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Your World Today
U.N. Relief Convoy Hit After Entering Lebanese Refugee Camp; Former Russian Spy to be Charged in U.K.
Aired May 22, 2007 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Trapped in a battle ground. A U.N. convoy gets hit amid a short-lived cease-fire in Lebanon.
HUGH RIMINTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right across Iraq, education is in retreat. It's not just parents keeping their kids away from kindergartens and schools, it goes all the way through to the kidnapping, intimidation and murder of college professors.
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Lessons in fear and in security. We look at the dangers of learning in a war zone.
GORANI: British authorities say they now know who poisoned a former KGB agent. So why is Russia putting up roadblocks?
CLANCY: And coaxing some confused whales. U.S. Coast Guard cutters try to steer two humpbacks back into the ocean. But it's not an easy task.
GORANI: It is 9:00 a.m. in Rio Vista, California. It's 7:00 p.m. in Beirut, Lebanon.
Hello and welcome to our report broadcast around the globe this hour.
I'm Hala Gorani.
CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy.
From Moscow to Baghdad, London to Beijing, wherever you're watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.
GORANI: Well, we're going to have all those stories in a moment, but first breaking news out of Turkey. Our sister network, CNN Turk, is reporting there's been an explosion in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
CLANCY: Now, we have reports from CNN Turk. Some people have been injured. How many we're not sure of right now.
We are monitoring the story and will continue to keep you updated as details come in.
GORANI: Just one footnote. This district where the explosion took place is a very busy district with tourist attractions and bazaars, as well.
So we're going to keep track of that.
Now, a truce in Lebanon was shattered almost as soon as it began, and a U.N. aid convoy got caught in the crossfire.
CLANCY: We begin with the renewed fighting between soldiers of the Lebanese army and militants holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp just north of Tripoli.
GORANI: Now, the convoy was entering the camp that has no hospital and few supplies, when it came under fire.
CLANCY: As many as 10 relief workers may be trapped inside there now, but earlier some residents were able to escape.
CLANCY (voice over): Lebanese army troops and al Qaeda-linked militants rejoined the battle inside the sprawling Nahr al-Bared refugee camp Tuesday with scant hopes for a cease-fire. As the fighting raged for a third straight day, more concerns were raised for tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees trapped inside Nahr al- Bared.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The humanitarian situation in general is really very, very bad, and it was deteriorating every minute.
CLANCY: Tuesday, some camp residents were able to escape the fighting. Shaken and weak, some were carried out to waiting ambulances.
At the same time, U.N. aid workers were able to bring in supplies for the besieged refugee camp before their convoy was hit in the fighting. Three of the U.N. trucks were hit. It's not clear by which side.
The government has strong public support for its actions after gunmen of Fatah al-Islam killed more than two dozen Lebanese army soldiers on Sunday. Beirut's pro-democracy lawmakers insist the group has been tied to deadly bomb attacks and is supported by Syria's intelligence services. Promises to protect Palestinian refugees in the camp were weighed against a determination to dismantle Fatah al- Islam and arrest its gunmen.
"Unfortunately, of course, I expect explosions to increase," said Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader, adding, "The sooner we take decisive action, the more the state will be able to prevent Lebanon from becoming a second Iraq."
As huge plumes of smoke smeared the skies over northern Lebanon, the entire country focused on the fighting and fears it could further destabilize a nation already reeling from political strife. But through the smoke, it appeared clear enough that mainstream Palestinians were further isolating the al Qaeda-linked Fatah al- Islam, while embracing the trapped refugees.
ABBAS ZAKI, PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION (through translator): We've reached an agreement on the procedure to stop the gun battle without any consequences, especially in the sensitive position we are in now. We all want to reassure that we condemn this phenomenon.
CLANCY: The phenomenon is Fatah al-Islam. Small, but very well armed, the group is clearly taking shelter behind and among innocent civilians while its gunmen vow they will fight rather than surrender. The question is how many innocents are they ready to take with them.
CLANCY: The U.S. government says it is concerned about those civilian casualties in Lebanon and the potential for more, but it defends the Lebanese army's fight against what it calls violent extremists. In fact, Washington has been working to strengthen Lebanon's armed forces for some time now.
Let's bring in Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr and get some details of that.
Just how much aid has been coming, and why?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it's really been going on since, of course, the war last summer in Lebanon. About $30 million of military aid approved by Congress, much of it already flowing to that country.
What they have received is very basic military gear, things like Humvees, the kind of vehicles you see troops moving around inside Iraq; five-ton trucks; helicopter spare parts; and ammunition. That last item, ammunition, is one of the most urgent needs right now for the Lebanese armed forces.
This is basic material that helps them keep moving around the country, trying to engage in security operations and win against some of the militants. But as to the current emergency, we are told by officials with direct knowledge, U.S. officials, military and diplomatic, that within the last day or so, the government of Lebanon has come to the Bush administration and asked yet again for additional shipments of ammunition, armored vests and helmets, basic gear so they can continue the security operations and their troops will not be ambushed or killed, as they have been when all of this began to unfold.
Many of their troops move with very minimal protective gear. It's the type of equipment, we should emphasize, that the U.S. Congress has already approved. What the Lebanese government is asking for now is an acceleration of those deliveries in light of the current situation -- Jim.
CLANCY: All right. Barbara Starr there on the latest, how Washington is supporting the Lebanese government. More specifically, the Lebanese army in this continuing crisis.
Barbara, thank you.
GORANI: Now, British prosecutors say they plan to seek the extradition of Russian citizen Andrei Lugovoi, spy-turned-businessman, on a murder charge. They accuse him of poisoning another former Russian spy in an unusual story of international intrigue.
Phil Black offers details on the legal moves set in motion.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Slow, horrible death. A murder plot so intriguing it has often been compared to a spy novel. Now British officials have accused one Russian citizen of responsibility.
SIR KEN MACDONALD, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS: I have today concluded that the evidence sent to us by the police is sufficient to charge Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning.
BLACK: The day Litvinenko fell ill he met with Andrei Lugovoi and another Russian at the London's Millennium Hotel. A former KGB officer, now businessman, Lugovoi has always insisted he had nothing to do with Litvinenko's death, but Alexander Litvinenko's widow welcomed news Lugovoi may face British justice.
MARINA LITVINENKO, WIDOW: I would like to say I'm very happy about all the job that Scotland Yard has done already, and definitely they're going to do more. And I'm very happy with the judge and court going to be here in England.
BLACK: Alexander Litvinenko was a former Russian spy. He was granted British asylum in 2000 and later became a citizen. He persistently irritated the Russian government with criticism and claimed the Kremlin was responsible for the 1999 bombing of apartments in Moscow in an operation designed to ramp up feeling against Chechen separatists.
On his deathbed, Litvinenko said Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, was involved in his poisoning. Putin rejects that, but Litvinenko's family and friends maintain the highest levels of Russian government played a part.
ANDREI NEKRASOV, LITVINENKO FRIEND: Alexander's whole point and possibly the hatred he generated in his old ex-colleagues was that the efforts by Russian secret service is becoming like a criminal gang. So if it's true, he predicted his own murder.
BLACK: For 23 days, Litvinenko languished in hospital suffering. For much of that time doctors did not know what had poisoned him.
Too late it was identified as Polonium 210, a rare highly- radioactive substance. Scotland Yard's anti-terror officers then followed a trail of radiation across London and beyond. The Millennium Hotel, this sushi restaurant, British Airways jets, properties in Germany, even the embassy in Moscow all were found to contain trace elements of Polonium.
Britain's chief prosecutor says it all leads to Andrei Lugovoi and is demanding his extradition from Russia.
MACDONALD: So that he may be charged here with murder and brought swiftly before a court in London to be prosecuted for this extraordinarily grave crime.
BLACK (on camera): Britain's foreign secretary has told the Russian ambassador she expects full cooperation from his government. But there is no extradition treaty, and relations between the two countries have grown very cold since Litvinenko's death. They could get cooler still.
Phil Black, CNN, London.
GORANI: Well, the news of the arrest warrant comes after a long and astonishing investigation, in some cases, detailed there by Phil Black. Now, police work that led to the discovery of a trail of radioactive sites in London and beyond was part of it.
Jonathan Mann has some "Insight" -- Jonathan.
JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: In a more conventional murder case, a criminal might leave behind fingerprints or maybe footprints. In this case, the trail was made of trace amounts of Polonium. It was a matter of connecting dots written in radiation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JOHN HENRY, ST. MARY'S HOSPITAL, LONDON: Everybody was shocked. They were really taken aback because nobody expected this particular substance to be what caused the poisoning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: Chronologically, it started October 16, 2006. Two Russian business associates meet in London. They are Dmitry Kovtun, who you'll see on the left there, and Andrei Lugovoi, on the right.
And in the places they told reporters they visited, the British home secretary announced that police subsequently discovered Polonium -- a security company where they talked to Litvinenko, a sushi bar, and two different hotels. Now, after that, the two men reportedly flew back to Moscow the next day.
There's been no public link announced between the planes they flew home on and any Polonium, but there were other planes. Andrei Lugovoi reportedly flew from Moscow to London with his family and some friends on October 31st and then returned November 3rd. The British Airways planes used for those flights showed trace amounts of Polonium.
Then on November 1st, Lugovoi and Kovtun meet Litvinenko at London's Millennium Hotel for tea. That was the night Litvinenko fell ill. And as we've been reporting, radiation was found there, too, the home secretary later said.
Lugovoi said in an interview he went to London as part of a group of Moscow soccer fans, football fans, and they attended a game at Emirates Stadium in north London. Radiation was found there, too.
When their names first surfaced, both men came forward and volunteered to meet with British investigators. They went to the British embassy in Moscow to do that November 23rd. Traces of Polonium were found there, too.
Now, just to be entirely clear, prosecutors haven't implicated Dmitry Kovtun in any way. He says he never used Polonium, never knowingly handled it, though doctors have told him that he did absorb some.
Lugovoi, who has now been identified by British authorities, has also denied any involvement. And he released a statement to say it again today. "I consider the decision politically motivated," he said. I did not kill Litvinenko, have nothing to do with his death, and can prove with facts my distrust of the so-called evidence collected by Britain's justice system."
GORANI: So, will Russia extradite Lugovoi to London to face trial?
MANN: We heard Phil Black say it, but we heard the Russian government say it much more clearly. They say there's a constitutional ban. They can't extradite him even if they wanted to. And if they didn't have a constitutional ban, they have a ban in their criminal code.
So, under Russian law, it is not going to happen. It may be a diplomatic matter the two sides can work out, but I don't have to tell you, don't have to tell anyone, diplomatically, Russia and the U.K., Russia and the West, are not really in great shape.
GORANI: All right. Jonathan Mann, thanks for that "Insight".
CLANCY: All right. Interesting.
We're going to have to take a short break here, though.
Still ahead, an exhausting and extensive survey of Muslims in the United States.
GORANI: Well, the community largely blending in comfortably into society, but what are the pocks of discontent? Some answers on attitudes toward religious extremism and other issues coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): "I give a knife to my father to slaughter the chicken," she sings. "He gives me a machine gun and a rifle. Now I'm a soldier in the liberation army."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: It's graduation day for some kindergartners in Iraq, but just what are some of the lessons that they are learning?
CLANCY: All right. We're going to bring you up to date as the details keep rolling in of a blast that ripped through a crowded area of Ankara. We understand we have some video. Some of it is far too graphic to show you.
Our sister network, CNN Turk, reports that this explosion happened in Ankara and that many people apparently have been injured. Some of those injuries very serious indeed.
All of this is occurring in a part of the city that is known for its tourist sites and bazaars, particularly crowded areas. The blast knocked out windows on several floors of the surrounding buildings.
Not clear yet what caused it, who was behind it, but this very serious blast causing many injuries in Ankara, Turkey, and we're still considering all of the details as they come in, as they begin to trickle in and emergency workers respond to the scene.
We'll bring you the latest when we have it.
GORANI: The U.S. Senate starts the process of changing the country's immigration laws. Today is the first day of what will be at least two weeks of debate on a bipartisan bill that's been months in the making, really. The bill offers a guest worker program and a path to citizenship, but also boosts requirements for identity checks and border controls.
CLANCY: A newly released survey of Muslim-Americans have some interesting revelations, touching on a wide range of topics from the war in Iraq, to suicide bombings, to living in America.
Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider joins us now live with some of the findings here.
This was a sweeping report.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it was. It was the first really serious detailed study of the Muslim population in the United States.
It's about 1.5 million Muslims in the United States. And they're very diverse. They include a lot of black Muslims who were born -- some of them are converts in the United States. About two-thirds of American-Muslims were born from elsewhere -- come from elsewhere, and born outside the United States.
But for the most part, this study finds that the Muslim population in the United States is middle class, mainstream, is satisfied with life in the United States as other Americans, believe even more in the work ethic. In many ways, they look very much like immigrants have always looked in the United States. They come here to work hard and get ahead.
CLANCY: Bill, as you -- what did you find most interesting, like attitudes on suicide bombings and the war in Iraq?
SCHNEIDER: Well, the attitudes on suicide bombings, only a very, very small minority of Muslim-Americans, Muslims in the United States, believe that suicide bombing is really ever -- and the words they use were "often" or "sometimes justified," 13 percent, as you see right there. Another 11 percent say rarely justified.
But as you can see here, 80 percent say for whatever reason suicide bombings is just never justified. And that is higher than this survey has found in other countries. They've surveyed Muslim populations in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, and in Muslim- dominated countries, and they find that generally support for suicide bombers is higher outside the United States.
As for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is less support among Muslim-Americans or Muslims in the Untied States than among other Americans. A lot of criticism of the war in Iraq, a lot of criticism of the war in Afghanistan. Even a widespread belief that the United States government's war on terror is not a sincere an effort to combat international terrorism.
CLANCY: Bill, a final question. That has to be really how they see their lives, having changed after September 11th.
Is there any coverage of that?
SCHNEIDER: Yes. Most people say that their lives have become a little bit worse since September 11th. A majority say that they've experienced some form of discrimination, that it's become more difficult to be in the United States since September 11th. So they're more sensitive to those issues of discrimination.
But the overall finding of this study is interesting, because it points out that Muslims in the United States are more assimilated, more mainstream than Muslims in other Western European -- in countries of Western Europe. In those countries, they're more disillusioned, more alienated, more outside the mainstream. Here in the United States, the Muslim population fits in considerably better.
CLANCY: Fascinating and worthy of, you know, further examination, no doubt about it.
Bill Schneider, thanks for bringing us that latest.
GORANI: All right. We're going to take a short break here on YOUR WORLD TODAY.
When we come back, BP's daily oil production drastically cut. We'll tell you why in our financial report.
CLANCY: Also ahead, did actions by the Lebanese government lead to the nightmare going on right now in Nahr al-Bared? We're going to talk to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh about what he's found.
GORANI: How young children deal with the daily violence in Iraq while trying to get an education.
Stay with us.
LEMON: Well the carrot didn't work and neither did the stick. Both humpback recordings and banging pipes failed to reroute those wayward whales, so, what do they do now?
We'll bring you the latest along with all the day's top stories in the CNN NEWSROOM beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
YOUR WORLD TODAY continues after a quick break. I'm Don Lemon. We'll see you in just a bit.
CLANCY: Hello, everyone, and welcome back. I want to welcome our viewers joining us from more than 200 countries and territories around the globe, including the United States.
GORANI: All right, this hour, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY on CNN International. I'm Hala Gorani.
CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy.
And these are the stories that are making headlines. There's been a terrific explosion in the Turkish capital, Ankara. Many people are reported to have been injured in all of this. Some people may have been killed, that's yet to be confirmed. Emergency officials are on the scene at this moment. Unclear what caused the blast, the governor of Ankara is saying this may be an accident. It happened on one of the busiest parts of the city, part of the city known for its tourist sites and bazaars.
GORANI: Also in the headlines, a U.N. relief convoy got caught in renewed fighting between Lebanese troops and militants holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp. The convoy was bringing badly needed supplies into the camp, trying to take advantage of a truce declared by the militants, when it was hit -- the convoy was hit. Witnesses say several civilians who tried to collect supplies were injured or killed, but those reports have not been verified.
Well, Investigative Journalist Seymour Hersh reported back in March that in order to defeat Hezbollah, the Lebanese government supported Sunni militant groups, the same ones they're fighting today.
Seymour Hersh joins us now live from Washington. Thanks for being with us. What is the source of the financing according to your reporting of these groups such as Fatah al Islam in these camps of Nahr al Bared, for instance? Where are they getting the money, where are they getting the arms?
SEYMOUR HERSH, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Key player are the Saudis, of course, and Bandar. What I was writing about was a sort of a private agreement that was made between the White House, we're talking about Richard -- Dick Cheney and Elliott Abrams, who is one of the key aides in the White House with Bandar. And the idea was to get support, covert support -- money, from the Saudis to support various hard-line jihadists, Sunni groups, particularly in Lebanon, who would be seen in case of an actual confrontation with Hezbollah. The Shia group in the southern Lebanon would be seen as an asset, as simple as that.
GORANI: So, the Senora government, in order to counter the influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon, would be covertly according to your reporting, funding groups like Fatah al Islam that they're having issues with right now?
HERSH: Unintended consequences once again, yes.
GORANI: And, so if Saudi Arabia and the Senora government are doing this, whether it's unintended or not, therefore it has the United States must have something to say about it or not?
HERSH: Well, the United States was deeply involved. This was a covert operation that Bandar ran with us. And don't forget, if you remember, you know, we got into the war in Afghanistan with supporting (ph) Osama bin Laden, the Mujahideen back there in the late 1980s with Bandar, and with people like Elliott Abrams around, the idea being that the Saudis promise us they could control -- they could control the jihadists.
So, we spent a lot of money and time, the United States in the late 1980s, using and supporting the jihadists to help us beat the Russians in Afghanistan, and they turned on us. And we have the same pattern, not as if, you know, there's any lessons learned. It's the same pattern using the Saudis again to support jihadists, the Saudis assuring us they can control these various groups, the Salafis and others, the groups like the one that we're -- that's in contact right now in Tripoli with the government.
GORANI: Sure, but the Mujahideen in the '80s was one era. Have the Americans -- why would it be in the best interest of the United States of America right now to indirectly, even if it is indirect, empower these jihadi movements that are extremists that fight to the death in these Palestinian camps? Doesn't it go against the interests not only of the Senora government, but also of America and Lebanon right now?
HERSH: The enemy of our enemy is our friend. The jihadist groups in Lebanon were also there to go after Nasrullah, Hezbollah. Hezbollah, which, if you remember last year defeated Israel, whether or not the Israelis want to acknowledge it. And so you have in Hezbollah, a major threat to the American ...
Look, the American role is very simple right now. Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, has been very articulate about it. We're in the business now of supporting the Sunnis anywhere we can against the Shia, against the Shia in Iran, against the Shia in Lebanon, that is Nasrullah, et cetera against -- so the game is really, as you could call it, almost -- the Arabic word is Citna (ph), civil war.
We're in a business right now of grading (ph), in some places, Lebanon in particular, a sectarian violence.
GORANI: But the Bush administration, of course, officials would disagree with that, so would the Senora government there, openly pointing the finger at Syria, saying this is an offshoot of a Syrian group, Fatah al Islam is, getting it arms -- where else would it get its arms from if not Syria, is the question they'll ask.
HERSH: You have to answer this question if that's true, that Syria which is very close and criticized greatly by the Bush administration for being very close to Hezbollah would also be supporting groups, Salafist groups that are very hostile to Hezbollah. That doesn't make any sense -- the logic of that just breaks down. What it is very simply is a covert program we joined in with the Saudis as part of a bigger, broader program of doing everything we could to stop the spread of the Shia, the Shia world and it just simply -- it bit us in the rear as it's happened before.
GORANI: Sure, but if it doesn't make any sense for Syria to be supporting these Salafist groups in these camps, why would it make any sense for the U.S. to indirectly, of course, to support is according to your reporting, by giving a billion dollars in aid, part of it military, to the Senora government, and if that aid is dispensed in a way that the Senora government and the U.S. is not controlling -- going to extremist groups, then indirectly, the United States, according to this article you wrote, would be supporting these groups. So, why would that be in its best interest and what should it do now, according to what the people you've spoken to?
HERSH: You know, Hala, you're assuming logic by the United States government, but that's OK. We'll forget that one right now. Basically, it's very simple. These groups are seeing -- when I was in Beirut doing interviews for this, I talked to senior officials of the Senora government who acknowledged that the reason they were tolerating the radical jihadist groups -- like the one in action in Tripoli now -- was because they were seen as a protection against Hezbollah.
The fear of Hezbollah in Washington, particularly in the White House is acute. They just simply believe that Hassan Nasrullah is absolutely intent on waging war here in America, and it's capable of doing it. Whether that's true or not is another question. But there's a supreme -- absolutely overwhelming fear of Hezbollah and we do not want Hezbollah to play an active role in the government in Lebanon and that's been our policy basically which is support the Senora government despite its weakness against the coalition that's -- not only Senora but Mr. Aoun, the former military leader of Lebanon there in a coalition that we absolutely abhor.
GORANI: All right, Seymour Hersh of the "New Yorker" magazine, investigative journalist there, thanks so much for joining us there and hopefully we'll be able to speak a little bit in a few months' time when those developments take shape in Lebanon and we know more. Thanks very much, Seymour.
HERSH: Glad to talk to you.
CLANCY: All right, we're trying to figure out the developments and analyze them as details begin to trickle in more, we have important details coming in from police in Ankara. They are looking at the bomb scene here. They are saying because of the size, because of the scope of this, they are assuming it is a bombing and not an accident. That's what the governor had earlier said, perhaps this is an accident.
Now police are saying, no, we're looking at the size of this. The shattered windows, this bus stop that is just obliterated and the number of casualties, and they're saying they suspect this, indeed, is a bombing, no word on who might be behind it. That has yet to be confirmed.
Officials on the scene are also reporting there have been some deaths, there are many people that have been wounded. Aid workers and ambulances on the scene trying to give some comfort to survivors of the blast. It was a massive explosion that ripped through the heart of an old commercial center, a tourist and bazaar center. It happened in the doorway of a major shopping building. And it was right in the middle of rush hour, so we have many casualties here. There are some dead, there are many wounded, and police say they believe this was a bombing.
We're going to take a short break and we'll be back after this.
CLANCY: Welcome back, everyone.
The Iraqi capital this day, rocked by its first major explosion in some time, matter of days, at least. But at least 25 people died in the car bombing. It happened at a popular outdoor market in Baghdad. The explosion went off in a Shia neighborhood and meantime, at least 12 college students reported killed in two separate attacks in the capital. Four of them murdered by an insurgent mortar attack on a Sunni-dominated college campus in Baghdad, then gunmen shot down eight more students on a minibus -- it was taking them home from classes.
GORANI: Well, we've seen it every day for a year, attacks that point out the dangers that students and teachers face in Iraq.
CLANCY: School attendance, understandably, is down dramatically. That's at least compared to before the war and many students face the threat of barricades and bombings on their way to classes or as you heard just there, on their way home. Still, they go.
Hugh Riminton reports.
HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Graduation day at the May Saloon (ph) kindergarten, a day worth dressing up for. Already, these five-year-olds are survivors. In Saddam's time, this kindergarten held up to 180 children. Today's graduating class is just 16.
Families have fled or parents keep their kids at home, fearful of bombs or kidnap gangs.
IBTISAM, MOTHER (through translator): They're scared, we're scared too, but we can't have them miss their school years. We can't sacrifice that. They must learn.
RIMINTON (on camera): Right across Iraq, education is in retreat. It's not just parents keeping their kids away from kindergartens and schools, it goes all the way through to the kidnapping, intimidation and murder of college professors.
(voice-over): These kids are the lucky ones, comparatively well off and with at least a chance at literacy. But the violence permeates everything. Here, where explosions are as familiar as nursery rhymes.
"When I hear the bombs, I'm afraid," says Sharook (ph), "I close my ears."
"I'm going to bomb, bomb, bomb the school with everyone in it," says five-year-old Omer (ph), "when I hear explosions, I start shooting planes."
Iraqi Association of Psychologists says 92 percent of children in a country-wide study have impeded learning because of fear and insecurity.
SUHAILAH IBRAHIM, HEADMISTRESS (through translator): We always try to reduce their stress. When we hear shootings and explosions, we usually tell them the explosions are far away from us.
RIMINTON: The education itself, even at this secular middle class place, seems oddly twisted. They sing the national anthem, but their enthusiasm really rises for this.
"I give a knife to my father to slaughter the chicken," she sings. "He gives me a machine gun and a rifle. Now, I'm a soldier in the liberation army."
The headmistress leaves no doubt from whom she thinks Iraq needs liberation.
IBRAHIM (through translator): Politically, we want to see Iraqis live like before. We want an end to the occupation.
RIMINTON: The children finish with a chant. "I swear, I swear on my parents, on the blood of the martyrs, I will defend my homeland."
Hugh Riminton, CNN, Baghdad.
GORANI: All right, let's update you on our developing story out of Turkey. There's been explosion in the capital of Turkey, Ankara, and we've now received word that police believe that it was a bombing, not an accident. A number of people have been injured and some have been killed, according to the official news agency. Emergency officials are on the scene.
It happened in a busy part of town, known for its tourist sites and its bazaars. We'll be bringing you additional reporting as it comes in as officials visit the scene of what seems to be, according to police at least, a bomb attack in the Turkish capital.
Stay with us, a lot more ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY.
CLANCY: Alright. We'll take you to Capitol Hill. I'll show you some videotape from just minutes ago where lawmakers in the U.S. Senate started what's expected to be weeks of debate on immigration reform. They've gone into recess now for another hour or two.
The bipartisan bill is up for discussion. It offers a path to citizenship but also boosts requirements for identity checks, as well as border controls. Efforts have already begun to change the legislation. Critics on both sides weighing in. There's a proposal to strike a provision that would grant guest worker visas to some 400,000 people annually.
GORANI: Now, for something completely different. They were on the right track so what went wrong? A pair of humpback whales wandered 145 kilometers up California rivers and channels were finally rerouted back to the ocean. But on Monday they doubled back. Dan Simon is live near California's Golden Gate Bridge with the latest on the wayward wales. What happened?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hola, guess what, the whales were just spotted a short time ago about four miles north of the town of Rio Vista, that's about 50 miles way from where we are. If we're going to have a successful outcome the whales are going to have to go right here in the San Francisco Bay and out the Golden Gate Bridge into the Pacific Ocean.
They're not going there. We don't know why. When they were spotted in the town of Rio Vista, they seemed to be playing games with the rescuers. There was a flotilla of boats set up and the whales just went underneath the flotilla and emerged on the other side. We don't know what will motivate them to go in the right direction. We know that scientists are going to be banging on metal pipes underwater. It's not a pleasant sound to anybody and it's not pleasant to whales either, so that's one of the things they'll do today and we'll wait to see if these whales come near us.
GORANI: Dan, why did the whales get lost in the first place? And what happens if they don't find their way back to the ocean?
SIMON: Well, that's a good question. You know, how they got lost is anybody's guess. Typically this time of year the whales migrate from Mexico to northern California. This is their feeding season and there's lots of small fish here off the coast of northern California for the whales to feast on, somehow they made their way into the Sacramento River.
Again, we don't know why. They've just been there for a little more than a week and in terms of how they'll get out, we just don't know. Right now everybody is being patient. They're going to try the pipe technique and see if it works.
GORANI: But if they don't reach the ocean are they in danger of just dying in the river? I mean, what happens to these whales?
SIMON: At a certain point, you're going to have problems. Right now they say these whales are healthy. The problem is is there's not a lot of food in the river for the whales to eat. So eventually these whales are going to have to get to the ocean, but they can last quite a long time. In 1985 you had a whale, Humphrey the whale, he lasted just under a month, so this has been a little more than a week. Crews are being patient right now. But they may have to get a little bit more aggressive.
GORANI: Right. Maybe give them a little bit more of a nudge there. Thanks, Dan Simon, there near the Golden Gate Bridge with more on those two humpback whales that have lost their way. Jim?
CLANCY: We want to keep you updated, now. The Associated Press is reporting Ankara, Turkey's mayor saying at least four people have been killed, and he is saying that many others have been wounded in this blast that we have seen unfold in Ankara, Turkey. It is believed that it was a bombing.
It shattered a shopping district that is their shopping center that was a favorite with tourists and shoppers. You can just see the devastation in all of this. There was some original thought it might have been an accident, but now the mayor, the police, both saying they believe it was a bombing and that at least four people have been killed. Some reports say as many as 30 people may have been wounded. A major explosion that tore through the heart of the shopping district. We'll be back with more of YOUR WORLD TODAY after this.
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