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One Person Dead in Belgian Mosque Fire; Massacre in Homs; UN Humanitarian Chief "Horrified" By Violence in Baba Amr; Rhetoric But No Action From UN; Police Say Man Killed in Belgian Mosque Fire Was Imam; Former Child Soldier From "Kony 2012" Defends Group Behind Video; Former LRA Abductee Shares Story With London Teens; UN Negotiated Release of 2,000 Child Soldiers in Sudan; Gilbert and George

Aired March 12, 2012 - 17:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: A very warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Becky Anderson, these are the latest world news headlines from CNN.

New details emerging about the US soldier suspected of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan over the weekend. CNN has learned he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury in 2010, but was found fit for duty after treatment.

Stark images of the violence that rages across Syria. These pictures purportedly show the opposition trying to stop a government assault in Homs recently. Activists say at least 45 women and children were killed on Sunday in what they are calling a massacre.

With no letup in the brutality, diplomats at the UN are urging a united front in pressing for an end to the bloodshed in Syria. Russia and China have previously vetoed condemnation resolutions.


HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: Now is the time for all nations, even those who have previously blocked our efforts, to stand behind the humanitarian and political approach spelled out by the Arab League. We should say with one voice as an international community that the killing of innocent Syrians must stop, and a political transition begin.


ANDERSON: Well, Hillary Clinton also appealing to Palestinians and to Israel to try to restore calm. At least 23 Palestinians have been killed in four days of Israeli air strikes on Gaza. Israeli officials say the strikes are in response to a barrage of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.

And those are your headlines.

This just coming into CNN. At least one person is dead following a fire at a mosque in Belgium, and the fire itself is believed to be the result of arson. Now, the incident happened in the Anderlecht neighborhood of Brussels. Another man was injured, we're told, suffering from smoke inhalation. Now, police add that a suspect has been arrested.

Again, just coming into CNN, this news, at least one person dead following a fire at a mosque in Belgium, and the fire itself is believed to be the result of arson. We're going to bring you the details as and when, of course, they become available. As soon as we get them, you, of course, will get them.

Well, turning back to Syria, now, where more images of the violence are emerging as the diplomatic pressure on the regime intensifies. CNN's Arwa Damon following the developments and joining us now, live from Beirut.

What are you hearing out of Homs at this point?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of the images coming out of Homs right now, specifically out of the neighborhood of Karm el-Zeytoun, or rather depicting the aftermath of a massacre that is alleged to have taken place in the neighborhood of Karm el-Zeytoun, and these images, Becky, are quite simply too gruesome to show.

According to opposition activists, Syrian security forces and pro- government thugs went into this neighborhood, rounded up a bunch of Sunni families -- this was a mixed neighborhood, Sunni and Alawite, and they then proceeded to separate the men from the women.

The men were tortured for around two hours before they were shot, killed, and many of them, their corpses were actually set on fire. This is according to someone who managed to somehow survive this.

The women and children were not spared, either. There are reports that the children's throats were slit. The video of the aftermath of what happened to these children, it's just horrific. Their mothers killed, reports that some of them were raped, as well. The youngest of the victims, we were told, was just five years old.

Now, the Syrian government is blaming armed terrorist gangs for this, saying that they kidnapped a number of residents from inside the city of Homs, slaughtered them, and are now depicting this as being a crime committed by the government to try to create even more international pressure on the Assad regime, Becky.

ANDERSON: Arwa, as we speak, the international community once again at UN headquarters trying to work out what can be done. The envoy for the UN and the Arab League, of course, now back out of Damascus. He was there this weekend, Kofi Annan.

And the UN's humanitarian chief has just visited Syria, as well. I want you and our viewers just to hear what she has said when she spoke earlier. She's obviously urging unhindered access for aid workers to troubled spots, and the spots the Arwa is alluding to. This is how Valerie Amos described what she saw on her recent visit. Have a listen to this.


VALERIE AMOS, UN UNDER-SECRETARY FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS: In Baba Amr, I was horrified by the destruction I saw. No building was untouched, and there was clear evidence of the use of heavy artillery and tanks. Baba Amr was almost deserted, a few people in tears as they tried to salvage a few possessions.

I'm extremely concerned as to the whereabouts of the people who have been displaced from Baba Amr by the shelling and other violence. I was told that some 50,000 to 60,000 people used to live in the area. We need to know what has happened to them, where they are now, and what they need.


ANDERSON: You must be as frustrated as our viewers who'll be watching this and thinking, it's fantastic Valerie Amos has been in, but she was alluding to Baba Amr, that she was able to visit, which had already been, effectively, flattened. She said it had been "devastated" before she got there.

The story has moved on, of course, to that which you were alluding to tonight, which is another area of Homs. The international community, Arwa, is behind the curve here, aren't they?

DAMON: They most certainly are, and opposition activists will tell you that even though, yes, they welcome the trip by Valerie Amos and that by Kofi Annan, that this type of diplomatic maneuvering, because it's not generating any sort of concrete action, is quite simply buying the Assad regime more time.

Yes, there's been a lot of focus on the neighborhood of Baba Amr, and that most certainly has suffered the brunt of the government's most recent crackdown, but similar things are taking place, according to residents of these areas in places like, in Homs, for example, in Khaldiyeh, in Bayadah.

In the province of Idlib, the city of Idlib, the capital of that province being pounded as well. And in the town of Binnish, for example, right along the Turkish border, tanks positioned there ready to go in, many people in Idlib province fearing that they are going to be the next Homs.

So, the situation and the devastation most certainly does seem to be widespread, and as long as the United Nations, despite the fact that it might have the best intentions are heart at this point, is quite simply just dealing with rhetoric. There is no action.

Valerie Amos was not able to negotiate a concrete plan for unhindered humanitarian aid, and Kofi Annan's efforts at the end of the day resulted in a number of proposals being put on the table, but no concrete deal, and opposition activists will tell you that action has to happen now. In fact, many will say it's just too late.

ANDERSON: All right. Arwa Damon who, of course, is in Beirut at present but has spent an awful lot of the past year in Syria in many of these flashpoint cities. Arwa, thank you very much, indeed, for that.

I just want to bring you up to date here at CNN on a story that we've been following out of Belgium in the last few moments. We told you that one person is dead following an attack -- an arson attack at a mosque in the Belgian capital of Brussels. Now, police tell us the man who died was the imam of the mosque, adding that a suspect has been arrested.

Again, an arson attack against a mosque in Belgium as claimed the life of an imam there. We're going to bring you the details as soon as they become available to us. Just coming in as we speak.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. After this short break, documenting the tragedy of child soldiers, why one victim is defending a film that's stirring questions about his own motives. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Well, the people behind a video that has galvanized more than 70 million viewers across the world in a matter of weeks are now defending themselves.

The motives behind the controversial "Kony 2012" video, the most ever viewed on YouTube, have been hotly debated and has prompted what you are seeing now, a response by the nonprofit Invisible Children group, who put the video together.

Regardless of the furor, though, one fact is clear: 30,000 kids have been abducted by Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. Jacob Acaye was one of them. He's the young man at the heart of the "Kony 2012" film. Jacob traveled with CNN's David McKenzie to the village where he was abducted to talk exclusively with us.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, there's been a lot of criticism saying that this is simplified and it's too late. Is that unfair?

JACOB ACAYE, FORMER LRA ABDUCTEE: Yes. For me, the criticism is unfair, because if I'm to say it is fair, then that would mean that I would be here -- right now, I would have not been able to go to school, you would not be able to talk to me right now, because I had no hope in my life.

I was -- I reached, even, a point in which I said I can even die now, because I thought it would be the immediate resolution of my suffering. The war is still going on. The same thing that has been happening here is still going on in other parts of the country, in other neighborhoods.

In Southern Sudan, the war is going on in Congo, Central African Republic. So, me, who has gone through it and I know the experience, how worse it is. I feel like it's not good for a human being, for any other child, for any other village to be suffering the same way we went through.


ANDERSON: Well, we have long been committed to highlighting the plight of child soldiers in Africa. Back in 2010, I met a young women who had been kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army at the age of just 14. She was beaten, raped, and forced to kill, but she survived that brutal ordeal and came to Britain to share her story with other teenagers.

I went to meet her at a London school, and she told me about her horrific experience. We are calling her "Juliet" to protect her real identity.


"JULIET", FORMER CHILD SOLDIER: I'm so grateful to be here today because I know that what I'm going to share with you will bring a lot of changes.

ANDERSON: What do you want the kids to get from this day?

JULIET: I want to share with them the experience, my own experience.

In 2002, I was a student like you. I was in secondary school, and I was 14 years old.

ANDERSON: Because much of what you could tell them would be really, really shocking for kids of that age.

JUILET: I don't know how to speak to them, but I will speak to them the truth from my heart, because I want them to understand what the world is.

The rebels came to our home. I was at home for second term holidays. They beat me up with a gun. We were forced to fight in order to get food. I was forced into sexual relationship with a man who was above my age.

I was also forced to kill. I got labor pain for two weeks and a half, which almost cost my life.

ANDERSON: You were sexually abused.

JULIET: Yes. I was.


JULIET: By one of the commanders of the LRA. And he was older than me, yes. Because I was just such a young soul.

ANDERSON: So, you're 14 years old and you've been sexually abused.


ANDERSON: You're in the bush.


ANDERSON: You're away from the family --


ANDERSON: And then you get pregnant.

JULIET: Yes, I got pregnant.

ANDERSON: Tell me about that.

JULIET: Yes, I got pregnant in 2006, that's when I got pregnant. And I had health problems in 2007, when I went through painful labor for two weeks. Yes, that's when I got problems.

ANDERSON: What happened to the baby?

JULIET: The baby died.

ANDERSON: Can you describe what life was like for five years in the bush?

JULIET: Life was not easy for all the -- for all the five years that I spent there. We had -- we walked long distances. The painful thing is you are not supposed to cry, even if your own child dies, you are not supposed to cry for your own child. Your child is not buried, just thrown in the bush like rubbish. A dead body for your child. How do you feel?

You have to carry heavy luggage with children on your back, carry gun, food on your head. You have to fight and get food. You have to kill if you want to get food. You -- you see people being killed just for no reason. No.

ANDERSON: How do you -- how do you cope in the bush for five years? Do you just -- do you just give up having any expectations? You described, but I can't imagine.

JULIET: I know. I gave up my life to them, to surrender myself to them, because I was not expecting even -- I don't have any thoughts in my mind like, once I wondered, I may go go back to Uganda. I was like, I'm going to die here.

ANDERSON: So, if you had to describe to somebody the life of a child soldier in sort of -- one sentence, what would it be?

JUILET: It's not easy for them, especially young boys. They have to go and fight, get food sometimes, when they go to fight, they die there.

ANDERSON: Can you forgive?

JULIET: Forgiveness?


JULIET: It's very, very easy. When I came back, I met the very person who abducted me, the person who abducted me from our home and took me to the bush. And I said, it's OK, you don't have to worry, you -- you have been forced, it was not your will to abducted, OK? Just -- it's OK. I forgave him.


ANDERSON: Juliet, speaking to me in 2010. Well, around the world, 250,000 kids have been abducted and turned into child soldiers. That is a sickening number, isn't it? The UN's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict is currently in South Sudan, where she tells me she has successfully negotiated the release of 2,000 child soldiers fighting there for the SPLA.

Well, moments ago, I asked Radhika Coomaraswamy how confident she is that once she leaves, those kids will remain free and protected. This is what she said.


RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, UN SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT: The South Sudan case is a little different than the traditional cases of Sierra Leone and Liberia and Uganda, where basically the war has allowed a lot of orphans in this country.

And what happens is, orphan children then gather around the army camp, and they're first given jobs around the camp, and then later on, they become soldiers. So, it's different to the abduction model. But basically, these children have no schooling. All they know is to be near the army and in the army.

But my sense is the South Sudan government is very keen on getting their name off the Secretary-General's list of shame of the parties that recruit and use children. And as a result, they seem to be very committed, and they seem to be committed to -- they've given us access to all their barracks that's UNICEF and UNMISS, to go at anytime to recruit -- to look to see if there are children.

ANDERSON: OK, that's --

COOMARASWAMY: So we are optimists about this plan.

ANDERSON: Yes, that's South Sudan. And it's great to hear that you are optimistic. Elsewhere, what is your sense at this point?

COOMARASWAMY: Well, the places where we are least optimistic are Afghanistan and Somalia, where we have cases of, as you know, child -- especially in Afghanistan, child suicide bombers, people -- young -- and who don suicide vests either -- and actually explode themselves or sometimes are detonated from afar.

These children are more difficult because they're ideologically inclined and trained, and so dealing with them has been a real challenge. We're having reintegration programs in Afghanistan for them, but it is a challenge to deal with them.

So, this new form of the new kind of child suicide bomber, the child - - children in the wars in Afghanistan and Somalia, we're very concerned about how we deal with that issue.



ANDERSON: Well, 43 years ago, two struggling young artists stood together on a table in a gallery and repeatedly sang a duet. Well, for the artists, Gilbert and George, that show marked the beginning of their life together as living sculptures and as household names.


ANDERSON (voice-over): They speak of jobs and guns, murder and money. These are real headlines, hinged by iconic British duo Gilbert and George to paint a snapshot of life in the 21st century.

ANDERSON (on camera): Talk to me about this artwork, the genesis of what we see here.

GEORGE, ARTIST, GILBERT & GEORGE: The London pictures are based on a huge collection of newspapers, posters, which we still, one by one, every day, passing the news agent shops, very difficult to do. And then, after more than six years, we decided we were ready to create pictures with them.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Those pictures feature in a new show that the artists are taking to 13 galleries around the world, beginning with White Cube in Hong Kong and in London.

GEORGE: We're dealing -- exactly the same, we're dealing with death, hope, life fear, sex, money, race, religion. There ain't much else.

GILBERT, ARTIST, GILBERT & GEORGE: But we realized when we had all these 3,700 posters in front of us, and we had to divide them up into pictures, we realized: money, enormous. Murder, enormous. Sex, enormous.

GEORGE: Those are the three biggest divisions.

ANDERSON: Key themes in Britain at least that appear to intrigue us most and sell newspapers. But for Gilbert and George, it speaks more of events that can impact lives, not just for a short time, but for generations.

GILBERT: Very funny, because if a poster disappears the next day, it doesn't mean anything. But we are able to freeze them in some time. Timeless, they become. And it becomes an amazing landscape, talking of the life today.

GEORGE: We believe that it is a celebration of the lives and deaths of many, many people.

ANDERSON (on camera): What's your favorite --


GEORGE: Very difficult to choose a favorite. "Gun found up man's bum." Fits in the picture, the gun. That's quite extraordinary, isn't it? Quite amazing.

ANDERSON (voice-over): For more than four decades, Gilbert and George have amused and at times outraged the masses with their art, in which they are the main exhibit.

GILBERT: We start in 1968, by accident. We were taking images of us holding sculptures, and halfway through we realized, we don't need sculptures. We are it. And so, we made ourselves the center of our art, the sparking artist, who is able to express himself in many different ways.

ANDERSON (on camera): What makes this a successful union?

GEORGE: We think we have an amazing system for living in that we do not have opinions about matters which we cannot affect. So, we save an enormous amount of mental and emotional energy.

Even on a practical level, we don't shop, we don't go to ballet or to the opera or to the cinema. We keep our brains completely weird and normal all the time. And we can float through life in completely intellectual, artistic way. It's a magic, wonderful way to be, we think.

GILBERT: But we call it a moral dimension. All us -- all our -- subjects that we deal with are always at the edge of something that we have to fight for, all the time. There's freedoms -- to be free from -- religion.

GEORGE: Ban religion and decriminalize sex.

GILBERT: -- and decriminalize sex.

ANDERSON (voice-over): United in voice, 68-year-old and Gilbert and 70-year-old George are also united in life, and entered a civil partnership in 2008.

ANDERSON (on camera): Gilbert and George on a Saturday night.

GILBERT: Ah, very simple. Every day, every time the same routine. The (speaking foreign language). We always have the same food, and we take a mini cab back.

GEORGE: We don't believe in reading menus, and every night when we're alone, we eat the same thing for maybe two or three or four months, and then we will change our minds and have something else. And again, it frees up the brain. Why should we think about what to have for dinner. It's just unnecessary.

ANDERSON: What makes you laugh?

GILBERT: George is a bigger entertainer than what I am.

ANDERSON: If George makes Gilbert laugh, does Gilbert make George cry?


GEORGE: Not yet, not yet.

ANDERSON: What's your best relationship advice?

GEORGE: Don't discuss and never criticize. Keep calm and carry on.

ANDERSON: What do you most despise?

GEORGE: We try not to have negative -- maybe rucksacks is the one, small item.

ANDERSON: Rucksacks?

GILBERT: Rucksacks. We are very anti rucksacks.

ANDERSON (voice-over): But they also admit to a general dislike for other artists.

GEORGE: And when we were baby artists, we were, for a while, socially involved in the other artists. We had parties and danced the night away in London, Paris, New York. Very socially involved.

And then, we started to realize that the artists all thought that the people outside the gallery, outside the museum, the man on the street, that they were stupid, and that they were superior. And we realized that is an appalling elitism, and that gave us the idea that we should leave the artist community in that way.

We make our art for the viewer. It's very, very simple.

ANDERSON: And as they explain, it's their alliance with the public they feel brings them their greatest victories.

GEORGE: And a passing huge lorry carrying a big piece of metal machinery going to the docks to go to Saudi Arabia or something. An the driver, a middle-aged shaven-head man shouted out the window, "Oi! Gilbert and George! My life's a (expletive deleted) moment. Your art's an eternity." And we think that's a great, great compliment.

GILBERT: That's it.

GEORGE: And very, very moving.

GILBERT: Yes. We live for that.


ANDERSON: Gilbert and George for you here on CONNECT THE WORLD this evening. World news headlines are next.