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Syria Threatens Israel; Cemeteries Reject Suspect's Body; American Sentenced to Hard Labor in North Korea; Air Show in Spain Meets Fiery End; Somalis Get Taste of Hope

Aired May 6, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome. We take you across the globe in 60 minutes. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to see you, stranger.

MALVEAUX: Nice to see you. We're back.

HOLMES: Stranger. Yes, we're back. I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for being with us today.

MALVEAUX: All right, this could be a game changer. We're talking about one of the most volatile places in the world. That, of course, Syria.

HOLMES: Yes. The Syrian deputy foreign minister is calling Israeli air strikes in his words a declaration of war. Have a look at this.

MALVEAUX: The attacks happened over the weekend, making a really tense situation on the ground even worse now, raising questions about whether or not the U.S. is going to be forced to act. A U.S. official now confirming the strikes were indeed launched by the Israelis.

HOLMES: Add to that new questions about which side is using chemical weapons on the ground there. Is it the Assad regime? Is it the rebels? Or is anyone doing it at all? Even the U.N. says it's not sure.

MALVEAUX: And it took two weeks for a relative to claim his body. Well, now the challenge is finding a place to bury Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. At least three cemeteries have now said no and the city manager at Cambridge says not here. We're going to have the latest on the burial dilemma and details of a court hearing today for one of the surviving suspect's friends.

HOLMES: A factory collapse in Bangladesh. The death toll continues to climb. Remember when it hit 400? It's now at 657. Those involved in what is now definitely a recovery project say they don't know how many more bodies remain inside. The building, housing five garment factories, also a bank and other businesses, collapsed a week ago. The Bangladeshi government says it is ready to enact a series of labor reforms.

MALVEAUX: The headline, of course, is out of Syria today. We've got conflicting reports over whether or not the rebels are actually the ones who use sarin gas. Now, you've got a U.N. official saying earlier this morning that there's evidence that, in fact, they did. Then you have the U.N. backtracking that statement, saying the findings, they're not even conclusive. Now you've got this State Department official weighing into this, saying that there's not even any information at all suggesting that it was the rebels that used the gas.

HOLMES: That anyone did. They don't know for sure. There's no real evidence. It's a suspicion. The Free Syrian Army denies it has any access to chemical weapons. And all of that coming on the heels of this -- U.S. officials confirming that Israel struck several military facilities in Syria over the weekend. Massive blasts. And we want to find out what is happening on the ground.

CNN is the only major network that is inside Syria. Our Fred Pleitgen, he's joining us from the capital of Damascus. And, Fred, first of all -- we also have Sara Sidner. She is live from Israel.

And, Fred, we want to begin with you to tell us a sense of what do you know, what has taken place on the ground, what are they telling you, what do they believe has happened?

FREDRIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the first (INAUDIBLE) Syrian official, Suzanne, said after this happened, was that they said this was an Israeli rocket strike. They're saying that it was a strike on a military research facility. But judging from the secondary explosions that we were hearing - and I just want to - I just want to make this clear, we are about three or four miles away from where this happened. And when it happened, we could hear these explosions throughout the entire night.

There were dozens of secondary explosions. There was gunfire going on as well. Apparently the Syrian troops that were on site there, firing into the air, because they didn't know what was going on. It clearly seems as though this was more than a military research facility. There are some who are suggesting that these could have been weapon stock stockpiled. Some are saying they might have been Iranian weapons stockpiles possibly destined for Hezbollah. That, at this point, is unclear.

But the Syrian government is absolutely angry. The deputy foreign minister told me that they will retaliate. They're not saying when and they're not saying how, but he said they will retaliate. Absolutely angry about all this. And they are acknowledging, Suzanne, that this was a major blow to their military and it could have effect in the civil war, in their war against the opposition.

Now, one more thing. I was talking to Syrian civilians who live close by there and they are absolutely terrified. They told me when this happened, they could feel the blasts, they could feel the pressure waves a mile away from where all this happened, Suzanne.

HOLMES: Yes, and, Fred, jumping in here, you know, ironically, this could be seen in some quarters, of course, as helping the rebels, many elements of which are no fans of Israel.

PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, this is certainly something where the government is trying to paint this in a way as though this is an alliance, if you will, between the rebels and Israel. I was talking, as I said, to the deputy foreign minister and he was calling this an alliance between al Qaeda and the state of Israel. That, of course, is something that the Israelis flat out deny. And even the rebels have actually criticized these air strikes. They're saying that they criticize Israel striking an Arab country. But for their part they're saying this simply proves how weak the Assad regime is and it's not even capable of protecting its own air space. So certainly all sides are trying to read this in different ways. Of course, the Assad regime is now trying to portray this in a way that it is under an attack from outside forces. That is blames, of course, the whole uprising that's here in this country on outside forces as well. So this sort of fits into that conspiracy theory.

But certainly all sides are trying to use this to their advantage or trying to paint this in different ways. It's unclear at this point who might benefit from all this. But one thing is clear, the Syrian military is licking its wounds today and it's taken a major hit to one of its real big power centers here outside of Damascus.

HOLMES: Yes, Fred Pleitgen, one of the only western journalists, if not the only western journalist for a major broadcast network there inside Syria. Thanks, Fred. Good to see you.

MALVEAUX: We also want to bring in Sara Sidner. She is live, this is from Haifa. This is northern Israel.

And, Sarah, first of all, the Israeli government doesn't typically confirm or deny these kinds of attacks, but a U.S. official is now confirming that both those strikes were conducted by Israel. First of all, are they - is there any response to that? And secondly, are they concerned of retaliation from Syria or Hezbollah?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly the Israelis have not come out publicly or officially. All they have said concerning these strikes inside Syria, and we're talking about two in the last four day and three overall this year. The Israelis not confirming or denying that they were involved in any way.

What we have been hearing time and again though from Israeli officials is that they will not -- they will do whatever is necessary to keep conventional weapons that are very dangerous or weapons mass destruction, such as chemical weapons, which Syria is known to have large stockpiles of, from going into the hands of groups, such as Hezbollah, which Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organization.

That group, obviously, over in Lebanon, across the border. And the reason why I'm standing here in Haifa is because there's clearly a concern. Israel has said, look, the winds of war are not blowing. But that came from a major general today who is in charge of this northern command. But that they are taking precautions. And what they've done is put two iron dome batteries, these are anti-missile batteries, into place, in the northern hemisphere here and just in case there is any sort of reaction. The reaction, they are worried about, isn't necessarily going to be coming from Syria, because Syria finds itself in a very difficult spot. It has been in a war for more than two years, going into the third year now that has been devastating to its military. And so what they are worried about is that perhaps Hezbollah, who has been close with Syria and Iran for all these years, will suddenly do something. And they are putting their positions in place, they are putting their machinery in place just in case that does happen.


HOLMES: And the thing - the thing to consider here too, there's a couple of things. I mean it's rumored to be that some of these missiles could be scud-type missiles, which could be fired from well inside Lebanon anywhere into Israel. But the other aspect of this is the potential for it to become truly regional. You get Lebanon involved and Israel responds to Lebanon, and then you've got the Syrians helping out Hezbollah. And at the same time too, you've got a lot of Arab countries already saying, hang on, Israel just attacked a sovereign nation, killed, by all accounts, dozens of soldiers. Is that even being discussed there in Israel?

SIDNER: Well, people are certainly concerned about that. And there are groups of people wondering if this is going to draw Israel in. Israel has said officially it does not want to be any part of this war. It does not want to get involved in the internal conflict in Syria. But, of course, if it's knocking out some of the Syrian government's military capabilities, than in some ways it has gotten involved, even if it's trying to stop weapons from being handed over to the group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Regardless of that, I think there is a concern, though people are not, for example, nervous or scared at this point in time. They haven't heard anything, they haven't seen anything, for example, on this border. On the Syrian border, we know that there have been munitions that have come over, at some times missiles have made it over that border, but most of the time Israel has said those were mistake, that it wasn't directed particularly at Israel, that it was because the fighting along the border.


SIDNER: But as you know, Israel, very, very close to Lebanon, because they share a border with Lebanon. Very, very close, as well, with Syria.


SIDNER: So, of course, the tensions are a bit high here.

MALVEAUX: All right, Sara -- thank you so much, Sara. We appreciate it.

One of the things that's really interesting here is you've got the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, he's in China. He's still in China. You've got the airlines, they're actually flying commercially here. So there does seem to be a sense like they are moving on. They are moving forward. But, still, a lot of tensions there.

HOLMES: Well, they might be, others might not be.


HOLMES: I mean, Israel's saying, well, no drum of war, but that's going to annoy a lot of people in the region there because it really -- despite Israel's fears about what would be very damaging missiles were they to fall in the hands Hezbollah, this was an attack on another country, killed 42 soldiers. If that had happened the other way, there would be outrage, obviously. So there's - and the risk, the geography, these are very small parcels of land. Israel into Lebanon is a tiny country. Then you're into Syria and you've got Iran supplying Syria through Iraq. I mean it is all tied in together.

MALVEAUX: I mean there is so much tension it could turn into a regional conflict, not just a civil one.

HOLMES: Absolutely. Yes.

MALVEAUX: The air strikes raising concerns, of course, about the possibility of this broader war in the Middle East. Syrian ally Iran warning of a crushing response. You've got Russia calling reports of Israeli air strikes very worrying. And the question now, of course, whether or not the United States, whether or not we're going to get sucked into all of this as well.

HOLMES: Uh-huh. Yes, if it goes like that. Listen to what some of the lawmakers are saying.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We need to have a game changing action and that is no American boots on the ground, establish a safe zone and to protect it and to supply weapons to the right people in Syria who are fighting for obviously the things we believe in.

REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D), MARYLAND: We can't be the sheriff for the whole world. We have our own issues right now, Iraq, Afghanistan, we have sequestration, those type of issues. So when we move and make the move to get in, we have to do it with a coalition, the Arab coalition, the other countries in that area. We have resources that no other country has, and we have to make sure we use them.


HOLMES: And we're going to have a lot more on these new developments. Our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, she has spoken with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in the past and will be with us at the bottom of the hour to chat more about worrying developments to many people.

MALVEAUX: Very tense.

MALVEAUX: They say don't bury him here. That is what city officials and cemetery directors in and around Boston they are saying about the bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

HOLMES: Yes, right now his body is at a funeral home. This is in Worcester, Massachusetts.. The funeral director there looking for a cemetery that will actually accept his remains.


PETER STEFAN, FUNERAL DIRECTOR HANDLING TSARNAEV'S BODY: Preferably a Muslim cemetery, maybe out of the state. But I fear that the same problems exist when the neighbors and the people find out what we're doing. It has to be accepted. I -- a Muslim cemetery would be much more acceptable for the people there. Most of the cemeteries we have here are nonsectarian with a section set aside for Muslims. The only true Muslim cemetery we have is in Connecticut.


MALVEAUX: Joe Johns, he's in Boston.

Joe, first of all, tell us why it has been so difficult. And if they think that there is a path, some sort of solution to where they are actually going to bury him.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there is a lot that goes into this, Suzanne. This is a man, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who has -- went through life without a country and now in death he's also without a country. The Cambridge city manager has said he's not going to accept a burial permit. He's suggested that the FBI ought to have some role in this. The FBI has said, we have role in it at all. It's a local matter.

So the next question is, if not Massachusetts then where? There's been some suggestion that perhaps the body could be sent back to Russia. There's some problems there as well because he didn't have a passport in Russia. And it could be perhaps that Kyrgyzstan has to step in. But it's all unclear right now. Apparently there are a bunch of different options. And they're even looking, we're told, to some other states, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: How long could this last, Joe? I mean are there any arrangements? I mean I hate to be morbid about this, any arrangements, you know, how long the body could stay there before they actually have to make some decisions?

JOHNS: Well, it's just unclear. We're told that the family or the funeral director or others may even be reaching out to the governor of the state of Massachusetts for help on this. As you know, this can become a very sticky issue. And it has in the past with some other very notorious individuals. It's taken a long time to figure out who would claim the body. And that's the negotiation they're sort of working their way through right now.

HOLMES: Joe, on another angle to this story, one of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends charged in connection with the bombing, meant to be in court in a couple of hours. What's going on there? JOHNS: Right, that's Robel Phillips. He's the individual who is charged with false statements, one of the three friends arrested last week. He is expected to appear here. This hearing originally was supposed to be for two purposes, to talk about probable cause and to talk about detention. The probable cause has been taken often the table and so now the question is whether he'll be released.

The government and the defense apparently have reached some agreement, saying that he may be released as long as he produces a $100,000 secured bond, agrees to electronic monitoring, that would be some type of an ankle bracelet presumably, and is released to a third party who would take custody of him. So we're waiting for that hearing at 2:00 Eastern Time to find out if there are any hitches to that, Michael.

HOLMES: All right, Joe Johns in Boston. Thanks so much.

MALVEAUX: Here's more of what we're working on for AROUND THE WORLD.

A vintage plane crashes in the middle of an air show as thousands of spectators watch. We'll take you live to Spain for the details.

HOLMES: Despite bomb threats and suicide attacks, Somalis are flocking to a beach side restaurant for gourmet food and a taste of normal life. It's good to see those pictures instead of the ones we're accustomed to. We're going to take you there for a visit.

MALVEAUX: And Justin Bieber's string of bad luck continues.


MALVEAUX: Oh, yes, we're talking about Justin Bieber. This time attacked by a fan right in the middle of a concert. We're going to show you what actually happened in Dubai.

HOLMES: Looked like a bit of a cuddle to me, more than an attack.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. An American man sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea is not going to be used as a political bargaining chip, or at least that's what North Korea is saying about the man, Kenneth Bae.

MALVEAUX: The U.S. wants him released. Pyongyang says Bae confessed to committing hostile acts against the government. In prior instances, North Korea has released Americans in its custody after a visit by a U.S. dignitary, but Pyongyang says they are not going to do that this time.

And a bride's big night out before the wedding turns into a tragedy. This is at San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. This is in California. Neriza Fojas and her girlfriends were just four minutes away from the bachelorette party when this limo -- you can see it there -- caught fire. It's just tragic. The driver, four of her girlfriends, escaped, but Fojas and four others did not escape and actually died.

Investigators say the fire might have started in the trunk of the limo, but they're actually not sure what started that fire.

HOLMES: What a horrible story.

MALVEAUX: It really is awful.

HOLMES: Just terrible.

All right. Another fiery disaster under investigation at the moment. This one happened near Madrid in Spain.

MALVEAUX: Air show spectators absolutely shocked and then terrified when they watched a vintage plane crash into the hangar. There you see it explode in a fireball. The pilot actually died in that crash.

Want to get more from our Al Goodman who's in Madrid. Tell us, Al, do the investigators know how this happened?

AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID BUREAU CHIEF: Hi, Suzanne. The investigators have not said publicly what they think may have happened. What we do know is that this was an experienced pilot flying a 1950s Spanish-made plane at an air show that happens once a month at this military base in Madrid.

But he just lost control and with devastating effect he crashed into this old cement-and-brick hangar at the air base.

Inside were helicopters from Spain's national police. They did not get on fire.

And he also missed major fuel tanks at this military base. But all of this happened about 100 meters, or 300 feet, from some 2,000 spectators.

The pilot died soon after in hospital of his injuries. Five other people were taken to hospital and 13 were treated at the scene, including the pilot's father who, when he saw what happened, had what authorities say was kind of a nervous shock attack.

HOLMES: Yeah, and, Al, tell me, the pilot, he had a fair bit of experience. This was not a novice.

GOODMAN: Indeed, Michael. He was a fighter pilot. He flew F-18s. He had served with Spanish troops in the international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan. He had served with Spanish troops in the international no-fly zone imposition over Gadhafi's Libya a couple of years ago.

So he was experienced. He had been promoted recently as an aide to Spain's defense minister. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter. The Spanish prime minister has praised him and offered condolences.

But I will say that a neighbor's group out there near the air base says these air shows should be moved some place else. Michael?

MALVEAUX: Yeah, it's so tragic. Well, the best to his family, obviously, condolences to them. HOLMES: Sure.

MALVEAUX: We have a story. This is my favorite story of the day.

HOLMES: Yes, I know. You love this one, don't you?

MALVEAUX: Love eating. This is a haven for foodies. And it's really quite amazing because this is Somalia. And we're going to show you exactly where it is.

HOLMES: A different look and a happier look at a troubled land. We're going to take you there, next.

Stick around. You hungry?


MALVEAUX: This is really neat, Somalis getting a taste of hope. This is a restaurant owner. He's defying the terrorists. This is out of Mogadishu. And, of course, fighting, a lot of problems in that country, violence remaining a threat, but you have a radical Islamism group, al-Shabaab, saying it's responsible for this suicide car bombing that killed at least eight people, all of them bystanders. But despite this attack, there is a new sense of optimism about all of this and it's because of a restaurant.

Nima Elbagir has the story.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the weekend. And on Mogadishu's main waterfront, families have come to enjoy the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean. Girls splash as boys strut and show off.

Amid the rubble of the abandoned colonial era villas, new developments are emerging, all unthinkable a year and a half ago when the al Qaeda- linked militant group, al-Shabaab controlled vast swathes of the city.

Over at The Village restaurant, this is the busy time for chef and owner, Ahmed Jama. When he first came to Mogadishu five years ago, though, it was a very different story.

AHMED JAMA, OWNER, THE VILLAGE: When I opened this restaurant, they could not believe it. Someone going inside in this place and he's going to have a restaurant.

ELBAGIR: In Mogadishu.

JAMA: In Mogadishu.

ELBAGIR: During the war, at the height of the war.

JAMA: This was a front line.

ELBAGIR: Where we're standing right here?

JAMA: This was the grave area. No one goes home.

ELBAGIR: Today, it's one of the most popular places in town, one of five restaurants all called The Village owned by Ahmed.

JAMA: They've never seen this for 20 years. People go somewhere, have a nice fresh coffee, and also have a nice fresh food.

It seems like my restaurant is makes open the world and see, you know, they have a life. Before -- they never have a life before.

ELBAGIR: For the first time in a very long time, Somalis have a choice of where to go to meet friends, enjoy cappuccino and even a pipe of flavored tobacco, albeit discretely.

His patrons have developed a taste for (inaudible) ox-tail and lobster, Somali-style.

But, of course, this is still Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab may no longer have a visible presence in the city, but they're still here.

At the entrance to The Village restaurant stand armed guards. The gate is fortified with sandbags. A gunman looks down from the turret, a legacy of the last time al Shabaab chose to make their presence felt.

In November last year, two men came up to the front gate of Ahmed's restaurant with explosives strapped to this bodies, detonated the explosives, killing a soldier right here.

At another restaurant, another explosion, 25 of his customers were killed.

And, yet, Somalis, Mogadishu residents, still keep coming out to these restaurants, day after day, with their families.

Ahmed says as long as his customers keep coming, he's willing to keep risking his life alongside them.

JAMA: They're trying to stop the people feeling like they have a new life. I'm not going to stop for that. I just keep going.

ELBAGIR: For the first time in the more than two decades of Somali conflict, there's a sense of optimism -- a newly appointed president, planned reform for the country's security forces, and promises of substantial support from the international community.

Somalis, it seems, have had a taste of normal life, and al-Shabaab violence, no matter how bloody, no longer holds the power it once did.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Mogadishu.



HOLMES: Yeah, good to see some positive news. MALVEAUX: Would you go?

HOLMES: Absolutely, absolutely.

MALVEAUX: We'll send Anthony Bourdain, our colleague.

HOLMES: Now there's an idea. Get Bourdain down there.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

HOLMES: I want to go with him, though.

Yeah, fantastic. Good to see some positive news out of a troubled place.

All right, now the Syrian government, they say they want revenge after those Israeli attacks hitting multiple military facilities inside Syria.

MALVEAUX: So the big question, is the situation going to escalate?

Our Christiane Amanpour, she's going to join us next.