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U.S. Drops "Mother of All Bombs" on ISIS; Japan: North Korea Could Fire Sarin-Loaded Missiles; Referendum Could Lead to More Power for Erdogan. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 14, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:09] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour

They call it the "Mother of All Bombs". The U.S. dropped it on ISIS but did President Trump personally sign off on the hit?

Plus a warning from Japan that North Korea could have the capability to equip missiles with chemical weapons.

And later three years after Boko Haram kidnapped 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, what has been done to bring back the girls?

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay.

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

For the third time in a week the Trump administration has resorted to a dramatic military show of force to send a vivid message to the world. This time that message was delivered by MOAB, nicknamed the "Mother of All Bombs". It's the powerful, non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal. The 10-metric ton behemoth was dropped on a cave and tunnel complex used by ISIS in the rugged frontier of eastern Afghanistan. It was also the first time the weapon had ever been used in combat.

We get the very latest from CNN's Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: For the first time ever, the "mother of all bombs" was used by the U.S. military in combat. The largest non-nuclear bomb used in combat targeting ISIS fighters in Eastern Afghanistan's remote Nangarhar Province.

A U.S. Air Force special operations MC 130 dropped the bomb via parachute.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely making it easier for them to target U.S. military advisers and Afghan forces in the area.

STARR: The MOAB, the massive ordnance air blast bomb is a 21,600- pound bomb that explodes in the air. Its blast is supposed to destroy a target area that can spread over thousands of feet.

On Saturday, a U.S. Army Special Operations soldier was killed in combat in the same area.

SPICER: The United States takes the fight against ISIS very seriously and in order to defeat the group we must deny them operational space, which we did.

STARR: One reason it was used, the area is so remote the U.S. believes there were no nearby civilians.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPICER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We probably had a very large concentration and it made perfect sense based on the time of day that they were going to attack that they could have a massive kill in this area not putting any special operators or any conventional forces at risk.

STARR: Now the challenge, did the bomb work as planned in its first combat mission?

MARKS: It explodes above the ground at a distance depending upon what type of a shape and a blast you want to have, and as described, it's a concussive blast so everybody underneath that thing is either obliterated, ears are bleeding or they're completely destroyed.

STARR: While the U.S. doesn't think that civilians were in the area when the bomb fell, U.S. aircraft and drones will be overhead looking for any evidence that civilians were in the area and looking for an assessment of the damage caused.

Barbara Starr, CNN -- the Pentagon.


SESAY: Well, the President of Afghanistan welcomed the U.S. air strike. He said it was to support and protect the U.S. and Afghan forces fighting against the ISIS affiliate in that area known as ISIS- K. President Ashraf Ghani tweeted this, "Precautions were taken to avoid civilian casualties with this air strike. Assessment of the casualties for ISIS-K is in process."

Well, the state government in Afghanistan told AFP News Agency the explosion was the biggest he'd ever seen with, quote, "towering flames that engulfed the area". We (inaudible) is a reporter for "The Guardian" newspaper. He's based in Kabul, Afghanistan and joins us now.

(inaudible) it's good to have you with us.

The U.S. President has called this bomb drop another successful job. You're there in Afghanistan, what are the reports coming out of the area that was hit? SUNE ENGEL RASMUSSEN, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, last night I spoke to a

couple of people in the area around Achin district which was targeted. It was a little difficult to reach people because phone lines are normally down, routinely down in that area at night.

But the people I spoke to said that, as you mentioned, it was the largest blast they've heard in 30 years of war. They said that it felt like an earthquake even in surrounding districts.

And a lot of officials actually also said what the President has been saying, the Afghan president has been saying there was unlikely to be any civilians in the area because ISIS have had very firm control of this mountain area where the bomb was dropped.

[00:04:57] That being said, I also spoke to some people who claimed there had at least been a teacher and her son killed and civilians have also been pulled (ph) out of there. Their cattle has been killed and their houses have been -- have been damaged.

So I think we have to wait for further assessment today before we know exactly what the damage has been.

SESAY: All right.

Sune -- We saw that the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani put out a tweet in support of the strike, but at this state are we clear on the sequencing of communication that existed between the U.S. military and the Afghan government? In other words, were they alerted beforehand? What do we know?

RASMUSSEN: We don't know exactly? We don't know the exact details, obviously. But it's true that the President's spokesman has said that they were informed in advance. And we've also heard that some of the security forces in the area were warned. They were moved away from the blast radius which is not always the case, actually.

Sometimes the U.S. will drop bombs and they will attack with drones without the approval of the Afghan forces. It happens quite often in this area in Achin and sometimes the result is civilian deaths.

But it does seem that this time they were at least informed that an attack would happen. If they knew what kind of bomb is more uncertain, I think, but it seems like they were kept in the loop.

SESAY: All right. Sune Engel Rasmussen joining us there from Kabul. Sune -- always appreciate it. Thank you.

RASMUSSEN: You're welcome.

SESAY: Well, one odd aspect of the MOAB bomb drop is that President Trump did not explicitly say if he authorized the mission. It would be normal for the President to give the ok in a situation like this, but when asked directly, Mr. Trump appeared to duck the question. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you authorize it, sir?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody knows exactly what happened so -- and what I do is I authorize my military.

We have the greatest military in the world and they've done a job as usual. So we have given them total authorization and that's what they're doing. And frankly, that's why they've been so successful lately.


SESAY: All right. For more on the military implications of this strike let's bring in CNN military analyst Rick Francona in La Quinta, California. Colonel Francona -- good to speak to you once again.

Let me pick up on that sound we just played for our viewers of the President seemingly ducking the question of whether he personally authorized this bomb drop. It's raising questions, it's raising eyebrows for some, and some being concerned that this is troubling if, indeed, he didn't give the authority. Are you one who shares that concern?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'm not concerned. I checked with the Pentagon today, I talked to some different people and I found out that the authority to use this weapon has rested with the U.S. commanding general in Afghanistan. And it's rested with him for about two years.

So back to the prior administration and continuing into the Trump administration, this is a tactical weapon, this is not a strategic weapon, it's not a special weapon. It's just a large weapon. It's used in special circumstances, it's never been used before, but the target that was presented to the -- to the unit in charge out there decided that this was the best weapon.

It was specifically designed to collapse tunnels, to create an overpressure that can get into caves and take out people that are hiding in the caves. It's a massive blast, doesn't have any shrapnel or any fragmentation to it.

In this instance in a very unpopulated area it could be used and a decision was made. So the authority to use that weapon rested with General Nicholson in Afghanistan.

SESAY: So as far as you were concerned, it was the right answer to this problem of taking out this complex of tunnels and caves?

FRANCONA: Yes, that's what the weapon was built for. We have a document called the Joint Munitions Employment Manual and it tells you what weapons are good for what targets. And you basically look up -- tell them what your target is, what the effects that you want to achieve and it will tell you the best weapon to use. That's called weaponeering. And in this case it was to use the MOAB. The MOAB was employed.

Now we don't know how effective it was. We'll have to see that as the bomb damage assessment comes in.

SESAY: What does the use of this bomb tell us about the nature of the fight against ISIS at this point in time?

FRANCONA: Yes, this is a real problem. We see ISIS on the rise, but limited to this one area. And, as you know, the President wants to go after ISIS. He's doing it not only in Syria and Iraq. He's also brought the fight to them in Afghanistan.

This is called ISIS-K. It's Korasan and that's the name of what ISIS calls Afghanistan, they call it Korasan Province. That's why we named it that.

We want to eliminate their ability to use Afghanistan as a training ground. We know they're going to be defeated in Iraq. We know they're going to be defeated in Syria. They have to go somewhere.

[00:10:00] They've tried go to Libya. They're trying to go to Afghanistan. We want to limit them free range of operations.

SESAY: And let's just be clear though Colonel Francona, you drop a bomb, ok, that's done. But are we clear of the larger U.S. strategy in Afghanistan?

FRANCONA: Well, that's another question altogether. What is the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan? You know, we went there in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. And then we've gone through different variations of what our strategy is, what the role of the U.S. military is.

First we were nation building. Then we're advise and assist. And now we're training the Afghan army. Now we're back to advise-and-assist, then it was counter terrorism, counter insurgency, counter terrorism -- we don't have a coherent policy. We have not had a coherent policy.

We have easily gotten in there but we're finding it really, really difficult to find an exit strategy. Hopefully that will be defined in the near future. And once we know what the strategy is then we can begin to develop the tactics to get us there. We don't know what it is yet.

SESAY: All right. Colonel Rick Francona -- always appreciate the insight. Thank you.

FRANCONA: Sorry for the bad news -- Isha.

SESAY: I'm used to it now, Rick Francona, when you come on the show. Thank you.

FRANCONA: I'm sorry.

SESAY: Now, Japan's prime minister says North Korea could be capable of launching missiles armed with sarin. That's the same chemical allegedly used by Syria last week. Shinzo Abe didn't provide any evidence but he says the security situation in the region is getting increasingly severe. Analyst say satellite imagery shows North Korea could be preparing for another nuclear test.

Alexandra Field is in Seoul, Korea and Matt Rivers joins from Beijing. Alex, talk to you first -- bring us up to speed on the state there on the peninsula right now where tensions stand. And in the last couple of hours has there been any indication that North Korea is moving closer to a test of some kind?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's a waiting game right now -- Isha. We can certainly say that tensions are the highest they have been in years and all eyes are on North Korea to see whether or not they could conduct their sixth nuclear test. And certainly there's been evidence suggested by analysts that they are preparing to do exactly that and that they could do it any moment with no warning.

North Korea's nuclear ambitions are always a cause of major concern here on the peninsula and beyond, but obviously this is a country that has tremendous capability when it comes to conventional warfare.

And U.S. and South Korean officials have long believed that they have a significant chemical weapons stockpile. That is creating concerns here in the region against this backdrop of rising tensions.


FIELD: Satellite images appear to show new activity at North Korea's main nuclear site. Analysts say it's primed and prepped for the country's sixth nuclear test. The tension rising while concerns are growing over whether the regime could pose a chemical weapons threat.

SHINZO ABE, PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN (through translator): There is a possibility that North Korea has already a capability to put sarin on warheads to strike the ground. Just recently over a hundred innocent citizens including babies and children fell victim to this gas in Syria.

FIELD: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling the security situation increasingly severe as U.S. warships reach the waters off the Korean Peninsula -- a warning message from Washington.

TONG ZHAO, CARNEGIE-TSINGHUA CENTER FOR GLOBAL POLICY: Many people believe North Korean leadership is irrational. It's willing to do anything for the regime's survival.

FIELD: The goal for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear- tipped war head to the continental U.S.

Analysts say he's already capable of creating regional chaos, disaster with chemical weapons.

ZHAO: It's not very, you know, economical for the North Koreans to use an ICBM to deliver some chemical weapon agents all the way to the homeland United States. It only makes sense for nuclear warhead delivery. So, again, I agree that chemical weapons are more relevant for regional targets such as Seoul and some targets in Japan.

FIELD: Two years ago, U.S. Defense officials concluded North Korea was capable of it. North Korea probably has had a long-standing chemical weapons program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood and choking agents. They probably could employ chemical weapons agents by modifying a variety of conventional munitions including artillery and ballistic missiles.

In 2011 former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testified.

JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: They have one of the largest stock piles in the world.

FIELD: Kim Jong-Un is already accused of deploying a chemical weapon of mass destruction. U.S. and South Korean officials say VX agent was used to kill his half brother Kim Jong-Nam and that the dictator ordered the hit. North Korea denies any involvement.


The decision to conduct the sixth nuclear test will be Kim Jong-Un's and his alone. It could come at any time.

[00:14:58] Officials here in South Korea say they'll watch closely this weekend. Of course, that's a major holiday in North Korea. In the past North Korea has timed these provocative measures to coincide with major national events or international events -- Isha.

SESAY: We shall all be watching. Alexandra Field -- joining us there from Seoul, South Korea. Alex -- appreciate it. Thank you.

Let's turn now to Matt Rivers in Beijing. Matt -- as we well know, the Chinese turning back those coal-laden North Korean ships some days ago. This comes amid this concern about an impending test of some form from North Korea.

Any other word of China doing more to rein in North Korea at a time when tensions are at their highest?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As of now nothing further beyond that coal import ban but that was enough to get President Donald Trump to really start to change his tune on China. We've seen multiple tweets about it. We've seen him at a press conference really praising the Chinese and President Xi.

And really when you think about it if there's one thing that appears to have changed his mind at least temporarily on China's willingness to tackle the North Korean situation, it's coal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President of the United States.

RIVERS: When President Trump talked to China on Wednesday, it wasn't the sharp negative rhetoric we're used to hearing. It was a tone more reserved for ally than adversary.

TRUMP: President Xi wants to do the right thing. We had a very good bonding. I think we had a very good chemistry together. I think he wants to help us with North Korea.

RIVERS: Constant missile and nuclear tests have both countries on edge. Trump has long said he thinks China should be using its economic leverage to force North Korea to stop developing weapons. And now the President says China has been making progress in one specific area.

TRUMP: A lot of the coal boats have already been turned back. You saw that yesterday and today, they've been turned back. The vast amount of coal that comes out of North Korea going to China, they've turned back the boats.

RIVERS: Coal is one of North Korea's most lucrative exports. And China was its biggest buyer but that changed on February 18th when China announced that it would stop North Korean coal imports for the rest of the year. New U.N. sanctions limit the amount of coal countries can buy and China said it was nearing that number.

HUANG SONGPING, CHINESE CUSTOMS SPOKESMAN: We have implemented sanctions against North Korea by strictly abiding by one of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

RIVERS: A source with knowledge of North Korea's government operations here in the border city of Dandong also told CNN that nearly all shipments of coal were returned by the end of March. And yet despite halting coal imports, China's trade volume with North Korea has actually gone up nearly 40 percent in the first three months of 2017.

The figures call into question China's willingness to actually put the economic pressure on Pyongyang the Trump administration wants it to.

But many experts think that no matter how much food and fuel China sends across that bridge right there to North Korea, Kim Jong-Un is not going to give up his nuclear weapons program because in reality it's his only real card to play on the world stage.

President Trump though is still confident that his administration can solve a crisis where other administrations have failed -- with or without China's help.

TRUMP: It may be effective, it may not be effective. If it's not effective, we will be effective, I can promise you that.

RIVERS: Details on how the President plans to be effective on North Korea have not yet been released.


RIVERS: And Isha -- I really want to drive home that point. Total trade volume between China and North Korea up nearly 40 percent year over year in the first quarter. Is there a coal import ban? Yes. But China is clearly still finding ways to extend that economic lifeline to North Korea that the Kim Jong-Un regime so desperately needs.

SESAY: It is a much needed perspective. Matt Rivers joining us there from Beijing. Matt -- thank you.

Time for a quick break now.

Coming up -- a referendum could lead to sweeping powers for Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- a look inside his voter (ph) heartland just ahead.


ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This is CNN Weather Watch. I'm meteorologist Allison Chinchar.

We're still looking at potential for rain and even some snow out to the west. Now rain again stretching from Vancouver, Canada all the way down to northern California -- those higher elevations especially in the mountains also still have the potential for some snow showers as well.

Moving a little bit further east though the main threat is going to be severe weather. This will impact cities like Kansas City, Wichita, and down for some cities also in Oklahoma and Texas.

Now the main threats with this are going to be damaging winds and large hail -- can't entirely rule out the potential for a tornado.

And the concerning point of that is we are already so far above our average for tornadoes this year -- about 189 percent of average to be exact. Normally up to this point we would have about 270 tornadoes in the United States. We've already had about 511.

Now, when you take a look state by state, some of the numbers are already very impressive. 67 in Texas, 81 in Georgia which keep in mind is more than most European countries and South American countries would see in an entire year. And we're still only in April.

Here's a look at the forecast radar again. A couple of showers beginning to move into Chicago; we also have some around Minneapolis as well and then also into Texas. Again, this is an area that doesn't need to see anymore rain.


SESAY: Referendum is set for Sunday in Turkey. Voters could approve radical changes to the constitution which would add sweeping powers to this man, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. If Turkey backs the yes vote its parliamentary system turns into a presidential one. Mr. Erdogan's critics charged he's eroding democracy but he still has many supporters especially in Turkey's heart.

Our own Becky Anderson traveled there to file this report.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Witness a city waking up -- Ankara, a metropolis and Turkey's political nerve center.

Just like in the U.S. and the U.K. to really understand the political realities of a vast country like this, you've got to get out of the big cities like Ankara and Istanbul and into the rural heartland which is why today I'm taking the train to the ancient city of Konya in Anatolia.

This high-speed rail service launched just a couple of years ago is a good example of Erdogan's landscape-changing infrastructure projects -- roads, rail ways, airports, canals -- which help him shore up his base amongst Turkey's burgeoning middle class.

New transport links have not only made the country easier to navigate. They also serve a political purpose. Built over the last 15 years, they link Turkey's major hubs to its once forgotten rural cities.

Erdogan's investments in infrastructure, super charging businesses whilst boosting his popularity in a city like Konya.

TAHIR AKYUREK, MAYOR OF KONYA (through translator): Konya is usually supportive of the AK Party and President Erdogan. That's why we're preparing this beautiful gift for him ahead of his arrival.

[00:25:05] ANDERSON: Tahir Akyurek is the mayor. He has come to check on preparations for the President's upcoming visit, a campaign rally just days before a referendum that could consolidate even more power in Erdogan's hands.

AKYUREK: I was born in a small village just outside Konya. The city has seen enormous development over the past 15 years. Today it's a leader in education, industry and agriculture. None of that would have been possible without the government's support.

ANDERSON: That's a view shared by Taha Buyukhelvacigil (ph). He's the fourth generation of a family-owned conglomerate that's reaped the benefits of government support and investment over the past decade and a half.

TAHA BUYUKHELVACIGIL, ZADE VITAL: In the last ten years our workers will be the numbers of -- it will be 300 nowadays it will be 400 people that work with us. And 50 percent (inaudible) R&D people. They will be working for just for R&D.

ANDERSON: And those R&D employees.


ANDERSON: As a result of the incentives that the government has provided --


ANDERSON: -- to a business like yours to innovate, correct. BUYUKHELVACIGIL: Yes. That's also why we need them.

ANDERSON: Taha's company once only produced food products but now it's become a leader in cutting edge pharmaceuticals. Businesses like his have transformed Konya's economy from almost wholly agrarian to a center of industry.

But despite the progress, Konya remains a city rooted in its past. A past that comes to life in the court yard of the Sufi poet (inaudible) as a troop of whirling dervishes perform their spiritual dance.

The swirling and spinning symbolizing some might say the many twists and turns of modern Turkish politics.

Becky Anderson, CNN -- Konya.


SESAY: Now U.S. intelligence agencies weren't the only ones to uncover contacts between the Trump camp and Russia. We're now learning British and European intel services also intercepted communications and passed that information on to the U.S. Details ahead.


[00:30:43] SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.

For the first time, the U.S. has used it's most powerful non-nuclear weapon in combat. The enormous 10 metric ton MOAB bomb was dropped on a tunnel complex used by ISIS in Eastern Afghanistan. President Trump endorsed the military action afterwards, but declined to say whether he gave the actual order.

Japan's prime minister says North Korea could be capable of launching missiles armed with a nerve agent, Sarin. Shinzo Abe didn't provide any evidence. But new satellite imagery shows North Korea could be preparing for another nuclear test.

The U.S. is sending dozens of additional troops to Somalia to support and train local forces. U.S. official say they'll be joining the forces already there to there to provide counterterrorism support against the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab.

Well, we're learning new details in the story that has cast a shadow over the Trump administration since day one, Russia. Sources say that intelligence agencies outside the U.S. were involved in investigating Trump campaign aides' contacts with Russian officials.

Our own Jim Sciutto has this report.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned that British and European intelligence intercepted communications between Trump associates and Russian officials. And other Russians known to western intelligence during the U.S. presidential campaign and shared those communications with their U.S. counterparts. Multiple U.S. and western officials tell CNN.

These sources stress that at no point did western intelligence including Britain's GSHQ, which is responsible for communication surveillance target these Trump associates, instead their communications were picked up as incidental collection during routine surveillance of known Russian targets.

The U.S. and Britain are part of the so-called Five-Eyes agreement along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand which calls for open sharing among member nations of a broad range of intelligence. This new information comes as former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page provides a confusing, even conflicting story about his contacts with Russian intelligence. He has denied that he was a foreign agent.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER DONALD TRUMP FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: This is -- it's just such a joke that it's beyond words.

SCIUTTO: Page told CNN's Jake Tapper that when he visited Russia last July he never discussed easing sanctions on Russia related to the ceasing of Crimea.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Did you ever talk with anyone there about maybe President Trump if he were elected then candidate Trump would be willing to get rid of the sanctions?

PAGE: Never any direct conversations such as that. I mean, it -- look -- it's --


TAPPER: What do you mean direct? I don't know what that means direct conversations.

PAGE: Well, I'm just saying in no -- that was never said, no.

SCIUTTO: But interviewed on "ABC News," Page could not provide a clear answer.

PAGE: Something may have come up in a conversation -- I have no recollection and there is nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you can't say without equivocation that you didn't discuss the easing of sanctions?

PAGE: Someone may have brought it up. I have no recollection and if it was, it was not something I was offering or that someone was asking for.

SCIUTTO (on-camera): These intercepted communications certain to be of interest to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees' investigations of Russian influence in the U.S. election as well as the FBI investigation, a source close to the Senate investigation tells me that if it is relevant to their probe, they will certainly examine this intelligence.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


SESAY: When we come back, the family still don't know where they are three years after the kidnapping. We'll see what Nigeria is doing to bring back the Chibok schoolgirls.


[00:36:38] SESAY: It's been three years since Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of girls from the school in Chibok, Nigeria. Some of the girls escaped, others were freed but most remain missing. That as loves ones are still searching for answers and the Nigerian government struggles to negotiate with the militant group.

Here's a look back at the mass kidnapping that stunned the world.


SESAY (voice-over): It was April 14th, 2014. 276 teenage girls were taken from their school in the middle of the night. Some of the girls were able to escape in the hours that followed.

It happened in a town of Chibok, in Borno state, northeast Nigeria. They were captured by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Several weeks later, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a video claiming responsibility for abducting the girls and threatening to sell them as slaves.

With international outrage mounting, protests began over the Nigerian government's failure to bring the girls home and a social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls was launched.

A month later, the hash tag had been tweeted over 1 million times to people around the globe including politician, celebrities, and then First Lady Michelle Obama.

One year after the girls were taken, in April of 2015, Muhammadu Buhari, one Nigeria's presidential election vow to curb Boko Haram's violence.

Another year goes by. In April of 2016, CNN obtained a proof of life video sent by their captors showing 15 of the girls. We shared it with several of the girls's mothers, some tearful moments as they recognize their daughters.

In October last year, the Nigerian government announced some of the girls were freed after negotiations with Boko Haram. I was there when two months later those 21 girls finally returned to Chibok and reunite with their families.

The room almost vibrating with the sound of unbridled joy. But for some waiting parents, heartbreak. These women have come looking for their daughters who are still being held by Boko Haram. They thought their children were among the group who were coming home for Christmas.

(on-camera): There has been such an outpouring of grief amid the joy, the piercing screams of mothers realizing that indeed they are not to be reunited with their daughters on this day, which has turned what should have been an overwhelmingly happy moment into a bittersweet one.

(voice-over): Although several other girls managed to escape over the course of the past three years, the majority of those kidnapped remain in Boko Haram captivity to this day.


SESAY: Well, let's take a closer look at this now with Mausi Segun. She is a senior Nigeria researcher for Human Rights Watch. She joins me now live from Abuja.

Mausi, thank you for joining us. It's sad to have you with us on this very, very sad anniversary and hard to believe that the girls are still not back with their loved ones.

[00:40:00] At this point, is the Nigerian government giving these families any sense of hope, a reason to believe they will be reunited with their girls in the near future.

MAUSI SEGUN, SENIOR NIGERIA RESEARCHER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: I think I share that that really is the problem. It's the lack of communication. It's the lack of information for these parents that makes it even more heart breaking. It's been three years. They have to listen to the news to understand what the government is doing. There is no direct communication with them concerning their, you know, whatever efforts government is making.

The government did say a few days ago that they are still in negotiations with Boko Haram. I guess that must be good news, but it's just not enough. It's not enough because it is the responsibility of the government to find these girls, to locate them and to get them rescued. It is a legal obligation on the part of the Nigerian government and they're simply not doing enough.

SESAY: We are talking about this. The fact that we are marking this sad anniversary. But what about there in Nigeria. Is the story still one that people remembering? Is this day something that significant numbers are marking and grieving alongside the parents?

SEGUN: You know, with Nigeria, it's been especially concerning this conflict. It's been one heart-breaking story after another. But the Bring Back Out Girls advocacy group has done immensely in sustaining attention and interest in the fate of the group still missing Chibok schoolgirls.

I think the entire week starting last Sunday up until today and over the weekend, they've had a series of programs to continue to enlighten, you know, everyone about the role that we play in putting pressure, not just on the Nigerian government, but also in some way on Boko Haram.

You know, mounting that pressure, you know, torching whatever hearts and minds still exist within the group to continue to negotiate with the Nigerian government or release those girls without any kind of conditions at all.

AMANPOUR: Now, border context is important. You have also made the point that the Chibok girls have come to symbolize all those missing, all those who have been taken by Boko Haram.

I mean, is there a missing person's registry? I mean, how many people are we talking about? I mean, give us some perspective on the scale of the problem here.

SEGUN: Sadly, we don't have all of those figures. I mean, where we can only have is a guess. Just pulling information from different cases in the Chibok schoolgirls' case, we have over 195 still missing. And, for example, in Damasak, a town in the northern part of Borno where Boko Haram abducted over 500 children, school children, some aged, you know, as young as 2 years old and 17 years old, locked them up in his court from November 14 up until March 2015 when joint forces from China and Nijik came in to push Boko Haram out and they made away with all of those children.

They have a list of 501. So in some cases we have numbers, but in many others, we just have a broad guess because Chibok (INAUDIBLE) Boko Haram. They don't have exact numbers. But now the government has finally agreed with pressure from civil society and set up a committee, a national technical committee (INAUDIBLE) on military -- on missing persons in Nigeria across the country, really.

SESAY: It is indeed a sad occasion to be thinking three years on these girls still aren't back.

Mausi Segun joining us there from Abuja. So grateful to have you with us to give us more perspective. Thank you so much.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from L.A. I'm Isha Sesay. We'll be back at the top of the hour.