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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Al Qaeda's New Stronghold?; The Mali Refugee Crisis; Living in Fear of Al Qaeda; Mali's City of Saints under Attack

Aired July 24, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. "OUTFRONT" tonight, al Qaeda rising.

I'm live from a refugee camp just miles from the border of northern Mali. More than a quarter million refugees have fled the country, more than twice as many as Syria. They're fleeing al Qaeda linked Islamic extremists who now control much of the country. Here's Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, shortly after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're within reach of strategically defeating al Qaeda. I think we had them on the run. I think now is the moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: But here on the frontier of northern Mali, al Qaeda and other extremists are getting strength. And the fear is that this could become a new safe haven for terrorists. We have heard some horrible stories about what is happening and you're going to hear them. But in northern Mali now Sharia law is the rule.

Today I called the military leader for Ansar al-Din. It's the main Islamic radical group linked to al Qaeda here. We wanted to tell you their side of the story, but here's what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: (Speaking in foreign language)

OMAR HAMAHA, LEADER OF ANSAR DINER (Through Translator): Yes, this is Omar. Hello?

BURNETT: Hello. Hello.

HAMAHA (Through Translator): Yes, what do you want?

BURNETT: Good morning. Good morning. Do you speak English?

HAMAHA (Through Translator): No, no. French is it.

BURNETT: No, no. I have -- I have some help. Yes, can you ask him, are they, are they hurting people?

HAMAHA (Through Translator): Listen, speak in French. No, no. Listen. I do not speak to a woman. If you would like to speak to me, give me a man. It is necessary to respect our religion. We are -- we do not speak to women. Do you hear me?

BURNETT: (Speaking in French)

HAMAHA (Through Translator): No, we do not speak with women. It is necessary to speak -- it is necessary to give a man to speak with us.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: CNN, Erin. Hello, Omar? Omar?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I want to explain how we got here. Because Mali is in the middle of a war that the world needs to watch. It began when the United States and NATO intervened in Libya, when Moammar Gadhafi was killed, all of his weapons were essentially up for grabs, and they were stolen, stolen by some of the fierce Tuareg tribe in Mali and stolen by Islamic radicals.

The Tuareg used the weapons to fight and declared independent from Mali. This is something that they have wanted for decades. But the country was then split in half. The Malian government, with only about 7,000 American-trained troops, couldn't stop the Tuareg. And frustrated by that failure, some commanders staged a coup.

Mali, which was one of the most successful democracies in all of Africa, fell into complete disarray. And that's when Islamic radicals seized the moment. Person after person here has told us of seeing fighters from Libya, Algeria, Afghanistan, and other countries in the Middle East. The Islamic radicals swept into the north and crushed the Tuareg, and the men that they defeated told us the Islamists had many more weapons, RPGs, AK-47s, mortars and high-caliber weapons mounted on the back of 4x4s.

The Islamic radicals also used those weapons along with axes and shovels to destroy historic shrines in Timbuktu. Shrines that date back nearly 700 years.

The Tuareg want to defeat the Islamists and they want help to do it. They say the consequences of the world letting this problem grow bigger and bigger are dire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): The actions of the Salafists and the terrorists in the Sahel has direct consequences for Europe and the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: I can tell you that here people are afraid. At villages along the border that you'll see, they're very afraid of the Islamic-linked militants. They say that they're paying people to join the extremist cause and that the radicals are actually giving people satellite phones so that they can call in when they see a Westerner. This is causing many people to flee and come to camps that are destitute, like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT (voice-over): The rainy season is in full swing, with torrential downpours that leave refugees with nowhere to hide. Yet families walk up to a week in the heat and rain to come here. Mohamed fled his village in the middle of the night with seven members of his family. He left behind 80 goats, 10 cows and a camel. A fortune here.

MOHAMED MOUSA DE HOUKAT, LIVING IN REFUGEE CAMP (Through Translator): They were killing people in my village and I was very scared.

BURNETT: It's still hard for 18-year-old Fatouma to talk about what she saw.

FATOUMA, LIVING IN REFUGEE CAMP (Through Translator): They sliced open one man's stomach. There is no life for a woman, and everything is forbidden.

BURNETT: This man, also named Mohamed, came after Islamists tied him to the back of a car and killed his friend.

MOHAMED OULD BADI, LIVING IN REFUGEE CAMP (Through Translator): They beat him on the face, and they hit him with guns. Then they stomped him to death.

BURNETT: Here in the camp, goat meat is all that's for sale. Makeshift tents leak. Food deliveries are once every two weeks, and lately, that hasn't even been enough.

Shortly after we arrived, an elderly woman collapsed among the crowd, waiting for rations of rice, sugar and oil. The female elder in this camp struggles to feed 10 mouths.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): There is not enough food and we want help.

BURNETT: The World Food Program agrees. Time is running out.

ANGELINE RUDAKUBANA, COUNTRY DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: We have food adequate to feed people for one month. But after one month, it's really a problem.

BURNETT: More than half the refugees are children. And for them, we found only one school, a madrasa teaching the Quran. Up to 70 children attend classes here. Sanitary conditions are rudimentary, and many people are sick. A camp doctor told us people have parasites, skin disease, and children suffer from malnutrition.

For now, there's not much to look forward to. And it's likely to get worse.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, Ibrahima Coly, he is with the United Nations Refugee Agency, and Simone Carter with Oxfam.

Good to see both of you. And we really appreciate your coming in and talking about us.

Ibrahim, tell me how bad this crisis is. This is a crisis that a lot of people around the world have not heard very much about, but there are twice as many refugees fleeing northern Mali as from Syria tonight.

IBRAHIMA COLY, U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY: I would say this crisis have really promulgated a lot of people coming out from Mali and in five months already we have reached more than 200,000 people who have sought asylum in the countries neighboring Mali. And inside Mali today we are talking about more than 200,000 IDPs.

All together, it's a humanitarian crisis, when you talk about close to a half million people. And these people are in a situation where we can say desperate because after five months, we are still in life-saving activities.

BURNETT: I mean, Simone, we were just looking behind us here at these stick tents, and these people are living in horrible conditions, and they have all said, you know, they don't have enough food. There's only enough food for one month, the World Food Program says. What is the biggest need?

SIMONE CARTER, OXFAM INTERNATIONAL: Everything.

BURNETT: Yes.

CARTER: We have great risks with water sanitation and hygiene, as well. As well as food. Programs that were funded to respond for the first three months, they're now no longer seeking funding, which means that the latrines are being shut down, and we need to just rebuild enough toilets to meet status quo. So within a few months, we won't have enough toilets, enough water. Enough sanitation programs and enough food.

BURNETT: So I mean it's -- what can be done? I mean, Simone, you were talking a little about -- I mean, I don't know what's worse here when you feel the extreme heat or the rains. When the rains come through, and it's hard to describe this to everybody. But when the rains come through and things just flood, what happens then in these camps?

CARTER: So it's a breeding pool for malaria, so mosquitoes, garbage. People have a tendency when they see water, they'll put their garbage in it, and the water will carry the garbage away, except it doesn't. So the water sits anywhere where there's a crevice it creates a pool, the water sits, stagnant water attracts mosquitoes, the mosquitoes leads to malaria.

BURNETT: And cholera.

CARTER: And cholera as well. There has been six cases of cholera reported in the camps in Niger. We know that we've got reported cases in Mali, as well. So we are at a great risk without handled washing facilities, enough water, latrines. Everything filters into the water, you see those same water pools where kids playing in them. People drinking from them and it creates a great risk.

And as you can see, the tents are not necessarily equipped to have mosquito nets set up.

BURNETT: No.

CARTER: So even though we don't have necessarily the funding for mosquito nets, we also couldn't put the mosquito nets up in a lot of the tents.

BURNETT: Even if, even if you wanted to.

CARTER: Yes.

BURNETT: Ibrahima, how much worse can this crisis get? And people are going to see in our show tonight along the -- the northern Mali border, there doesn't seem to be a border anymore. That there are, there are radical Islamists coming across the border. They seem to be getting stronger.

Is this crisis in terms of the refugee outflow going to get worse?

COLY: We are expecting it to get close -- to get worse, because the situation in Mali is not encouraging and there is no fighting so far for the moment, but we are expecting that whenever the situation will collapse inside Mali that means all other civilians will sought asylum in the neighboring country and this will increase the situation we are facing today, where the response is very slow, and despite the appearance and the funding is constant to the humanitarian community.

BURNETT: Well, Ibrahima and Simone, thank you very much for coming OUTFRONT and talking about this story, which so many have called a silent crisis with a quarter million refugees outside the country, half a million inside.

Well, Westerners here, or as they are called, white people, are already top targets for the extremists. And we're going to show you that. And there are men here tonight, actually a few just in one of the tents behind me who are ready to go back and fight. They are waiting for the call. And we're going to tell you what the Islamists told them about Americans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, Islamists' territory. We met a Tuareg tribesman named Miyamati and after poring over maps of the border region to try to find the right border crossing into Islamist territory, we set out for the border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT (voice-over): Miyamati is a Tuareg from Timbuktu. He fled Mali three weeks ago. He was lucky. He had a car, thanks to being a tour guide.

MIYAMATI, TUAREG TRIBESMAN: And then that was when I got some money, I got another car. Send it to bring my --

BURNETT (on camera): To bring your family.

MIYAMATI: Here.

BURNETT: To the camps here.

MIYAMATI: To come to the camps here.

BURNETT (voice-over): The Islamists tried to take Miyamati's car, chasing him from town without his sister, two brothers or parents. Some of the Tuaregs who remain in northern Mali stay for money. Miyamati told me the Islamists pay $1,000 a month to some families he knows. That's 10 times the normal income for farming and herding animals. But many Tuaregs still resist.

After two hours on dirt roads with us, heading to the Mali frontier, Miyamati got a warning call from a trusted friend.

(On camera): What's his name?

MIYAMATI: Moqtar bel Moqtar.

BURNETT: Moqtar bel Moqtar?

MIYAMATI: Yes.

BURNETT (voice-over): Moqtar bel Moqtar. He was near. He's a feared fighter, an al Qaeda leader who has fought in Afghanistan, Algeria and Libya. He was pronounced dead by western intelligence last month, but we were told he's alive in control of several major Malian cities and in a town close to us.

(On camera): The Mali border is just a few miles that way, and as you can see, this is incredibly remote terrain. People are wading through this -- basically a lake up to their knees. The thing is, we can't stay here very long, because the border is porous, and the Islamists could be anywhere. We're told they're very near here today. And even though it's difficult to drive, cell phones work so what the Islamists do is pay local people for information.

So call in when you see someone -- a Tuareg, which is how we had to dress today or a Westerner, as they call them a white person. Then the Islamists can move in quickly, take you hostage or even kill you.

(Voice-over): That water is keeping the village safe. For now. The village chief told me that when it recedes, he fears the Islamists will come.

(On camera): Miyamati, what kinds of weapons have you seen with the Islamists?

MIYAMATI: RPG.

BURNETT: RPG?

MIYAMATI: AKC?

BURNETT: AK.

MIYAMATI: AK. And mortar.

BURNETT: Mortar?

MIYAMATI: Mortar.

BURNETT ((voice-over): Some of those weapons seized from Libya after the NATO and U.S. intervention. Weapons that ripping apart a country and keeping one young man from what he loves.

MIYAMATI: I love the desert. I love the camel. I love the dunes. I love so much. This is my life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Roki and Abdul are Malian refugees and they're cousins and they're OUTFRONT tonight.

And thank you both for being here. How many members of your family are here in this camp, Roki?

ROKIYATOU WALLET HATTAYE, MALI REFUGEE: We have 25 members of our family here.

BURNETT: Twenty-five?

HATTAYE: Twenty-five.

BURNETT: Abdul, how are the conditions?

ABDULAYE AG MOHAMED, MALI REFUGEE: Condition is bad here. In the refugee camp. The (INAUDIBLE), the refugees camp (INAUDIBLE).

BURNETT: Do you have enough food?

MOHAMED: We don't have enough food.

BURNETT: Not enough food.

MOHAMED: Not enough food. BURNETT: People are hungry here.

HATTAYE: Yes. Yes.

BURNETT: Some of the children --

HATTAYE: A lot. A lot. And you know when people are hungry, they don't have nothing to do. It's very bad for them. For young people. That don't go to school. They don't have anything to do. And sometimes they can turn bad. They can do bad things for having food for their family.

BURNETT: Yes.

HATTAYE: Yes.

BURNETT: Both of you were in school.

HATTAYE: Yes.

BURNETT: And is are in school now. Abdul, you are at university. But there is no more -- there are no more classes now, right, because of the war?

MOHAMED: No more classes, no. Because we came here in February. And in February, we cannot continue our studies here in (INAUDIBLE). We have -- we have to wait for next year.

BURNETT: Because there's no school in Mali.

MOHAMED: There's no school in Mali. Can't study in Mali because of the insecurity.

BURNETT: And what were you studying?

MOHAMED: I study English. I have additional degrees in English.

BURNETT: And are you going to be able then to get a job? Have you been able to get a job?

MOHAMED: I have five months here without getting a job. I don't know how to get a job.

BURNETT: No job, no money.

MOHAMED: No job, no money.

HATTAYE: No job, no money, no food.

BURNETT: What will you do? What will you do now?

HATTAYE: Nothing special. We're here. Nothing to do. Reading. Reading a lot. Bring food for them. And take care for our brothers, our sisters. That's all we have to do.

BURNETT: And during the day, Abdul, what do you do? MOHAMED: I spend the whole day drinking tea or reading a lot. This is what I'm doing.

BURNETT: Waiting.

MOHAMED: Yes.

BURNETT: Just waiting for something to happen.

MOHAMED: Yes.

BURNETT: So what will you do now?

MOHAMED: Nothing.

BURNETT: Nothing. Until this problem goes away.

MOHAMED: Yes. Nothing.

BURNETT: Do you think it will go away? Will it get better?

HATTAYE: We don't know. We are waiting to see what will happen. We want to return in our country someday. But we know that if these problems are not solved.

BURNETT: Right.

HATTAYE: We have many years to spend it like this.

BURNETT: And you're afraid to go back to your country now.

HATTAYE: Yes.

MOHAMED: Yes. We cannot go back now.

BURNETT: Why? Because -- you could be killed.

MOHAMED: Yes, of course. There is insecurity in Mali, in the northern part of Mali.

HATTAYE: We leave Mabaqu because of that. When the fighting started, there was a movement of the population. They burn Tuareg houses, they burn Tuareg shops. And that's why we're here. We leave Mabaqu and gone here.

BURNETT: Yes.

HATTAYE: Yes. We feared for our lives and for our families' lives, too.

BURNETT: Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. Both of you.

HATTAYE: Thank you for putting us.

BURNETT: As you can see, the situation here is hard to imagine for so many people around the world. We're going to go next to Timbuktu. It's at the heart of this crisis. It's not a mythical place, it's a real place, and there's a horrible tragedy going on there.

And there is a threat of Islamic radicals and al Qaeda. So why is so little being done?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, Timbuktu. Before this country there at the north of Mali fell to Islamic militants, Bono, the lead singer of U2, came to Mali in January and he came to perform at one of the most famous and special music festivals around the world, a festival just outside Timbuktu which is a desert city just about nine miles north of the Niger River. It's called the festival in the desert and it's been a bright light in Mali for the past decade.

And it's actually an amazing story because the idea started when rival tribes burned their guns, 3,000 of them, in a bonfire to symbolize that they weren't going to fight anymore. For nearly 700 years, tribes even when fighting each other, preserved Timbuktu's history. And its history is hard to imagine. There are 333 shrines in Timbuktu which date from when it was one of great capitals of Islamic learning around the world. There was even a university in the desert there.

Timbuktu is one of the most priceless cultural capitals in the world and so it's really a human sacrilege that in just the past few weeks militants have been using pickaxes to destroy the shrines.

Tonight, the city is a military zone, and it's under the radicals' control. A spokesperson for Ansar al-Din, of course the military leader that I called earlier today, had said at the time that they will, quote, "destroy every mausoleum in the city, all of them, without exception."

Well, also today we spoke on the phone to a radio disc jockey in Timbuktu. Well, the thing is, he doesn't have a job now because he's a radio disc jockey and in Sharia law, which is the rule now in Timbuktu, under the radicals, music is not allowed. Music, which is the heart and soul of northern Mali's culture. And that brings me to tonight's number. 700,000. That's how many ancient manuscripts are in Timbuktu.

And locals tried to grab some of them as they fled to come to refugee camps like this one, but the deejay told us something horrific today. That for people following this, it will bring tears to your eyes. Because he says he saw this with his own eyes. He saw militants removing the manuscripts from the biggest ancient library in Timbuktu. It's called Ahmed Baba. He said that they burned the manuscripts.

Now of course we cannot confirm to you tonight whether those manuscripts were in fact burned but if it happened, it's a heartbreaking loss for the world. Tonight the deejay cannot play his music on his radio show because of the Sharia law, so we asked him, what song would you play if you could play any song that you wanted? And he -- he chose a song called "Pain." We'll play it right now. And the key line is so appropriate for what you're hearing tonight and what we have seen. The key line is, quote, "Friends of my country are living in pain."

Well, coming up, you're going to hear from a journalist who will disguise his face, because he is worried that if the radicals were to hear what he has to tell you, that he may not live.

And we're also going to talk about the American ally that might be a big funder of some of the radical activity here. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to OUTFRONT. I'm live tonight in a Malian refugee camp. We're along the northern frontier of Mali, the country falling to militias, Islamic radicals and about a quarter million refugees have fled the country.

And (INAUDIBLE) the side of the border we are on, there are 100,000 people in camps you can see behind me. And you can see how destitute these camps are. People sit out during the day under these tents. It's incredibly hot. The rains come through. You can get a few inches at a time here in rainy season.

And it is -- the conditions are truly deplorable. This refugee crisis right now is one of the biggest in the world. And you're going to hear from some of the men who want to go back and fight. You're going to hear about the American ally that some say could be part of funding the radical activity that is causing this crisis. And you're going to hear from a journalist.

All that is coming up in the next half hour, and you'll also meet the children.

But first, let's get back to New York with some of the other key headlines around the world with John Avlon -- John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Erin.

We begin with the latest in the Aurora, Colorado shooting rampage. A judge is barring news cameras for the next court hearing for alleged shooter James Holmes. The 24-year-old suspect is in court again on Monday when prosecutors are expected to file formal charges for the attack that killed 12 people and injured 58.

We're also learning more about the suspected gunman's bobby trapped apartment. A source who viewed the video from inside the apartment tells CNN it contained more than 30 homemade grenades and 10 gallons of gasoline, which were meant to harm or kill anyone who entered.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT in Aurora, Colorado -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John.

Well, we learned today that the judge in this case who is overseeing the criminal part of James Holmes' criminal case has it moves forward, he did allow cameras in the courtroom as we documented and you saw yesterday for his initial hearing. But that judge has now made the decision that the next time James Holmes appears in a courtroom here in Colorado, the cameras will not be allowed inside. And that hearing is scheduled for next Monday.

And as you mentioned, John, that's when prosecutors will begin laying out the criminal charges against James Holmes.

AVLON: Ed, what more have you learned about the explosives in the Holmes apartment?

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, investigators have been describing it as a sophisticated set-up that James Holmes had created inside that 80-square foot apartment, just on the edge of the campus where he was going to school.

But law enforcement source tells CNN that there was an elaborate some of some 30 grenade-like IEDs scattered throughout the living room, all kind of connected him to a circuit box with spaghetti-like wires. And all of that was a very sophisticated move, including gallons of gasoline and containers of gasoline that were designed to increase the thermal effect of the explosion. And they say that everything in that apartment had the capability of basically destroying the apartment building.

AVLON: Thanks, Ed Lavandera, in Aurora, Colorado.

It was the third day in a row for triple digit losses on the Dow. The index loss 104 points on trading. The tech-savvy NASDAQ lost 27 points. The S&P 50 losing 12.

Concerns about Europe as well as disappointing quarterly reports from UPS and AT&T weighed heavily on the storks.

We also received Apples latest earnings after the close. Despite strong iPad sales, the company's income and sales numbers missed analysts' expectations.

Now, Mitt Romney gave a speech on his foreign policy plan today at the VFW national convention. The speech comes ahead of Romney's six-day international trip to England, Poland, and Israel. Romney went after President Obama on sequestration cuts and the economy. He also criticized the leaks of sensitive material.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not enough to say that the matter is being looked into and just leave it at that. When the issue is the political use of highly sensitive national security information, it's unacceptable to say we'll report our findings after the election. Exactly who in the White House betrayed these secrets? Did a superior authorize it? These are things that Americans are entitled to know and they're entitled it know it now. If the president believes, as he said last week, that the buck stops with him, then he owes all Americans a full and prompt accounting of the facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Romney also addressed Iran, calling for a full suspension of Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

A follow-up to a story you first heard on OUTFRONT. A House oversight committee held a hearing on the Dawood national military hospital in Afghanistan. It's the hospital largely funded by the U.S. where injured Afghan soldiers were found lying in dirty beds with festering wounds.

During the hearing, there was testimony from a colonel who alleged that Lieutenant General William Caldwell, the three-star general in charge of the training mission in Afghanistan, had officials delay request for an investigation into abuse at the Kabul hospital so that allegations would not surface before the 2010 elections. Caldwell spokesman says the allegations are false.

That has been 355 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Even more positive news on housing tonight. Two new reports show home prices are rising, with real estate Web site Zillow declaring home prices have bottomed out.

As we have been saying, a key part of the economic recovery is a housing recovery. And this is just another sign that things are getting better.

Now, let's send it back to Erin who is live tonight along the border of Mali.

BURNETT: And now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: Tuareg fighters in this camp tonight. And as you can see behind me, some of these stick tents, during the day, a lot of the Tuareg rebels will literally get together in groups and hang around here, drinking tea, and waiting, frankly, to go back and fight.

Ismael is one of them. He speaks English. He spent a few years in Kansas. And he and other Tuareg retreated from better-armed and frankly much more powerful al Qaeda-linked militias. They say, though, that they are ready to fight again. They want their own country in Mali's north. And they call that country Azawad.

But -- and this is really important -- they tell me they will fight with the Malian government first to beat the Islamists.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Ismael, how many people here have fought?

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

BURNETT: Would everybody here fight against the Islamists?

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

BURNETT: Why are you fighting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to have independence. Our country to be in our hands.

BURNETT: What do the Islamists tell people about Americans?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Islamists said before this war and now, Americans are not good. They're like animals.

BURNETT: Like animals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like animals. Our citizens, they give them money, food, to take their mind.

BURNETT: Do they have camps where they train people to fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

BURNETT: They do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They do.

BURNETT: Who runs the camps? Are they people from Mali? Are they people from the Middle East, somewhere else?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Middle East. They want Azawad to make a country.

BURNETT: A country like Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like Afghanistan. This is in their mind. Azawad is this -- the last chance for them to have a country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: So what is the United States doing about this threat and what's happening here?

Joining me now is the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Johnnie Carson.

And, Secretary Carson, we appreciate your taking the time. You just heard the Tuareg rebels here saying frankly what I've heard from a lot of people here, and in the Islamist territory, saying that the Islamists are saying that Americans are dogs, in one case they said they're like animals. What is the U.S. doing about this crisis?

JOHNNIE CARSON, U.S. ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AFRICAN AFFAIRS: The -- thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be with you.

Let me say, we're deeply concerned about the current situation in Mali. The situation in Mali is a very complex one. It's not just one problem. It's several problems.

It's a problem of restoring democracy and governance to the central government and to the south. It's a problem of reintegrating the Tuareg into society. They have a number of political grievances that have to be resolved.

And it's a problem of dealing with the Islamists, the Salifists, those who belong to AQIM, MUJWA, and Ansar Al-Dine, and it's equally a problem of dealing with a complex humanitarian emergency. As a part of our effort to deal with the issue of AQIM, we have long had --

BURNETT: That's al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb. Sorry, just want to make sure everyone knows, for the al Qaeda that operates in Africa.

CARSON: That's correct. AQIM is the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

We have long had a program which is called the counterterrorism program. And in that multifaceted program, we have been providing assistance to the governments in the region to strengthen their borders, to strengthen their counterterrorism programs, to strengthen their military, and to give them equipment that will help deal with the al Qaeda threat.

BURNETT: You know, we -- we're here just miles from the border of northern Mali, and we went to the border. There was actually a lot of water when we were there. And water was really what was preventing the Islamists from coming into the village where we were. They were terrified.

The morning after we were there, there were several 4x4s with guns mounted on the back patrolling that very area. And I'm simply saying just to make a point that our experience is that the border no longer matters. The Islamists are on the Burkina side and perhaps other countries you just mentioned.

Are you worried this is a cancer that could spread?

CARSON: This is why we have the Trans Sahara counterterrorism program. This is why we encourage the states in the region to work together -- their militaries, their customs services, their intelligence services. We think they should all work together to prevent the threat that is posed by AQIM in the region.

It's absolutely essential that probably no one country alone can deal with this problem. And it's important that they all work collaboratively to deal with it together.

BURNETT: What about the -- who is funding these Islamic radicals? I was talking to one of the leaders of the Tuareg rebel group, and I asked him who was funding them. And he said something I wanted to play to you, because it was rather shocking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOSSA AG ATTAHER, MNLA SPOKESMAN (through translator): Qatar is intervening directly in the financing and material of the Islamists in Azawad. Qatar is sending it directly to the mujahedeen and al Qaeda and we think this is flagrant support of the Islamists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Secretary Carson, Qatar is one of the biggest allies of the United States in the Middle East. That was a damming accusation.

CARSON: I'm not sure whether that's true, but I do know a lot of the activities of AQIM and the Islamists are, in fact, self-funded. They engage in kidnapping for ransom, which is bad, and we condemn the kidnapping, and we equally condemn those countries who pay ransoms to kidnappers, because those large ransoms help to fund the activities.

The AQIM are also associated with smugglers who are smuggling goods from and across borders and to the region. And they're engaged in robbery. Many of the weapons that they use have come, in fact, from the disintegration of the Malian army in it northern Mali over the last three months.

So it may be that there is some outside money coming in. But it is equally true that their there are resources to be gained by the AQIM from their kidnapping for ransom, as well as their smuggling and robbery in the region.

BURNETT: Yes. And our viewers are going to hear more about the drug trafficking in a moment.

One final question to you, sir. The refugees here in Mali -- you've got about twice as many refugees here as you do in Syria. The USAID numbers we have, the United States is the most generous to Mali, but you're looking at $60 million in the U.N. compared to $800 million for Syria.

If this problem is so serious from a refugee perspective, from an al Qaeda-linked extremist perspective, why isn't it getting more money?

CARSON: It is getting not only money, but also our attention. We estimate that there are probably some 200,000 or more Malian refugees in the region, many of them in Mauritania, but also some in Niger and Burkina Faso. Just 10 days ago, President Obama released some $10 million more for refugee assistance to Malian refugees in the region, but particularly those in Mali.

This is an issue of enormous concern to us. We have responded generously, and we'll continue to look at -- and assess the needs of the Malians and respond appropriately in the future.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Secretary Carson, thank you very much.

Secretary Carson is leading the U.S. charge on the Malian crisis, and we appreciate your time, sir.

OUTFRONT next: a journalist who is afraid if you see his face or know his name that he could lose his life. He's going to tell you his story, and the reporting that he has been doing on the radicals here.

Plus, a child. Her name is Miriam. And her eyelashes are the longest that I have ever seen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper for a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360."

Hi, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hey, Erin.

Ahead on the program: among the many struck by the rain of bullets in theater nine, Petra Anderson was one of the lucky ones. Hit four times that night. One of the bullets lodged in her brain. She survived thanks to a brain condition she never knew she had, a condition that channeled the bullet through her brain. She already started to speak and walk, expected to make a full recovery. We'll have her remarkable story.

We'll also talk to the father of a man who did not make it, what he wants you to know, remember, about his son.

Those stories, plus we'll have an inside report from inside Syria. Our correspondent is there with the latest of what he is seeing and the latest on the two young cousins who went for a bike ride in Iowa, have not been seen since. All that and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thanks, very much. We'll see you in just a couple of moments.

And now, our fifth story OUTFRONT: what happened when I called the al Qaeda linked extremist group called Ansar Dine? It's the group that controls much of northern Mali. I wanted to get their side of the story, so I call their military leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

OMAR HAMAHA, LEADER OF ANSAR DINE (via telephone/through translator): Yes, this is Omar, hello.

BURNETT: Hello.

HAMAHA: No, no, listen, I do not speak to a woman. If you would like to speak to me, give me a man. It is necessary to respect our religion. We do not speak to women, do you hear me?

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

HAMAHA: No, we do not speak with women. It is necessary to speak. It is necessary to give a man to speak with us.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And he wasn't on the other end of the line. The journalist you're about to hear from now has asked we not use his name. He's asked we keep his face in shadow. The reason, he's afraid if the radicals were to hear him on this show, that his life could be at risk.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: You just heard my conversation when I called Ansar Dine, the military leader of one of the militias, and he said he would not talk to a woman. Does that surprise you?

LOCAL JOURNALIST, FEARS FOR HIS LIFE COVERING MALI CRISIS: Yes, , this is new. We used to see those people not shaking women hands -- but not talking to women, this is really new in West Africa. So we heard that they don't talk to women, they don't shake women hands, so what about women rights in this area? We don't know what's going to happen.

BURNETT: Yes, they've been -- you know, some women here said they separate the women and the men. They don't want the women going out in the street. They must cover their heads. Things like that.

LOCAL JOURNALIST: Yes, when they see a married with single women, they force them to get married. They beat the man 100 beats. So, this is really new --

BURNETT: One hundred lashes?

LOCAL JOURNALIST: Yes, lashes, yes.

BURNETT: Obviously the funding here is really important and people are saying there's money coming from al Qaeda-linked groups, and that it's also coming from things like kidnapping and from drug trafficking.

What have you heard about that?

LOCAL JOURNALIST: What I heard, this is really a worldwide network, because Salifists has connection with Arabic countries. They might be receiving help from other countries. We don't know what role Algeria's playing actually, because when you see the border of Mali, you do not have any border with Libya. Even people who think this is a consequence of war in Libya, there is no border with Libya, so where those weapons are coming from, they need to transit maybe by Niger or Mauritania or Algeria.

So, we need to know what role those countries are playing in the world.

BURNETT: And what about drugs and drug trafficking?

LOCAL JOURNALIST: Drug trafficking, we heard about this plane which landed last year, 2011, in this area, (INAUDIBLE) Mali, when the regular government was working. They destroy the plane after it landed. So we don't know was it coming from Colombia? Was it coming from Arabic countries? Nobody knows that.

BURNETT: Nobody knows, but you had heard there were drugs on the plane?

LOCAL JOURNALIST: Yes, because it's a no-man's-land area, no leader, so this helps them to do whatever they need --

BURNETT: To get money?

LOCAL JOURNALIST: To get money.

BURNETT: And what about you? You're standing here in profile tonight. I'm not saying your name. You're not showing your face. Why?

LOCAL JOURNALIST: Oh, we don't know, we don't know -- people out there the far from where we are --

BURNETT: The Islamists, they're not far from here?

LOCAL JOURNALIST: Yes, they're not far from here, they're everywhere, and nobody knows what can happen shortly. So this way better --

BURNETT: They can come, they can come and kidnap you or kill you.

LOCAL JOURNALIST: Yes, nobody knows.

BURNETT: Thank you.

LOCAL JOURNALIST: You're welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: That journalist, one of the courageous people who is just trying to report on this situation -- incredibly difficult to get the information. I think the thing to emphasize is that fear and that desire to not show his face or use his name. That fear is something we have seen from everyone.

There is real fear about the repercussions and the life and death situation here. And that living on the edge, in fear, is really the thing we take away from our experiences here along the northern Mali border.

And next, we're going to talk about the children and we're going to show you a game they play here at the camps that is truly chilling.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Here at the refugee camp, there are so many children and they sit listlessly for much of the day. It's hard to see. But, you know, children are children, no matter what the circumstances. And when we arrived, excitement was everywhere. I mean, they followed us around, they danced, they played.

There was one child in particular that really touched me, an absolute beautiful little girl. her name is Miriam and she's 10 years old.

And I mentioned her eyelashes -- I mean, look at them, they're the longest you've ever seen. I told her, I learned in her local language the word to say "you're beautiful" is (INAUDIBLE). So, I said she's (INAUDIBLE) point to her eyelashes, you can see.

Anyway, it turns out no one had ever told her she's (INAUDIBLE) before, which was sort of a poignant moment for me. The children here really make you smile but it makes you tear up too when you think what their futures might be.

There was one thing, though, that was disturbing that we wanted to share with you, that was that the children often collect small birds and break their wings. They play with the birds, sort of like a cat and mouse, and fling them around to each other as the bird gets weaker and weaker. A little boy told me he does it because he has nothing else to do.

And a local who came with us told them to stop, to stop torturing the birds. They said, we're only going to stop if you give us soccer balls. It's sort of a hard thing to talk about because it's an awful image that they did, but it made us think we're going to give them soccer balls. That's really a temporary solution. We hope that more people will pay attention to the crisis we've all seen tonight.

Thanks so much for watching. "A.C. 360" starts now.