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Boko Haram To Sell Kidnapped Girls; Flight 370 Search Enters New Phase; Severe Turbulence Injures Six; Oklahoma Wildfire Kills One; Ukraine Unrest and Violence Grows; High Risk Circus Stunt Goes Wrong

Aired May 5, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: A shocking, repgnant crime. Weeks after kidnapping more 200 school girls, a terrorist leader now boasts, "I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market."

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: This, as we hear from one young woman who escaped captivity in another horrific case right here in the United States.


MICHELLE KNIGHT, CLEVELAND KIDNAPPING SURPVIVOR: My legs and hands were bound like this. And I was that far from the floor.


BERMAN: Then --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... by the hair, and then it just falls to the ground.


BERMAN: Thousands of people watch in horror as circus acrobats suddenly fall to the ground. This morning we're asking what went wrong and how to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Hello. Great to see you. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: Happy Monday, everyone. I'm Michaela Pereira. It's 11:00 a.m. in the East, 8:00 a.m. out West, those stories and much more, right now, @ THIS HOUR.

We begin with developments, horrific new developments, in the case of more than 200 girls who were abducted at gunpoint from their boarding school.

A man claiming to lead the terror group that kidnapped the girls in rural Nigeria last month says he's going to sell them.

BERMAN: The rambling videotaped statement came out a short time ago. In part, it says, quote, "There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women."

Our Isha Sesay is in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. And, Isha, I think this claim of responsibility is not a surprise, but it is certainly brazen in its defiance.

So the question now is, in the face of something so offensive and outrageous, what is the government there going to do?

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. You know, that's the thing. It's so offensive. It is so horrifying when you hear the words from this Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, saying brazenly and almost proudly that he did abduct 200-plus girls almost three weeks ago and that his intention is to sell them and claiming that Allah says he should sell them.

It's nauseating, it's horrifying and one can only imagine what the parents, what the relatives of these girls are enduring right now.

But what will be the government's response? That's the question really that we have as a media organization and everyone else in this country.

The president of Nigeria finally spoke in camera about this situation on Sunday, the first time he had spoken on camera about what happened three weeks ago.

And while he expressed confidence in his security services, saying that they will find these girls, he basically said, John, they don't know where they are. They do not know where these girls are after three weeks, saying that, yes, they are using helicopters and aircraft to scan the area, but basically did not admit in public that there were any leads that they were going on to know where these girls are.

So it's truly a very troubling situation. That's long been the case. But to have this tape come out now, it really just takes that fear and concern to a whole new level.

BERMAN: And there seems to be a disturbing lack of urgency in the voice of the president when he made that statement.

Isha Sesay, we're lucky to have you there in Abuja. We'll check back in with you as soon as we can. Appreciate it.

PEREIRA: We want to bring in Frida Ghitis. She's a world affairs columnist for "The Miami Herald" and "World Politics Review." So good to have you with us, Frida.

We know this seems to be -- this tape seems to be the first public confirmation from this group, Boko Haram, that they have the girls.

We do know this. Boko Haram, in regional dialect, means "Western education is sinful."

Tell us more about this terrorist group and what we know.

FRIDA GHITIS, "THE MIAMI HERALD" AND "WORLD POLITICS REVIEW": The first thing that comes to mind, the irony that they would call Western education sinful, but kidnapping and raping and keeping these girls is not a sin. That is a perversion of any religious view.

They are Islamist extremists. They want to impose Islamist rule, Sharia, in Nigeria with their ultra-extremist interpretation.

BERMAN: At a certain level, what these people are against is girls getting an education, that shocking in itself, the crime kidnapping them repugnant.

The response, though, or lack of it, for three weeks now, over the last few days, we've seen the response on social media, "Bring our girls home." It's happening on Twitter. It's happening on Facebook here in the U.S. and abroad.

But what can be done at this point outside Nigeria to help?

GHITIS: This is an outrage. It's a scandal. And it's a tragedy above all. It has taken three weeks for the world to pay attention to this.

The people who want to put pressure on the Nigerian government in the international community need to call the Nigerian embassy, call the State Department, call the White House, keep this in social media, on the local media.

The Nigerian government is behaving so irresponsibly. They are interested in reputation of the country and the reputation of the president. They did not care about this until the international pressure came down to bear.

So I'm glad to see CNN finally doing an excellent job putting a big crew there to cover this. I'm glad to see this at the top of the hour, the top story.

This should have been the number one story in the world for the last three weeks.

PEREIRA: I think to many people, there are those here stateside saying that, if this happened in America, it would have been the number one story.

Why do you think it is there hasn't been the attention on this story? More than 200 girls are stolen away in the dead of night, and there isn't an international outrage.

GHITIS: This is something for a lot -- this is going to call for introspection in the media, at CNN, all over the world for political leaders, diplomatic leaders.

Why is it that when something happens in Africa, that when something happens to people perhaps -- well, maybe we'll stay away from ethnic considerations, but we just need to focus right now on the fact that these girls are -- as we speak, they are being held captive.

The ones who escaped have told us about repeated rapes with knives to their throats. This is something that is happening right now. The top concern right now has to be to get them out. Then we need to look at the urgency of maintaining educational availability for these people.

BERMAN: On the subject of urgency, Frida, I think one of the reasons the world didn't react more quickly is because, in Nigeria, the government there didn't seem to react with any urgency.

How possibly can that be justified?

GHITIS: It's even worse, because in fairness to the rest of the world, the government of Nigeria announced incorrectly they freed most of the girls on the day after this happened.

So, many of us just thought this crisis had ended very quickly. And that was not the case.

The government of Nigeria has its own concerns. It's a very complicated country, a country with a great deal of corruption, with a lot of problems.

It's also a country with a lot of natural resources. It is the biggest economy in Africa. It wants to put focus on growth and prosperity, but it cannot just ignore these situations, these crises. It's a terrible situation.

BERMAN: Frida Ghitis, thanks for joining us. We need to be talking about this. We need to be focusing on this, so we appreciate your help.

GHITIS: Thanks.

PEREIRA: It's interesting, too. We need to get the girls home, but the other side of it is, other schools in Nigeria out of fear of this happening to them have shut down classes, and that's exactly what these terrorists want, education to end for these women and children.

BERMAN: Think about that. It's a crime to go to school.

PEREIRA: It's a crime to go to school. We take so many things for granted in our country, don't we?

Let's check other headlines for you @ THIS HOUR.

More money, more technology and a much larger search area, that's all part of the plan as the hunt for Flight 370 enters a new phase. Officials from Malaysia, Australia and China will meet Wednesday to hash out this new plan.

It will include re-examining all the data they've been gather to make sure they've been looking in the right place. They say it's certainly going to be more difficult.


WARREN TRUSS, AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: One of the key elements of the next stage will be to undertake more detailed oceanographic mapping of the search area.

Much of this area has never been mapped, and so it will require a significant effort for us to understand the ocean floor in that area.

It's expected that bathometric capability will be obtained to start surveying this prospective search area over the next four to six weeks.


PEREIRA: We'll bring you a live report from Malaysia later this hour.

BERMAN: One passenger said it was like a drop from a roller coaster. Severe turbulence on a U.S. Airways flight to Orlando injured six people shortly after takeoff from Philadelphia International Airport. Five went to the hospital.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a crazy experience. We were just up in the air, like, lifted out of our seats, seeing things flying all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, we just feel this boom and the plane felt like it dropped 20 feet down. Shoes were flying. Cell phones were flying. People were screaming. And it was very, very, very scary.


BERMAN: One passenger says he saw a woman's head hit the ceiling and actually crack that ceiling. The FAA says it will now investigate.

PEREIRA: That's why you keep those seat belts on.

BERMAN: Oh, yeah.

PEREIRA: Crews in Oklahoma are trying to knock out a wildfire that has left one person dead and 20 homes in ruins. It began Sunday.

It was actually a small, controlled burn, but hot, dry air and windy conditions whipped it into wildfire that's now burned almost 4,000 acres.

At one point about 1,000 people had to evacuate their homes.

Authorities say the man who died refused to leave his home despite being ordered to leave.

Fire officials tell CNN the blaze is about 75 percent contained @ THIS HOUR. We'll have more of this ahead.

BERMAN: Coming up for us, is Ukraine on the brink of war?

CNN teams in the middle of chaos as pro-Russian protesters grow bolder and more powerful and the situation grows more dangerous. PEREIRA: Then it's back to the drawing board for officials searching for Flight 370. They're bringing fresh eyes in to comb through all the data.

That's all ahead, @ THIS HOUR.


PEREIRA: Fears of an all-out civil war in Ukraine are growing after the deadliest weekend of violence since unrest began, and now this. Heavy clashes broke out today between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian militants in the town of Slavyansk.

BERMAN: A CNN team saw one woman brought to the hospital. Her husband says she'd been shot on a balcony. She later died.

Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh was in the middle of it all in Slavyansk. He has now pulled back a little bit from that city where it is clearly a very dangerous situation.

It sounds, Nick, like it is spiraling out of control right before your very eyes.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly over the past week, John, we have seen these two sides sort of test each, but today, they were pretty clearly in all-out conflict.

As you drove into town, it was obvious the Ukrainian army were advancing. They'd sent snipers and scouts down that road. And pro- Russian militants had been reinforcing their positions around the corner, too, so clashes clearly broke out.

We saw some of the armored cars that the pro-Russian militants had taken off of Ukrainian troops earlier pulled back from that front line and then the procession of ambulances, one after another.

About six we counted, the first bringing in that woman whose story you talked about, her husband very distraught, watching her brought from the ambulance, taken inside the hospital, saying she'd been out on the balcony when a bullet had hit her. She later died of that injury.

One pro-Russian militant brought in in a very bad condition, indeed. We think he may have later succumbed to those injuries.

One other brought in bad condition, and two walking wounded, trying to sort of shrug off the shoulder wounds they had.

But a real town in shock here where across most streets there are some sort of makeshift, cut-down tree barricade, a lot of angry civilians out there.

The pro-Russian militants keen to showed us a civilian car they say had been shot up by Ukrainian forces, obviously we can't confirm that. But their contention is a lot of these civilian casualties are caused when the Ukrainian army advanced, and then blamed on them. For their side Ukraine says they lost four soldiers potentially in this clash and have just announced one of their helicopters, near Slavyansk, was shot down, no pilot's lives lost as it hit a river. Clearly now things around Slavyansk turning pretty close to all out conflict. The concern to, we think the Ukrainian military have broader ambitions to move into the city more thoroughly. The mayor was showing us a map, before the clashes started, about how he says he is encircled with groups of Ukrainian military all around their town and there's no chance of negotiation. One message he said to us is he wanted to ask Barack Obama to stop sending military assistance or even mercenaries here. Of course the White House is not doing that, but it's all part of the misinformation war going on here which is making it so much harder for this situation to be calmed. John.

PEREIRA,And misinformation, as you talk about, and then we see this escalating. We see the situation growing. The violence is spreading. Struggles continue. We're not hearing any breakthroughs in negotiations at all. Where is this all headed?

WALSH: Two important dates ahead, Michaela. First, the 11th of May is when the separatists here, the pro-Russian militants and protesters, say they'll have a referendum on, what they call the sovereignty of the Donetsk Republic. That's effectively whether or not they join Russia or stay in Ukraine. Then May 25th presidential elections for all of Ukraine. This unrest is bound to continue through all of that. Russia says potentially they will intervene if they see the lives of their compatriots at risk here. The White House says, if you disrupt the presidential elections Moscow you face further sanctions. All of that, failure, diplomatically to calm this is just going to feed greater volatility on the ground.

BERMAN: Our Nick Paton Walsh outside of Slavyansk. I think one of the key notes Nick just made there, the situation could escalate as Ukrainian troops make some plans to move in and perhaps create greater conflict.

PEREIRA: That was the whole hope is that would be de-escalating but it's not it is going the exact opposite direction.

We are going to take a short break here. Ahead, people like the circus because performers take chances and risks. But after this accident, we are going to show you and talk about, many are questioning whether those risks are worth it. A look at circus dangers ahead @ THIS HOUR.


PEREIRA: A high-risk circus stunt goes terribly wrong. Eight acrobats plunge at least 25 feet to the ground right in front of thousands of horrified spectators.

BERMAN: It happened during an act that is known as the human chandelier. Performers were hanging by their hair high above the crowd when the apparatus holding them somehow failed. One acrobat on the ground was also injured and we just found out this morning that eight people are still hospitalized. Two of them in critical condition. We want you to watch it happen here. We have to warn you the video is pretty graphic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were hanging by their hair. All of the girls hanging by their hair and then it just falls to the ground. And the big metal thing above them hits all of them on top of them falling from the roof of the Dunkin Donuts center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I screamed. That's not right. Sometimes you're surprised and it's part of the show but this clearly wasn't. Clearly wasn't. Really a shame.


PEREIRA: We're joined at this hour by two guests who know the circus world inside and out. Paul Binder is founder of Big Apple Circus and author of "Never Quote the Weather to a Sea Lion". And Luciano Anatasini, a veteran circus performer with his own story about a terrible circus accident, we want to hear about that. Paul, why don't we start with you though. You spent a lot of time in the business. Ever seen anything quite like this?

PAUL BINDER, FOUNDER, BIG APPLE CIRCUS: No. Indeed when you think of the millions and millions of circus acts in any given year that happen, this is a very unusual event. It appears to be ah -- sort of a rigging failure because the apparatus fell.

BERMAN: Yes, something clearly went wrong there. Luciano you, of course, suffered an injury yourself in something called the wheel of destiny. I wonder if you can tell me how this happened and talk to me about the dynamic here at work. Obviously the circus is about taking chances. The circus is about making things appear dangerous in the show. So to a certain extent, aren't accidents like this at some point inevitable?

LUCIANO ANASTASINI, VETERAN CIRCU PERFORMER: Well, my accident was a lighting problem. It was an issue that I had and I couldn't see properly and eventually I missed completely and came down about 50 feet. That was myself and I couldn't believe what happened to myself. In the circus itself, we are entertainers and love to perform for the audience. Dangerous acts, for a lot of folks they see them and say my god, something is going to happen. Most of the times these acts are practiced and practiced over and over for years. They come down from generations and generations from family members telling us what to watch out and how to do this. There are a lot of mechanics - mechanics basically to take care of our mistakes so we can avoid that falling from practice. So accidents that happen are very rare in our circus life because we train so much to practice these acts.

PEREIRA: Training and doing things over and over, the routine. That's part of it. That what makes you a profession circus performer. I also wonder if you train for mistakes? Are there safety measures and drills that performers might run through. What is the policy for safety?

BINDER: Absolutely there is a safety. In fact safety is always the first consideration when you do any kind of dangerous act. Surely at Ringling and surely at the Big Apple Circus. We're very focused on that. Our hearts and prayers go out to the young ladies who were in this accident. There was a Facebook post this morning by one of them saying they are all okay and all conscious and talking to one another. Even those in critical condition. But it's an awful situation. And it appears to be a rigging problem. Something went wrong. The apparatus with that weight on it, somehow, fell.

BERMAN: Luciano, what does this do inside the circus community when you all see a tragedy and mishap like this?

ANASTASINI: Our circus community is family based. We don't know the ladies because they came from another country. We all pitch in. We know how it feels like myself. I know how it feels to fall at height, it is like -- and my experience was that when you clap your hands really hard one time you feel tingling motion like ants in your hands, that is what I felt for about eight to nine months. My whole body. Now practice with performers training themselves for mishaps, yes. Absolutely. High wires will try to fall from a low -- from the ground low to catch themselves from the wire and they have to know how to come back on top of the wire. Also flying trapeze have to know how to fall into the net. Unfortunately like this occasion, Mr. Paul Binder how you were saying, this occasion it seems like it wasn't the fault of the acrobats.

PEREIRA: Well there was no net underneath them to catch them or safety mechanism to kick it to prevent it from happening. We want to say a big thank to both of you. Luciano and Paul thank you so much. We also want to point out that Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus also reacted. A spokesman tells us, here at CNN, the apparatus used in this performance is carefully inspected often. He also says quote.


STEPHEN PAYNE, CIRCUS SPOKESMAN: We don't know exactly what the cause of the accident was yet. We're cooperating with local providence officials as well as with occupation safety and health administration to determine what went wrong yesterday because we want to make sure that an accident like this never happens again.

BERMAN: Indeed. Up next for us, officials searching for flight 370 are really starting from scratch now. How they're doing everything they can to make sure they are now indeed searching the right area. Plus, they decide to deploy the big guns. New high tech underwater equipment to help find the missing plane. That's coming up @ THIS HOUR.