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CNN NEWSROOM

Colombian Veterans among Suspects in Moise Assassination; War in Afghanistan; Delta Variant Causing COVID-19 Surge across Asia. Aired 12-12:15a ET

Aired July 10, 2021 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Let's begin in Haiti, where the search for the masterminds and the motive behind the assassination of the president is ramping up. Police say 20 suspects have been arrested. A manhunt underway for at least 5 others.

Authorities described the group as professional killers, and they include two American citizens and several retired members of the Colombian military. Haiti's government has asked the U.S. and the United Nations to help with the investigation and also to send troops to secure oil terminals and ports of entry.

The White House says officials from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security will be traveling as soon as possible to Haiti. CNN's Matt Rivers has more now from Port-au-Prince.

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MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Haitian police wasting no time as the countrywide manhunt for the final suspects in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise intensifies.

Less than 48 hours after his murder, authorities released details about the suspect, some of whom they came are in this video.

Police say there are a total of 28 people involved in the attack. Three have been killed, 17 are in custody and now they're looking for the final eight.

Authorities also say 26 of them are Colombians and two are Haiti- Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DEA operation, everybody stand down.

RIVERS (voice-over): This audio recording that CNN has not been able to independently verify allegedly captures the moment the assassins gained access to the private presidential residence the night of the attack. Officials say the men posed as U.S. Drug Enforcement agents to get in.

As police cleaned up the scene of the shootout, they had with some of the assassins, all that remains, burned out cars, bullet holes and bloodstains.

So this is all that's left of one of the cars that officials say suspects in this assassination were using when they engaged in a shootout with police. This car as well was involved, and you can see a bullet hole here that was left over as a result of that shootout.

The aftermath of that night shaking the country's already fragile political state. Confusion abounds over who is actually in charge.

In the hours after Moise's murder, Haiti's interim prime minster, Claude Joseph, assumed power and took command of the police and military, declaring a, quote, state of siege, temporarily putting the country under martial law. Experts say it's not clear if he can do that.

But Moise appointed a new prime minster just days before he died, Ariel Henry, who was supposed to be sworn in this week. Henry says he should be the one leading the mourning nation right now, though it looks unlikely Joseph will step aside.

CLAUDE JOSEPH, ACTING HAITIAN PRIME MINISTER: The constitution is clear -- I have to organize elections and actually pass the power to someone else who is elected.

RIVERS (voice-over): Matt Rivers, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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HOLMES: The Taliban are seizing territory more and more rapidly in Afghanistan now that the U.S. troop exit is nearly complete. Two strategic border crossings are now under their control. Anna Coren reports on the latest developments from Kabul.

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ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Taliban continues to make sweeping gains across Afghanistan, seizing one of the country's main trading gateways with Iran. The militants took control of the dry port of Islam Qala in the western province of Herat, where millions of dollars worth of fuel and supplies cross.

The Taliban also claimed another border crossing bordering Turkmenistan. The government says security forces are attempting to recapture these key areas. It comes after President Biden vigorously defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces and end America's 20- year war in Afghanistan.

He said the decision was overdue that America did not come here to nation build and that it was up to the Afghan government and its security forces to defend its people.

Meantime, a delegation from the Taliban meeting with the Russian government in Moscow gave a press conference, stating that it had claimed 85 percent of Afghan territory, a figure denied by the government.

It also said that humanitarian groups should keep operating, that schools and hospitals must stay open and that the border crossings and customs offices which have been seized will remain operational.

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COREN: But attempts to portray the extreme Islamist group as an alternate governing body is not convincing anyone. The fighting continues to rage on the battlefield, with tens of thousands of people being displaced, while those who can plan for an exit strategy out of this country -- Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.

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HOLMES: The U.S. is turning up the pressure on Moscow to go after ransomware groups that operate in Russia. President Joe Biden and also Vladimir Putin speaking about that issue by phone on Friday.

Biden says he told the Russian leader he needs to take action against criminal cyber groups. But if he doesn't, Biden says there will be a price to pay.

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QUESTION: Up until now the U.S. response has been to exercise sanctions -- impose sanctions on Russia for this malign activity.

Does it make sense for the U.S. to take it up a notch and attack the actual servers that are used?

BIDEN: Yes.

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HOLMES: Russian-based hackers have been blamed for a string of recent high-profile attacks on U.S. businesses and infrastructure.

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HOLMES: U.S. health officials are reassuring Americans that they don't need a third coronavirus shot right now.

That's coming after Pfizer announced it has seen waning immunity from its vaccine and is trying to develop a booster for emergency authorization in the U.S.

But the CDC director says, in the rare cases where vaccinated people get infected, they aren't experiencing serious illness and that proves the shots are working. Dr. Anthony Fauci agrees.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: Nothing has changed with regard to the CDC's recommendations. So, we respect what the pharmaceutical company is doing but the American public should take their advice from the CDC and the FDA. The CDC and the FDA say if you have been fully vaccinated at this point in time, you do not need a booster shot.

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HOLMES: And Pfizer and a host of other vaccines have been shown to be effective against the highly transmissible Delta variant. But that variant is hitting East Asia and the South Pacific particularly hard. Countries that were once success stories at containing COVID are now struggling to cope with escalating infections. Kristie Lu Stout explains.

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KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across Asia, the Delta variant is fueling a growing wave of new COVID-19 cases. In Thailand, coronavirus deaths are climbing.

The country has ordered new restrictions in the capital Bangkok and surrounding provinces starting on Monday, including mall closures as well as limits on travel and social gatherings.

Cases are also spiking in Vietnam. Both the capital, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh city have tightened restrictions to contain the virus.

Indonesia has reported a record number of deaths fueled by the Delta variant. Save the Children is warning that many more children will die there.

Its humanitarian Chief in Indonesia says this, "The health system is on the verge of collapse. Hospitals are already being overwhelmed. Oxygen supplies are running out and health services in Java and Bali are woefully ill-equipped to handle this surge in critically ill patients."

South Korea is raising its pandemic restrictions to the highest level in and around the capital, Seoul, from Monday. Health ministry officials said that the country is in a "dire situation," with the Delta variant detected at an increasingly fast pace in the greater Seoul area. Only 11 percent of the country's population is fully vaccinated.

Japan has also been hit with a sharp rise in infection. Following a new state of emergency in Tokyo, Olympic organizers on Thursday said that they would ban all spectators from Olympic venues in and around the city. Just over 15 percent of Japan's population is fully vaccinated.

China has reported its highest daily tally of infection since January, with all local cases from Ruili. It's a city in Yunnan Province, which borders Myanmar. Parts of the city are in full lockdown. According to local officials, some patients were infected with the Delta variant.

In Australia, the state of New South Wales on Thursday reported its biggest daily rise in locally acquired cases this year. The outbreak began with an unvaccinated driver catching the Delta variant from a flight crew member. Just over 9 percent of the population in New South Wales has been fully vaccinated.

The Delta variant is also ravaging the Pacific Island nation of Fiji. The mortuary in Fiji's main hospital is already filled to capacity. Earlier on, countries across Asia have managed the coronavirus with some success.

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STOUT: But the highly contagious Delta strain, along with the slow pace of vaccination in countries like South Korea, Australia, and Indonesia, have given rise to a devastating new wave of the pandemic -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.

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HOLMES: Pressure mounting on Olympic organizers as Tokyo 2020 now less than two weeks away. The games will appear vastly different this year, of course, with fans banished from events in and around the Japanese capital because of COVID concerns. CNN's Blake Essig is in Tokyo for us.

Yes, this decision, for the most part, no fans, it will really change the look of these Olympics.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michael, there's no question. The fact that you're not going to have fans, the atmosphere and the energy that we would expect with an Olympics, is not going to exist this time around.

Organizers have announced that events in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures will be held without spectators and that includes the torch relay currently underway in Tokyo being held behind closed doors.

The spectator ban also likely will cover competitions held in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, where the marathon, race walk, and some football matches will be held. At this time, only a handful of events taking place in Miyagi, Shizuoka and Fukushima, where state of emergency orders are not in effect, will allow venues to be filled to 50 percent capacity or a maximum of 10,000 spectators.

It's a big blow for Olympic organizers, hoping to recoup some of the roughly $15 billion spent to host the games, fans excited about experiencing the games in person and for the athletes, looking to feed off the crowds' energy.

This decision was made at a time when Tokyo is experiencing another surge in COVID-19 cases, largely driven by the Delta variant. Just this week, cases reached its highest number since mid-May and the vaccine rollout is still moving incredibly slow.

Most recent numbers have the fully vaccinated Japanese population at 17 percent. And as a result, Thursday, Japan's prime minister declared a fourth state of emergency for the capital, lasting until August 22nd. And that order mainly impacts bars and restaurants. They are asked to close early and not serve alcohol -- Michael.

HOLMES: Blake, thank you very much, Blake Essig there in Tokyo.

Police in Bangladesh are investigating an enormous fire on Thursday that officials say killed at least 52 people. The flames broke out at a juice factory near the capital. Firefighters finally got it under control the next day.

State-run media said the building contained flammable substances, such as clarified butter, which made the fire harder to fight. Some victims died as they jumped off the roof, trying to escape the flames. Many factories in the region do not meet adequate fire and building safety standards.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Stay tuned for "MARKETPLACE AFRICA." I'll see you a little later.