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Raid by Russian Special Forces; Tsarnaev's Russian Connection; King Attacks Holder on Miranda Rights; Investigating or Racial Profiling; "Misha" Comes into Focus; FBI Eyes Suspect's Trip to Russia; Manhunt for Child's Killer

Aired April 29, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you. Good to see you, John.

The global search for answers in the Boston marathon bombings turns to Russia. Take a listen.

You are looking and listening at special forces carrying out a spectacular raid on a militant group. One of those killed, a radical who may -- may being a key word -- have had ties to one of the Boston suspects.

Meanwhile, layer upon layer of tributes blanket Boylston Street. Two weeks to the day since the attacks, Bostonians pause to honor the victims.

This is NEWSROOM and we begin right now.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Chris Cuomo here in New York with this special edition of NEWSROOM. Carol Costello is on special assignment in Boston. We're going to check in with her in just a minute.

We're going to start this hour with new information on Boston bombing suspect, the older brother now dead, his possible ties to Islamic extremists halfway across the world in the forests of Dagestan.

We're going to keep showing you this because this is the latest. This is the urgency of the investigation here. That is where Russian special forces took out two members of a militant group called the Abu Dujana. It all went down in the violent raid that we're showing you here because this is the latest picture we have.

Nick Paton Walsh is live in Moscow.

Nick, help us connect the dots here. What if anything is the connection?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you've just seen there, that raid picture, is what resulted in the death -- I'm sorry -- what you're seeing there is a raid which resulted in him -- in a raid against a hideout there in Dagestan where militants working under the group Abu Dujana were under attack by Russian Security Services.

What you're seeing there, of course, is the death of a man called Shakhrudin Askhabov. Now e is part of Abu Dujana's militant group.

Why does that relate back to the Boston bombings? It's simply because Tamerlan Tsarnaev linked from his YouTube account on to that particular page with Abu Dujana where he showed extremist video of himself.

Now this raid carried out very early in the morning yesterday. Russian special forces tracking down Askhabov. It's not clear if Askhabov met Tsarnaev or even if Abu Dujana, who used to be the leader of this group that Askhabov worked in, if he met Tsarnaev. What we do know is this hunt is ongoing here inside Russia. Early yesterday morning Special Forces tracking these people down and that these men belonged to a group linked to on -- by video on Tamerlan Tsarnaev's YouTube account -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. All right. So now we're getting at it, Nick. Let's take a half a step backwards because one of the big key questions here is who is driving the information. Is there the coordinated effort now that we're worried was it in place before?

Your understanding, is this about Russian intelligence, what they believe may have been a connection? Is the U.S. involved in coordinating? What do we know?

WALSH: Well, this man Askhabov has been wanted by the Russians for quite some time. I've seen his picture up on the wall in a police station in southern Russia. He's part of this Abu Dujana group that Abu Dujana himself directly threatened the police chief in the area you're seeing the raid from, as well. So they've always wanted him.

The thing you have to ask yourself now is the fact this raid is occurring last night very early hours yesterday morning in southern Russia a complete coincidence given the ongoing hunt for information about Boston's bombing or is it connected somehow?

We know the FBI is getting information on back channels from the FSB. We haven't heard a full account from the Russians about what they knew and when and what they're doing here. Is this raid a coincidence or is it somehow connected -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Those are the right questions. Nick, thank you for staying on it. We'll be back to you when you get more information. Take care out there.

All right. Now we know in the days following his arrest, the younger brother gave investigators good leads in the case. Sources say ever since he was read his Miranda rights that communication has stopped. Not unusual. This weekend Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the controversy for the very first time. Take a listen.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The decision to Mirandize him was one that the magistrate made and that was totally consistent with the laws that we have. We had a two-day period that we were able to question him under the public safety exception. So I think everything was done appropriately and we got -- we got good leads.


CUOMO: And that would be the balance. Good leads versus giving him an opportunity to no longer speak. Holder is therefore getting criticism from a familiar face. New York Congressman Peter King was on the attack. Take a listen to what he says.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I don't know any case law which says a magistrate has the right to come into a hospital room and stop an interrogation. And I don't know why the attorney general of the United States consented to that. The FBI wanted to continue the interrogation. And Eric Holder now is -- said he approved that interrogation being stopped. It's absolutely disgraceful because that interrogation could have ended up saving many American lives.

We don't know what the full consequences are going to be. Who else is involved. Who was involved then? Who could be involved in the future? And we may not know because of Eric Holder.


CUOMO: All right. Politics getting in the way here. Now obviously want to stay focused on the purpose that's why we'll go to Carol Costello joining us from Boston right now.

Good morning, Carol. These two obviously not going to see eye to eye on this.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: No, and they haven't seen eye to eye frankly, Chris, for quite some time. It was just a couple of years ago that Congressman Peter King wrote an op-ed in the "New York Post" calling for Eric Holder's resignation. At the time King was really upset that Eric Holder suggested that terrorists from the 9/11 attacks be tried in civilian courts instead of military tribunals.

As I said at the time, Peter King was extremely angry at that, saying Eric holder didn't understand democracy, didn't understand how to protect the country and certainly didn't understand how to deal with terrorists. So as you can see, politics are playing out and this is just a continuation of that bad blood between Peter King and Eric Holder.

CUOMO: Gets in the way when we're trying to deal with something so purposeful. Another point of contention is, where do we focus here. Congressman King very focused on the Muslim community, right?

COSTELLO: Very focused on the Muslim community. In fact local Muslims here in Boston say Peter King is suggesting racial profiling. They tell me -- in fact they told me yesterday that they're already suffering backlash from the bombing attacks here in Boston. And that Peter King's comments over the weekend have just made that backlash worse.


COSTELLO (voice-over): As Bostonians continue to mourn and ask why, the political fight over how to prevent another attack rages on. If you ask Republican Congressman Peter King, he'll tell you, well, forget about being politically correct.

KING: Most Muslims are outstanding people, but the threat is coming from the Muslim community. Just yesterday Tom Friedman who is certainly no conservatives said we must ask the question only Muslims can answer. What is going on in your community that a critical number of your youth believes that every American military action in the Middle East justifies a violent response? It's coming from the community.

COSTELLO: King says it is imperative for police to ramp up surveillance of Muslim communities.

NASSER WEDADDY, DIRECTOR, AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS: Clearly everything that has been done in the past decade has failed.

COSTELLO: Nasser Wedaddy is the director of the American Islamic Congress in Boston. Nine days after the 9/11 attacks Wedaddy says he was detained by police, put in a cell for five hours and then interrogated, a victim he says of what Peter King is suggesting. Racial profiling.

WEDADDY: Understand that not all Muslims look a certain way, that not all Muslims are religious, and that most Muslims belong to different sects, same different faith traditions.

COSTELLO: Others like Congressman Keith Ellison who is Muslim says King's laser focus on the Muslim community may divert attention away from other threats. Like the man accused of sending President Obama a letter laced with ricin, a terrorist act police say that did not involve Islamic extremism.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNEAPOLIS: We don't have enough law enforcement resources to just go after one community and remember, we went after a community in World War II. And the Japanese interment is a national sting on our -- on our country and we're still apologizing for it.

COSTELLO: Politics aside, back in Boston, most just want to know why. And sadly that answer is slow in coming.


COSTELLO: And Chris, Wedaddy also said instead of surveilling the Muslim community, authorities should try to engage the Muslim community. That way there could be more cooperation and by all accounts the Muslim community here in Boston is cooperating with authorities.

CUOMO: All right, Carol, lost your mike there at the end, the point Carol is making is of course the right one, that you can't look at an entire community for the acts of a few. The Muslim community has been reaching out. We have reports about how in Canada members actually helped investigators identify the plot that they took down there before anything bad could happen.

We all know that commonsense sometimes gets confused with the urgency of a situation. So we're hoping that politics aside we move forward just looking for bad guys, not just examining entire communities.

Now on the topic of looking for bad guys also new this morning, details on Misha, the shadowy figure accused of coaxing the older brother toward strict Islamic views. Really extremist views. And the more complete picture comes from Misha himself.

A reporter for the "New York Review" of books tracked him down to a modest Rhode Island apartment that he shares with his elderly parents. He flatly denies the claims of some relatives that he brain washed the older brother. In fact he says and it had been about three years since he had any contact with the suspect. Thirty-nine-year-old says he spoke with the FBI and handed over his computer and cell phone that he is cooperating.

All right. We're going to take a break. When we come back just ahead in the NEWSROOM, the lone surviving suspect in the Boston bombings, of course on lockdown, in his new home. We're going to take you to Ft. Devens, Massachusetts, for a live report.


CUOMO: Back now with more of our special coverage on the investigation into the Boston bombings.

Just moments ago, we learned that new information on someone called Misha. Now we have CNN's Susan Candiotti. She's been working her sources on this story joining us with more right now.

Good morning, Susan. Great to have you. What have you learned?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. Well, I heard your recap a short time ago, so now we have a U.S. government official telling us that in fact a man identifying himself as Misha, the man that you just mentioned, who lives in Rhode Island, did in fact meet with the FBI and did tell his story, claiming that he had nothing to do with possibly radicalizing the older of the two bombing suspects' brothers.

Now we plan to have more information for you on this, Chris, but now we do have official confirmation from a U.S. government official with knowledge of this investigation that in fact the FBI has interviewed this man in Rhode Island -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Good. So let me wrap two into one for you. First of all, a lot of the information on Misha was coming from the family. How do the investigators feel about relying on the family for information and then moving on what is our best newest information about any meetings that may have taken place with the now dead suspect when he was in Russia? CANDIOTTI: Right. Well, of course the FBI is not eliminating anyone from -- and qualifying the interviews that they've been doing with family members and for that matter with anyone else who has had contact with the two brothers. They're casting a wide net here talking to people both here and of course overseas.

And one of the things that they learned just within the last few days, and we can't understand -- of course they can't understand either, why the Russians didn't reveal this before was this intercepted phone call that was made according to two sources with knowledge of this information and the investigation. An intercepted phone call between one of the bombing suspects and his mother who was in Russia at the time in 2011.

Now the content of the conversation we're told by our sources involved the word jihad, but that the conversation was vague. In other words, were they talking about a religious struggle, was there some charity about whether they were talking about specifically an attack somewhere, anywhere.

These are all the questions that the authorities have among others. For example, how long had the Russians been eavesdropping on the mother at least during this visit? Why were they wiretapping her? And again, why were they only revealing this to the FBI within the last few days?

As you know, Chris, the FBI had been contacted by Russia back in 2011 to look at the older brother here, but were given unspecific details and went back a couple of times to ask them, do you have more to share with us? And they didn't and they eventually closed out the investigation.

Well, of course investigators are saying it certainly would have helped to have known about the intercepted conversation back in 2011, Chris.

CUOMO: Very interesting, Susan. Kind of balancing what the Russians knew, what they told us, what we acted on. It's very important analysis. Thank you for all of that.

We're going to move on now to the current situation with the surviving 19-year-old Boston bombing suspect. He was a free man. That is a thing of the past for now.

He is currently being held at the federal medical center in ft. Devens, Massachusetts, where inmates requiring special medical treatment are held.

Don Lemon is there.

Hey, Don. How are you? What you can tell us about what his confinement is like?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris.

About 40 miles west of Boston, that's where we are right now. Before I tell you what the cell is like, I want to show you that's the facility, the Devens federal medical center right over my shoulder here, in the background, in the distance.

Normally, there's a checkpoint, but not one before you get to the actual checkpoint, because of this really high profile prisoner that they have now.

Let's take you inside his cell and show you what it's like. It's quite simple. Just a box, a cube, 10 by 10, not much bigger than probably an average bathroom. And then there is a slot so he can get food. It's a metal door.

And there is also a monitor there, because he's being monitored 24 hours a day via closed-circuit television. And then there is a bed, a sink and toilet and that's basically it. They said that he has been communicating. They won't say if he's communicating with investigators, but he's spoken to medical staff about his condition, so he's able to talk to doctors and nurses.

They won't give us his condition. They're referring us to the FBI to talk about his condition, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Don, thank you very much. Obviously, he's going to be there for a while. And hopefully, he'll continue how somehow working with investigators.

Appreciate the reporting. We'll be back to you later. Good to have you on the show.

We're going to take a break now. When we come back, other news.

A rural California community is on edge after the stabbing death of an 8-year-old girl. Who did it? Where are we in the manhunt? We'll give you the latest on the investigation.


CUOMO: You're looking at live pictures from Boston, make shift memorial along Boylston Street. People continue to pause and remember the victims of the bombing which was now two weeks ago today.

Of course, CNN has been continuing special coverage from Boston. We've been looking at the latest on who this Misha is and what may he have meant to this investigation in terms of radicalizing the older brother.

The Russians and what they knew, what they told the U.S. and when, what we acted on, what we did not.

And then we have pictures of this, just last night, Russian authorities a siege. Whom did they target? Is it connected to what's going on with the bomber suspects? We're following that for you. The answer is yes and we'll tell you why. We're following it throughout the morning.

A lot of other news, as well. So, we're going to take you through some headlines.

Security is being increased today at schools in a northern California community after an 8-year-old girl was found stabbed to death in her home.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is following the story in Valley Springs, California.

Good morning, Paul. What's the latest?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, as you can see behind me, there are some sheriff's deputies who are going to put together a very heavy presence not only at the schools but along the school bus routes because nerves are frayed here in California. And these foothill communities, people will tell you they live here because of the low crime rate, because of the tranquility. That peace and quiet was shattered over the weekend.


VERCAMMEN (voice-over): It's a rural community on edge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They had the helicopters going over our house last night.

VERCAMMEN: A place where doors go often unlocked, now bolted shut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sure a lot of families last night locked all their windows and locked all their doors for the first time.

VERCAMMEN: A killer is on the loose -- the killer of an 8-year-old girl, Leila Fowler.

Police say she and her 12-year-old brother were home alone Saturday afternoon when he says he saw an intruder leaving the house. The boy called his parents who called 911. He then found his sister stabbed, severely wounded. She later died.

Since then, police have been running down leads but have no specific suspect.

CAPT. JIM MACEDO, CALAVERAS COUNTY, CALIF. SHERRIF'S DEPT.: We're searching extensively into attics, storage sheds. It is a difficult area to search. It's rural, remote. The grasses are tall right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are a lot of empty homes and outbuildings around here. There's a lot of huge rock croppings where somebody can hide in.

VERCAMMEN: Authorities have combed the home and neighborhood for evidence.

MACEDO: We did collect some fingerprints during that search. And we also collected what we believe to be a DNA. Those prints and that DNA will hopefully be processed within the next week. VERCAMMEN: There will be an added police presence today at schools and bus stops in the area. As one resident said, this kind of thing just does not happen here.


VERCAMMEN: And now back here live, the Fowlers were an extended family, a blended family. The mother is saying that Leila had five brothers and sisters here in the foothills, also three other siblings out of state. Leila would have been nine years old, Chris, in June.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much for the reporting on that. Obviously, as any sketches come up or names or information, we'll get them out to everybody there. Help that community police itself as soon as possible. Appreciate the reporting this morning.

We're going to check on another story this morning, a Philadelphia jury will hear closing arguments today in the trial of an abortion doctor accused of killing babies born alive. Witnesses including former employees of Dr. Kermit Gosnell say they heard will or saw signs of life before babies' necks were cut.

Gosnell has pleaded not guilty. He could face the death penalty if convicted. And remember, this is one of those cases that will raise a larger question about when does life begin? And there is a lot of controversy surrounding it. Important case to watch.

Folks in Houston are cleaning up from flash flooding there. A weekend storm dumped between six to eight inches of rain. Heavy down pour left homes flooded, drivers stranded. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just ridiculous. The waters were at least 2 1/2 feet high in the right lane, so it was nuts.


CUOMO: Officials are still trying to find out just how much damage was done throughout the city.

And now, we got some news from the sports world. The Tim Tebow experiment over for the New York Jets. They released the quarterback today. The move comes after the Jets picked Geno Smith in the NFL draft, which gave the team six quarterbacks. Usually the more you have, the less good ones you have. The Jets signed Tebow last year but rarely used him. Hopefully, he finds a better home for his talents.

Coming up next, Boston may be shaken from the tragic bombings, but it is a strong community that will not back down. We have a live report from Boylston Street's makeshift memorial as our special coverage of the Boston bombing investigation continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CUOMO: You're looking at live pictures of Boston right there right now. Today, two weeks since the explosion has rocked the Boston marathon scarred its famed Boylston Street. The city pauses to remember the victims.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Chris Cuomo in New York with the special he had edition of NEWSROOM.

As Boston residents try and get back to their everyday lives, they now have to redefine what normal is. Carol Costello is live from Boylston Street, the bombing memorial site there.

Carol, what are you hearing from the people in the streets?

COSTELLO: Well, you talk about a new normal, and I think people are doing that or creating a new normal in a great way. I'm standing here at this makeshift memorial at Copley Square, and it's just grown larger and larger.

I wish you could have been here yesterday, over the weekend, Chris, because literally, there are thousands coming through here, leaving flowers and leaving messages, most of them saying, God bless Boston, we pray for you, Boston, we're hear for you, Boston strong.

There's less people here today, of course, because people have to go to work, but let me show you just the scope of this memorial. Here you see teddy bears and flowers and messages. You see crosses over there with those who lost their lives in the Boston marathon bombings.

I'll read just a few messages for you so I can emphasize my point. "Boston strong, prayers and love from Kingston, Mass. Be strong we love you."