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CONNECT THE WORLD

Into the Crowds in Cairo; Journalist Speaks Out about Abuse in Egypt; China Rate Hike; Australia Bush Fires; Chechen Leader Claims Responsibility for Moscow Blasts

Aired February 8, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: The people step up their attempts to oust the president in perhaps Egypt's largest demonstrations yet. Every revolution needs an icon. Tahrir Square now has this face.

Also this hour, a Chechen rebel warns of more attacks after laying claim to Moscow's airport bombing.

And Colombia's war on drugs -- a CNN exclusive with the president.

For the stories connecting your world, I'm Becky Anderson.

Up first tonight, his Facebook page helped kick start an anti- government uprising. Now, freed Google exec, Wael Ghonim, is energizing Egyptian protesters again.

Well, these pictures should answer the question of whether Egypt's revolution is losing steam as it enters the third week, with President Hosni Mubarak still in power.

Today, we saw what could be the biggest demonstrations yet in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Many protesters were thrilled to see Wael Ghonim join their ranks after 12 days in government detention. They surged around him, calling him a hero. But he says the true heroes are the ones who stayed in Tahrir Square.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAEL GHONIM, GOOGLE EXECUTIVE AND ACTIVIST: This country -- I have said this for a long time -- this country is our country and everyone has a right to this country. You have a voice in this country. This is not the time for conflicting ideas, for factions or ideologies. This is the time for us to say one thing only -- Egypt is above all else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, he wasn't the only new face in Tahrir Square today. Many others protesters were there for the first time, as well, no longer willing to watch from the sidelines. We'll be live in Cairo in a moment for you.

First, Ben Wedeman takes us into the crowds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Hang in there," the reception line sings, "freedom is being born."

This is how they welcome newcomers to Tahrir Square on yet another day aimed at keeping up the pressure on the Mubarak regime.

The square was packed, many coming for the first time.

DALIA, PROTESTER: I came today for the first time because I felt like I've been already too late to participate in these protests. And I think like nothing will make this regime go unless we keep on coming and keep on coming.

WEDEMAN: "I came to join the people in this revolution," says Ahmed (ph), a pharmacist who traveled from Upper Egypt. "It's always been my dream and the dream of every Egyptian to live this moment of liberation.

They say: "Mubarak, wake up. This is your last day." But they've been saying it for days now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are just fed up. We're really fed up. Get out of here now. It's our order.

WEDEMAN: But President Mubarak isn't taking orders. In fact, the government is striking back with a campaign on state television suggesting the United States is funding the protests, which have been infiltrated, it says, by Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and others.

Azza Al-Mahi has brought her father, Ahmed (ph), a university professor, for the first time. She says Mubarak should stop blaming others.

AZZA AL-MAHI, PROTESTER: It's over. There's no America. There's no Hezbollah. It's his fault. What we are in is his fault. It's not due to the Americans. It's not due to Hezbollah. It's due to him. And he has to understand that.

WEDEMAN: Some newcomers were motivated by this emotional interview on a private Egyptian satellite channel, with Wael Ghonim, one of the organizers of the protest movement released from detention Monday.

GHONIM (through translator): I want to say to every mother and every father that lost his child, I'm sorry, but this is not our fault. I swear to God this is not our fault. It's the fault of everyone who is holding onto power greedily and would not let it go. I want -- I want to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw the interview of Wael Ghonim after this. This is the announcement to the end of the regime.

WEDEMAN: Premature, perhaps, but Tahrir is more crowded, more rowdy, more revolutionary than ever.

(on camera): It's difficult to say why, but clearly more, not less, people are coming to the square to join the protests. And the longer this protest goes on, the bigger a challenge it becomes to a government that would desperately like to ignore it.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Cairo.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, the government tried to appease protesters today by offering a new concession, announcing the creation of a committee to oversee constitutional reforms. But demonstrators say real change can happen only after President Mubarak steps down.

Well, Fred Pleitgen joins us now live from the square.

More, not less, in the square tonight -- Fred, is -- is there still a sense that protesters will actually succeed in shifting Mubarak's stand at this point?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think it's going to lead to any sort of shift in Mubarak's stand -- stands at all, Becky. I think that the Mubarak government still feels that it at least has the backing of some parts of the population here. Certainly, if you go outside of Tahrir Square, they will tell you that there's a lot of neighborhoods that are still very pro-Mubarak. There's also a lot of businesspeople who are still very pro-Mubarak.

So it doesn't look, at this point, also from what we've been hearing from inside the negotiations, as though the Mubarak regime is willing to budge at all.

However, of course, the larger the numbers here get in Tahrir Square, the bigger the pressure is going to be on the Mubarak government. And one of the things that we've been hearing from protesters again and again -- and you hear it from Ben, as well -- is that they feel that if (AUDIO GAP) they stop coming to Tahrir Square now, taking care of business. They feel there's still unfinished business. And that is for Hosni Mubarak to step down.

So as we've mentioned, we've seen more people here in the square today, not less. And we also saw something that was very unique, where several hundreds of the protesters here broke off and made their way to the Egyptian parliament to demonstrate there.

So certainly it appears as though the protests are not losing, but they're gaining momentum -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, Fred Pleitgen is there in Cairo.

We're reporting, of course, tonight. But you may remember the crackdown on journalists last week in Cairo. Well, two of those detained are now sharing chilling details of their captivity. As they put it, their own discomfort paled in comparison to the screams of Egyptians being held and tortured nearby them.

Brian Todd has that story from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They've been beaten, harassed, threatened and now some journalists are giving the first real detail of their experiences in Egyptian custody. Two print reporters have written an account of their detention after they were stopped at a checkpoint in Cairo.

(on camera): I'm on the phone with Souad Mekhennet from "The New York Times." She and her colleague, Nicholas Kulish, were detained during the height of the unrest by the Egyptian secret police. We are asked not to reveal her location out of concern for her security.

Souad, can you tell us when you were taken to the secret police facility?

Were you blindfolded?

Were you mistreated?

SOUAD MEKHENNET, "NEW YORK TIMES": No, at the beginning we were not blindfolded. We were -- actually, it was the army who handed us over to the intelligence service. And what happened then was that someone from the intelligence service asked the army officer to leave. And they started to search our luggage and our -- our stuff. And then my colleague, Nicholas Kulish, and I, were taken for interrogation separately. We were in two separate rooms.

TODD (voice-over): Mekhennet and Kulish write about hearing dull whacks and screams for much of the night. At one point, Mekhennet says, she could hear the jailers speaking to a man who she believes had been in Tahrir Square.

MEKHENNET: The people told him, well, you're a traitor. You were -- you talked to journalists and you spoke badly about your country. And the man answered, "No, I love my country and I just wanted to tell the truth." And we could hear how they were beating -- beating him up and how he was screaming.

TODD: Mekhennet says she and her colleagues were not physically abused. But during her interrogation, she had a question for an official.

MEKHENNET: After half an hour, I asked him, "I said, well, I would like to know where are we?"

And he said, "You are nowhere" and was smiling.

TODD: They were released the next morning. Separately, officials from Radio Free Europe tell us two of their journalists had a very similar experience and one of them was beaten.

FRANK SMYTH, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS: Clearly, the government is attempting to eliminate witnesses to the unrest that is occurring in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere. It's clearly a government policy to try and silence the press.

TODD (on camera): We tried several times to get officials at the Egyptian embassy in Washington to respond to those specific accounts. Despite our repeated calls and e-mails, we never heard back. In recent days, the Egyptian ambassador to the U.S. has called the overall treatment of journalists in Egypt "deplorable."

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, I got some reaction to this story from Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman earlier today, Hossam Zaki.

And I asked him whether he agreed to that statement we just heard in Brian's report, the Egyptian ambassador to the U.N. calling the overall treatment of journalists depor -- deplorable.

This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOSSAM ZAKI, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: We have had situations of attack against foreigners. Some people didn't even carry identification cards. Some people were -- were not properly accredited. And it is true that we have had incidents where international or press people from non-Arabic speaking countries were attacked. It is true that we have had these situations.

But what I'm telling you now is that this is behind us now. And the situation has claimed down in terms of how foreigners carrying press material or press equipment have been treated at certain points.

ANDERSON: All right, can you ensure, then that the international press won't be prevented from reporting this story going forward?

ZAKI: International journalists have not been blocked. This is flatly wrong. We have had stories on the situation in Egypt in literally every newspaper and TV channel across the world. I don't see how this fits with the claim that the reporters have been blocked.

ANDERSON: Now, what's your message tonight to the watching world?

ZAKI: Well, the message that I can say is that we have had a difficult period in Egypt of vast demonstrations and of demands that have been forward -- that have been put forward by demonstrators in -- in massive, massive numbers, as everybody has seen.

The new government have been trying to do whatever it's possible in order to respond swiftly and sincerely to all these demands. It's true that many of the demonstrations -- the demonstrators are still eager and pressing for more. But I think the atmosphere now can be qualified in -- in very different terms than the case was just a week ago. And I think we have -- we will find out how to see the way ahead very, very soon in solely Egyptian terms. And this is something that I would like to stress.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Wrapping up the day's news from Egypt with an hour to go on day 15 there.

First the floods, then the cyclone and now bush fires are adding to Australia's disaster misery. Up next, Perth residents react to the devastation.

Plus, your Connector of the Day, Hrithik Roshan, answers your questions and reveals whether an acting reunion with one of his greats is on the cards.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, the bomb exploded as relatives waited to greet their loved ones. Thirty-six people died, many more were injured in the blasts at Moscow's main international airport last month. Confirming many suspicions, one of Russia's most wanted men now says that he ordered the attack. In a moment, we're going to look at who he is and why he is promising a year of blood and tears.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN.

Here's a look at the other stories that we are following for you this hour.

And a severe winter drought is threatening crop production in China. China is the world's biggest wheat producer and the United Nations is worried about the effect that this drought will have on world food prices. Well, the provinces hit hardest by the dry weather account for two thirds of the national wheat production. More than two-and-a-half million people are also facing drinking water shortages.

Well, China has raised its interest rates for the third time in four months. In an attempt to tackle rising inflation, the central bank there increased its key interest rates by .25 of 1 percent earlier.

Eunice Yoon has more from Beijing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EUNICE YOON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China's interest rate hike was widely expected. The 25 basis point hike is meant to control inflation and it's part of a broader government campaign to try to keep prices manageable for the people here. Consumer prices have been on the rise, especially when it comes to food. And you could feel it in the stores.

TAO WANG, CHINA ECONOMIST, UBS: For the average consumer, people will feel that it -- that inflation is worse, because you go buy food every day and food inflation is higher than 10 percent.

YOON: The authorities want to prevent any discontent over rising food prices, so most economists believe that this latest interest rate hike is a way for the government to the telecast to its people that its on top of the inflation problem.

Eunice Yoon, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, Australian officials say there is simply nothing standing in the scorched landscape left behind by raging bush fires. Those who lost their home will immediately receive $3,000, we're told. But, of course it will cost -- or take much more to rebuild their homes.

Tegan Sapwell from our Australian affiliate, Ten News, toured the devastation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TEGAN SAPWELL, TEN NEWS: It was absolutely heartbreaking to see what people are going through here. And there's just so many stories and each one of them really touches your heart.

A short time ago, a man returned to the home here behind me, where he saw was what was left of his house for the first time and was obviously incredibly emotional.

But what really struck me was as he was leaving, he walked away and shrugged his shoulders and said, oh, well, know, we'll just rebuild. And I think that really shows the real Aussie spirit there.

Another example, I spoke to a couple earlier today. They had tears pouring down their faces as they spoke about what they lost. But all they wanted to do was to thank the firefighters for their efforts for putting their lives on the line as they tried to save their homes.

So I think that's just amazing.

What actually is believed to have happened is that it's been sparked by a power tool. On Sunday, conditions here were just hot and windy. And as a result, we had what's called a total fire ban, which means people aren't allowed to use power tools. And what's actually believed to have happened is a resident was using a power tool. He's actually a police officer. And that is what started the fire. As a result, he now faces possible criminal charges over this. It's a very serious matter. And the arson squad is now investigating.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Our report from Australia for you.

Well, North and South Korea are holding their first talks since deadly military encounters, you'll remember, last year. Military colonels began their inter-Koran dialogue on Tuesday in the truce village of Panmunjom. A second meeting is scheduled for Wednesday. South Korea's news agency reports the two sides are trying to agree on an agenda for a possible meeting at the defense minister level.

Now, if you haven't got an invite to the royal wedding, but you want to feel like you are there, then I'm afraid you're out of luck. Buckingham Palace have turned down a request by British broadcasters to film the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 3-D. "The Guardian" newspaper says the decision was based on the extra space needed for the cameras and the small number of people who would actually be watching the broadcast in 3-D.

Well, it's a chilling warning posted on the Internet.

Up next, we're going to take a look at the why the leader of the Chechen insurgency is promising more attacks on Russia and how they could affect us all.

And later, Columbia's president tells me how an American plan is reaping rewards in the war on drugs.

And we'll let you pose the questions to one of India's biggest Bollywood stars. Hrithik Roshan is your Connector of the Day.

That all coming up in the next hour here on CNN.

Do stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back.

You're watching CNN.

Now, he claims to have masterminded a string of attacks across Russia and the Caucuses. So when Moscow's main international airport was bombed last month, many believed it to be the work of the Chechen rebel leader, Doku Umarov.

Well, now he's confirmed those suspicions in a message posted on the Internet.

And as our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, based in Moscow, reports, there was a warning of worse to come.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia's most wanted man finally acknowledging what many already suspected. He's Doku Umarov, a rebel leader from Chechnya, saying in a video message posted on the Internet that he ordered last month's bombing of Moscow's main airport.

DOKU UMAROV, CHECHEN REBEL LEADER (through translator): This special operation was carried out at my order. And, God willing, there will be more of them in the future. This is just more proof that we can make these operations against you more regularly, larger in scale and more aggressively.

CHANCE: There were scenes of sheer carnage at Domodedovo Airport when the explosion ripped through the busy arrivals terminal, where passengers are by taxi drivers or family members. Umarov says the attack, which left 36 people dead, was meant to force Russia to withdrew from the Northern Caucuses Region. But there's little sign of that. Russia's leaders are vowing to hunt down those responsible.

Russia's media has shown images of who they say is the suspected suicide bomber. But investigators are refusing to officially identify him, saying only, he's a 20-year-old man, apparently high on narcotics and from the volatile Northern Caucuses.

The claim from Umarov comes just a few days after another video was posted on the same pro-rebel Web site, this time showing the rebel leader flanked by two others. The figure on the right of the screen, he says, was named Mujahedeen Sephullah (ph) and was being sent on a mission to be sacrificed. It's not clear the man was the airport bomber or when the message was recorded.

(on camera): Doku Umarov was always the prime suspect in the Domodedovo bombing. He had already claimed responsibility for the twin attacks on Moscow's metro last year and on a high speed train between Russia's two biggest cities, which together killed dozens of people. But now, the self-proclaimed emir of the Caucuses is vowing to step up that campaign.

(voice-over): Promising Russians already reeling from devastating attacks on their transport system more bloodshed in the months ahead.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, as Matthew explained, the suspected suicide bomber in this case was a 20-year-old man. But in the past, Chechen rebels have largely recruited women to carry out their attacks.

Well, Brian Todd filed this report last month, investigating their motives and why all of us should care.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Analyst Andrew Kuchins says rebels in the North Caucasus region of Russia, from Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan are fighting for an independent, mostly Islamic republic. They've recently taken their attacks into the heart of Russia, to transportation hubs and cultural centers in Moscow and elsewhere. Though loosely aligned, many of them follow Chechnya rebel leader, Doku Umarov, linked to a suicide bombing in Moscow's subway last year that killed dozens, he's on the State Department's list of terrorists.

(on camera): As deadly and distinctive as the militants from Russia's North Caucasus region are, within their ranks, experts say, is a group which carries a special designation.

TODD (voice-over): They're commonly known as the Black Widows.

ANDREW KUCHINS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Typically, the suicide bomber is -- is a woman. One of her family members has been killed in the insurgency and that is what -- what motivates -- motivates her and trained to do this job specifically.

TODD: Women were the bombers in the Moscow metro last year. They took part in the horrifying siege at a Russian school in 2004 that killed nearly 200 children. And women were leaders of a deadly 2002 hostage siege at a Moscow theater. Despite appearances, analysts say this isn't just a Russian problem.

(on camera): If I'm an American or a European, why should I care about this?

NIKOLAI ZLOBIN, WORLD SECURITY INSTITUTE: I think it's extremely important, because the stability of Russia, which is a, you know, big nuclear superpower, the biggest country in the world, territory-wise, very important economically. The stability of Russia is extremely important for the stability of the entire world.

TODD (voice-over): Nikolai Zlobin of the World Security Institute points out Russia's strategic partnerships with the U.S. in nearby Afghanistan, in Iraq and Russia's role as a big oil and gas producer for Europe. If Russia implodes in a violent insurgency in its Caucuses Region, experts say, the price of oil could be affected.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: All right, well, with so much at stake then, what can the Russian government do to contain this insurgency?

Well, to discuss that, I'm joined by Andrew Kuchins from the Center for Strategic -- this is a tough one -- Strategic & International Studies.

You just saw him in Brian's report, of course.

He's joining me now from Washington.

We thank you for that.

Russia, Andrew, is vulnerable to attacks from this group.

So what is the government doing about it?

KUCHINS: Well, the government has got a really big problem on its hand which un -- unfortunately, I think that their policy in the North Caucuses, going back the last 15 years, have only served to aggravate or increase the problem. You know, with the two Chechnya wars in the middle - - the beginning of the middle 1990s and going through the -- maybe the middle of the -- this -- this -- this decade, principally the insurgency was located in the Republic of Chechnya.

What's happened in the last two or three years is that the insurgency has broadened out into other republics bordering on Chechnya and the Northern Caucuses and, in fact, the -- the frequency of violent acts, terrorism, bombings, etc. Is considerably greater outside of Chechnya than it is inside of Chechnya.

But the -- it's the government response -- a very, very heavy-handed response, which is leading citizens there to make decisions to join the insurgency...

ANDERSON: So...

KUCHINS: -- some of them a very radicalized insurgency who are engaged with Mr. Umarov and the like...

ANDERSON: So...

KUCHINS: -- the global jihadists.

ANDERSON: So when Umarov says the attack was meant to force Russia to withdraw from the Northern Caucuses Region, he may not be winning that war, but he's certainly winning a media war, a marketing war, as it were, isn't he?

KUCHINS: Yes, I think it's -- it's quite -- quite similar to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Al Qaeda as no interest in governing anything. What they look to do is to destabilize, exacerbate vulnerabilities, point out vulnerabilities and create chaos and -- and anarchy.

ANDERSON: So you talk about this group widening its remnant (ph), as it were, outside of Chechnya -- and I'm assuming you're talking about Dagestan and Ingushetia and various other regions that were formerly Russian.

KUCHINS: Right.

ANDERSON: Is this a religiously motivated insurgency or a purely political one?

KUCHINS: Well, first of all, Becky, they -- they are -- all these republics are still part of the -- the Russian Federation, what we refer to as the Northern -- the North Caucuses. As to their motivations, it's a combination of things. First of all, the -- it's -- it's really a network, and a very loosely, loosely tied network. Many of the grievances are very localized. Someone had a bad experience with a ministry of interior person or the -- the local police, etc.

And so there is -- there's that personal aspect to it. There is a -- a political aspect to it in that I think some would like a greater degree of autonomy over their economic and political -- political lives. And then, of course, there's the factor of the increasing role of Islam in the region.

Now, for the -- the great majority of those Muslims, the vast majority, they're not -- they're not radicalized to the extent that they want to join an insurgency and start -- start becoming a suicide bomber. But there are just enough of those, with a mixture of these, you know, factors driving them, that lead to what we're looking at now.

ANDERSON: There are those who study this region that say that this sort of insurgency, these sort of attacks at this time could be deemed to be politically convenient for Prime Minister Putin.

Do you agree?

KUCHINS: I think that's a -- for me, that's a going to -- that's a -- that's an overly cynical interpretation. It's true that in the past, Mr. Putin, like other political leaders, have used the incident of terrorist attacks to consolidate power and pursue other items on their agenda, which aren't necessarily tied to terrorism. But to suggest that they have any responsibility in the causation, I don't -- I don't buy that.

ANDERSON: With that, we're going to leave it there, sir.

We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us, your expert on the story this evening, Andrew Kuchins.

Up next, awaiting a development in Columbia's long-running conflict. We're going to have more on FARC rebels' moves and what it means.

Plus, my exclusive interview with the man who is running the country.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. It's just after half past nine in London. I'm Becky Anderson. Coming up, in an exclusive interview, I'll ask Colombia's president whether legalizing drugs could be an answer to his country's struggles.

Plus, with the highest number of shark attacks for a decade, we're going to find out whether it is still safe to go into the water.

And later in the show, Bollywood's star Hrithik Roshan waxes lyrical about being recreated in wax. He's your Connector of the Day, coming up in the next 30 minutes.

Those stories are head, of course. Before that, let's get you a quick check of the headlines this hour.

Well, it could be the biggest show of defiance since Egypt's uprising began. Massive crowds filled Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday, rejecting a new government offer of constitutional reforms as insufficient. Protesters want the immediate resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

A taped warning from Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov warns that there are more attacks to come. He took credit for last month's bombing in Moscow's busiest airport. The blast killed 36 people and wounded more than 100 others.

A US Transportation Department investigation into possible causes of sudden acceleration in Toyota cars has found no fault for the company's electronic throttle control. Despite recalling nearly eight million cars, Toyota has insisted that its cars are safe.

Crews are on the scene of a fire at a plant in the US state of Texas. There are no injuries or reports of fatalities. Authorities are trying to locate one worker, though it's believed he wasn't on site.

And the Dow has closed higher for the seventh straight day. It finished up 71 points, earning a 32-month high. Better than expected results from McDonald's helping lift the consumer sector, 12,233 the closing figure, give or take.

Those are the headlines this hour.

Well, for decades, Colombian FARC rebels have made headlines through high-profile kidnappings. Now, after negotiations, they are getting ready to set free some of their hostages. In a moment, my exclusive interview with the Colombian president.

First, though, CNN's Rafael Romo with the news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): The Colombian guerrilla group known as the FARC is supposed to release five hostages this week, three members of the Colombian Security Forces and two elected officials. None of the five has been in captivity for more than three years. One was kidnapped last May.

The possibility of their release came about through negotiations among former Colombian senator, Piedad Cordoba, the guerrillas, and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos.

PIEDAD CORDOBA, FORMER COLOMBIAN SENATOR (through translator): We recognize the willingness of President Santos to act swiftly so that these five people may return safely and quickly to their homes. The strict adherence to all of the aspects of this agreement will allow the happy ending of this humanitarian decision.

ROMO (voice-over): Brazil is sending several helicopters that the International Red Cross will use to pick up the hostages in the jungle and transport them to airports at three provincial cities. The government will ban some flights around those cities as part of the agreement for the hostage release.

RODRIGO RIVERA, COLOMBIAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): This restriction of military and police operations in these particular zones will include flights by the security forces.

ROMO (voice-over): For the families, the release can't happen soon enough.

ERIKA GUTIEREZ, HOSTAGE'S WIFE (through translator): Let the hearts of all those people soften so that they quickly release all of the hostages.

RUBEN SALAZAR, MONSIGNOR, COLOMBIAN EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE (through translator): The country needs this kind of gesture to overcome this sorrow, this great anxiety we're suffering, specifically when it comes to the hostages.

ROMO (on camera): The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as FARC, have abducted hundreds of government officials and security forces since beginning their insurrection in the 1960s. The guerrillas have released dozens, but an unknown number of hostages remain in captivity. It is not certain when they will be set free. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, the current Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, has played a significant role in the campaign against the FARC. During his tenure as defense minister, he orchestrated the famous release of Ingrid Betancourt and fellow hostages. The operation earned him international recognition and, today, Mr. Santos enjoys wide popularity.

At the top of his current agenda is the fight against drugs, known in government circles as Plan Colombia. I spoke with him last month while he was in Davos in Switzerland and asked him what he hopes to achieve through that initiative. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, PRESIDENT OF COLOMBIA: Plan Colombia has been, probably, the most successful bipartisan foreign policy initiative that the US has started in the recent past.

Colombia was virtually a failed state when President Clinton went to Colombia to launch Plan Colombia in the year 2000. Today, Colombia is a vibrant democracy, attracting foreign investment, and it's one of the stars of Latin American. And that, in part, in big part, is thanks to Plan Colombia.

But Plan Colombia was designed to decrease as we had our goals achieved. And that's what is happening. Plan Colombia is slowly decreasing in terms of its importance, but we can't at this time lower our guard, because we are winning, but we have not won yet.

ANDERSON: Can Colombia support its fight against drugs without the help of the US?

SANTOS: Well, we have to. It's for us, it's a matter of national security. But of course, the help of the US is very important, the help of Europe is very important. There is a co-responsibility in this war against drugs. One country alone cannot fight by himself this war.

And what is happening right now is very worrisome. Our success means more problems for Central America, more problems for the Caribbean, more problems for West Africa, more problems for our neighbors. So, it has to be a multinational approach.

ANDERSON: Many in South America say that the answer to what is going on in the war on drugs is simply to decriminalize drugs, effectively. Is that something that you agree with?

SANTOS: Well, I agree that we have to discuss where we are and where to go. But talking about legalization at this moment, I think it's counterproductive, unless it's a world approach. If everybody agrees with a policy like that, we could discuss it. But otherwise, at least in our case, we have to fight the drugs because, as I said, it's a matter of national security for us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: A very frank discussion with the Colombian president there.

Still ahead, shark attacks are on the rise, we're told. But is there really that much to fear? We're going to look at some new figures about the marine predators and some threats that are a little closer to home.

Plus, she's got a handbag and she is not afraid to use it. You've got to see this video in full, up next, of a British granny taking on a gang of robbers. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. Now, humans have always had a somewhat tense relationship with sharks, and the latest research, well, it makes it fairly easy to see why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): They're the deadliest predators in the sea and, if a new study is anything to go by, sharks are becoming more deadly than ever to humans. 2010 saw the most shark attacks in a decade, 79. Globally, there were six fatalities, slightly more than the average, according to a University of Florida report.

Beach-goers in the United States were the greatest victims, with 36 across states like California, Hawaii, and North Carolina. But it was the state of Florida that had the most shark victims, 13 people were attacked. Better news in some respects, as Florida saw a decline for the fourth straight year.

Australia came off second-worst, with 14 attacks. Some of those happened in popular surfing spots near Sydney and Perth.

One of the most unusual events happened in Egypt in December, when there were five shark attacks within five days. One of the victims was killed.

If you're wondering who's most likely to get attacked, according to the study, surfers make up 51 percent of cases. While these figures might seem worrying for a timid beach-goer, it's important to keep in mind that humans themselves kill between 30 and 70 million sharks a year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Yes, we do. So, the US nabs the top spot for shark attacks, and Australia coming in at number two, South Africa coming in third with eight attacks in 2010. Vietnam and Egypt both next with six.

So, what is going on? Well, your expert tonight is George Burgess. He is the man behind the annual report by the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File, and he joins me, now, from Gainesville in Florida. Good or particularly bad year, sir?

GEORGE BURGESS, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL SHARK ATTACK FILE: Yes, it was a high year, the highest we've had in almost a decade.

ANDERSON: Why?

BURGESS: Well, I think the main reason is that we had high numbers of attacks in two areas that don't traditionally have shark attacks, the Red Sea of Egypt and the Vietnamese coast, both of which had six incidents last year.

ANDERSON: That's right, and I think you call the Egyptian Red Sea attack the most unusual shark incident of your career. Explain.

BURGESS: In early December, there were five attacks in five days, all, basically, in the same general area. One of those deaths was a fatality. The other death -- other attacks were all very severe. A very strange situation involving human incitation, the dumping of sheep carcasses into the water which, apparently, attracted the sharks. And then, high water temperatures and unusual environmental parameter.

ANDERSON: Neither of which would have surprised you, I assume. Listen, I guess what our viewers are going to want to know tonight is, are we safe to get back into the water, or even go into the water at this point?

BURGESS: Well, certainly from an Egyptian perspective, there's things that are far more important right now, but yes. It's -- your odds of being attacked as an individual, of course, are almost infinitesimal. And when one considers there were only six fatalities worldwide, and considering the billions of hours humans spent in the hour, your chances are very slim --

ANDERSON: So, those --

BURGESS: Of dying by a shark attack.

ANDERSON: So those of us who grew up with the da da da da -- that was the "Jaws" movie, of course, who are absolutely petrified of the idea of a shark in the water probably shouldn't be too concerned. But we made a very good point in the report that you heard from me just earlier, George, and that is that we actually kill millions of sharks a year. So, to your mind, who is more at risk, us or them?

BURGESS: Well, certainly when you put 6 humans dying versus 30 to 70 million shark, it's pretty obvious who's the predator and who's the victim in this relationship.

ANDERSON: And should we be changing -- well, I'm not suggesting that there should be more deaths by sharks, but is this 30 to 70 million shark deaths a year something that we should be considering, here? Something that may not be right?

BURGESS: Absolutely, and shark populations are in decline or, at best, a steady state in low numbers all over the world, the result of over- fishing and habitat loss. Because of the unique characteristics of these animals, their recoveries are measured in decades rather than years. So, this is a real worldwide problems that needs serious addressing.

ANDERSON: George, put in urban myth, if it really is an urban myth, to rest for me, tonight. I'm a SCUBA diver, so I've thought about sharks as I've been in the water at times. Is the shark is really more frightened of me than I am of it?

BURGESS: Well, all predators in the wild encountering a strange item and, of course, we're strange items because we don't live in the sea, all predators tend to be wary of something they haven't encountered before.

So, the general reactions of most sharks when they see a human is to lay off and investigate. Of course, the smart human under those circumstances takes advantage of that pause to get out of the water and avoid any confrontation.

ANDERSON: "Legs it" is what we call it in the UK. Anyway, George -- George Burgess is your expert on the subject, tonight. It's been an absolutely pleasure, thank you for that.

Well, this might make you feel better. Might not, in fact. The chances of getting attacked by a shark are still very low. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, in the US you are over 75 times more likely to be hit by lightning than to be killed by a shark.

Well, don't find yourself ever near a tornado, because you're 25 times more likely to be killed by one of those than Jaws.

And they may be man's best friend, but in 2009, you were 30 times more likely to be killed by a dog than a shark.

Don't waste time worrying about sharks when there are things like nails and bolts at home. They are much more dangerous, I'm told. In 1996, there were 13 shark-related deaths and injuries in the US. That same year, there were nearly 200,000 do-it-yourself-related injuries. Food for thought.

Well, still ahead on the show, making films from the heart, our Connector of the Day, Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan, his take on the Indian film industry and living in the limelight. It's your part of the show. That is coming up after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: All right, I'm going to keep this short. He is the king of Bollywood. With fans all over the world, he needs no more introduction than that. It's time to introduce you to your Connector of the Day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): Born into a Bollywood dynasty, it didn't take long for Hrithik Roshan to dominate the silver screen. With his good looks and unforgettable dance moves, Roshan has become one of the industry's biggest heartthrobs.

With performances in popular films such as "Jodhaa Akbar" and the recently released, "Kites." He's also earned numerous accolades, both in India and abroad. In just this month, he found a place at London's famous Madame Tussaud's Museum.

He described to me what it felt like to receive the iconic treatment.

HRITHIK ROSHAN, BOLLYWOOD ACTOR: There isn't a word that could exactly express what I -- what I went through. It's overwhelming, surreal, freaky, you know? It was looking at me the way I look at me, you know?

So, it's -- and they've done such a wonderful job. It's almost as if it has a mind and a soul and a thought process that's going on and it's looking at me and saying, "Dude. You look like me." And it makes me flinch and step back a little and, like, "Whoa."

ANDERSON (on camera): Had you been there before?

ROSHAN: I have, 25 years ago, and this is an interesting story, because I was standing in line with my grandfather, so excited. And my grandfather was very tired. He wanted to go home, and I was like, "I know you -- I can't miss this, I have to do this." I was so excited.

And it was really sweet, because this morning he told me that today he felt like that excited child going to Madame Tussaud's with me again. So it's kind of a full circle. It feels good.

ANDERSON: That's wonderful, that's wonderful. They've captured you as your "Dhoom 2" avatar.

ROSHAN: Right, yes.

ANDERSON: And Jerry from New York has written to us. He says, "If one is to become an avatar of entertainment like you," he said, "what kind of mantras should one live with during every day?" It's an interesting question.

ROSHAN: Well, deep inside me, as an artist, I'm an explorer. I'm an adventurer. I follow my heart. And I think I'm on a -- call it naive, but I'm on a mission to try and find out what I am about as a human being. To find out what my true potentials are.

And the only way you can truly find out what you're truly capable of is to challenge yourself, to put yourself through fires that, as they say, the finest tea, you must go through the hottest fire. So, every time it gets hotter for me, I enjoy it even more.

ANDERSON: Now, I believe that you are still star-struck. Shammi Kapoor --

ROSHAN: Oh, yes.

ANDERSON: A legend of the Indian film industry, rang you before you took off to come here to London. Great dancer.

ROSHAN: Yes, I was so excited, in the true spirit of a fan, I requested the air hostess to just give me five more minutes because I had to take this call --

ANDERSON: He rang you on the plane?

ROSHAN: He rang me on the -- while I was just about to -- I'd just boarded, and she was about to take off, and I was like requesting her, and she was, didn't know me from Adam, so I was like, whoa. Unfortunate, but I have to do this in the spirit of a true fan, so I disregarded the instructions and I took the call.

And it was -- it just made my day, because Shammi Kapoor, as far as dancing is concerned -- and I'm associated with dancing in my journey. For me, dancing has always been an expression. I always ask my -- ask this question as to where did dancing originate? Who was the first person who danced and why?

And the answer that I get, the simplest answer is that he must have been happy. He was trying to express with his physicality what he was feeling inside. And that's what dancing really is. It doesn't -- it's not about the steps. It's not about one, two, three, four.

Of course, if you want a career of dancing, you have to do that, but if you really want to enjoy dancing, be wrong. Look stupid. Let go. And that's the abandon, that's the abandon that'll catch people's eye. Because everybody wants a piece of that abandon.

So, that's what dancing really, really is, and he is the epitome of that.

ANDERSON: Amazing. Do you dance at home with the kids?

ROSHAN: Yes. I try, but I really can't keep up with them, because the energy levels, my God. Insane.

ANDERSON: A lot of Bollywood actors in Madame Tussaud's, and one of the wax works is of a great, dear friend of yours. He was a former Connector on this show. Louise asks, "Can we expect to see you and Aishwarya Rai paired up again any time soon?

ROSHAN: Absolutely. Aishwarya and I have worked in three very distinctively different films, and all three have been great successes. She's a team player and I think what eventually translates onto the screen is the energy on the set. That is very conducive to good work. And I get that from her, and I somewhere, here approach to her work and my approach to my work is kind of similar. I think we get along really well, and I will definitely look forward to working with her again.

ANDERSON: Max asks, "Is there any actor that you haven't worked with that you would like to work with?"

ROSHAN: Oh, there are so many. There are so many. I feel like a child when I -- this morning, when I was at Madame Tussaud's, and I was watching all my heroes and all my idols, they asked me, "Where would you want your figure to be placed?" I said, "Somewhere around -- in that corner, there. Away." I can't -- it's so humbling.

ANDERSON: "I'm not worthy."

ROSHAN: It's so humbling, you know? Because I still feel like that child looking at these wonderful, symbolic figures that represent such amazing lives, such amazing journeys.

ANDERSON: It also proves that Bollywood is so big, the Indian film industry really has arrived.

ROSHAN: Right.

ANDERSON: What's your perspective? How do -- where do you see it at present?

ROSHAN: Well, I think India, as -- in terms of society is evolving, and films, movies are a representation of the collective consciousness of the society at that particular time. And it is evolving. I think the melodrama is making a quiet exit. Films are getting more subtle.

As a core audience, we are as -- we are very raw. We make movies from our heart to the heart, and we don't try to over-intellectualize much. Simple, basic emotions. When we're happy, we dance. When we're sad, we cry.

So, that's the beauty of our films. And I'm astounded when I roam around in the world and I'm astounded by the global appeal of Indian cinema. It transcends so many barriers of language, culture. So, it's really heartwarming to see that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And Hrithik is in good company, tomorrow, as we're going to put your questions live to Philippe Cousteau, who's the French explorer and environmentalist.

He's the grandson of the famous adventurer Jacques Cousteau, but he's made his name -- his own name -- by fighting for the world's oceans. He's explored the scene of last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, shedding new light on the extent of that devastation. So, what do you want to ask Philippe? Send us your questions, cnn.com/connect, as ever.

Well, you're going to love this one. Armed with only her handbag, though hardly afraid to use it, the British pensioner struck fear into the hearts of armed robbers. Lewis Vaughan Jones has the tale of Britain's newest and, perhaps, oldest crime fighter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEWIS VAUGHAN JONES, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ann Timson never wanted to be center of attention. She doesn't even want us to show her face. But now we know what was running through her mind as she was running towards the robbers. As she swings her handbag, she admits she was pretty angry.

She says, "I clobbered one with my shopping, but he got away. I just kept swinging my bag. I landed several blows against one lad on the back of a bike and brought him to the ground. I'm not a hero, and it was maybe foolish of me to get involved, but somebody had to do something." Although she does say she didn't exactly know what she was letting herself in for.

JONES (on camera): Our handbag heroine was just chatting when she looked across the road and saw what she thought was a fight and a man being set up, so she raced up here, and it wasn't until she got to the jewelers that she realized what was really going on. But that didn't stop her.

JONES (voice-over): The jewelers are now back open, and very grateful that the granny kept going. Her crime fighting is hitting headlines around the world, but here at the local paper, they know her as a private person.

RUTH POTT-NEGRINE, CORRESPONDENT, "NORTHAMPTON CHRONICLE": It really seems to have struck a cord with people, that someone would do this, someone would get involved. And she gives it a lot of relish. She doesn't stop.

JONES (voice-over): Nothing was stolen, four men have been arrested, and Mrs. Timson says if she had to, she'd probably do it all again. Lewis Vaughan Jones, ITV News, Northampton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And your Parting Shots this evening, good-bye winter and hello spring. Indian Sikh devotees celebrating the festival of Basant Pachami -- let me say that again. Panchami. Here, worshipers bathe in front of a holy shrine outside the Amritsar in India.

Dressed in bright colors, people gathered to pay their respects. The color yellow plays an important part in this festival, this young boy wearing a yellow turban worships outside the shrine.

The festival celebrates Sarasvati, the Hindu goddess of education, and worshipers pray for knowledge and education.

For young kids, it marks the start of the learning. In this shot, a Nepalese child scribbles a message on the wall of the Sarasvati temple in Kathmandu.

Great pictures. I'm Becky Anderson, that is your world connected. Thank you for watching. "BackStory" will follow this short break after the world headlines.

END