sentencing guidelines.

SIDNER (voice over): But before the judge makes his decision, Floyd's family will get a chance to tell the court the deep and painful impact

George Floyd's murder has had on their lives, something they have revealed to the public many times outside court.

BRIDGETT FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SISTER: The officer took a great man, a great father, a great brother, a great uncle. He loved his family.

SIDNER (voice over): While we will almost definitely hear from members of the Floyd family who will be making those victim impact statements. We

could potentially hear from the defendant Derek Chauvin; he has the right to speak in court. However, his attorney Eric Nelson has filed a post

verdict motion for a brand new trial.


SIDNER (voice over): He has cited many different things including prosecutorial misconduct and juror misconduct. And so it isn't likely that

we will hear from Chauvin, it is likely there will be an appeal depending on what the sentence is? Sara Sidner, CNN in George Floyd Square,



ANDERSON: Sara Sidner reporting. Well, high profile critic of the Palestinian Authority has died in police custody. Just ahead the death is

triggering protests in the West Bank and demands for answers from United States to the European Union.

Plus, I'm going to speak to the Ethiopian Ambassador to the U.S. as a military spokesman in Tigray accuses Ethiopian government of carrying out a

crime against his people.


ANDERSON: You're looking at video from Iran's state news agency of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei receiving his first dose of Iran's homegrown

COVID-19 vaccine. In January Khamenei banned vaccines made in the U.S. and the UK saying he didn't trust them.

This despite Iran's position as the hardest hit country in the Middle East. Iran is using Russia's Sputnik Vaccine as well as a drug being made jointly

with Cuba. This video from back in February shows the first dose of the Russian vaccine being given to the soul of Iran's Minister of Health, shown

at the time to boost public confidence in vaccines.

Well, prominent Palestinians the U.S. and European Union are demanding a full investigation into the death of a longtime critic of the Palestinian

Authority. Nizar Banat died in police custody in Hebron.

His family says armed Palestinian soldiers broke into his home early Thursday morning beating and arresting him. And he's been an outspoken

opponent of the PA repeatedly accusing it of corruption.

Well, protesters angered by Banat's death, have marched in protest. Hadas Gold watching development from Jerusalem and she joins us now. What more do

we know at this point?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Banat's family telling CNN that in the early hours of Thursday morning at least 20 armed Palestinian security

forces entered Banat's home brutally beating him they said and arresting him.

Now the Governor of the Palestinian Authority Governor of Hebron confirming that Banat had died during the operation only saying though that during the

arrest, his health deteriorated. An independent autopsy done by human rights group with the blessing of Banat's family reported abrasions and

bruises all over his body.

But his death is sparking angry condemnation across the West Bank putting a spotlight on a recent crackdown of opponents of the Palestinian Authority.

As you noted Banat had been very outspoken about the Palestinian Authority.

His most recent Facebook post was condemning the Palestinian Prime Minister for that botched vaccine swap deal with Israel.


GOLD: Our producer in Hebron today attended his funeral; she said thousands of people were there. And she said many of them were calling for the end of

the Presidency of Mahmoud Abbas. At some points, people were shouting, calling him a traitor. Other people were saying down with the authority.

Now Prime Minister Shtayyeh has called for an investigation and the U.S. State Department is also weighing in saying that they have serious concerns

about the Palestinian Authority restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression by Palestinians and harassment of civil society activists and

organizations but Becky, this incident, a new crisis for the Palestinian Authority becoming increasingly unpopular, especially after those canceled

elections a few weeks ago, Becky.

ANDERSON: We wait to see what happens next on this because one assumes they're made or you know one fears that there may be more fallout. I do

just a while I've got you want to take a look at another very important story impacting Israel right now.

And the country just reinstating its mask mandate after the new prime minister, called for tighter restrictions in the wake of a new outbreak of

the Delta variants. Now this mask mandate had only been lifted a week or so ago. Just how bad are things at this point?

GOLD: Well, officials are increasingly worried. It was just over a week ago, as you noted that that mask mandate was lifted indoors and already

it's being put back on. Initially authorities were saying that they would - they would put it back into place on Sunday but then today a very sudden


They announced them that as of noon today in local time, everybody needed to be wearing masks indoors as officials are concerned about this new

surge, 227 cases in the last 24 hours. And officials are also concerned that the fact that people who are fully vaccinated are being infected as



GOLD (voice over): A site Israelis had hoped they would soon forget, pop up COVID testing sites as Israel tries to stop a new wave, especially among

the young. Ayelet Ilan bringing her 14-year-old daughter girl to be tested nearly every student in her grade now under precautionary quarantine.

AYELET ILAN, BINYAMINA RESIDENT: We feel secured. Everything's under control. We pay attention to the rules and regulations. And that's it and

we hope it will pass as it came it will go away.

GOLD: Here in Binyamina an outbreak at two schools including this one, hopefully to a surge in positive cases in the education system, as well as

in a number of towns. Masks are now required at the affected schools.

GOLD (voice over): Other towns in Israel also experiencing new cases partly due to the new Delta variant, which health officials say could be 50

percent more contagious, though they're encouraged by data from England showing that the Pfizer vaccine still offers protection.

DR. SHARON ELROY-PREISS, ISRAELI HEAD OF PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES: Compared to that the Delta variant effectiveness - the vaccine effectiveness is

about 88 percent which is a slight reduction but still very high effectiveness of the vaccine.

GOLD (voice over): Israelis returning from abroad and unvaccinated children combined with a new variant have threatened the sense of normalcy that had

returned to Israel after vaccinating more than 85 percent of those eligible.

Israel's new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett now recommending masks be warned by all indoors warning that stricter restrictions may soon need to

be reinstated and begging parents to get their children vaccinated before Israel's current batch expires next month.

NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The pace of vaccinations right now is not good. Only 2000 young people are being vaccinated a day in order to

meet our goal we need 20,000. In simple language I'm calling on parents go out immediately.

GOLD (voice over): A message getting through to - who is urging people to stay close to home and already have an appointment to get her vaccine?


GOLD: And Becky further restrictions have been put into place. An initial plan to allow individual vaccinated tourists into the country after July

1st has now been delayed to at least August 1st Becky.

ANDERSON: Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem. Well, that Delta variant threatening not only Israel but countries around the world from the Americas to Asia to

Europe. The German Health Minister warns the Delta variant will have the upper hand in the coming weeks.

And that variant makes up 15 percent of new cases in Germany. In the UK, cases of the Delta variant are up 46 percent compared to the previous week,

and it accounts for nearly all of the new COVID cases there.

And now there's another new variant "Dubbed Delta Plus" is rearing its ugly head in several countries. 48 cases have been reported in India almost half

of them here in this state.


ANDERSON: Well, authorities are tightening restrictions while scientists are trying to assess how well existing vaccines work against it? Salma

Abdelaziz reports.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Delhi's colorful markets are alive again. India has survived the world's worst outbreak of COVID-19,

helped along by the highly transmissible Delta variant. For now the surge is under control, but medical experts warn the threat is far from over.

India's Health Ministry is also concerned about a new variant termed the "Delta Plus" and say it shows increased transmissibility, stronger binding

to receptors of lung cells, and a potential reduction in antibody response. Some Indian healthcare experts are sounding the alarm.

DR. SANDEEP BUDHIRAJA, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, MAX HEALTHCARE: If a potential mutation happens, it will again be explosive can be more explosive, or can

be less explosive, but it will lead to a clear wave.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): The "Delta Plus" variant was detected in three Indian states. But most cases are reported outside the country official

said. From Japan to Poland to Portugal to Switzerland, the new variant is popping up across the globe. The United States and the UK appear to be the

most effective with dozens of cases already.


ABDELAZIZ (voice over): But Dr. Ravi Gupta, a Virologist at the University of Cambridge, said the impact on spread is limited.

DR. GUPTA: It does, you know, in some people help the virus to get around our immune defenses. But it only does that to a small degree and in some

people. So that's why it has to be taken in context.

ABDELAZIZ: Should we be concerned about vaccine efficacy when it comes to this plus variant?

DR. GUPTA: No, I think the Delta is not to worry about in terms of vaccine efficacy.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Even without that one additional mutation the "Delta" variant is a formidable enemy. The whole situation the World Health

Organization said the strain is set to become the most dominant one globally, and the U.S. is braced for impact.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to

our attempt to eliminate COVID-19.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): The British government delayed the easing of restrictions largely due to the variant. As tourism season begins, Europe

is watching nervously. EU modeling forecasts the Delta variant will make up 90 percent of infections in the block by the end of August.

But as the virus morphs and mutates, experts say the best defense against it remains the same vaccination. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Well, a packed busy market becomes the scene of a deadly airstrike. Days after that attack, I'm going to ask the Ethiopian

Ambassador to the U.S. about his government's Military offensive in Tigray.



ANDERSON: The prosecution and the French murder case that has electrified the conversation on domestic violence, says it is seeking a light sentence

for Valerie Bacot. She admits to killing her husband she also says Daniel Polette raped her for years as her stepfather before becoming her husband.

Well, the court ordered psychiatric evaluation and says Bacot acted out of terror. Now her fate is in the hands of French jury CNN's Cyril Vanier

watching this story for us. Cyril, this is a horrific tale just take his back what is the background to this case?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky the jury is currently deliberating and so we are awaiting their verdict possibly in a matter of hours but it's

already been a day of high drama on this the last day of the Valerie Bacot trial.

A court reporter who attended the morning sessions that he'd never seen anything quite like it the prosecutor Becky seeming to side largely with

the accused and not with the man she killed in total disbelief Valerie Bacot fainted. Here's her story, Becky.


VANIER (voice over): It's the story of a broken human being and a test of the French legal system. Valerie Bacot arrives in court surrounded by her

children, this mother of four faces a life sentence behind bars after killing her husband Daniel Polette. The facts are not disputed.

She admits shooting him in the back of their van and burying his body with the help of their teenage sons. But her bestselling memoir everyone knew

frames it is self defense. I only wanted to protect myself she writes protect my life and that of my children. Nothing else ever mattered to me.

Valerie Bacot was first abused by Daniel Polette as a child 25 years her elder he was her stepfather at the time. He was sentenced to prison but she

says raped her repeatedly when he returned home. By age 17 she was pregnant with their first child and eventually married him.

This man was all powerful says Bacot's lawyer. He's so a terror and had total control over his children and his wife. Bacot described the marriage

to investigators as an ordeal, beatings, threats, forced prostitution, total submission to a tyrant who drank heavily and was addicted to


Don't worry, one day you'll leave, she recounts her husband saying, but it will be feet first and the kids too. During the trial Polette's siblings

and former partners concurred he was a dangerous man. A monster says his brother inhumane, unhinged someone you'd never want in your family.

The legal question explains this lawyer is whether the law is applied differently when a woman who has been beaten over her life and forced into

prostitution kills her spouse. For the moment she says there is no special treatment.

Public opinion appears to skew heavily in Valerie Bacot's favor; a petition against further jail time has received more than 600,000 signatures. And

several lawmakers have expressed support. Also in her favor, a psychiatric evaluation concluding that she acted out of terror, her judgment altered by

extreme post traumatic stress disorder.

When you're beaten for years since the age of 12, her lawyer argues you cannot think normally like you were I. At some point you have to do

something that's not like you not like her to save herself. It's survival. How this argument resonates with the jury will likely determine the outcome

of the trial.


VANIER: And you know Valerie Bacot has already spent a full year in jail ahead of her trial. So if the jury actually decided to follow the

prosecutors' sentencing requirement, which was a light sentence with only one firm year in prison, well then Valerie Bacot couldn't walk free tonight

and be with her children. And today will have shown Becky if that is indeed the case. Today will have shown that not all murders are equal.

ANDERSON: Cyril Vanier on the story for you. We're going to take a very short break back after this.



ANDERSON: A military spokesman for Tigray says the Ethiopian government is carrying out a crime against our people. Well, this comes just days after

an airstrike hit a packed market in the region killing at least 30 people.

The Ethiopian Military first said reports of the attack were fake news later calling wounded people being treated in nearby hospitals, actors

faking injuries in an attempt to overshadow Ethiopia's first free and fair election this past week.

Well, let's get Ethiopia's response to this and other issues. Fitsum Arega joins me now live from Washington is Ethiopian Ambassador to the United

States sir thank you for joining us. That airstrike killed as many as 30 people on Tuesday; the government keeps changing its narrative first

calling it fake news then admitting to it, but claiming it only targeted fighters.

However, CNN has seen many images and interviewed people on the ground who witnessed gross violations the youngest victim was two years old,

ambulances were blocked and shot out on the way to the hospital. Why?

FITSUM AREGA, ETHIOPIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Thank you, Becky for having me. First of all, the government is working hard to review the facts related to

the recent allegations surrounding this recent development, especially the emergency response.

The priority of the government is addressing the humanitarian challenges in Tigray to defect the government have been doing this best allocating

additional resources. But here comes at the conclusion of a very democratic - we have this situation. I hear you, Becky, I understand.

ANDERSON: Let me stop you there because all the reports that we get and the work that we have done on the ground suggests that the Ethiopian government

is not doing its best to allow in humanitarian aid into an area of conflict that the Ethiopian government has created. So there are two issues here.

Aid agencies have continued issues about humanitarian access and this conflict has been caused by your very government. So let's start with the

conflict itself. When will it end? Why is it still ongoing?

AREGA: So to put the facts straight, first of all, it's the TPLF extremists that started the attack in November. And we're having a continuation of

what transpired there. So the government of Ethiopia has responded like any government in the world would do to stop the terrorist destabilizing our



AREGA: So the recent attack also is a continuation of the terrorists and the government is to assist at one time providing the humanitarian needs,

helping the partners on the ground that are helping us to provide food and shelter and other support.

By the way, we appreciate the international community, especially the U.S. and - on disregard and others. The government is also responding to its

best despite the allegations and disinformation coming from, you know--

ANDERSON: So you are once again suggesting fake news. Can I stop you because we must - we've been covering this story now since November? It's

so important for the people of Tigray and the wider population in what is the second most populous country in Africa that we get the facts straight.


ANDERSON: So let's start with just our reporting. Our CNN Senior Correspondent, Nima Elbagir has been on the ground doing some extensive

investigative reporting, which I'm sure you are well aware of, on Ethiopia and from Ethiopia. She was in the Tigray region back in April where she

visited a local health facility. And I just want you and our viewers to hear a little of that reporting.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two month old Johannes' (ph) life has been hanging in the balance. His mother

risked her life and his to get him past the soldiers in circling the city so that he can receive life saving oxygen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he first got ill, it was a hard time so I couldn't bring him. There was an act of war. He got weaker, but I couldn't

find transport. I had to travel difficult roads alone to get him here.

ELBAGIR (voice over): He's not out of danger yet. The hospital electricity flickers on and off. And they are still waiting to get more cylinders of



ANDERSON: Off the back of that reporting, the Senates passed a resolution and demanding that the Eritreans withdraw from Ethiopia. Have they done

that, sir?

AREGA: Thank you. I have previously responded to that reporting that we provided access and also made available both sides of the story, but

presented only one side. So I'm really sorry about the victims. And also, you know the people the civilians caught in the process.

But this is all done by the TPLF. And the government was trying to you know, it's best to avoid any civilian casualties. And that's something that

that happened. But I earlier said it's also mixed with disinformation, it needs to confront.

I also reiterated earlier in my first account that has never been confirmed on the Eritrean withdrawal, first TPLF attacked Eritrea by missile and

later on the ground. I mean, they did attack on the ground inside Ethiopia. They responded in self defense. Now, diplomatic discussion with Eritrea

regarding their orderly and complete withdrawal is going on.

ANDERSON: Do you deny that there are Eritrean troops in the Tigray region who may be wearing Ethiopian army uniforms?

AREGA: That's the allegation again. So the situation is I mean, that's false by the way, the situation is extremely complicated. And I mean there

are no - there is still a border dispute that was there and also - the TPLF terrorists--

ANDERSON: It is complicated, sir. Let me put some other sound to you because it is complicated. This is David Beasley, Head of the World Food

Program about how military violence is worsening the food crisis on the ground.

The U.N. has said that 350,000 people are living in famine like conditions, but some 5 million need humanitarian aid and the agencies continue to say

that they are struggling to get food to the people who matter most whatever is going on with this conflict. Here's David Beasley.


DAVID BEASLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: When you have political solutions, hunger rates go down. We see it all over the world.

You look in the last few years how the hunger rate has spiked and it's been manmade conflict.

And so if we can address the conflict and bring peace in the conflict, then we can absolutely end hunger in this region with the support of the

international community.


BEASLEY: I don't care who's controlling the access point which side of the military give us the access, we need to reach innocent victims of conflict.

Because if we can do that, Becky, we can turn this around and make sure that every child and every family gets the food they need, in this very

difficult time.


ANDERSON: Give us the access he needs - we need, he says critical aid is being blocked from reaching those who need it most. Why, sir?

AREGA: We appreciate David Beasley; WFP Chief. He has been there from the beginning providing us the necessary support to the people in the region.

And the government and the forces on the ground have been providing unfettered access despite in some areas.

In some pockets the TPLF terrorist is blocking aid movements and also looting some of you know the assistance provided to the people, so they are

known for the disinformation and sometimes they get it done through some unfortunately, international media.

So we respect the WFP Chief and continue to work with the six aid agencies on the ground to further provide them in difficult conditions through

escorting in some instances. But there is no deliberate blockade by the government. These are people how come--

ANDERSON: Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has denied that there is hunger in the country's war torn Tigray region. The U.N. reports it is at a

tipping point, their emergency relief coordinator says there is famine in Tigray. How can the prime minister say there is no hunger?

AREGA: We are working to prevent hunger. We are working to prevent famine happening. There is a serious humanitarian need, that's why we are

encouraging and asking our partners to support us. And we agree there is a need more need. But at the moment--

ANDERSON: So you agree that there is hunger, despite the prime minister denying that there are allegations that starvation is being used as a

weapon of war. Do you - what's your response to those allegations?

AREGA: So we don't accept those allegations. These are part of the continued disinformation to undermine the efforts of the government. We

have allocated huge resources from other - capital projects even to help our people in need.

So we are working very hard as I speak, the regional, you know, administration have also issued a new directive to this effect. So we are

working hard to stop it and providing seeds, fertilizers to capture the farming season which is beginning soon.

ANDERSON: You talk about your partners and for many years, the U.S. has been a good partner for Ethiopia. But it has recently slapped sanctions on

current and former Ethiopian and Eritrean officials as well as members of Tigray's TPLF.

Your government has described those actions as misguided and regrettable. I wonder what did Ethiopia expect there are demands to end this conflict. If

it doesn't, there could be further sanctions. Why does this conflict continue?

AREGA: We still believe the U.S. is our strategic partner. We value the friendship and assistance in this challenging time. We are making sure that

the U.S officials, both elected and in the administration get facts from the ground from the government, not disinformation from other sources,

which is, you know, affecting our relationship to the level - some measure.

ANDERSON: You've used the term disinformation and misinformation and you've used the term fake news a number of times now in this interview. I just

wonder given that the U.S. has slapped these sanctions on current and former officials because it genuinely believes there are serious issues

here. How concerned are you about the deteriorating relationship with the United States and others?


AREGA: I'm very concerned. And I believe we have common concern as well. The concern they raised to us is regarding humanitarian, addressing the

humanitarian needs of the people on the ground and also respecting the human rights, which might be affected by the conflict. So we also share

their concepts.

ANDERSON: Is the Ethiopian Military respecting people's human rights on the ground? Have you been on the ground in the area?

AREGA: The Ethiopian Military has been known for its discipline, in all engagements in other countries through U.N. mission. But what we encounter

here is some, you know challenges and also government is making sure those who violated the law and in any way affected our citizens will be

accountable. No one is above the law. So, so far government has made--

ANDERSON: Sadly there have been serious and significant allegations of rape being used as a weapon of war on the ground by forces acting in this

conflict. Sir, I'm going to have to close this interview out here. But we thank you for joining. It's important to get your perspective. Thank you.

We're going to take a very short break back after this.


ANDERSON: The Olympics will culminate years of sacrifice for one Syrian badminton player. CNN's Coy Wire has the player's remarkable journey from

fleeing a civil war to stepping on to the Olympic stage.


COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Civil War has been raging in Syria for the last decade. 6.6 million people have fled the

country escaping deadly violence in search of a better life.

Millions more are in need and displaced within their borders. Among those who fled this Olympian Aram Mahmoud a refugee athlete who has been

separated from his family as he pursues his dreams.

ARAM MAHMOUD, OLYMPIAN: Yes, leaving everything behind my family, my friends, it was the most difficult thing actually, they're still there. It

is very tough actually because I have been, it's been six years I didn't see them. So it was a very long time. And also before we were always

together, hopefully I can see them again and bring them together again.

WIRE (voice over): Being without his family has been tough for Mahmoud, but with a grand vision for a better future, staying where he was just wasn't

an option.

MAHMOUD: Because of the situation in Syria like we have a very tough time. I decided to leave Syria because I want to search for the better future for

me as a person and also to feel safe. Some like to live normal life. That was the first reason; the second reason was to maybe have more chance to

continue my badminton career.


WIRE (voice over): Due to his situation and legal status, he wasn't able to compete from 2015 to 2018. But in 2019, Mahmoud was awarded a scholarship

by the International Olympic Committee as part of their Refugee Athlete Program.

Settling into a new country has been challenging, but through the power of sport, the 23 year old says he's been able to find a new home and community

first in the Netherlands and now in Denmark, where he trains.

MAHMOUD: It was difficult when I moved from Syria to like a different country, different culture, everything different there. The Badminton

helped me actually to become part of the community actually there immediately, I made some friends. That was the most beautiful thing to

have. Go into the culture and learn some more.

WIRE (voice over): Now, six years after leaving Syria, his dream of becoming an Olympian has come true. One of 29 refugee athletes selected by

the IOC to compete under the Olympic flag at Tokyo 2020 this summer, Mahmoud and the team will aim to send a powerful message of solidarity and

hope to the world. For Mahmoud this opportunity means everything.

MAHMOUD: It means a lot for me because now like we've proved to the world actually that we are able to do something and we are keeping fighting for

our goals to reach our goals and to let the world see that we can do a lot.

WIRE (voice over): Mahmoud will take center stage with the Olympic team as they walk out on the opening ceremony on July 23, a moment that will be a

culmination of years of sacrifice to escape war and pursue his dreams. Coy Wire, CNN Atlanta.


ANDERSON: --inspiring story, stay safe stay well, very good evening from me here in Abu Dhabi and from those working with me around the world. "One

World" with Zain Asher is up next.