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Man Behind Benghazi Captured; Terrorists Gaining Ground in Iraq; Nebraska Town Decimated after Twin Tornadoes; Injured Acrobats Speaking Out; Amazon's 3-D Smartphones?

Aired June 18, 2014 - 05:29   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Captured. Being interrogated and soon heading to the United States. The man believed to be behind the 2012 Benghazi terror attack now is in U.S. custody. This morning, what we're learning about the suspect and plans he may have had to strike again. We're live.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Terrorists gaining ground in Iraq. Moving closer and closer to Baghdad. This as President Obama is set to meet with key congressional leaders to lay out what he thinks the U.S. should do next. We're live with the very latest developments.

ROMANS: Powerful storms barreling through the Midwest, leaving behind a trail of destruction. This morning, we're live with the area's hardest hit. And we're going to look at the storms, that's right, expected today.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Great to see you this morning. Thirty-two minutes past the hour and this morning the man called the mastermind of the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi is on a Navy ship being questioned and being prepared to come to the United States.

That is where Abu -- I mean, Ahmed Abu Khattala will face trial in a civilian court after the deaths of U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans. His dramatic capture was months in the making and happened without a single bullet being fired.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is live in Libya, in Tripoli.

Jomana, walks us through how this capture took place and what's happening to Abu Khattala right now.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, right now as we know from U.S. officials he is on board a U.S. Navy ship in the Mediterranean. They have planned to take him back to the United States by ship, rather than flying him back, to give investigators more time to question him.

Now how this went down, U.S. officials are giving very little details. And the Libyan government has not said a thing, although we are hearing now that the Libyan Justice minister is expected to speak in about 2 1/2 hours. A press conference that is supposed to address the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala.

Now what we know from U.S. officials about the capture, they say in the days leading up to the operation, U.S. Special Operations Forces, the Army's Delta Force, that is, the FBI and intelligence agencies were keeping close watch on Abu Khattala. They say that information from locals was also helpful.

Now he was lured, they say, to a location near Benghazi, south of the city where he was grabbed there. They say not a single shot was fired during this operation. That is something that really surprised a senior former Libyan intelligence official in Benghazi who I spoke to yesterday. He said, he found it very bizarre that there was no resistance and no firefight. He said that Abu Khattala was a well- guarded man.

Now, last year, as you may recall, our colleague Arwa Damon sat down with Ahmed Abu Khattala in Benghazi for an interview. He was a free man wandering around Benghazi. He did not seem to be hiding. But since then, U.S. officials say that he had gone into hiding. One concern here in Libya right now, are we going to see any sort of backlash by Islamist militant groups, these jihadist groups that are really powerful and very active in this country. Any sort of retaliation against the U.S., Western interests or against the Libyan government.

BERMAN: Fascinating. As you say he's being taken back to the United States by vessel on that ship, rather than flying him. They want to get as much information from him as they can to find out about what happened in Benghazi back in 2012. And also find out about what maybe in plan for the future.

Jomana Karadsheh in Tripoli for us this morning, thank you so much.

ROMANS: Great to have her there for the story.

You know, the Obama administration has been criticized since the attack for not capturing him earlier. But the president is praising this operation that finally picked him up, this even as Republicans question what comes next.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible, and we will bring them to justice.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The most valuable thing we can get from this terrorist is information about who else was involved in it. We'll be watching closely to see how much information they glean from him and how they're handling it.


BERMAN: Hillary Clinton told a CNN town hall she is pleased Abu Khattala is now in U.S. custody. But there's still lots of questions she says that need to be answered. Of course, Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state when the embassy was attacked and has been the subject of a lot of anger from those who say she didn't do enough to protect the facility. She says now the focus should be on finding out just what this suspect knows.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Now that we have Khattala in custody, hopefully we will learn more, at least from his perspective. The reason it takes long is to put together cases, which is what the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were doing. They have to piece it together just as we started piecing it together on the night of the attack.

We want to know who was behind it. What the motivation of the leaders and the attackers happen to be. There are still some unanswered questions. It was, after all, the fog of war. But I'm absolutely convinced that the United States and all of our various agencies with all of our professionals, including the Congress, is, you know, piecing together the best information we can find.


BERMAN: This was truly a fascinating hour-long town meeting with Hillary Clinton with Christiane Amanpour. I encourage you to take a look at it online if you didn't get a chance to see it because there's a lot of fascinating stuff there.

Meanwhile, on Benghazi, a House Select Committee is currently investigating the attacks and the allegations that the administration tried to cover up what really happened. There are those hearings and that investigation continues.

ROMANS: In Iraq this morning, it seems the militant advance on Baghdad has hit a road block. Iraqi forces are putting up a fierce fight near Baqubah. That's less than 40 miles north of the capital. Gun battles there have left so far dozens dead but the city is still in Iraqi control.

This is all happening as the Obama administration considers its options for getting involved. Hundreds of troops are on standby. Ships are ready -- standing ready in the Persian Gulf. And there are conflicting reports, conflicting reports this morning, over whether the president might opt for air strikes. Today, he'll talk all these options over with congressional leaders.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is live for us this morning in Baghdad.

And, Nic, we understand the fighters are trying to push forward again right now. Tell us what's happening.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's two battles going on that we're aware of, one is in Baiji. And again, even though it's 45 minutes drive from Baghdad here, it's very hard to get accurate information. Yesterday the government was saying, the government-state run TV channel here, was saying that the government forces were in control of a number of suburbs of that town. They also blamed the ISIS, the al Qaeda splinter group.

They're killing 44 prisoners in a jail by either artillery shells or throwing hand grenades in there. Later -- later information we got revealed a different picture and revealed what was being said on state-run TV to be untrue. What we learned later was that the prison guards shot and killed the inmates. These were Shia prison guards, they were Sunni inmates. And it was believed that the ISIS fighters were on their way to free those inmates.

They were shot at close range according to hospital officials later. So that is how hard it is to get information here. That even what is broadcast on state television is hard to judge for being true. What we have heard from an official in the governor's office in Baqubah is that the -- is that ISIS has made substantial gains there. This also coming at a time, when the main oil refinery in Iraq is now under heavy attack from ISIS. That's a bit further distant from Baghdad.

It's a town that the fighters encircled last week. They took the town. They closed off around the oil refinery. And now they are attacking that refinery. It produces 40 percent of the gasoline used by cars in this country. It fuels a generator for electricity, for a large part of the country. If it falls into rebel hands here, that will be a very significant blow for the government here -- Christine.

ROMANS: Indeed, Nic Robertson, thanks, live for us this morning in Baghdad. We'll be watching those oil prices so closely because very long term, Iraq developing its oil production is seen as critical of the world oil supplies. You know, oil prices have backed off about $107 a barrel. They're down, you know, from there from earlier this week. But it's really important to watch how oil prices shape up here.

Also European shares, European stocks are up right now. Want to take an early look at your money this morning.

Futures are up. The Dow rose for a third day in a row yesterday. All eyes are on the Federal Reserve. The Fed's going to release its policy statement today. And that's going to be really important for the direction of the market and the taper, the so-called taper, we've been watching for several months.

Several major retailers are making it easier to spot good deals online. Wal-Mart, Costco, Walgreens, CVS, Fresh Direct, and, all agreed to add unit prices to their Web site. That means prices will reflect the price per pound or per item, making it easier for budget shopping like John Berman to consumer products.

BERMAN: Right.

ROMANS: That are different sizes. Amazon, the world's biggest online retailer, shying away from that.

BERMAN: Really? ROMANS: But you're going to be able to see a little bit better to do

some shopping online.

BERMAN: I like that.

ROMANS: Smart.

BERMAN: It's good for all of us.

It's 41 minutes after the hour, millions across the Midwest bracing for more severe storms as communities try to pick up the pieces from what's already been hit. We are live with the very latest from the forecast. And it's not all together good for a whole lot of places. That's right after the break.


BERMAN: And another dangerous night in Nebraska. Tornadoes striking again. One not far from where twin tornadoes devastated the northeastern part of that state.

I want you to take a look at this tornado spotted on the ground in Cherry County, that's in North Central, Nebraska. No word yet on damage there. But this one you're looking at now in Coleridge tore up houses and cars. That town is only about an hour's drive from Pilger, where you can see that little is left this morning.

The town of Pilger decimated. At least two people died there, including a 5-year-old, and 16 others were critically injured.

ROMANS: Platteville, Wisconsin, also cleaning up this morning. We're going to get a better sense of the -- just the impact of these two tornadoes. The twisters flattened buildings, they tore the roofs off homes. Major damage, major damage at the University of Wisconsin campus.

BERMAN: A whole lot of weather to tell you about. Look at these pictures from Rock Rapids, Iowa. Water, everywhere. Oh my god, look at that camper there. You saw that garage before. A lot of people grabbing sandbags to try and protect their homes before they just lose everything.

Indra Petersons is live for us in Nebraska this morning.

Indra, give us a sense of these latest storms, what they're bringing and where they're headed today.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's so hard to believe, John, when you talk about the storms that hit on Monday, the fact that we're still talking about severe weather that even yesterday, more tornadoes ripped through Nebraska.

This morning, I'm actually standing here in Stanton, Nebraska, where it's now rated most likely an EF-3. It's just a preliminary rating from the National Weather Service. And you can actually see a lot of farm equipment already flipped over. Possibly a tractor and a tree here behind me. These huge trees completely snapped in half with the bark ripped straight off of them. And this is the fear. Residents are afraid we're going to be seeing more of this. Especially out towards Pilger today where the residents are returning home today the first time with the volunteers. They're going back into their homes trying to find the last pieces that they can or anything they can salvage.

I mean, a lot of residents I spoke to said they can't even touch anything on the ground just yet. They are still waiting for insurance claims to go through. So just imagine how tough that would be. And again the threat of even more severe weather now in the forecast. Today, 65 million of us are concerned for the threat of severe weather. That's stretching all up and down Tornado Alley. And all the way now even in towards Pennsylvania today. So, so many large cities are already going to be affected.

You can actually see a tornado watch just north of us here in Sioux City, Iowa, that should expire in about the next 20 minutes or so. But regardless, look at all the instability. So much lightning is still out there. That is the concern. And this is the early morning hours. It is so hot and humid. And this is not just isolated here in the Midwest. The southeast, even the northeast today, you're going to be talking about temperatures soaring into the 90s.

So hot, there's actually heat advisory in Philadelphia today for upper 90-degree temperatures. You combine that with the humidity and a storm system stretching from Montana all the way to the northeast, and that's the concern again, 65 million people concerned that they could be next.

BERMAN: An ominous looking (INAUDIBLE) there.

ROMANS: Five million people. Wow. All right, Indra Petersons, try to stay cool. She's going to have a hot muggy day out there in Nebraska.

Thanks, Indra.

Let's take a look at what's coming up now on "NEW DAY." Kate Bolduan joins us this morning.

Good morning, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Good morning, guys. We're going to be covering, of course, the capture of the suspected mastermind behind the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. That man, right there. We have new details on how he was -- how he was taken and what is next for him. A lot of debate surrounding next steps.

Plus, we also have Hillary Clinton's reaction to that news coming from the CNN town hall that obviously included her last night. You're going to -- you'll recall the attack happened on her watch when she was secretary of state.

And also ahead on "NEW DAY," President Obama is set to meet with congressional leaders over the violence raging in Iraq. Will airstrikes be on the table? That is just one key question that will be happening during that meeting.

We're also looking at a scathing opinion piece coming from former vice president, Dick Cheney, he is blasting President Obama, blaming him for the current crisis in Iraq, guys.

BERMAN: A lot of people looking at that saying there's a pot/kettle issue there. But that's just part of the debate raging now about Iraq.

All right, Kate, looking forward to that.

ROMANS: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: Forty-eight minutes after the hour right now. Lucky to be alive. Circus acrobats in that horrific accident.

ROMANS: Oh no.

BERMAN: Sharing their stories of survival. That's next.


BERMAN: An update now on the eight acrobats injured in that awful Ringling Brothers Circus accident caught on tape last month in Rhode Island. Lawyers for seven of the performers injured in the hair- hanging stunt gone wrong now say a lawsuit is on the way. Four of the women still recovering from severe injuries have now spoken about their ordeal.


VICTORIA MEDEIROS, INJURED CIRCUS PERFORMER: As you can see, all of us, we are terribly injured. Some of us require many surgeries and still may need more surgeries. We are trying to come to terms with knowing we will never be the same. But we know that we are lucky to be alive.


BERMAN: Many of the women, as you saw, were severely injured when their circus apparatus plunged more than 20 feet to the ground. Some say they don't know whether they will ever walk again. Potential lawsuits in its early stages. Investigators say a broken steel clasp may be to blame for that accident.

ROMANS: Terrifying.

All right, Amazon, it's a department store, a streaming service, a supermarket, and now Amazon wants to make your next cell phone. The details of Amazon's big announcement today when we get an early check on your money. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: All right. It's Wednesday morning. Let's get an EARLY START on your money. European shares are up right now. Futures -- U.S. stock futures are mixed. The Dow up three days in a row yesterday, on higher inflation data. The Federal Reserve is going to make its policy statement known later today. We're expecting more tapering of the Fed's bond buying program.

Is the stock market rigged? That's a question Michael Lewis posed in his book "Flash Boys." And it's the question of Senate probe into high-speed trading attempted to answer yesterday. Senators drilled experts about fairness namely the practice of exchanges paying brokers to trade with them.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Is it correct that TD Ameritrade receives payment either from a whole sale broker as payment for order flow or from an exchange as a rebate on nearly every trade completed?

STEPHEN QUIRK, SENIOR VP, TD AMERITRADE: I wouldn't say on every trade completed.

LEVIN: I said nearly every trade.

QUIRK: Nearly every trade, yes.


ROMANS: That means for almost every trade TD Ameritrade receives two payments, one from the customer and one from the exchange. Critics said that a conflict of interest and can steer brokers away from the best deal for their customer.

Amazon expected to announce a 3-D smartphone today. Apple and Samsung are very well established as the leading handset makers. But Amazon is known as a disrupter. Think bookstores. Not a lot of information yet but one big question is price. The company has history of selling products at near break-even prices. An Amazon 3-D smartphone.

BERMAN: I don't know. I mean, Facebook has tried this, not much success. I mean Microsoft struggling in and out of the market. Didn't ESPN try a phone, once, too? I mean, it's hard to break in. The market doesn't seem to have that much space.

ROMANS: Jeff Bezos likes to go after big ideas. And he likes to disrupt.

BERMAN: Where is drones? What I want to know is where are his drones? He said he was going to have drones coming at my house.

ROMANS: Calling my Amazon smartphone and find out.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks for watching. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: There's no conspiracy here. This is actual news.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Captured, the man behind the Benghazi attack now in U.S. custody. New details on how he was taken, where he is now, and what he may have been planning next.

This as Hillary Clinton weighs into CNN. Can she answer the hard questions?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Decision time. President Obama set to make the call on Iraq. Will there be air strikes? This as former vice president Dick Cheney takes a blistering swing at the president. What he says now about the current president's handling of the crisis.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: In the hot seat, Dr. Oz grilled on Capitol Hill. Accused of overselling the benefits of weight loss supplements. So who should you believe?

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Good morning, welcome to NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, June 18th, 6:00 in the East.