KELLY FILE

Exclusive: Firsthand reporter account of humanitarian crisis in Iraq

Journalist describes the crisis on Mount Sinjar

 

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," August 12, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, GUEST HOST: Breaking tonight, dramatic new pictures of a new round of disturbing news out of Iraq. We're getting reports that our air strikes may not stop these terrorists. An eyewitness account suggested our effort to help thousands of Iraqis hunted down for their faith is falling desperately short tonight.

Welcome to "The Kelly File" everybody. I'm Martha MacCallum in for Megyn Kelly.

It has now been more than seven months since "The Kelly File" first reported on the rise of a horrific new terror group in the Middle East. What started as an Al Qaeda offshoot turned into a blood thirsty army known as ISIS launching an offensive over the last year that allowed them to capture Fallujah, Mosul and other Iraqi cities building the world's first terrorist state in a region where Americans spent blood and treasure to liberate Iraqis from the terror of Saddam Hussein.

It has been a little less than a week now since President Obama announced that we would do something about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, I authorize two operations in Iraq. Targeted air strikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians were trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: And so the air strikes began, and the food drops followed, but today the Pentagon admitted that the terrorists have now been changing their tactics, blending into the population, denying our jets an easy target at this point. And that humanitarian mission? Look at some of the video from the mountain top.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(Crying)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Excruciating and it just gets worse. Today, eyewitnesses say that 70 percent of the thousands who took flight are dead. Others are buried alive, and hundreds of women have been taken away as hostages. And those who are left are literally dying of hunger, thirst and exposure as efforts to get them aid are falling desperately short. Reporters today pressed the State Department about what happens now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: We're looking quite frankly at everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Everything. OK.

HARF: Yes. It is so dire, that we are looking at everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Tonight, we're going to talk about what's being called the third war in Iraq. The expanding terrorism, the gut-wrenching human toll with General Jack Keane, Congressman Peter King and Tony Perkins.

But first in a "Kelly File" exclusive, this is an incredible firsthand account of the awful reality. Iraqi Christians and others trapped by the terrorists on the mountain that is now a graveyard. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN RUGMAN, CHANNEL 4 NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): This is where they are hiding, the Sinjar Mountain range, foreboding and vast. This our first glimpse of Yazidi refugees seeking sanctuary in searing 33 degree heat.

We saw some camped out in a dry riverbed with only a tarp for cover. Others had found a road in the middle of this wilderness, a road they dared not take. Instead they waved at us, desperate for food and water to be dropped. Some of it may have smashed on the rocks below. But with so many deliveries to make, our helicopter did not stop to check.

Then we touched down for five precious but awful minutes. And the scrambled to rescue as many as we could together. An old man hurdled himself toward the door even as boxes of aid were still heading out. Small children became trapped. I found myself dragging them, drooping and dehydrated towards the back. This helicopter in such danger itself, that one of the crew began kicking and punching to keep the refugees at bay.

The bodies are piled on top of one another. But amid much screaming and shouting, 25 Yazidis have got out alive. And then the crying starts. We have left hundreds behind. How many in total are still on the mountain is impossible to say.

From below, Jihadists opened fire on us. And the machine gun a reply. Even here, thousands of feet up these Yazidis, who have lost everything, cannot call themselves safe.

(on camera): These are dangerous helicopter missions. And there aren't enough of them. The risk is, unless more aid flight to take people off the mountain, then hundreds if not thousands may die.

(voice-over): So, these are the fortunate few. Many of them told us they had been trapped for ten days, and far below, those who begged us to take them, but never made it aboard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MACCALLUM: Earlier, I spoke with Jonathan Rugman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MACCALLUM: Jonathan, that reporter from Channel 4 News. The video that you shot, and the story that you tell is extraordinary. What you are seeing. Tell me a little bit about the pilot that was flying your helicopter and the trip that you took and what we now know has happened today.

RUGMAN: Well, the terrible truth Martha is, that the pilot who flew me out to Mount Sinjar yesterday is now dead. Because he took off his -- on another flight and he didn't come back. The helicopter crashed. Refugees that he was trying to rescue from Mt. Sinjar apparently did to the helicopter what they almost did to us yesterday. They tried to overwhelm it and they were clinging to it. And the helicopter tried to take off and overturned with the pilot on board, he was killed. Alicia Rubin (ph) from the New York Times, a journalist on board was among the injured.

I have to say, I spoke to the pilot just minutes before he took off. And he said to me through the helicopter door, I'm worried that this helicopter is too heavy. And so it proved, this helicopter could not come back safely. It crashed and another helicopter had to be sent to pick up survivors from the crash on Mt. Sinjar.

MACCALLUM: You know, I can only say our prayers are with all of those people. The images that you have shared with the world of these children. Of these families, and these are, as you point out in your piece, the lucky ones, who actually made it out. And those on that helicopter, including that pilot who was doing heroic work, as you are, I might add, to find these people to get their story and to tell it to the world, it is extraordinary. What kind of impact has this story had on you, Jonathan?

RUGMAN: I almost dare not think about that, because I have a job to do. I have to tell you, we were holding back tears as we filmed that report with refugees surrounding us. They were all in tears that they had survived and had flipped (ph) on the helicopter. And they like us were probably thinking of the hundreds of people still on the ground who had not been rescued.

It's a difficult thing when a journalist takes part in a humanitarian mission. When you're on a helicopter, where there's only a limited amount of space, and you are taking -- I was just saying, and you are taking up the space that could be taken by a refugee. But on that -- it's important that I tell this story. The refugees want the story told. The pilot who's now dead certainly wants the story told.

MACCALLUM: Understood. I just want to point out to folks at home, that your audio is breaking up a little bit. But we want to stay with you, because this is an extraordinary story of pain and of humanitarian disaster and of an effort to help. How many thousands of people do you believe have been lost on that mountain? And how many thousands remain waiting for help?

RUGMAN: Well, that's an impossible question to answer. Because nobody is actually doing any counting. The Sinjar Mountain is a bit of a misnomer, to be honest. It's a mountain range stretches for miles and is about one mile high. It's incredibly baron, hardly any shelter from the sun. The temperature today was 44 degrees. The people who are stuck up there have been up there 10 to 12 days. I spoke to a man who did manage to get down today. He said he had seen 33 unburied bodies himself. He had buried two people.

There's no question that the humanitarian disaster has happened. And many people have died up there. And with only four helicopters, three, of course -- one of them is crashed. Three helicopters carrying out aid mission, only able to carry 25 refugees at the time, I dread to think what has happened on that mountain as we speak.

MACCALLUM: How do you believe the situation for the remaining people there ends knowing what you know about the help that is now attempting at least to come?

RUGMAN: Well, some of them are making their way down out of desperation. And you know where they're going? They're going to Syria because life on the mountain is so dangerous that they would rather cross into Syria and then make a roundabout journey back into Iraq to get away from the Jihadist, to the south of them and to get off Mount Sinjar.

Those people are arriving in Northern Iraq, they're sort of a steady stream of them crossing from Syria -- the stream has been going on for days, they don't know where they're going, they don't know if the U.N. has enough capacity to look after them in refugee camps which haven't yet been built. Those who are still trapped up there, the question is whether foreign aid being dropped by the Americans, by the British, by others, whether that can keep them going. Whether aid dropped by the Iraqi helicopters can keep them going before more of them die. So it really is a race against time now.

MACCALLUM: Jonathan, thank you so much for telling us this story, for sharing your pictures with us. And our thoughts as I said go out to the pilot, and also to the New York Times reporter who was wounded in that crash today, doing the same kind of work that you've been doing on that mountain in recent days.

Jonathan Rugman, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

RUGMAN: Thanks, Martha.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MACCALLUM: Well, joining us now, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. He's been sending out the call to wake up and pay attention to what is happening to Christians in the Middle East.

Tony, welcome to you, I know that you have been listening to that incredible story, and that you've also talked to relief teams yourself today, who are working in Erbil.

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Yes Martha, it's tragic. And I mean, this should remind us that policy decisions have consequences and in some cases they're deadly consequences. And we've not seen the worst yet.

I did talked to someone with Hardwired Global doing relief work in Erbil, and what people need to realize is that these Christians, and this has been going on now for over a year, almost two years. We saw last October in Syria, where Christians were being crucified and killed by ISIS, and now they've moved as far as they can, they're in Kurdistan.

And some of these cities like Erbil, population about 1.5 million normally, they have upwards of two million refugees that have come into that city. They're sleeping in the streets, parks, wherever they can go, no, food, no water. We've just begun to see the beginning of this. There's so much more to come unless we act and act decisively.

MACCALLUM: Why do you think we haven't heard more decisively from moderate Muslim groups about ISIS and about what they are doing and the havoc that they are wreaking all across this area?

PERKINS: Well, Martha, I have to say, why have we not been hearing from our own administration about this. And I mean, we just saw the president in this last weekend when he did authorize the airstrikes and made reference to the Yazidis as a potential case of genocide.

This genocide has been occurring now for months as it pertains to Christians and the president still can't bring himself to say that Christians in this region of the world, dating back to the most continuous oldest Christian communities in the history of Christians, are being systematically killed. The president can't bring himself to say that, something is wrong, Martha. Something is terribly wrong.

MACCALLUM: Tony Perkins, thank you very much.

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