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Homs Under Attack; French Journalist Asking For Help; British Prime Minister: Somalia Has Unique, Unprecedented Opportunity For Better Future; Somali Militants Target Khat Cafe's In Britain For Recruits

Aired February 23, 2012 - 16:00:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The DOW not quite getting to the 13,000 mark. It threatened to get there all day long, still pulling just short.

The headlines this hour. Explosions, gunfire and death at the Syrian city of Homs. The neighborhood of Bana Amr has been under heavy bombardment in nearly three weeks straight now. Activists say nationwide at least 88 people died on Thursday.

Video has surfaced from Homs showing an injured French journalist pleading for a ceasefire. Her name is Edith Bouvier. She says she was one of two journalists hurt in the same attack that killed American reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik.

An apology from U.S. president Barack Obama is doing little to calm anger in Afghanistan. Protesters took to the street for the third day, furious over the burning of Quran at a NATO air base. A gunman in an Afghan Army uniform killed two U.S. troops at another base.

World leaders warned they will punish anyone who (INAUDIBLE) the transitional government in Somalia. Leaders from dozen of countries and organizations met in London on Thursday to discuss how they can help the country. You are watching CNN "CONNECT THE WORLD" with Becky Anderson, starts right now.


Trapped by the siege on Homs.


EDITH BOUVIER, JOURNALIST (through translator): We need as quickly as possible during the ceasefire a car with medical equipment or at least in good condition to take me to Lebanon to be treated.


ANDERSON: An injured French journalist pleads to be evacuated from Syria, just one of thousands in the grip of a humanitarian crisis.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is CONNECT THE WORLD with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: On the eve of a major international conference on Syria, U.N. humanitarian chief tells me she is deeply frustrated.

Also, tonight, an undercover CNN investigation reveals how Somali militants are recruiting young British fighters.

And a film about one of Russia's most famous prisoners. Why many in Moscow will never see it?

Syrian activists and residents are begging for international help saying every minute counts as terrifying explosions go off all around them. Well, tomorrow the world gets another chance to help civilians under siege. Opposition activists say at least 88 people were killed across Syria today.

A reminder to world powers at what is at stake as they gather for a conference in Tunisia. Now the Friends of Syria group is expected to create a framework for getting food and medicine to besieged cities like Homs, now suffering its 20th straight day of bombardment by the regime.

The International Red Cross calling for a daily truce of at least two hours so it can deliver vital humanitarian aid. U.N. investigators say responsibility for the deadly crackdown goes to the highest levels of government and the army. They are accusing top Syrian officials of widespread human rights violations and they are putting names to the crimes.

CNN's Michael Holmes is following developments tonight from Beirut. What do we know, Michael?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky. A sealed envelope containing those names and also Army units and the like has been handed to the U.N. HCR at the highest levels. Now what they've said is that Syrian commanders and high ranking officials possibly responsible for widespread and systematic and gross human rights violations. Very strong language being used.

Interestingly in this report too some acts carried out allegedly by the Free Syrian Army, the rebels if you'd like have also been documented in this report but the blame very much being put at those high level Syrian officials and commanders. These violations conducted with "apparent knowledge and consent of the country's leaders."

So yes, very damning report, Becky. Now, this, of course, coming on a day when the bombs and the missiles and the artillery shells continue to fall all around Syria. As you said, 88 people killed, many more were wounded, several children in that 88 toll, by the way. This comes also a day after two Western journalists were killed. We reported on that extensively yesterday, Marie Colvin, Remi Ochlik killed in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs.

Well today we got first word from some of the other western journalists who were with them when they died, some of them injured.


HOLMES (voice-over): Wounded journalist Edith Bouvier lays in a safe house in Baba Amr, the besieged neighborhood of the city of Homs. Her left leg shattered by the shelling that killed two of their colleagues on Wednesday. A plea of help from a place desperately in need of some.

BOUVIER (through translator): My leg is broken, the length of my femur. I need to be operated on as quickly as possible. The doctors have treated me as best as they can except they cannot perform any surgical operations. So I need as quickly as possible during a ceasefire a car with medical equipment or at least in good condition to take me to Lebanon to be treated as quickly as possible.

HOLMES: On the same video her colleague, William Daniels, unhurt but clearly concerned for Bouvier.

WILLIAM DANIELS, PHOTOGRAPHER (through translator): Her morale is good. She is smiling. So I hope that the French authorities can help us as quickly as possible because it is difficult here. We don't have electricity. We don't have a lot of food and the bombs keep falling. So I think we need to get out of here as quickly as possible through medical means.

HOLMES: Not long after that video surfaced on the internet, a second one. This time British photographer, Paul Conroy, also wounded on the leg during the shelling of the Baba Amr media center from where so many videos of carnage have come.

PAUL CONROY, PHOTOGRAPHER: I'm kind of being looked after by the (INAUDIBLE) Army Medical staff who were treating me with the best medical treatment available and (INAUDIBLE) not captured and obviously any assistance that can be given by government agencies would be welcome.

HOLMES: During both videos explosions can be heard as the shelling of Baba Amr continues.

CONROY: Just any help possible and just reassure family and friends in England that I'm absolutely OK.

HOLMES: The trio were with American journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik Wednesday when a series of Syrian army shells slammed into the media headquarters. Colvin and Ochlik died in the doorway of the building, apparently as they flee to safety.


HOLMES: Yes, the British and French government, Becky, have demanded that the Syrian authorities open up some sort of means of getting those journalists out. And also the bodies of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. We were talking to activists just minutes ago who said it is now getting to a point where they may have to bury the bodies of Colvin and Ochlik because of the conditions there in Baba Amr. And this all just hours before dozens of nations up to 70 nations are due to meet in Tunis to discuss the situation in Syria and try to increase the economic and diplomatic pressure on Bashar al-Assad. Becky.

ANDERSON: Michael Holmes in Beirut for you this evening. Michael, thank you very much indeed. Michael's reporting there. Just underlining exactly why Syria's main opposition group at present is demanding that the international community set up safe havens for areas where Syrian civilians, at least in theory, would be safe from attack. The United Nations wants to send its top humanitarian official to Syria to assess the situation there.

Well, I spoke to Chief Valerie Amos just moments ago. At this hour, she told me the Syrian government is yet to agree to her visit. So what happens on the ground? Well, those negotiations about her getting into Damascus go on. Here's what she told me.


VALERIE AMOS, U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF: Of course, security is a very difficult thing which means we're not able to get into places like Homs. The Syrian Arab (INAUDIBLE) are able to do that. And of course, we can give support in terms of supplies, food, health kits and so on but the difficulty is we're not getting to all of the people who needs that help. We're only getting to a small number of people who needs that assistance.

ANDERSON: How many people do you think need assistance at this point?

AMOS: It's very, very hard to tell. We think that there are a lot of people who are displaced because they are in cities which are pretty much under siege but we're not able to really put a full figure on it. If you look at Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, the numbers we have overall are about 20,000 who have crossed the border but if you asked people they will say it's a lot more than that. People don't want to register because they're so frightened.

ANDERSON: Valerie, you've seen the images in Michael's report, you've alluded to the images that we've been broadcasting here on this network and others for weeks, months now, what do you say to those people in Syria who are watching tonight who are pleading for help?

AMOS: Well, what I would say to them is that we are doing every thing that we can -

ANDERSON: But not quickly enough.

AMOS: Well, the difficulty is that Syria is a sovereign state. We have international rules that govern the way countries behave with each other. They, of course, are in desperate need. We all recognize that. We are using every channel that we can. People are trying to negotiate politically. We have made the case to get humanitarian access and we haven't just made it now. I had a team that went into Syria last year but of course, the situation has deteriorate significantly since then and we're able to get a little bit of help to some people but quite frankly it is not enough. I'm very frustrated by this and I know other people are.

ANDERSON: And you say you appreciate this frustration. To those who think that the international community, the United Nations, at this point, has let them down, on Syria, what do you say?

AMOS: Well, I would say that there are different views in the international community. They will know that. I think that members of the security council will have to take responsibility for the decisions that they have taken. There is a difference of opinion. We have to try to make sure that we get the facts and the figures and we try to persuade countries on the security council within the U.N. generally that we need to give support to the people of Syria.

ANDERSON: The U.N. Security Council agreed to a military action in Syria that would help you as a humanitarian chief to get things in.

AMOS: Well, I think you have to distinguish between what that military action or if this is about finding ways in which we can support people on the ground who are in desperate need of help, if it's about setting up humanitarian corridors, for example, or setting up safe havens and making sure that people can get out of those conflict zones into places that are safer and more secure, that is one set of things. If that military action is for some other reason, that does not necessarily help people.


ANDERSON: Valerie Amos who is the humanitarian chief for the U.N. deeply frustrated tonight.

Well, just before she died, journalist Marie Colvin asked why the world isn't doing anything to stop what she called the "murder taking place every single day in Homs." In a web post, we believe one of her last, she wrote "Sickening, cannot understand how the world can stand by and I should he hardened by now watched a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could not nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped. Feeling helpless."

Well, earlier I spoke to British foreign secretary William Hague, asked him to respond to Marie's statement that the world is doing nothing to protect Syrian civilians now under siege.


WILLIAM HAGUE, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: We're not in any way doing nothing. Tomorrow in Tunisia, 60 nations will come together to discuss how we can tighten a diplomatic and economic stranglehold on this murdering regime in Damascus. We have tried, of course, to pass U.N. resolutions supporting the Arab League plan. We've been vetoed by Russia and China on that. We are sending humanitarian assistance, food rations and emergency supplies. We're working with Arab nations. I've been discussing with Secretary Clinton today what further we can do and of course, we will do everything we can.

ANDERSON: We're running out of time. Sixty people lost their lives, on one street, one neighborhood in Homs yesterday. What are you going to do now?

HAGUE: Well, we're doing all of those things now. And (INAUDIBLE) we've done a lot already and so we've cut off a lot of the revenues of the Assad regime. By stopping all that oil imports into Europe, we removed (INAUDIBLE) one quarter of all the revenues of this revenue. But we're not able to embark on a military action without the authority of the U.N. security council and indeed there will be many complications to that here in the U.K..

ANDERSON: Will you pursue that?

HAGUE: We will pursue further resolutions at the U.N. Security Council but to pass them we would have to overcome the very serious blockage presented by China and Russia.


ANDERSON: Our top story tonight. The neighborhood in Baba Amr in Homs in Syria has been under heavy bombardment for nearly three weeks straight now. We'll be watching tomorrow's international conference in Tunisia on Syria to see what the world plans to do about this crisis and when.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.

Still to come this hour, 15 minutes past nine in London. A deadly day in Iraq. Find out where it's happening and the possible motivation this latest bloodshed.

Australia's prime minister puts her position on the line in upcoming leadership vote. (INAUDIBLE) tells us why she decided to risk her political future.

And basketball fans will know there is a massive game in the NBA later starring the man, the moment, all that and more just ahead after this short break.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, the world's news leader. I'm Becky Anderson.

Well, it's being described as the world's worst failed state torn apart by militants, racked by famine and without a central government for more than two decades. But now, Somalia has an unprecedented chance to put its past behind it. And that was the message today from Britain's prime minister as world leaders gather in London to discuss building a new future for the war-torn state.


DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Supporting these efforts are not just right for the people of Somalia, it is right for the whole world.

Because when pirates are disrupting vital trade routes, and kidnapping tourists and when radicalism is poisoning young minds and breathing terrorism, it is in all our interests to support the Somali people in taking back their country.


ANDERSON: Well, on this very show last night, Somalia's prime minister told me it would take billions in foreign aid to bring stability back to his country. Later on in the show, we're going to find out if he got what he came for.

A look first - some of the other stories that are (INAUDIBLE) our world.

Tonight, new protests and an apology from the U.S. president over the burning of Quran. Barack Obama told Afghan president Hamid Karzai that burning by U.S. troops were inadvertent and "an error." It happened earlier this week sparking violent demonstrations in Afghanistan.

Two U.S. troops were killed today by a gunman in an Afghan Army uniform as the Taliban called on Afghans to seek revenge.

A series of explosions and shootings killed 44 people in Iraq earlier today, another 200 were wounded. Most of the attacks happened in Baghdad and target Shiite neighborhood but others happened in majority Suni provinces.

Now nobody has claimed responsibility as of yet. There is speculation the attacks may be aimed at dividing confidence in Iraq's army and police following the U.S. troop withdrawal.

The U.S. Marine Corps say seven marines were killed when two helicopters collided in mid air. That happened near the Marine Corps air station in Huma in Arizona. The Marines were preparing for deployment to Afghanistan. The cause of the accident is now under investigation.

Australia is gearing up for a leadership showdown. Prime Minister Julia Gillard called leadership vote for her labor party next Monday. That comes after the resignation of Foreign Minister and former Prime Minster Kevin Rudd. He is widely expected to challenge Gillard to try and retake his old post. The Prime Minister has also said it's also time to end months of party in fighting.


JULIA GILLARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: And of course, (INAUDIBLE) leadership because I believe it's in the interest of the nation to get this resolved. Australians are (INAUDIBLE) sick of it and that's why I have to turn (INAUDIBLE) that the matter would be resolved on Monday.


ANDERSON: Argentina is officially in mourning, after at least 50 people were killed and hundreds injured in Wednesday's train crash. Investigators say they still aren't sure what happened in the last moments before a commuter train plowed into a barrier at (INAUDIBLE) station during the height of the morning rush hour.

(INAUDIBLE) headlines. Still to come, (INAUDIBLE) opposition protest have rocked Moscow this winter but the prime minister show he can till draw a huge crowd. We want to take a look at this. (INAUDIBLE) for re-election just a week before Russians hit the polls.

(INAUDIBLE) training session through (INAUDIBLE) on Thursday as one player returns from exile. All that coming up.


ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London. Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson. Twenty two minutes past nine here.

A massive match up in the NBA Thursday night as Lisanity hits South Beach, the New York Star and the Knicks will face off again Lebron James and the Miami Heat is surely going to be Jeremy Lin's biggest test today.

Let's get Mark McKay with more on the Knicks' sensation. How long to go before all that start?

MARK MCKAY, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's see just about three hours from now, Becky, they'll tip it off in Miami. Yes, the Knicks and Jeremy Lin against the Heat of not only Dwayne Wade but Lebron James and (INAUDIBLE) will see how these two get together in Lin's biggest challenge. As you said probably to date because as the country and the world really has been caught up on Linsanity, the Heat, by the way, gone out and they won seven in a row.

Now on Wednesday, the Knicks warmed up for their battle with the Heat by basically slapping around the Atlanta Hawks in New York. Watch some of the moves that Jeremy Lin put on the Hawks. This is Lin finding Anthony on (INAUDIBLE) nice (INAUDIBLE) in double digit scoring. He was one of the handful Knicks players who got into the double digits. Lin also got involved offensively. Look at that three pointer. Boy the Madison Square Garden crowd loved Jeremy Lin. The second half, the Knicks still rolling. They're up 20 now. Lin, nice floater. He finished with 17 points in the game, dished out nine assists (INAUDIBLE) throws up - this pass to J.R. Smith and one hand reverse (INAUDIBLE) hoop slam. My goodness, the Knicks versus the Heat after what the Knicks did last night, it is going to be a very interesting match up, Becky, isn't it with Linsanity invading South Beach.

ANDERSON: It's going to be one in the morning. You know, I'm going to stay up for at least an hour or so. They make it look so easy.

Let's do some football. Your (INAUDIBLE) in action. Manchester United, of course, (INAUDIBLE) to the next round, how are they faring?

MCKAY: They're doing quite well at the moment, Becky. One night after Manchester (INAUDIBLE) win (INAUDIBLE) it looks as if Manchester United is about to do the same. It's one all (INAUDIBLE) Manchester United in the second leg against (INAUDIBLE) Amsterdam. Three-one and now the Manchester United lead. You know, Becky, Alex Ferguson would certainly love to be playing in the champion's league but he said - he said this his team is definitely looking at the Europa League and very serious about bringing this trophy home.


United certainly, of course, (INAUDIBLE) just a little earlier on. Got familiar places training today quite a surprise though.

MCKAY: It has been because this feud that we've been following here for so long, five months is apparently over. At least, it's closer to it. Carlos Teves, there he is. We see him training with his Manchester City teammates Thursday. One day after his manager said he'd be open to selecting the Argentinean. Last fall, Teves and Robert Mancini didn't see eye to eye after the player refused to take to the playing pitch during a champion's league match in Germany. Teves, as we all know, went home to South America. He appeared on his way out but the player since apologized and the saga would all be over. Mancini said though it will take a couple of weeks to see if he is match fit, to see if he can actually get in matches. But there is Carlos Teves on the pitch.

Becky, you know, where you're going to find me in an hour, right? Right here at World Sports. I'll see you then.

ANDERSON: Good stuff. Thanks, Mark. Mark McKay at CNN Center (INAUDIBLE).

Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, how Somalian militants are recruiting the young and vulnerable and that's going on right here in Britain.

Then show support for a long-time leader. What Vladimir Putin said to this enormous crowd in Russia just a week before the country goes to the poll.

This is the only crowd that you will see when you travel to the Great Barrier Reef without leaving your living room, take a virtual dive with us. Up next.


ANDERSON: Very warm welcome back and if you are just joining, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. First, let's get you a check of the world headlines at this point.

On the eve of talks among world powers to try to end the bloodshed in Syria at least 88 people have been killed there today. The UN says the military assault on civilians mounts to apparent, quote, "crimes against humanity." And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the opposition to Syrian national council is emerging as an alternative to the Bashar al Assad regime.

Britain's prime minister says Somalia has an unprecedented opportunity to secure a better future. Speaking at a meeting convened in London, David Cameron told world leaders that failure to act will put their security at risk.

A presidential apology for the burning of Korans by U.S. troops did not stop protests in Afghanistan. Barack Obama called the burnings an error. But demonstrations continue. And two U.S. troops were killed by a gunman in an Afghan army uniform earlier.

And the U.S. and the United Nations are condemning Thursday wave of attacks of both Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. The death toll stands at 44 with more than 200 injured. Investigators say most of the explosions and shootings happened within a two hour time frame and could have been coordinated. No one, though, as yet has claimed responsibility.

Well, United Nations is getting tough on Syria with a rapidly growing death toll as a backdrop. The UN is identifying Syrian commanders and other high ranking officials who may be responsible for what it calls widespread systematic and gross human rights violations.

My colleague Jim Clancy joining me now from CNN center -- Jim.

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they had a special commission, Becky. And the United Nations says that that body collected evidence and Syrian forces shot unarmed civilians, shelled residential areas, tortured prisoners, including children. Independent UN investigators are now calling for those who ordered and carried out such crimes against humanity to face prosecution. UN investigators interviewed some 400 victims and witnesses and say high and mid-ranking military officials are implicated.

Brazilian investigator Paulo Pinheiro, head of the inquiry.


PAULO PINHEIRO, UN INVESTIGATOR: We have demonstrated a consistent pattern in terms of arbitrary detentions, torture, killing of children, gross human rights relations and the practice of some crimes against humanity.


CLANCY: Now Pinheiro says they handed it over to the high commission for human rights, the high commissioner, a list of 35 names of individuals, military officers as well as the names of military or security units believed responsible for these crimes.

Now it's another report, Becky. Some will argue it only confirms what's already abundantly obvious. It would take action by the security council to refer these charges for prosecution to the international criminal court and of course China and Russia could again cast a veto to protect Bashar al Assad.

Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch, though, says the UN report will have an affect.


NADIM HOURY, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: I think the pressure is building up not only on Syria, but also on countries like Russia and China. You know, they may be impervious to what the world thinks about them, but ultimately they also must be watching TV, they also must be realizing that a policy of standing by Assad is basically enabling the ongoing killing of civilians.


CLANCY: Now as part of the Friends of Syria group the foreign ministers from the U.S., France, the UK, and European Union are going to be meeting Friday in Tunisia to talk about that report and its findings.

But if it only comes to talk, Becky, it's not going to stop the slaughter in Homs and elsewhere across Syria. Crimes are being committed, that's being documented. The question is what is anyone going to do about it?

ANDERSON: Yeah. Let's hope we get an answer sometime soon. Jim, thank you for that.

While the focus of world leaders will turn to Syria tomorrow, today was Somalia taking center stage. At a meeting in London there were calls for greater cooperation to restore peace and stability to a country wrecked by years of war.

Yesterday Somalia's prime minister told me that a solution would not come cheaply.


ABDIWELI MOHAMED ALI, SOMALI PRIME MINISTER: 20 years of lawlessness, 20 years of civil war, 20 years of chaos has taken its toll on the economy of Somalia, on the infrastructure of Somalia. So to (inaudible) the country, to bring Somalia back to the community of nations needs a quite a lot of money.

ANDERSON: Have you got a figure in mind?

ALI: This requires billions of dollars.


ANDERSON: While there were pledges of humanitarian aid today, it seems the hosts of the conference had different priorities. Here is what Britain's foreign secretary told me earlier.


WILLIAM HAGUE, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: That's not what this conference is for. It's not about the nation, it's about the political process of Somalia is going to have a legitimacy in their political process. It's about getting the funding for the African Union forces so that they can secure more of the country. We did that at the UN security council after a unanimous vote at the security council. It's about cooperation on piracy. And we're signing many agreements on that this afternoon. And it's about highlighting the humanitarian needs so that they do get -- so that the money does flow and the stability is there.


ANDERSON: All right. Well, that stability is not just important for Somalia, of course. The country has become a breeding ground for terrorism with militants recruited from across the globe as Nima Elbagir discovered right here in London.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are no signs, no distinguishing features to help any other than those who already know what awaits the other side of this battered doorway. This is hidden camera footage of a marfish, the cafe British Somalis come to to chew the vegetable stimulant khat. On the table, you can see bags of the plant which is flown in from Kenya.

Although khat is legal in the UK, marfish are closed off to outsiders. At another marfish we see a camera entry system overlooking a locked doorway. We're refused entry.

In the past, journalists have been attacked for attempting to report on the goings on inside the cafes. For years, marfishes have been believed to be at the center of criminal activity. Now CNN has learned, they may also be a recruiting ground for Islamic militants.

Abukar Awale is an anti-khat campaigner here in the UK. He know only too well the paranoia and isolation khat addiction engenders in the young men in the marfishes. Seven years ago he was one of them.

ABUKAR AWALE, ANTI-KHAT CAMPAIGNER: These young people become vulnerable. You know, we're not clearly thinking. And are paranoid (inaudible). And that's when they start to hate the rich public, especially the police. And they are thinking everybody is out there to get them. And that's exactly the kind of individual the likes of Al Shabbab are targeting. Of course, they are moving forward. They are changing the techniques.

So it's no longer in the (inaudible) and the madrasas they are targeting, they are looking for the marfishes now. And we -- there has been come crazies here in UK where the young people have been taken away from marfishes back to Somalia. And there are now young people from the marfishes (inaudible) now who are missing and we don't know where they are.

ELBAGIR: The families of many of these young men were too afraid to speak to us, but CNN has confirmed that as recently as within the last month two young men aged 18 and 20 have been reported missing. Both were khat addicts. And both, their families are convinced, have been recruited to fight by Al Shabbab. And that, one relative told us, is effectively a death sentence.

It's not just in the marfishes that young Somalis are being targeted for radicalization, the internet has become a treasure trove for radicals. And Al Shabbab openly boasts of having dozens of recruiters online at all hours selling their videos in English to their target audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you are fighting for (inaudible). We are fighting for justice, because we are defending our land and our families.

ELBAGIR: Even those families who know their children are safely at home and not immune from extremists, this Somali mother agreed to be interviewed because she said her experience is an all too common one in the British-Somali community. She's asked that we not identify her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son is a good, active young boy, outgoing, lost by many, many people. He loved to play football. He started changing by becoming addicted to the internet. Many different sites, YouTube, Facebook. I noticed a lot of change from him. He started saying, "mom, please take me abroad to study Islam." I supported him as any mother would. And I too him to Nairobi to a boarding school.

After weeks of him staying in the school, he disappeared.

ELBAGIR: Her son had gone to fight for Al Shabbab. And although she said she was able to convince him to leave Somalia, she still lives in fear that either the British authorities or the militant group itself will one day come after him. She hopes other parents will be able to guard their children from what happened to hers.

But even as the international community struggles to find a solution to Al Shabbab's increasingly sophisticated recruitment methods, the local British Somali community is fighting back

Belada (ph) means alarm in Somali. Abdi Shire wrote the song after a suicide bomber detonated himself in the middle of a high school graduation in Mogadishu. Today, it's one of the most popular Somali songs of all time.

And although it's raised awareness, it's also made him a target.

ABDI SHIRE, ACTIVIST: It hurt some people who were not happy, the public to be told, you know, what was right. So as a result of that being threatened with death as you probably heard. So people want to silence me and, you know, keep quiet. And I have received emails, telephone calls asking me to shut up.

ELBAGIR: But Abdi says he's not afraid. His duty is to show his community that the extremists cannot win.

SHIRE: Before we wrote Belada (ph) nobody was able to challenge or say anything against Al Shabbab. And, you know, we believe that song encouraged people to speak up, to rise up and, you know, challenge Al Shabbab and other people who are actually destroying Somalia.

ELBAGIR: For Somalis in the UK, the extremism and fear they thought they'd left behind in their homeland have followed them here. And as the world finally moves to act cohesively on Somalia, many Somalis told us that they no longer believe anywhere is safe.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Frightening stuff.

All right. Coming up next, Vladimir Putin's answer to the angry protesters trying to prevent his reelection. More than 100,000 people turned out to support him. What he said about next week's election is next.


ANDERSON: Well, he's Russia's most popular politician and also its most divisive, but at a massive rally in Moscow say an enormous crowd showed nothing but love for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin just days before a nationwide election he is all but certain to win.

CNN's Phil Black was there.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A new Lenin statue. People sang, danced, and declared their admiration for Vladimir Putin.

"He supports us and cares for us," this woman says. "Moscow's Lusniki (ph) stadium was close to full. The official estimate was 100,000. A fleet of buses had carried many of these people from vast distances beyond the capital. They looked happy to be there and erupted when they saw the man who has dominated Russia's political life for more than a decade -- eight years as president, the last four as prime minister. Now he wants the presidency again.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): We won't allow anyone to interfere in our internal policy. We don't want anyone to force their will on us. This is our own. It always helped us to win. We are nation of winners.

BLACK: He appealed for patriotism.

PUTIN: We ask everyone not to look at the west, not to leave our country and cheat on our country, but believe us. Work in Russia for its people and love it the way we do with all our heart. Do you love Russia?


BLACK: This rally reflects the political reality in Russia today. We've seen tens of thousands of people protesting, challenging this man's leadership in recent months. But there is still only one candidate in this presidential election that can attract a crowd like this.

Putin's campaign to this point has been deliberately low key. He sent proxies to the televised debate. His image doesn't even feature on his advertising, but he still appears on state television every day traveling the country, smoothly meeting people at choreographed events.

There was one awkward moment at this children's cancer hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): You promised to take me to the Kremlin and you never did.

BLACK: He nervously smiled his way out of that one.

But his charms have been far less effective on the tens of thousands of people who have been regularly protesting since there were claims of widespread cheating in last December's parliamentary elections. The rally's original goal was fair elections, but they've increasingly focused their anger on ending Putin's career. That's not going to happen on March 4. Opinion polls show Putin is on track to get more than 50 percent of the vote. That would be an outright win.

But the opposition is hoping he'll get less than 50 and is forced into a politically damaging runoff. The purpose of this rally was to ensure that doesn't happen.

PUTIN: The battle for Russia is continuing. And victory will be ours.


BLACK: Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.


ANDERSON: So, plenty of support for Mr. Putin and opposition. And it's not only being voiced, that opposition on the streets, but also on the big screen.

In today's big interview I speak with the filmmaker behind a controversial documentary set to hit cinemas just two days before that Russian election. And it centers around a former oligarch considered one of Putin's greatest rivals.


ANDERSON: He was Russia's richest man. He's now one of the country's most famous prisoners. The arrest and imprisonment of the former Russian oil tycoon is the subject of Khordorkovsky, a documentary by the German filmmaker Cyril Tuschi.

What attracted you to the Khordorkovsky case?

CYRIL TUSCHI, FILMMAKER: Well, the ambivalence and the contrast of someone who came from a Soviet poor family to become the richest Russian and then turned -- landing in prison in Siberia. And I wanted to know about his fight with Putin. And I wanted to know about why he came back to Russia risking to be imprisoned still having the chance to stay in America with billions. So all these questions came up at once.

ANDERSON: And what did you find?

TUSCHI: I found a fight between two titans, between two men.

ANDERSON: That fight became evident in 2003. And Khodorkovsky became and outspoken opponent to then President Vladimir Putin. In a very public verbal exchange about allegations of government corruption and questions about Khodorkovsky's company.

Later that year, the UCOS (ph) boss was arrested on charges of tax evasion and sentenced to nine years in a Siberian jail. From his cell, he responded in writing to Tuschi's questions about his arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some say I wanted to become president, but that's not true. I will say Putin just felt insulted that I didn't wear a tie when I met him in the Kremlin. But I always visited the president dressed in the appropriate manner.

I think the main reason is because I supported the political opposition.

ANDERSON: But Putin has said he played no role in Khordorkovsky's case.

In 2009, Tuschi did an interview with Khordorkovsky. He was given rare access to the former oligarch during a second trial in which he was accused of stealing his company's petroleum and laundering the proceeds.

In your interview with Khordorkovsky he describes the allegations that he stole oil as, I quote, "absurd that the company didn't even produce the amounts that he was accused of stealing."

Does he make a good, or good enough argument do you think?

TUSCHI: For the second trial 100 percent. Everybody sees that even not -- as a non-lawyer that it was fake. The second trial was just to everybody visible fake. First trial was not that clear, because it was about tax evasion and that's a gentleman's crime and everybody in the west thought, OK, could be. Very much could be. So the support really was rising after this -- with the second trial because it was visible that it was just bogus.

ANDERSON: But Khordorkovsky was found guilty. And his time behind bars has been extended until 2016.

Give me a sense of the mindset of a man who has now been in prison for a lot longer than he thought he would be. What's going on in his mind?

TUSCHI: Well, I think in prison he learned a lot. He -- I bet he found out about his own mistakes. But he's gaining strength, because he's keeping up his opinion since the last five years and each and every day that he's longer in prison he's gaining power, like aura power.

ANDERSON: The documentary premiered at the Berlin Film Festival early last year. It's now getting widened release, hitting screens two days before Russians go to the polls. But few in Moscow will see the film, because most cinemas there so far refusing to show it.

Opinion couldn't be more divided over Khodorkovsky. His critics believe he embodies the excesses of the era of the oligarchs. His supporters see him as a symbol of democracy.

When you interviewed him, what impression did you get of him?

TUSCHI: That he's a chess player. That he's very rational. And I was very impressed that he was still so calm after so many years in prison. And that he kind of like with his calmness is provoking his enemy.

ANDERSON: What did you learn from those who were critical of Khordokovsky?

TUSCHI: What did I learn? Arrogance. They thought he just made a mistake. He was a bad gambler, that's what they say about him. It's really -- I think Russia is much more simply structured -- either you win or lose.


ANDERSON: Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson. When we come back, you can get there from here -- why a lack of time will do me no barrier to commuting to the Great Barrier Reef.


ANDERSON: I want to just fill you in on what's going on football wise tonight. If you were a fan well Manchester United will be playing Ajax. They lost that game 2-1, but on aggregate over the two legs in the Europa League they have won 3-2. So going through. Man United-Ajax.

Tonight's parting shots for you. Well, forget your passports, packing and planes, arm chair travelers and accidental tourists amongst us can thank the digital age for conjuring up a no-hassle dream come true trip to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. And you won't even need diving lessons. It's all (inaudible).


PHIL HAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Get ready to explore the Great Barrier Reef. The best part? You don't even need to get wet. Scientists are teaming up with Google to offer high definition underwater panoramas of the reef to anyone with access to the web.

Tens of thousands of images will be stitched together to get the virtual dive in the hopes it will bring attention to how climate change is affecting the 2300 kilometer long reef.

The lead scientist behind the project says it could even bring some unexpected surprises.

OVE HOEGH-GULDBERG, UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND: What they found was four new species records of corals for the Great Barrier Reef and a brand new species of pigmy seahorse. Now, you know, this was in the test phase of the project, but that just is an indicator of the richness of these environments.

HAN: A specially designed camera will explore depths between 30 and 100 meters, a region that makes up 93 percent of the reef.

The 360 degree panoramas show in crystal clear quality the brimming sea life and corals.

People will even be able to help scientists with the study by measuring the size of the coral and the number of fish in the area. The Catalan Seaview Survey should be online towards the end of the year. If it is a success the project could be expanded to other parts of the world.

Phil Han, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Not the gravel pits in Newcastle. Doesn't it look it fab?

I'm Becky Anderson. And that was Connect the World. Thanks for watching. The world news headlines and "BACKSTORY" up after this short break.