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Trump Takes Credit for Raqqa's Liberation from ISIS; Xi Jinping Lengthy Speech Address Anti-Corruption; The Russian Chef Who Cooks Fake Stories; U.S. Allies Fighting Each Other Over Kirkuk; ISIS' New Terrorism Techniques; Amnesty International Calls Out Myanmar for Crimes Against Humanity. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired October 18, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: Celebration in Raqqa after ISIS is defeated in the Syrian city but analyst warn this does not mean the terror group is vanquished.

We are live in Beijing where the president there is laying out his vision for China's future.

And Amnesty International accuses Myanmar of a systematic campaign to expel Rohingya Muslims. We will hear from the rights group about their new report that's alleging against humanity.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church and this is CNN Newsroom.

After more than three years of brutal rule by ISIS the terror group has now been ousted from its self-declared capital of Raqqa in Syria. U.S.-backed Syrian democratic forces are going street to street looking for pockets of militants who may still be hiding there.

More now from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.

NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: This was once ISIS execution square where they beheaded their victims, but now it's there who symbolically decapitated the self-declared capital Raqqa finally lost.

And this is the dust of ISIS' route. As U.S.-backed forces spin American armor in celebration. The fight took months killed perhaps many civilians and left mere rubble in its wake. But now these Kurdish fighters can walk where they would once have been paraded prior to death.

The fight has been total ghastly destructive beyond imagination as these exclusive drone pictures filmed Tuesday show.

This Raqqa sports stadium is where ISIS used to plot attacks on the west but now the Kurdish fighters flags flies right next to bombed out skeleton where some of ISIS' last foreign fighters much have died.

ISIS here Monday lost this the national hospital where a few dozen surrendered. The civilian human shields they held there also rescued.

This is a place where so much smoke fills the horizon. Hospitals have not really been hospitals for months. Those who have emerged these some of the hundreds who fled or had their exit negotiated speak of the unspeakable.

"I came out of hell," she said. "I got from help I came right from under fire."

Some perhaps, ISIS families. These two women scared still to even get out of their vehicle. We may never know how many died in the intense coalition bombardment to drive ISIS out. But some who lived felt abandoned.

"The situation is very bad" he says. "You were late helping us but may God give you strength now you have helped."

The U.S.-backed fighters declared major operations over here late Tuesday the last time that ISIS' name was writ large over a major city. This is the end.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN.

CHURCH: The U.S. President Donald Trump is taking credit for Raqqa's liberation. He talked about the changes he's made to the U.S. military with radio host Chris Plante.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I totally changed rules of engagement. I totally changed our military. I totally change the attitudes of the military. And they have done a fantastic job. The ISIS is now giving up. They're giving up. They're raising their hands. They're walking off. Nobody has ever seen that before.

CHRIS PLANTE, RADIO HOST: Why that hasn't happened before?

TRUMP: Because you didn't have Trump as your president.


CHURCH: But CNN's Arwa Damon reports the Trump administration's policies are not much different from the Obama administration.

ARWA DAMON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: A lot of the policy that the Trump administration has been implementing specifically when it comes to the fight against ISIS both in Iraq and Syria has simply been an extension of the Obama administration's policies.

Advise and assist teams on the ground whether it's Iraqis within this country or the Kurdish Peshmerga that were also fighting here or whether it's the Syrian democratic forces inside Syria and try to support them with intelligence, surveillance, air assets, and then of course the very, very critical air strikes that in both battlefields have been kept to allow the forces to move on the ground towards ISIS. What is going to be quite critical when it comes to the Trump

administration's strategy vis-a-vis ISIS in both Iraq and Syria is what are they going to do next. What kind of support are they going to continue to give, and how involved are they going to be in trying to ensure that on the ground the dynamics that existed that allowed ISIS to emerge are in fact, eradicated.

[03:05:05] CHURCH: Arwa Damon reporting there.

We turn to China now. And the President Xi Jinping opens the Communist Party Congress in Beijing by touting an anti-corruption campaign that has brought down more than one million Chinese officials over the past five years.

Many of those officials were also political rivals of Mr. Xi. That left him unchallenged as he prepares to assume unprecedented control of the country. His stature in the country is now said to rival that of China's founder Chairman Mao Zedong.

Well, Matt Rivers joins is now live from Beijing. And Matt, Xi Jin- ping spoke for about three hours, what were the highlights of that address?

MATT RIVERS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, it was a long speech, Rosemary, almost three and a half hours. And this would be the address that really many people will look to and point to as the time when Xi Jinping is really kind of culminating his rise or his consolidation of power over the last five years here in China.

This was a speech that was largely filled with a lot of the same political jargon that we've heard from past speeches given by leaders of the Communist Party. But the theme of this particular speech definitely was Xi Jinping talking about how the Communist Party must have absolute total control over all aspects of society. That China is best positioned moving forward if the Communist Party has control over all aspects.

So you can think everything from culturally, socially, militarily. And part of the reason the speech took so long is because Xi Jinping really spoke in a wide ranging way about all aspects of society and how the Communist Party should definitely be in total control over all of that.

And many people can say well, Xi Jinping himself has total control of the Communist Party then you're looking at definitely a strong man's approach towards the way he is governing.

And that's what we've seen over the past five years is his incredible consolidation of power, not just to the corruption campaign but also through promoting nationalist policies, talking about the Chinese dream being rejuvenated going back to China's roots.

But also really cracking down on any sort of dissent, increasing online censorship to control the public narrative.

And so I think over the next five years that's what you're going to see the continued coalescences of power in the centralized state that something that Xi Jinping has aimed to do right from the very start. And with this Congress here going on it seems to be the culmination of years of work.

CHURCH: And Matt, it does seem to be any challenge to Xi Jinping, does there. There's no problem for him to move forward and consolidate this power. What direction will he likely take China in then going from here?

RIVERS: I think you're going to see a continuation of what he's done over the past five years. You're going to continue to see supply side economic reforms, you're going to see a continued buildup of the military, and you're going to see a strengthening of the party.

And Xi Jinping I think is a true believer in the sense that the Communist Party is the best way forward for his country and that he doesn't believe that he needs to institute the kind of democratic reforms that many people outside of China would like to see him implement.

One thing that were interested in seeing as this all wraps up over the next several days or so is two things. One, what will the new members of the standing committee of the politbureau here China look like, the seven or nine people that really control what goes on here in China. They are the heart and soul of the government here.

And so, as the new polit -- as the new standing committee gets rolled out over the next couple days who staffs that committee and will it will it be filled with Xi Jinping allies that will allow him to do what he wants to. I think many people would say that probably that is what's going to happen.

And then also, will there be any changes to the Chinese Communist Part Constitution in the form of adding Xi Jinping's name to that Constitution be it in his thoughts or in his theories or some kind of mention of Xi Jinping in the actual Communist Part Constitution.

We've only seen that with two other leaders in the past, of course Chairman Mao Zedong and his successor Deng Xiaoping. And so if Xi Jinping gets his name added to the Constitution it's just further proof of his consolidation of power both over the last five years and then certainly going forward into the next five years.

CHURCH: Yes. Certainly, seeing all-encompassing power there with Xi Jinping.

Matt Rivers joining us from Beijing, where it just after 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Many thanks to you, Matt.

Well, President Xi never mentioned North Korea during his long speech. But tensions on the peninsula are very much on his mind especially as North Korean and officials keep ramping up talk about nuclear war.

CNN's Brian Todd reports on that.

BRIAN TODD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It is the ultimate threat issued on the floor of the United Nations and designed to strike fear into the hearts of Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A nuclear war may break about any moment.


[03:09:58] TODD: That ominous warning from one of Kim Jong-un's top diplomats Monday, comes he says because the U.S. is quote, "insulting the dignity of North Korea preparing war plans to take out Kim."


TODD: Why issue that threat at this particular moment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Part of this is their classic bluster but it's also brinkmanship on their part. And Kim Jong-un is notorious for brinkmanship.


TODD: A U.S. intelligence official tells CNN North Korea is escalating its rhetoric because wants nuclear weapons to ensure the survival of his regime. And because he wants some kind of security arrangement with the U.S.

One of the CIA's top analysts on North Korea recently suggested that while may sound unhinged he's also strategic in his thinking.


YONG SUK LEE, DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CIA'S KOREA MISSION CENTER: Kim Jong-un is a rational actor. I think his long-term goal is very clear to come to some kind of a big power agreement with the United States and remove U.S. forces from the peninsula.


TODD: More than 28,000 U.S. troops are now stationed in South Korea. And Kim's regime often tells its people the Americans are constantly threatening them. Bu neither side appears willing to back down.

Just last month, President Trump told the U.N. that if North Korea attacks the U.S. of its allies.


TRUMP: We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.


TODD: On Monday, North Korea's man at the U.N. appeared to counter that promise, saying the entire U.S. mainland is within North Korea's firing range. The same day another North Korean official told CNN his country would not negotiate with the U.S. until it has a long-range missile capable of reaching the East Coast of the U.S. A long-time goal of the regime.

Missile experts are divided on whether that too, is idle talk or a real possibility. Some believe the North Koreans may have that capability now. But others say they need to tweak their current missiles which some believe already could heat the West Coast.


MICHAEL ELLEMAN, SENIOR FELLOW, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: They would have several options. One is to use the engine that's on this particular missile but pair it with another one. So that it produces twice the thrust or forcing action to lift it into space. And then place a larger second stage on there, which allow it to carry one or two warheads to any place on the continental United States.


TODD: Experts say the North Koreans also have to test whether a nuclear tip missile can survive re-entry into the earth's atmosphere. And have to successfully test the missile's guidance system for accuracy. That they might still be at least a couple of years away from having a missile fully capable of striking the East Coast.

When the North Koreans get that capability, experts say, it will be a game changer. It will force the U.S. to improve its missile interceptors which analysts say only work about half the time they're tested. And the U.S. will have to start testing its missile interceptors a lot more often that it is right now.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: Former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is taking a jab at President Trump over how he's dealing with Kim Jong-un. She told business leaders meeting in Seoul that U.S. allies are expressing concern about how the Trump administration is handling North Korea. And she says Mr. Trump's escalating rhetoric toward Pyongyang is not helping.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The insults that are being traded on Twitter I think have benefited North Korea. I don't think they have benefited the United States.


CLINTON: I think that they have benefited a regime that is thrilled to get the kind of personal attention from the leader of our country. I think that's a grave error because it makes any kind of negotiation more difficult. Assuming we can get everyone harnessed pulling in the same direction for what I am advocating.


CHURCH: Clinton also expressed concern about President Trump's threats to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal saying it would be dangerous.

Let's take a short break here. We'll be back in a moment with a CNN exclusive. He is known as Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief or chef, I should say. Did he finance a Russian troll factory to spread fake news during the U.S. presidential election? What American investigators believe, that is next.

Plus, when hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico we met Diana, she was holding on to the last vial of insulin for her husband Miguel who is a Vietnam veteran. CNN goes back to check on them. We'll have that in a moment.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. A U.S. judge has dealt another legal setback to President Trump's travel ban. This was the third version of a ban for people trying to enter the United States from eight countries.

Jessica Schneider has details on the ruling and the White House reaction.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The latest travel ban that was supposed to take effect Wednesday it is on hold at least for now. Hawaii federal court Judge Derrick Watson who also ruled against the second travel ban has issued another ruling halting this latest version that was released by the Trump administration at the end of September.

Now Judge Watson called it detrimental and discriminatory, saying it's no different than the previous two versions. While civil liberties groups are calling this a victory for the rule of law but the Trump administration calls the ruling quote, "dangerously flawed and said that undercuts the president's efforts to keep Americans safe."

And the Department of Justice is now planning a quick appeal of the ruling. Now the administration also argued that it went through a long process of reviewing the travel vetting procedures of every country around the world. And it ended by restricting travel from eight countries in this latest version.

Those countries are Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, as well as North Korea and Venezuela. And many people believe the last two countries were added to the list to refute the idea that this was a Muslim ban. Now this latest ruling does not affect North Korea or Venezuela.

So the question is what happens now. Well, the Supreme Court had already delayed hearings on the second travel ban but it is likely with more appeals on the way with this latest version the nation's highest court will eventually hear arguments on this ban as well. It's a ban of course that has now been put on hold at least for now.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: There are new developments in the investigation into Russia's meddling in the U.S. Presidential election. A source tells CNN the U.S. Justice Department special counsel team interviewed former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday.

Sources say special counsel Robert Mueller is looking for documents linked to the dismissals of FBI Director James Comey and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Mueller's team interviewed former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus last week. A source says the special counsel wants to know more about President Trump's boast to Russian officials that Comey's firing is pressure on the White House.

Well, now to a CNN exclusive. A Russian oligarch and close Putin ally who wants to caveat and truffles to then President George W. Bush may be central figure in the spread of fake news during the U.S. presidential election.

More now from CNN's Jim Sciutto.

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: CNN has learned that the company of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch dubbed 'chef' to President Vladimir Putin by the Russian press financed a Russian troll factory that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 presidential campaign.

This according to multiple officials briefed on the investigation. Prigozhin who owns several companies is one of the Kremlin's inner circle. Putin even have him catered birthday parties and visits by U.S. President George W. Bush. His company believed to be the main backer of the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency or IRA, a secretive technology firm that created and distributed fake news.

[03:20:05] Prigozhin was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in December of 2016, but this for providing financial support for Russia's military occupation of Ukraine. One of his companies, including his catering business also sanctioned by Treasury this year.

My colleague, Tim Lister, Mary Ilyushina and I, examined scores of documents leaked from Prigozhin's companies. One contract provided IRA with ways to monitor social media and a system of automated promotion and search engines.

Other document show that the monthly budget for IRA was around $1 million in 2013, that's every month split between departments that included Russian language operations and the use of social media in English. One part of that factory had a really intriguing name it was called quote, "Department of provocations" dedicated to sewing fake news and social divisions in the west.

This, according to internal company documents obtained by CNN. And its mission as stated in those documents was quote, "how do we create news items to achieve our goals."

We should note that several e-mails and calls from CNN to Concord Consulting, that is Prigozhin's firm went unanswered and the IRA no longer exist since the U.S. election.

A declassified assessment by the U.S. intelligence community published in January this year concluded that, quote, "The likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency are professional trolls located in St. Petersburg is a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence." Though, that assessment did not mention Prigozhin. Our reporting, though, and other sources we've spoken to point very much in the direction of this close Putin ally.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: We turn to Malta now. And the prime minister is vowing justice will be done in the killing of the island's best known investigative journalist. Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed Monday in a car bombing. Her son said she was assassinated because of her work exposing corruption.

Her blog was a major factor in the prime minister's decision to call early elections four months ago. She alleged Joseph Muscat and his wife used secret offshore bank accounts to hide money. Mr. Muscat has denied that and he spoke with our Christiane Amanpour.


JOSEPH MUSCAT, PRIME MINISTER OF MALTA: There will be absolutely no impunity for anyone. This is a country where rule of law reigns supreme. And I will make sure that justice is done and there will be absolutely no impunity for anyone be it from any part of the political spectrum if there is politics involved in this or from any other sector.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST, CNN: Daphne Galizia was an equal opportunity fierce crusader. She didn't spare the government, she didn't spare the opposition. She was determined to get to the bottom. She also tried to get to the bottom of allegations against you, against your wife, against your chief of staff.

She died 30 minutes after publishing a blog post accusing your chief of staff of corruption yet again. And her last words were quote, "There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate."

You know, it's pretty harsh thing to say and then be killed 30 minutes after that.

MUSCAT: Well, I think she said even harsher things before against myself, against my collaborators, against other people in government and from other parties. So I don't think it's fair to associate that particular post to the fact.

Look, she was a very harsh critic of mine. I think the harshest I ever had. She has been writing about me, against me for the past decade or so, and we, you know, we are living in a free world, it's something that we always tolerated in the sense that it's obviously her right to write these things. It's obviously my right to protect myself if I feel aggrieved in court. And that's how it always happens.


CHURCH: The FBI and Dutch forensics experts will help in the investigation of Caruana Galizia's death.

Well, the stories we're hearing from Puerto Rico showed just how desperate people are for aid. Here's one example. These two men say clean water is so hard to find they have no choice but to drink water they know could be toxic.

Almost a month after hurricane Maria, our Bill Weir went back to check on those struggling to survive.

BILL WEIR, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Immediately after Maria, what remain of this hilltop community in Aguas Buenas took our breath away. A fallen transmission tower lay atop a shattered home. And then the house next door we found Diana, desperately trying to preserve the last vial of insulin for her husband Miguel, a veteran, in Vietnam veteran.

[03:25:06] A month later, we are back, bracing for the worst but hoping for the best.


WEIR: Wow, that's a good sign. Look at that. They got it back up. It's the work of local linemen who make a point of showing me their Facebook page to prove that they are just as good as those contractors from the main land.

How long before power will run through these lines? "It depends on the weather," he says. They have two more of these giants to salvage. And what we were you praying for just now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the safety and praising for God to give us the help for the group.

WEIR: Yes, you need all the help you can get, let's see if Diana and Miguel are home. Diana. Ola. Kumusta! Do you remember me? How are you? Good to see you.

She tells me Miguel is resting inside alive and well. After seeing our story the Veterans Administration sent a nurse up the mountain with plenty of medicine.

What about the future now, what do you think about next week, next month, next year? "I'm going to keep fighting. I'm going to stay in Puerto Rico. I'm not going to leave," she says. And then points up. They put a flag on top of the tower. There is just one example of Puerto Rico rising.

But they are just one family in a township f around 30,000. What is your biggest frustrations today? What do you need more than anything else? "Blue tarps," the mayor tells me. "I received 300, I need 1,000. It's been raining a lot and people don't have roofs."

What do you think of the President Trump saying that Puerto Ricans aren't distributing the food fast enough?

"Because some of the towns did not distribute well, There's the perception that this is an island-wide problem," he says. But that is not the case here. There are 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico, which means 78 mayors with different skills and methods.

In the southern town of Patillas, the secretary of state says he was outraged to find dumpster full of spoiled food and unused fresh water. A mistake this mayor is determined not to repeat. But even though his teams have visited over 8,000 homes they still have around 2,000 to go.

And if this one is any indication, they can't get there fast enough. Enida (Ph) sits on a bed soaked with rainwater. A smell of mold sticks in every room.

Do you have any idea how many people are in this kind of conditions?

"This is not rare," he says. "We encounter these cases. It has touched me deep in my heart." Today we're going to start helping her now. We're going to move her to a more secure location.

"We are so grateful that God sent you," Enida's (Ph) sister-in-law tells the mayor, "you see the conditions here. Please excuse me, mayor, the quickest help possible, please. She needs it"


CHURCH: Bill Weir reporting there. Hard to believe it is nearly a month since hurricane Maria hit.

We'll take a short break here. ISIS has lost its last major city. What's next in the war against terror? We'll take a look.

Plus, the U.S. is appealing to two of its key allies in the fight against ISIS not to turn against each other. We'll have more on that when we come back.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: And a warm welcome back to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you on the main stores we've been following this hour.

The biggest political event in China is now underway. The week-long Communist Party Congress held just quite a decade will grant President Xi Jinping a second five-year term effectively consolidating his power. His popularity is so great it now rivals that of the nation's founder, Chairman Mao Zedong.

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in the latest former Trump administration official to be caught in the Russia investigation. A source tells CNN special counsel Robert Mueller's team questions Spicer on Monday. He is the third White House official in recent weeks to be questioned by Mueller's investigators.

ISIS has lost its self-declared capital in Syria. The U.S.-backed Syrian democratic forces say they have retaken the city of Raqqa from the terror group and major military operations are over. They are now clearing the city of ISIS sleeper cells and mines.

Well, as the ISIS caliphate unravels it would be tempting to say they are gone for good but history tells us it's far more likely this fight is not over yet, it's just going to a new frontier.

Our Nic Robertson has more on that.

NIC ROBERTSON, INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR, CNN: This was the old ISIS, a terror group with territory now shelled out of Mosul, shot out Raqqa and being shown as the rest of their so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Change is coming this is what their future will likely look like.

A network of social media and deep web connections, a virtual caliphate held together by trust bolstered by far-flung franchises. It's what Al Qaeda did when it was beaten out of Afghanistan, survive through trust, friends forge on the front lines dispersed around the world and defeat kept their ideology together through secret communications attacking when and where they could.

ISIS is changing circumstances is already breeding a change in tactics. Last year telling would-be Jihadists stay home and attack there. Attacks in the U.S. in Orlando and San Bernardino, as well as in Europe, Nice, in Berlin and Brussels, among others last year.

London and Manchester in the U.K. this year attest to the power of ISIS' message and the demands of western governments social media companies toughen up on the terrorists. Nevertheless, a virtual caliphate ISIS will be weaker. Without territory they'll lose safe y training camps and the space to plot and plan atrocities with impunity.

Loss of territory alone won't snap them out completely. ISIS' precursor in Iraq still carries out a wide ranging terror campaign from remote farms and urban lockups.

Candidate threaten to bomb the expletive out of ISIS, but it's easier said than done. Their extinction when it does come it will be over time and through attrition.

[03:34:58] But until then their social networking virtual caliphate will remain a threat.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

CHURCH: And there is more bad blood involving U.S. allies who had been united in the battle against ISIS. On one side, a Kurdish Peshmerga who took control of the city of Kirkuk three years ago, on the other side are Iraqi forces who have now force the Kurds out of the city and re-taken control.

Our Ben Wedeman has our report.

BEN WEDEMAN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The situation in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk seems to have stabilized just one day after Iraqi forces took over not only the city itself but also the very important oilfields, oil and gas fields around it.

Now it does appear that the Kurdish regional government based in Erbil is licking its political wounds. It does seem that the referendum it called for Kurdish independence on 25 September has seriously backfired. It was a massive political miscalculation of historic proportions.

Now the Kurds are blaming one another, the KDP, the Kurdish Democratic Party is blaming the patriotic union of Kurdistan which is based in Sulaymaniyah accusing it of colluding with the government in Baghdad and the Iran by pulling back its forces and essentially leaving the city defenseless as Iraqi forces moved in.

Now it appears there's something of the Cold War between Baghdad and the Kurdish areas. United States which condemned the 25th of September independence referendum is taking a neutral position which is causing a lot of resentment among the Kurds who many of whom feel they have been betrayed by the United States after they had fought with American training and American weapons against ISIS.

And of course now the battle against ISIS seems to have been put on hold as old tensions between the Iraqis themselves flare up a new.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Baghdad.

CHURCH: And CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us now from Tehran with the latest on the situation involving Kirkuk. And Fred, Iran is denying any direct involvement in the fight for Kirkuk. What have you learned about its role in this battle and its motivation to be involved?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, well, the Iranians certainly have a lot of influence in Iraq, there's no secret about that. In fact, I would say that Iran is probably the most influential country inside Iraq much more so than even the United States.

And the Iranians have always a very clear strategy towards Iraq. They want to preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq. They want a strong central government in Baghdad, they want that central government to be friendly to Tehran.

And one of the things they were also very much against just like the United States was that independence referendum that of course Ben was just talking about. They told the Kurds beforehand look, if you don't go through with this referendum we will make sure that you have a good place inside Iraq. But if you do then there are going to be a lot of problems.

And certainly that does seem to be what exactly is going on.

Now the Iranians also though, aside from, you know, having some militias on the ground there in Iraq also have a lot of influence with a lot of Kurdish groups as well. One of them the patriotic Union of Kurdistan and that's exactly the group that the central government of the Kurds now accuses of having abandoned their position and allowing Iraqi security forces into those positions near Kirkuk. So we can see the Iranians exerting their influence inside of Iraq, and we certainly seem to see the strategy that the Iranians have had for a very, very long time really coming to play.

And it certainly looks as though, at this point in time the Iranians seem to be one of the winners if there is such a thing of the current situation that's going on there in Iraq, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Fred, we know too that you did a report on the situation there. Talk to us about what you found when you research a little deeper about the role of Iran.

PLEITGEN: Well, you know, one of the things that the Iranians have been doing for a very long time is obviously they've been -- they've been cultivating some of these militias that are inside Iraq with the Iranians who in the very first place in 2014 drummed up what's called the popular mobilization unit there inside of Iraq to save Baghdad from falling t ISIS.

Because if you remember, in 2014, ISIS was very close to marching into Baghdad for taking a lot of territory in a very short amount of time from the Iraqi security forces. So what the Iranians did especially to the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force which is the foreign operations wing of the Iranian elite Revolutionary Guard.

[03:39:57] And its General Qasem Soleimani who was somewhat of a legend on the battlefield both in Iran and Iraq and also quite frankly, in Syria as well, as they drummed up these militias and those of course now give Iran a major military foothold inside of Iraq as well.

Those militias are under the control of the Iraqi security forces but they certainly are very loyal to Tehran. At the same time as I mentioned, they also have that influence with the Kurds as well that they have been using.

And it seems to us as though, that they told some of these Kurdish look, there's a choice that you have to make here. You have this referendum which none of the countries around the Kurdish region really ever wanted and you can go with that referendum and declare independence and it's going to be a lot of problems with you.

Or you can go with the side of the Iranians and stay within the Iraqi boundaries and try to come to terms with the situation, make sure that you have a good place inside of Iraq rather than declare independence having issues with all the countries surrounding you. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. We will continue to watch the situation of course. Our Fred Pleitgen joining us with that live report from Tehran in Iran, where it was just after 11 in the morning. Many thanks to you, Fred.

Let's take another break, but still to come, thousands more Muslim Rohingya are fleeing and they are speaking out about the horrors of a military crackdown.

Coming up next, Amnesty International is accusing Myanmar of crimes against humanity.

Plus, Chinese leader Xi Jinping pave into his second presidential term, writing away the popularity not seen since the days of Chairman Mao. We will explain why after the break.


CHURCH: Well, thousands more Muslim Rohingya are escaping a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar. Around half a million of them have fled in two months taking a dangerous journey to Bangladesh. They are now facing a major humanitarian emergency. And aid agencies are demanding that the Myanmar government give them full access to Rogingya villages.

The U.N. fears Myanmar could be carrying out ethnic cleansing.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International says there is evidence Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity. Many Rohingya are recounting the horrors they survived including rape and murder.


CHURCH: Now the green areas in the satellite image are Rohingya villages in Myanmar almost a year ago. And Amnesty International says this image from last month shows villages are still being systematically set on fire.

Nicholas Bequelin is the East Asia regional director for Amnesty International and he joins us now from Hong Kong. Thank you so much for being with us and talking to us. What is happening in these villages? The U.N. fears this is ethnic cleansing, is that what this is?

[03:45:04] NICHOLAS BEQUELIN, REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EAST ASIA, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Absolutely without doubt, this is ethnic cleansing. The Myanmar military is implementing a campaign of terror, murder, rape, burning, displacements of population that really amounts to crimes against humanity.

We have half a million people now were refugees in Bangladesh. We have a scale of violence that is really unparalleled in recent decades, and it's time for me on my authorities to end the violence, allow a humanitarian access to this region and start investigating and holding accountable those who were responsible for this absolutely horrendous wave of ethnic cleansing.

CHURCH: And we know, of course, the international community has been aware of this humanitarian emergency. And what if it's underway to try to stop it, if any.

BEQUELIN: Well, there is really. I think that we've seen a very, very flaccid response from the international community so far. There's been a lot of focus on the lack of response of Aung San Suu Kyi, but we have to remember that she is not in charge of the military.

It is Min Aung Hlaing, the commander chief of the army will have responsibility over the army and can and must stop the violence that is going on at the moment.

This investigation that is going on that Amnesty just did, that is not only testimonies but also satellite imagery, pictures, videos, and so on really identified for the first time which units are responsible for this ethnic cleansing. The western commander army, the border guard police, the 33rd infantry Battalion.

So, there is a need now to make sure that people who are committing these atrocities, these crimes against humanities know that they will be held accountable for this.

The world cannot withstand a country that drives out half a million people because they are unwanted ethnic minorities. You have ethnic minorities all over the world. You have communal tensions, you have dysfunctional states. It is just unacceptable to let a country murder, rape, burn and drive out hundreds of thousands of people because they don't feel that they belong to the country.

We're getting into a very, very dangerous world if we allow these presidents to take place without any forceful response.

CHURCH: And you mentioned Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, she was of course once revered for her fight against the country's military dictatorship. Now she's being criticized, as you mentioned, for not saying what's been happening to the Rohingya people. Why has she been blind to their plight? She did come out and speak but she didn't see to recognize what was happening in her own country.

BEQUELIN: Well, it's difficult to know what's happening in her head but there seem to be clearly a political calculation that for her it is not a fight that she has an interest in taking part.

The reality is that she has no control over the military. The military is largely independent, the military controls the army that defends the home affair, the border police, the guards. I mean, ed they are really the ones who are driving this campaign and they are the one on which the focus should be.

She's not helping, she could be helping at the rhetorical level but really the focus is on the military and making them accountable for what really amounts as crimes against humanity.

CHURCH: Nicholas Bequelin of Amnesty International, thank you so much for coming on and explaining the situation there on the ground. It is horrifying and the images are as well when we hear the stories from people coming out of Myanmar into Bangladesh. Many thanks for joining us.

Now in the coming days, the Communist Party Congress now underway in Beijing will hand President Xi Jinping unprecedented control of the country. He is riding a wave of popularity seldom seen in Chinese history.

And we get a closer look now from CNN's Ivan Watson who is in Beijing.

IVAN WATSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Welcome to five years of sheer endeavor, that's the name of this exhibit in Beijing that's timed with the national Congress of the Communist Party of China. It's an event that takes place once every five years. it's aimed at reshuffling and rejuvenating the country's leadership. It's also a chance to celebrate patriotism and the flag.

[03:50:05] This exhibit celebrates the achievements of China under its communist system of one party rule. So it highlights accomplishments in agriculture and technology, space exploration, economic growth over past decades that has lifted millions of people out of poverty but is now slowing down.

And there's one star throughout all of this and that is of course the leader Xi Jinping.

One of the hallmarks of Xi Jinping's first five years in office has been a very popular anti-corruption campaign. So here we see some photos of former top officials who have been arrested on charges of graft.

However, some observers argue that this is an opportunity for the leader to purge the ranks of the ruling party of potential rivals. The campaign has been accompanied by a real crackdown on dissent. So you've seen an expansion of censorship, not only of the internet but also of the domestic media.

One of the tools Xi has used to consolidate power has been a remarkable propaganda bliss which some describe as simply a cult of personality and it depicts the Chinese leader as not only a man of the people but also as a respected international statesman.

And China really hasn't seen anything quite like this in decades, not since the days of this man, the founder of communist China, Mao Zedong.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Xi has become our people's idol here in China not only because he is the paramount leader of our county but also because he is a -- his personality.


WATSON: Xi Jinping is increasingly willing to flex China's economic and military muscle whether it's through huge international investment and infrastructure projects or by laying claim to almost all of the South China Sea despite objections from the U.S. and more than a half dozen other states in the region.

The party Congress will be a chance for Xi to remind the world that under his leadership China is a rising superpower.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Beijing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, Australia is already one of the happiest countries in the world but it just might reach the pinnacle if test for burrito delivery drones go as planned.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine this, you place an order within 1o minutes a drone delivers your food. Now if that's not groundbreaking I don't know what is.


CHURCH: Google affiliate Project Wing is teaming up with a Mexican taqueria chain to bring edible bundles of joy right to people's yards. And they have had some trouble though at navigating obstacles like trees and power lines but it's safe to say they've got a whole lot of hungry people cheering them on.

(Inaudible) Right? Investor George Soros has given $18 billion to his pro-democracy foundation. That's the majority of his estimated $24 billion fortune. His gift to the open society foundations makes it one of the largest charities in the world. The foundation works to promote human rights and support marginalized groups including refugees, the LGBT community and minorities.

[03:55:06] Soros is also a prominent donor to U.S. Democratic Party. And while Soros is giving away his money, Donald Trump is apparently losing some of his. The Forbes list of richest Americans chose the U.S. president's fortune is on a downward slide.

Our Jeanne Moos reports.

JEANNE MOOS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: President Trump has a rich vocabulary when it comes to counting his wealth.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm really rich. I'm very rich. I'm much richer that anybody ever dreamed. Nobody knows how rich I am.


MOOS: Actually Forbes says it does another rich maybe getting richer, President Trump isn't. Last year his net worth was estimated at $3.7 billion, now it's down to 3.1. President Trump not going to like this. He fell 92 spots. Last year he was 156 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, now he skidded to 248.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Truth be told the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: Michael Bloomberg by the way is eighth on the list. The top three are Bill Gates, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett. Trump has estimated his own net worth.


TRUMP: Well over $10 billion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which is laughable, it's comical, it's comical.


MOOS: Critics cough at Trump estimates.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At Forbes he long had a the Donald Trump rule which is whatever Donald Trump says we usually end up to divide it by three to what the real numbers.

TRUMP: When I say about the 10 billion I'm not doing that to brag. Who cares?


MOOS: The same day the list came out, Trump tweeted, "so much fake news being put in dying magazines and newspapers. Fiction writers."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, like Trump is not a rich man. Donald Trump is like what a hobo imagines a rich man to be.

TRUMP: It turned out that I'm much richer than people think.


MOOS: And no one seems to think about it more.


TRUMP: I made a fortune.


MOOS: Then Donald Trump.


TRUMP: A vast fortune.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: And thanks for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter. I love to hear from you. The news continues now with Hannah Vaughan Jones in London.

You are watching CNN. Have a great day.