Return to Transcripts main page


Police Framed Mom; Deadly Virus Threatens Entire World; Syrian Rebels Blast Leadership; Pakistan Taliban's No. 2 Man Killed in Drone Strike

Aired May 29, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: A SARS-like virus is spreading, taking lives now and the World Health Organization says, quote, "it's a threat to the entire world." We're going to explain what is in a live report. That is from Abu Dhabi. This is where that virus began.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And this Arizona mother of seven, busted for pot in Mexico, her family says she was set-up by the cops. She remains in jail. We continue to follow her story as she waits to find out her fate.

MALVEAUX: Then, the Taliban's number two guy in Pakistan is killed, taken out by a U.S. drone strike. This after President Obama said he was scaling back the drone program. We're going to have a live report from Pakistan.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company.

MALVEAUX: An Arizona mother of seven back in court in Mexico today to face drug charges. Her family says that she was framed. For now, she is stuck in a Mexican jail while a judge is going to decide her fate.

HOLMES: Now, Mexican authorities accuse Yanira Maldonado of trying to smuggle marijuana. Now, family members say that is absurd. They say Maldonado doesn't even smoke or drink. Our Rafael Romo is following developments for us in Mexico.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): This is the prison in Nogales, Mexico, where Yanira Maldonado has been held since Friday. The American citizen, who's accused of trafficking marijuana, is being held in a temporary cell, isolated from the general population at the women's prison.

VERONICA ANAYA, MALDONADO'S SISTER-IN-LAW (through translator): The family is very sad. They know she's innocent. She's a mother of seven and a decent woman. She's a Christian. This is an injustice.

ROMO: Forty-one-year-old Yanira Maldonado and her husband, Gary, were stopped by soldiers last Wednesday at this military checkpoint as they traveled by bus in the Mexican state of Sonora. Authorities say they found more than 12 pounds of marijuana under Maldonado's seat, but her family says the couple was returning from a relative's funeral and suspect they were framed.

JOSE ANGEL SOTO, MALDONADO'S SON (through translator): It's not true. She didn't do that. I know my mother. She goes to church regularly. I know her. She's a good woman.

ROMO: Maldonado's trial started Tuesday at this federal court house in Nogales.

ROMO (on camera): Since there's no trial by jury in Mexico, her fate is in the hands of a judge who will ultimately issue a verdict based on the evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defense.

GARY MALDONADO, YANIRA MALDONADO'S HUSBAND: It's been tough, but Yanira seems to be strong and holding up. She's not happy where she's at, but she - she has high hope that she'll be free of this falsely accused accusation against her. I got to see her yesterday.

ROMO (voice-over): An official with knowledge of the case told CNN that it was highly unlikely that anybody can board a bus with almost six kilos of marijuana completely unnoticed. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggests Maldonado might have been framed.


HOLMES: Want to get an update now on the court hearing for Yanira Maldonado. Rafael Romo is on the line from Nogales in Mexico.


ROMO (via telephone): Hey, Michael, we are actually right outside the prison here in Nogales, Mexico, where Yanira Maldonado is being held. She has been here since Friday after she was detained last Wednesday on a road here in northern Mexico.

The hearings are continuing today. We understand a military official who actually made the detention last Wednesday is going to testify today. And just so you get an idea, she is not attending her own hearings.

The prison complex where she is being held, essentially a state prison, is about seven miles away from the actual courthouse. At the courthouse, they will be -- her husband, some members of the family and also the soldiers who made the detention last Wednesday.

But she's here in sort of a limbo situation. She's not officially a federal inmate, but she's being housed in a state prison because there are no federal prisons in this part of Mexico.


MALVEAUX: And, Rafael, do we know what kind of conditions that she's living in under now? As you said, that she is, in fact, in some sort of holding cell there. And do we know how long that they would keep her?

ROMO: They are going to wait until the hearings are done, Suzanne. She is in temporary cell by herself. She is not with the general population. This is in the women section of the jail. And we are expecting that some sort of ruling will be issued on Friday. But in the meantime, she will remain here. And again, she's not attending her own hearings.

MALVEAUX: All right, Rafael, keep us up-to-date on this. We really appreciate it. Thanks again. Obviously the family very concerned about what's going to happen next.


MALVEAUX: We are also watching this. This is a deadly new virus first seen in Saudi Arabia. It has now killed somebody in France. The World Health Organization saying this is a threat to the entire world.

HOLMES: That's exactly the language they were using. It's called the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. And 27 people so far have died from it. What it does, is sort of comes on like a cold and then it attacks the respiratory system. It can lead to pneumonia and eventually kidney failure.

MALVEAUX: Joining us from Abu Dhabi, CNN's Leone Lakhani.

And, Leone, first of all, how does one get this - this -- contract this virus? What do we know about the people who have it now?

LEONE LAKHANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, Suzanne, we've got 49 cases worldwide reported by the W.H.O., 27 deaths. One of the main issues is no one really knows how this virus is spreading. Doctors are basically treating the symptoms, whether it's a cold, pneumonia, all the respiratory diseases. The majority of them have ended in very severe complications and they're saying it's very difficult to prevent future infections because they don't really know how it's being spread exactly.

Having said that, we spoke to a W.H.O. representative, and he said one of the main concerns is a high fatality rate. And this is what he had to say.


GREGORY HARTL, W.H.O. SPOKESMAN: We don't know how it's spread. This is the -- one of the big pieces of the puzzle. As you said at the beginning of your remarks before I came on air, this is of grave concern to us here internationally and W.H.O. because there are so many unknowns around the virus which so far has killed 55 percent of the confirmed cases. We would believe that the virus has a reservoir somewhere in the animal world, but we don't know which animal. And then we don't know if the virus transmits directly from animals to humans or via intermediaries. We need to find out this and a lot of other information.


LAKHANI: Now earlier this month the W.H.O. did verify some human-to- human transmission in Saudi Arabia between health care workers who were in very close contact with patients. And that is what they're concerned about right now and that, of course, has some very worrying consequences, Suzanne and Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, but, Leone, how then are they - how then are they going to work to try to contain it? It's called the Middle East Virus for a reason, it is originating there and the gentleman who died in France had actually been in Dubai. So what are they doing to try to, you know, lock it down, fight it?

LAKHANI: That's one of the issues, Michael. I mean the W.H.O. says, you know, we don't want to like put a region on it, but in this case it's acceptable because all the cases so far have originated in the Middle East. The majority in Saudi Arabia. More than half the cases were in Saudi Arabia. Eighteen deaths at least in Saudi Arabia. So right now they're trying to just contain whatever they can within those regions, Saudi Arabia specifically, covering their mouths, covering the patients, try to quarantine them.

But until they know exactly how it spreads, it's going to be very difficult to contain. They're just trying to locate the actual cases. You've got Saudi Arabia, Qatar, possibly the UAE, possibly Tunisia, now spreading to Europe with France -- a case in the U.K. and Germany because of travelers, but they can't really confirm that that was the cause and that's the main issue, Michael.

MALVEAUX: And, Leone, real quick here. Are there any travel warnings because it is specific to that area not to travel in that area or to be particularly cautious?

LAKHANI: There haven't been any travel warnings yet, Suzanne. The cases in Europe were still isolated cases, just a minimal amount. Here in the UAE, they're trying to say, look, everything's normal, there's nothing to worry about. They're saying similar kinds of cases rest - in the rest of the gulf. The main issue has been Saudi Arabia's eastern region. There hasn't been any travel warnings yet, but people are watching Saudi Arabia very closely. And W.H.O. officials have flown into Saudi Arabia in the past month to monitor the situation there. So we'll just have to wait and see how that progresses, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Leone, thank you so much.

I mean, Michael, when they say grave -- when you're talking about the W.H.O., grave, that is something to keep your eye on.

HOLMES: The language. Yes. A world-wide threat. And the other thing that's worrying about it too, it's only 27 deaths, but that's a 57 - 55 percent, I think, death rate, which means this thing's deadly once you get it. It's pretty savage. So hopefully they can work out what they're dealing with.

All right, coming up on Around The World, Chinese cyber spies threatening the U.S. military security. The Pentagon says they stole plans for new weapons.

MALVEAUX: And Beyonce's backside getting her some unwelcomed attention. Almost got a fan booted out of her concert. We're going to explain on this hour in AROUND THE WORLD.


MALVEAUX: Afghan insurgents have attacked the International Red Cross. This is in Jalalabad. And local officials say that a suicide bomber walked into the office and blew himself up.

HOLMES: Yes, he had company too. Two more assailants then rushed into the building immediately after and there was a gun battle. It went on for some time. Officials tell us that three people were killed including two attackers, one Afghan security guard who was working for the Red Cross.

MALVEAUX: Rebel groups on the ground in Syria, well they are now literally criticizing their leaders that area actually in exile. They're accusing the opposition coalition in Istanbul of failing to represent the Syrian revolution.

HOLMES: Yes, a joint statement was put out on FaceBook. The rebels, or at least elements of the rebel forces, saying that the operation is, quote, "impotent to carry out the duties entrusted to them."

MALVEAUX: Want to bring in our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour to talk about all of these aspects here.

And, first of all, Christiane, I have to say, that's pretty strong language. You've got the United States and Russia pushing for this meeting between the opposition, as well as the Syrian government next month in Geneva, some sort of peace accord if they can. But if you've got rebels who aren't even united themselves, how does that complicate the situation?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, massively. I mean, really no one knows whether this summit is going to go ahead, and who exactly is going to go. I spoke yesterday to the Russian ambassador here to the United Nations who said they fully expect the Assad regime to be represented. They have been told that they will be represented. And I also spoke to the head of the Free Syrian Army. That's the moderate military command on the ground in the opposition in Syria. They said General Idris (ph), that they fully intend and they have called for the rebels to go to the table in Geneva and there put their cause and their demands on the table.

But as you rightly say, there is almost no cohesion amongst the rebel forces and many are getting incredibly frustrated, whether it's the U.S. backers of the Syrian opposition, the moderate group, or whether it's the rebels on the ground. There is no political cohesion. They've been really slow to get their act together at all. And so this is - this is an issue.

HOLMES: But, Christiane, you've got rebels who don't agree on how they operate together. You've got political opposition outside the country that doesn't agree and get along either. And the rebels in the country don't like the guys outside the country who are meant to be representing them. You've got Iraqi fighters crossing now into Syria and have been for a while. Hezbollah is fighting there across the border and you've got the rebels saying they will take action against Hezbollah and Israel standing on the side saying they might act against Russia -- is it just me or is this thing spiraling out of control?

AMANPOUR: Well, it is following a pattern that we all predicted. That, yes, it is spiraling out of control and it's more -- more and more clearly actually spiraling out of the borders of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, as you say, and Turkey and Jordan as well. So this is a major problem.

And regarding these missiles, it's a huge big deal that the Russians say they are going to transfer S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, surface- to-air missiles, to the Assad regime. This is something that both Secretary Kerry and the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, personally implored President Putin not to do. But we're told that, in fact, that is going to happen.

Now earlier this week, the Israeli defense minster said publicly that they don't believe the shipments have, in fact, left Russia yet. He said, quote, "I hope they will not leave. And if, God forbid, they do reach Syria, we will know what to do."

So that's an oblique reference to the past that they have in the past, in the last month or so, already bombed what they said were missile or advanced weapons shipments that they believe were headed from Syria to Hezbollah.

Now, I did ask this of Ambassador Churkin, Vitaly Churkin, who is the Russian U.N. ambassador. He says they're going to go ahead.


VITALY CHURKIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: There are great risks involved. So I think the Israelis, too, will keep their heads cool and will refrain from reckless actions because ...

AMANPOUR: But don't you think this is reckless, Mr. Ambassador?

CHURKIN: No, I don't. This is a transparent arms sale which has nothing to do with the current conflict which everybody is concerned about in Syria.


AMANPOUR: Well, it is obviously a very, very worrying development because people are afraid that this is simply going to escalate.

What's happening is the Russians keep providing more and more advanced weaponry to the Assad regime, and I was told by a senior Russian parliamentary member very close to President Putin that these missiles, that the anti-ship cruise missiles that Russia's sending to Assad, are the patrolling with more ships of the port there, Tartus.

All of these are designed as strong messages to the West not to get involved in any kind of intervention on behalf of the opposition, whether a no-fly zone or whatever.

MALVEAUX: All right. Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

And, of course, Michael, we know, she mentions Israel's role in this, but also Lebanon. You have the Lebanese organization, Hezbollah, which is supporting the Syrian government, could also be drawn into this conflict. So we're potentially looking at a really all-out war, a conflict in that region.

HOLMES: Exactly. Hezbollah are the main fighters in the battle taking place in Qusayr near the Lebanese border, and the rebels fired missiles into Lebanon to a Hezbollah town. It's already spilling over. It's very, very worrying.

All right, coming up here on AROUND THE WORLD, the Taliban's number two guy in Pakistan is killed, a drone strike.

MALVEAUX: This after President Obama recently said that he was scaling back the drone program.

We're going to have a live report from Pakistan, up next.


MALVEAUX: Another Taliban number two dead today after a drone strike in Pakistan, this is now confirmed by our intelligence sources there. CNN actually contacted the Taliban directly about it. They say they wouldn't confirm or deny.

HOLMES: Yeah, but we did hear from people on the ground and also intelligence sources that that guy right there, Waliur Rehman, the second-in-command to the leader in Taliban in Pakistan was in fact killed, one of four men killed in a strike on a compound near the border with Afghanistan.

On the phone with us now, Jon Boone, a reporter with "The Guardian" newspaper in Lahore in Pakistan. Jon, first of all, tell us a little bit more about this man, the number two. It seems a lot of number twos get taken out with the Taliban. How high value was he?

JON BOONE, REPORTER, "THE GUARDIAN" (via telephone): Yes, it's never good being number two in the Taliban in Pakistan, particularly with drones flying around in the sky.

He was the primary military commander for the Pakistani Taliban. And although -- and he was widely tipped to eventually become the leader of the entire movement.

He's wanted by -- or has been wanted by both the Americans and Pakistanis. Both sides have put out bounties on his head. The Pakistanis a few years ago offered money in return for his capture, dead or alive.

One of the terrorist incidents that he was allegedly involved in, you might remember, the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in 2009 which killed up to about 50 people.

He was also linked to attacks against NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. So he was a very significant figure and exactly the sort of person that the drone program is designed to target.

MALVEAUX: And, Jon, if you will, during the Bush administration, the former president used to joke about being number two Taliban, not the position to be on with that bull's-eye on your head there, but essentially, how do you keep up with these high-value Taliban targets? Don't they just get replaced with another one?

BONNE (via telephone): Well, that is the criticism ultimately of the drone program, or one of the criticisms, that it can never solve the problem, that it can only repress the issue by taking out these leaders occasionally.

However, it does have a profound effect on the freedom of militants to move in this area known as North Waziristan, basically a Taliban and jihadist stronghold where many of the world's kind of global jihadists have gathered.

The drone program has made it harder for them to meet and -- or meet together and have, you know, discussions about strategy. And it's actually rather interesting that this man was apparently holed up with a very other senior commanders, which is something that I've been told these senior Talibs try and avoid doing because of the risk to them from the drones.

But, yes, ultimately the only way to fix the problem is for the rule of law and for government control to be asserted in this area. At the moment, it's a no-man's land., and the Pakistani army -- or rather the Pakistani state has been loathe to allow the army to go in and conduct the sort of operations that we've seen in other parts of the this region. But ultimately that is the only long-term solution is for the Pakistani state to assert control over this area.

HOLMES: Jon, do appreciate your time there. Jon Boone, a reporter with "The Guardian" newspaper in Lahore.

And it's interesting, too, Nawaz Sharif who just won the election, anti-drone and had made that very clear during his election campaign, he's about to form a government. You've got the president saying they're scaling back. In some ways this will be seen in Pakistan as a message from the U.S. to Pakistan that, if we know who we're going to get, we will still do.

MALVEAUX: And it's still something that the president has to deal with. It really is a very difficult position to be in because just last week we heard the President Obama, saying, look, you know, he understands the Pakistanis worries about civilians, many, many civilians being killed, the same criticism of President Bush, and he's trying to scale it back.

But, look, that happens when they're still going after those high- value targets.

HOLMES: And the other thing, too, to point out, too, is the Pakistan military, they will not mind this one bit because the Pakistan Taliban is more and more attacking the Pakistan military. So they're going to be fine with this, even if it's just, you know, behind closed doors happy about it.

MALVEAUX: Taliban number two.

Chinese cyber spies, we're also following, threatening America's military security. The Pentagon says that they stole plans for a new U.S. weapon.

That is next on AROUND THE WORLD.