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Terror Attack on Egyptian Mosque; Interview with Former Astronaut Scott Kelly

Aired November 27, 2017 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Today, an exclusive interview with the Egyptian foreign minister following the country's worst terror attack in

recent years.

SHERIF ISMAIL, PRIME MINISTER OF EGYPT: The number of casualties 305 including 27 children. I think has left a very deep impact, not only in

Egypt but world wide.

AMANPOUR: Later in the program, he spent a year in space but what does Scott Kelly make of the big issues back on Earth. The retired astronaut on

climate gun control and why kids need to reach for the stars.

SCOTT KELLY, RETIRED AMERICAN ASTRONAUT: I am - was absolutely inspired that if we can dream it, we can do it and I encourage kids out there to

find the things they are passionate about and go out there and fix them.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. They went to pray but instead, they were

slaughtered. Egypt is mourning the death of more than 300 suu kyi muslims, a staggeringly high number. After their mosque was bombed and shot up

during Friday prayers in the Cyanide.

Witnesses say 20 to 30 gunmen stormed the building and they were waving the flag of ISIS. Ben Wedeman is in Cairo and he filed this exclusive report

and a warning, some of the video you're about to see may be disturbing.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN REPORTER: Blood and gore soaked the mosque's carpet, splashed on the walls and stained the pavement at the entrance. The

authorities have banned the media from going to the site of the worst terrorist attack in Egyptian history but CNN has obtained exclusive video

and account from eye witnesses.

This young man's father was killed in the massacre. He recalls men in military uniform with long hair firing indiscriminately into the mosque.

Off camera, another eye witness says he heard the attacks shout they would kill all infidels. He said the militants had threatened this Sufi build

mosque five time sin the past.

The ISIS affiliate here, (INAUDIBLE), or the province of Sinai has yet to claim responsibility but a statement from the public prosecutors said the

attackers numbering between 25 and 30 waived Isis's black banner.

For years, the Sinai has been a battle ground between militants and Egyptian state. In the chaos of the 2011 uprising that toppled the regime

of Hosni Mubarak, thousands escaped from prison, many going to the Sinai. Shortly afterwards, one group, (INAUDIBLE), emerged pledging it's

allegiance to ISIS in 2014, renaming itself (INAUDIBLE).

The waged a relentless guerilla war against the army and the police, hiding among the population resentful of the heavy hand of the government in far

off Cairo. By some estimates, they killed more than 1,000 soldiers and policemen. (INAUDIBLE) claimed responsibility for the 2015 downing of

Metro Jet Flight 9268, killing all 224 passengers and crew.

And it carried out a series of attacks in the Nile Valley inside a Coptic Cathedral in Cairo and this year boasted of attacking churches in Tanta and

Alexandria on Palm Sunday. Friday's mosque massacre is the first time they've targeted a Muslim house of worship and that's a new and dramatic

change in targets warns analyst H. A. Hellyer.

H. A. HELLYER, ANALYST: With the Christian attacks, it seems to be aimed they're creating some sort of divide within society. They then take

advantage of, they failed and now they're just going after anybody that doesn't actually support what they want to do. And I think that's really

the message that people have to take away from this. There is no type of target anymore when it comes to groups like this, everyone's a target

unless they're on their side.

WEDEMAN: Hours after Friday's attack, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi vowed to respond to the terrorist with brute force. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to

visit the wounded in hospital, his prescription for the terrorist, no mercy. Killing them would be best he says. To end the blood shed in

Sinai, more blood shed.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Cairo.


AMANPOUR: In the wake of that attack, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said that it will galvanize an Islamic military coalition aimed

at ridding the world of Islamist terror. Egypt is part of that coalition and earlier I spoke to the country's foreign minister Sameh Shoukry about

the massacre in the Sinai and how to rid Egypt of this terror. Foreign Minister welcome to the program.

SHOUKRY: How do you do?

AMANPOUR: A truly horrendous slaughter in the Sinai over the weekend. What is the latest -- what do you know as a government as to who did it and

what can be done about it?

SHOUKRY: We're in the process of collecting information related to this heinous attack and the government has already targeted several sites in

Sinai where there are potential terrorists' activity and terrorist groupings and we will continue to investigate and ascertain the responsible

parties and continue to impact their presence in the Sinai.

AMANPOUR: So are you surprised that there's been no claim of responsibility?

SHOUKRY: Usually there are claims I think the nature of this attack and the casualties having targeted innocent civilians during their worship --

during their prayers -- Friday prayers. The numbers of causalities, 305 including 27 children I think has left a very deep impact not only in

Egypt, but worldwide related to the barbarism and related to the absolutely inhuman activity that these terrorists are undertaken, the loss of life of

this magnitude can only bring upon them the wrath and the absolute lack of any form of acceptance or any form of -- any courses of justification for

such a terrible attack.

AMANPOUR: Can you tell us the sort of mechanics of how that many people were killed? I mean people went into the mosque with automatic weapons,

but were they killing people as they came out? How does that many people get killed?

SHOUKRY: The initial investigation has ascertained that there was a limited explosion inside the mosque and as the worshipers were fleeing the

site, they were surrounded by terrorists with arms who were shooting those who were fleeing the site. It was a very exchange -- a heavy utilization

of fire power that resulted in the very high number of casualties.

AMANPOUR: So obviously the focus is on the government and what the government should have known about it and what the government can do to

prevent this happening again. It's not the first attack in the Sinai and obviously since the attack people have been saying that they had been

warned several things; don't collaborate with the government as they crack down in this region, and don't come and do these worships being as they're

Sufis. Did the government receive these warnings and do you accept that you didn't do enough to protect these people?

SHOUKRY: The government does everything it has abilities to protect its citizens whether in the Sinai or anywhere else. As we have seen across the

globe terrorists activity especially where it is targeting soft targets, non-military targets has usually the ability to impact and to target these

innocent civilians. It is a matter that must be addressed from the perspective that no government is able to protect each and every of its

citizens, but we must do our utmost to deal with the terrorist threat and to irradiate the terrorist threat through the utilization of our own

intelligence abilities. But also through the cooperation and the assistance of our international partners, this is I think a very vital

issue related to the international communities' dedicated war against terror, no one state can undertake this on its own but it must be

collaborative activity by the international community.

AMANPOUR: So what do you think is going on because we're told by the international community, by the United States, Syria, Iraq ISIS has been

defeated that it's been run out of Mosul; it's been run out of Raqqa. What do you think is going on then? Why is happening still in the Sinai?

SHOUKRY: Well we have warned on many occasions that as the international community has been successful in eradicating and pushing out ISIS from Iraq

and Syria that there is a potential that some of the foreign fighters that have fled those areas of conflict might infiltrate other parts of the

region, whether Egypt, Libya and Sub-Saharan Africa. And I think they're - - those warning were -- were quite justified.

And we are seeing a increased level of foreign fighters that are crossing borders, that are fleeing areas of conflict in Syria and Iraq and winding

up in various parts of Africa.

AMANPOUR: Let's move on to Yemen. I'm wondering whether you think Yemen may one day produce the kind of blowback that we're seeing in Sinai and

elsewhere. And what do you make of the blockade that's been on the country and the fact that it's been lifted after three weeks now? The Saudi have

lifted, partially, a blockade and aid has gotten through?

What is your reaction to that?

SHOUKRY: Well we've been very sensitive to the humanitarian situation in Yemen and have been appealing to all sides to undertake political

negotiations and dialogue to resolve the conflict there so that the humanitarian conditions and needs of the Yemeni people can be addressed.

We see that the united Nations and the organizations that are providing assistance must do more and -- and more assistance must enter Yemen to meet

the needs of the Yemeni people.

But again, the conflict is ongoing and we must find a political solution to it on the basis of the resolutions of security councils and the efforts of

the U.N. envoy.

AMANPOUR: Can I just turn a little bit to, you know, relationships with the press? As you've seen, President Trump tweeted about CNN International

over the weekend. And we were actually kind of shocked to see your own foreign ministry spokesman tweeting about the attack in the Sinai, saying

as usual, deplorable CNN coverage of Sinai tragedy today. Anchor more interested in reporters' access to Sinai than in those who lost their


I guess I need to ask do you support that kind of tweet against us? Because we have -- and many journalists have really applied many times to

have embeds (ph) with your forces to try to cover what's going on in the Sinai and we have been denied. So I just need to know from you where you

stand on the free press trying to do it's honest job.

SHOUKRY: Well the free press is a -- a -- a very important institution, whether local Egyptian press or the international press, I hope you will

recognize that. Sinai -- and that area of Sinai is an area of military activity and conflict as we have seen, terrorists most often target foreign

nationals in addition to Egyptian nationals in that area to terrorize and to victimize them and -- and to intimidate them into submission to their


Always, a free press is certainly acceptable, but I think in this particular circumstance, and I have to say -- commend (ph) today's

reporting by CNN that displayed more the carnage and the -- the -- the devastation that occurred and highlighted the -- the -- those who have lost

their lives and the dimensions of this barbaric attack. I think that is the issue. The issue is the lives lost. The issues is -- are the children

that have been lost and how that is impacting not only the society there but Egypt generally.

We are in a state of mourning and I think we have the right to mourn 305 Egyptians who have lost their life and 27 children and to feel the sympathy

and the pain of their fathers and mothers, husbands and wives who have lost their dear ones. That is the issue. The issue is the terrorism, the

barbarism and the ideology behind this, which is targeting for intimidation, for destabilization, not only of the Sinai but of Egypt and

the region as a whole.

AMANPOUR: All right. Mr. Foreign Minister, as you know, we're well accustomed to covering war zones and we would like to be able to cover that

kind of civilian suffering. So hopefully we will be able to in the future. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, thank you very much indeed.

SHOUKRY: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And when we come back, an upside-down world for the man who fell back to earth after a year long hiatus in space. Astronaut Scott Kelly on

endurance. Our conversation, next.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: We last spoke to astronaut Scott Kelly by NASA's live hook up with the International Space Station that was in 2015. Now

he's back in (terafoam) telling the story of holding America's record for the most consecutive days in space.

He returned in 2016 to find his country electing Donald Trump, pulling out of the International Climate Accord and made an epidemic of mass shootings.

And on that issue, Kelly's family stands up, in 2011 his sister in-law, the former congress-woman Gabrielle Gifford was shot in the head and her story

and activism are well know for America.

As a believer in gun rights and climate signs, Scott Kelly has grappled with these issues which we discussed when he joined me to talk about

Endurance; the title of his new book.

You've seen some amazing things, you're back on (teraferma), what's it been like being back?

SCOTT KELLY, RETIRED AMERICAN ASTRONAUT: Well Earth is great, it's a great planet that we have, it could be better of course, I think...

AMANPOUR: We'll discuss what could be better.

KELLY: Yeah, we'll discuss that I hope but yeah, it's great to be back from such an incredible experience.

AMANPOUR: How difficult is it, what are the rigors? The physical rigors?

KELLY: Well it's a harsh environment you have because you're floating and micro grabbing essentially zero gravity, our body's recognize that and they

recognize that you no longer need your skeleton or your muscles so as far as your bones, it gets rid of that at 1 percent a month if you didn't do

anything about it so if you didn't exercise after 100 months you'd be an invertebrate.

AMANPOUR: That is incredible. I have absolutely - so that is one of the reasons why you all are so rigorously exercising up there?

KELLY: Yes, to prevent bone loss, muscle loss.

AMANPOUR: They obviously do a lot of experiments when you're all up in the space. You are half of a pair of twins, you're brother, Mark Kelly,

everyone also knows is an astronaut and NASA did some experiments testing you versus your brother who is on a- what did they do? What did they find


KELLY: They found out that I am more handsome and more intelligent.

AMANPOUR: Apart from that?

KELLY: Oh aside from that, so a few things so far. Science s a large process so there will be research papers being published for the coming

years, they did learn that my telomeres which are these things on the ends of our chromosomes, the length and the quality which is an indication of

our physical age, that the hypothesis were that my telomeres would get shorter so, in the direction of getting older compared to my brother Mark

what they found was the exact opposite.

AMANPOUR: Wow, so basically what you're saying I think is that actually you were under less stress in space than Mark who was on Earth and he

showed more aging.


AMANPOUR: Something horrifying that you experienced as a family, you and Mark and his wife Gabby, I covered the assassination attempt against Gabby

Gifford's in Arizona when you were in space and you had to hear about it when you were up there and since you've been down you have also been around

to see another mass shooting in the United States, actually when you were on, many mass shootings over the last year.

What's the right way for American's to have their guns and have the country be safe?

KELLY: You know, I'm a believer in the second amendment as my brother and Gabby are as well. But I will say that what we're doing now, clearly

doesn't work and when something is not working we need to do something else. And I think we're past time to doing something else to fix this

problem that takes many, many American lives every single day. We need to do something.

AMANPOUR: What do you think more needs to be done to convince the die hards that they're not going to have their guns taken away from them, that

it's not sort of a - we hear from people who say oh well we've got - what do they say, I think 300 million guns in the United States.

KELLY: More than people, I think.

AMANPOUR: More than people. And we'll never be able to get rid of them. Well, we know that that's not true because the Australians did a national

buy back. So, there are ways to make things safer. Why is it that American NRA and those who call themselves Second Amenders don't want to

believe that?

KELLY: You know, I'm a gun owner myself. So, but -

AMANPOUR: You would want sensible gun control.

KELLY: Yes, gun control - I would say sensible laws with regard to who's allowed to buy a gun, who's allowed to use a gun.

AMANPOUR: Does it pain you that your sister in law was nearly gunned down and killed by this crazy person who came up to her in one of her most

important democratic businesses? She's meeting her voters and constituents and still despite what happened to her people are obstinate about this.

KELLY: Yes. You know, it's heartbreaking what happened to her and the other people, a 10 year old girl was killed that day, Christina-Taylor



KELLY: Yes, it's just hard to comprehend why this continues to happen in our country and many, many people are OK with the status quo. This is just

how it's going to be. Hard to understand.

AMANPOUR: Are you worried also about the status quo and this is just how the Trump administration wants it to be when it comes to the climate. That

clearly must be your issue having been up in space and seeing so vividly what's at stake down here.

KELLY: Yes. So we have a beautiful planet. We should be very, very - we should feel very fortunate but parts of it - parts of it are visibly

polluted from space. And now we are alone in the world as the - not only the most powerful and the richest nation on Earth but the only one that

denies climate change.

And I personally think that everyone should have the right to have their own opinion. What I have a hard time understanding is when you are not a

scientist, when you are not a climatologist, for you to somehow say well those 97 percent of the experts that have studies this issue their whole

lives, they're all wrong and me with no experience in this issue, with no background, with no understanding I am right.

AMANPOUR: And, finally after all your experience and this unbelievable experience you've had up in space, what would you say to young boys and

girls who either looking for a career or an experience here or in the greater world. Whether it's about climate or the political issues and gun

control, what would you say to young people?

KELLY: You know, my experience in being part of NASA over 20 years and flying in space and spending all this time on the space station the

facility is absolutely amazing that we built this thing, it weighs a million pounds, the side of a football pitch. We did this as this

international partnership of 15 countries, different languages, different cultures, different ways of doing things.

We can do anything. We can go to Mars if we want to go to Mars, we can cure cancer if we put the resources behind it, we can fix our problems with

the environment, issues that we have especially in the United States which we have many.

I am - was absolutely inspired that if we can dream it we can do it. And I encourage kids out to find the things they are passionate about and go out

there and fix them because these are problems, problems can be solves.

AMANPOUR: And, we close on that incredible image of Mars.

KELLY: Look at that.

AMANPOUR: Look at that. Scott Kelly, thank you so much.

KELLY: Pleasure to be here. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: The view from space. Now, you heard me read out the anti-CNN tweet from Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman earlier. So, next when the

leader of the free world joins the clamor imagine a world without a credible, free and independent press.


AMANPOUR: Imagine a world where the President of the United States escalates his war with the free press. Over Thanksgiving weekend he

Tweetedthis broadsided, CNN International. Outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of fake news and they represent our

nation to the world very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them.

Now Trump followed up today, kind of challenging us all to a dual. This is shocking for what it says about the state of mind of the leader of the free

world and for all that authorizing authoritarian regimes around the world to target CNN and other independent news outlets.

My colleague, Ben Wedeman, responded to Trump with this illustrated Tweet. At CNN International we shed blood to bring you the news. Nothing fake

about that. And I Tweeted about my own experience, for instance, dodging bullets with colleagues while covering the Bosnian War, and I also showed

CNN camera woman, Margaret Moth, who was shot in the face during that war.

Trumps Tweet prompted a flood of support to CNN and all journalists who are willing to sacrifice in pursuit of the truth. Without that sacrifice and

that service, all that remains is propaganda and lies, damned lies.

That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast at any time. You can see us online at And follow me

on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and good bye from London.