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Car Crashes Into Glasgow Airport; Investigators Trying to Figure Out if There is a Connection Between Glasgow and the London Car Bombs Found Yesterday
Aired June 30, 2007 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Only because they hope to gather more intelligence on any other kind of plots that might be underway.
At this point in time, though, this is significant in terms of the fact that it will put more urgency on Scotland Yard to make those arrests. You will start to see more people actually arrested or detained for questioning under some new anti-terror measures that have been put into place here, in Britain, highly controversial, a lot of people in the community saying here that they abuse, certainly, civil rights, but at the same point in time, authorities saying this is the kind of thing that means they have to, at times, detain people, question them, and search their premises. As I said, this is going to put a whole new spin on the investigation, here, from London.
The eyewitness accounts, although absolutely cannot be confirmed and are not at all verified by police, but if you just take them at face value, they're incredibly alarming and the reason is that the initial perimeter that is around the airport, there was that obviously a very dramatic attempt to get through that perimeter and get through those doors. It is the kind of attacks the authorities here continually do exercises for.
I was at Heathrow just on Wednesday, and again, this was what they were protecting against. I was in the airport for probably little more than an hour because of the kind of shooting we were doing, because we were speaking to people. I think I counted eight times that we were stopped by authorities to ask us what we were doing, ask us for identification and that with an airport security official with us and we were still stopped eight times by police.
I cannot underline the case of how tight security is at these airports right now and the fact that this happened at all still is quite worrying. Again, if you can see the ball of flames that we're seeing right now on the screen, obviously, the potential was there to cause casualties and we don't have any confirmation of that right now. Police, again, from Scotland Yard, will be trying to gather all the information they have and the good news is that they do have people in custody already that they can question on this.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, there's some question, thought, Paula, as to how many, the numbers have gone all the way from two to four people. And let's talk about what we do know about Glasgow Airport, because it does service some 40 airlines and 80 different destinations with 8.8 million passengers a year. Now, just a second ago, you were talking about the security surrounding this airport. How fortified is it and I ask that because there are many reports out there that are saying that this vehicle ran through the front doors of the airport, although when we're looking at the picture, especially the one on the left-hand side of the screen, it doesn't appear that it entered the terminal, but again, this is just one angle of the airport.
NEWTON: Now, I haven't been to that airport for quite some time and not since probably it's been renovated for security purposes, but as I said, in terms of vehicles actually getting to the -- right very to that point where we actually the car, unauthorized vehicles are just not allowed in that area, they're not allowed to that close in terminals in Heathrow and in most airports in Britain, you are not allowed close to terminal building for this specific reasons.
The eyewitness accounts we've had so for, for those of you who didn't listen to them, was one eyewitness who described quite clearly this vehicle at high speed basically trying to hop that perimeter and get into this unauthorized lane. And at that point, authorities obviously were yelling and trying to get a hold of that vehicle. And he described this vehicle, very erratically swinging to try and get a better ram at the front doors.
As we can see from the picture, it doesn't look like the vehicle actually got that far. Usually, fortifying the terminal would be steel, concrete pillars, that means that a car cannot actually get through those front doors that you can only get through with a cart and people, obviously, getting through with their luggage and that's about it and that is to prevent something like this happening.
In the meantime, the authorities on the perimeter of this airport will continually be looking for cars to move through and move through very quickly. That's why most of us are moved on very, very quickly through airports now for this specific reason.
We do have now, I believe, something from police and we have -- I'm just going to read out the statement that we have right now. It says quarter after 3:00 this afternoon, a car was driven into the front of terminal one at Glasgow International Airport. Police and fire service were summoned to the scene. Two people, I repeat, two people arrested and detained. It's unclear if anyone was injured. Local roads have been closed. All incoming and outgoing flights have been suspended for the moment. And again, the -- stressed by police that -- or the local police in charge of that airport there in Scotland -- saying that they tell the public please remain vigilant and they're asking for the public's help on anyone who has more information.
Again, to recap, our police statement from Glasgow International Airport does say that a car was driven into the front of terminal one and that two people have been arrested and detained. So, at least we can report that right now and it is confirmed that two people are in custody and that this was a deliberate attempt to actually ram that car into the front of the building.
That's important information, there.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And tight as security is at airports there, was there any indication that the security had been stepped up after we saw those -- after those two car bombs were found unexploded but the two car bombs were found in London, had it be stepped up at all?
NEWTON: Oh, most definitely. Oh, most defiantly, I can tell you, within the first hour. The coordination here between all the transport levels, and I don't just mean here at Heathrow. I've been through London for hours today, I don't think I walked more than 100 feet without seeing at least two bobbies, and those are the police -- the nicknames for the community police, here.
In the underground, every station at every platform practically had two transport police there. That is not to speak of, obviously, the big target that people know, the airports, that he know that the airports are very, very big targets, here.
Security probably would have been stepped up yesterday morning when they first found that car bomb and, again, if you were at Heathrow airport yesterday, you would have known that if you even paused where you shouldn't have been for 30 seconds, you would have had authorities on your tail saying, move that car. I can't express enough or underline enough how authorities, when they have an incident like this, on all levels, step up security and make sure that this kind of an incident can happen, something that is a very large target, a high-value target that we know, what we've heard from intelligence reports and Internet chatter, they do like to hit places like this. They feel that it does unnerve people.
And you know, unfortunately, T.J., when we hear the eyewitness accounts, it has rattled many, many people who've seen this incident unfold at the airport, today.
HOLMES: All right, Paula Newton, for us. I know you're standing by and still working to get information for us. But, we sure do appreciate having you here. We just got a statement from the FBI, here, of course, who has been keeping an eye on things -- U.S. officials keeping an eye on things in the past couple days there, of course, since the -- those two car bombs found in London, as well. So, their help as well with British authorities.
NGUYEN: In the meantime, though, we do want to get some more information on what we've seen take place there in Glasgow, Scotland, at the airport. I'm going to bring in, on the phone with us is John O'Connor, he is a former Scotland Yard detective.
And the first thing that I want to ask you is when you look at this, are you surprised that a vehicle was able to get this close to the airport, considering what we've learned from Paula Newton that security is really being stepped up in and around the areas?
JOHN O'CONNOR, FMR. SCOTLAND YARD DETECTIVE: No, I'm not surprised he got that close. I'm surprised that, if this is a terrorist attack, the way that it's been conducted because you don't normally get two people in the car who intend to detonate it.
But then, if you look at what's happened, I mean, a car doesn't burst into flames just by impact. It's very unlikely because the fuel's in the back on a Cherokee. So, it's likely that it had something in the vehicle which we tried to detonate and instead of actually exploding, it just ignited.
Well, if you look at the bombs that were in London yesterday, those types of bombs could easily do that. You could get it wrong, not get the detonation, but just get the ignition, so that's possible. So I think the police are ...
NGUYEN: Let me stop you there, John. So, are you saying that just looking at this from the onset that this may be connected?
O'CONNOR: Yes, they may be. It may be that because, it's the fact that this vehicle ended up in flames. That's what I -- if that's true, if the eyewitness that we've got are right and this did burst into flames, it does indicate to me that something was ignited within the car, deliberately.
I mean, an impact on car like that is not going to burst into flames. So, it does seem to be that something deliberate and if that's the case, then you've got to be looking at a potential suicide bomb. I mean, we've never had anything in this country, anything like this. We've had people drive vehicles straight into the front gates of Buckingham Palace for reasons best known to themselves and not for terrorist reasons. But, if this is a terrorist attack, it's a particularly amateurish and hand-fisted one.
NGUYEN: And we also heard, again, all these reports have not been confirmed by police, but a little bit earlier listening to SKY News, the witnesses were saying that not only were they two men in the vehicle, one of them caught on fire, but there were also gas canisters. Now, that may be a possible link as we look at the two car bombs from yesterday.
O'CONNOR: Well, it does sound, the mere fact that we've had the problems down in London yesterday and we've got this today, it does sound as though there is a connection. Now, bearing in mind that many of these terrorist cells, they are -- they come under the broad umbrella of al Qaeda, a lot of these groups are interdependent and they're virtually unknown to each other. There are coordination's and there are links, but it's unlikely that all the groups are personally known to each other. That's what their strength is. If you get one, you don't get the others.
NGUYEN: And at this high lightened sense of alertness, people's nerves are on edge, when you -- as you've been looking into these different terror cells, working as a former Scotland Yard detective, you see that were one incident occurs, the rest of them are quickly moving into place to carry out their actions as well?
O'CONNOR: Well, it seems that way. I think there is probably a strategist tactician behind it all whose tried to coordinate things, but the individuals that will be there delivering the bombs and delivering these car bombs, there are likely to have much more than local knowledge of local people and not likely to have -- to go into the hierarchy. It's one of the things that the anti-terrorist branches found when dealing with these kind of people is it's very hard to get into the command and control, to get into the network, to get into the finance, to get into the strategy of it.
I mean, I think that it's generally accepted over here that the strategy overall is to try and cause a backlash against the law- abiding Muslim community with a view to marginalizing them and that, of course, puts them in a situation where they themselves feel under threat. Don't forget, over here in the U.K. we've got two million Muslims. That's a lot of people to be looked after by the authorities and the authorities have got a real job on their hands to stop these terrorists from getting their way.
NGUYEN: Well, we have to be careful because we don't know exactly who is behind this. We haven't been told that as far as the two people involved in today's car bomb, which it appears it is, that rammed into the Glasgow Airport, but as well, we don't know the folks behind the other two car bombs yesterday. At this point, though a lot of speculation out there, a lot of questions and, of course, the investigations until all of this will continue.
John O'Connor, former Scotland Yard detective, we appreciate your time today.
HOLMES: All right, and Will Geddes is a security specialist, as well, who helped us out a little earlier, standing by for us in London.
Will, didn't expect to be talking to you again so soon. But I talked to you a little earlier about what we're seeing and you said in the report that just come out when I talked to you earlier about what was going on in the airport. You said it didn't make you feel too good. How do you feel now that we're getting more information to this?
WILL GEDDES, SECURITY ANALYST: Well, unfortunately, I think what this is beginning to show to us is the sort of thing we see over in Iraq. I mean, what we saw in the Haymarket was very typical of the sort of vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. And this will happen, really, in three types of attacks over in Iraq and I think they're trying to duplicate this.
The first type is obviously to stick the actual vehicle in an area where there's a high populace of people, could be in a marketplace. The second one is to actually drive it into an installation. And the third one, which let's really hope if these are connected, and if this is unfortunately a terrorist event, and let's hope it doesn't, look at the third element which is potentially disrupting a main supply route.
HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE) that they're not connected, we've got the two from yesterday, the two car bombs, didn't explode, but the two car bombs that were found, we got this incident, right the day after, are authorities certainly going to be all over this now and have to assume that something is going on, there's a link between these and there might be more to come?
GEDDES: Absolutely, T.J., and I mean, I don't think we can discount it. I mean, certainly what John O'Connor was just saying to you is absolutely right. A lot of these groups are very fragmented. They're working in a cellular structure. They don't necessarily communicate with each other. However, if they see one particular attack materializing, this might have a doom knee effect with other groups thinking, now is our opportunity to strike.
HOLMES: So, it's possible that this wasn't planned out well in advance or they just see some other group over here go for it so they say, hey, what are you doing tomorrow, let's go for it.
GEDDES: Yeah, very possibly. It may have been in the planning, T.J. I mean, do bear that in mind. Just, obviously, like John said, you know, a vehicle doesn't just explode like they do in the movies. You know, there has to have some kind of device inside it to, obviously, enable that to happen. So, although it was very, very basic, very amateur attack, one has to bear in mind that it was very considered or certainly looks that way.
HOLMES: Should we be looking, now or thinking, that Great Britain, that it's localized, shall we be thinking that right now?
GEDDES: Yeah, I think so. I think we've got to look at this as homegrown elements yet again and I think we've got to look at it as individuals who are very much extremists, maybe following some directive of some sort, but I think acting on their own volition, albeit to their belief and their greater cause.
HOLMES: How amateurish are we talking here? We see, we can't call this one a failed attempt just yet, there wasn't -- we don't know about injuries or anything yet, but I assume if this was supposed to be a major terrorist attack, they would hope to do more damage than it appears they have done. Then we had the two failed car bombs from yesterday. I don't know. You have to take them all seriously, but I mean, how amateurish of a group of individuals are we talking about here?
GEDDES: Well, I think, T.J., it really comes down to the measure of the impact of the actual attack. I mean, obviously yesterday's attempts with vehicles stood by not detonating, we were exceptionally lucky. If those had actually gone off, that would have been very, very drastic. But likewise, the attack today, it doesn't have to be monumental, it does have to be that big spectacular that we all talk about. It can be something quite small and quite localized. However, a lot of people are going to feel very concerned about going to that airport later today or even tomorrow or even possibly for the next week.
HOLMES: You said people going to be very concerned now, certainly on the heels of the two car bombs that were found there in London and now this. What is this doing to the psyche of folks all around Great Britain, right now?
A lot of folks, like you said not complacent, necessarily, but they're used to terrorism, so to speak. So, what does this do to the psyche there now?
GEDDES: Well, we're a pretty resilient bunch, to be honest, T.J., much like you folks over in the states and I think we've all recognized and realized, I mean the general populist as large know that terrorism is very much something we have to live with on a day- to-day basis. However, it's obviously going to be down to the emergency services and the security services as to what actions they're going to subsequently take that can reassure us that, albeit, we'll never have 100 percent security, but every effort is being taken to ensure that there is protection for the general population.
HOLMES: And Will, can we call these a, I don't know, classic terror targets almost, the two car bombs from yesterday were in highly, or at least the one that was found in a highly populated area, a place where people frequent, a very busies bustling area and now this one goes after an airport?
GEDDES: Absolutely, these are very traditional types of profiles of targets for terrorist groups. These are things we've routinely got to be aware of. Key points such as airports are always going to be of great concern for the security services and groups like the Anti- terrorist Survey team ensuring they are robust and resilient against these types of attacks, as we've seen before.
HOLMES: Now, will, authorities tried to, and we're going to let you go here, we appreciate you hanging in tough with us, I know it -- we can see it's raining on you pretty good, there. Are there definite signs and what should the signs be initially for authorities to try to possibly link these two? Is it the M.O.? Is it the equipment, the tools used for the bombs? Can they possibly link this one to the other two car bombs without actually linking the individuals? I guess, what other things are they looking for, in the M.O.s in the way these were carried out to point to, yes, these two were linked?
GEDDES: Well, I think really the key things, T.J., are going to be the components behind the actual devices. And if this vehicle was indeed carrying a device that was intended to explode on impact when it drove into the terminal, the forensics team will want to be able to go through the remnants of that vehicle to find out anything that's going to have a similar signature to the ones that were actually captured in the Haymarket.
But second to that, as you're trying to make any direct links is going to be difficult. We know that these groups work in a cellular sense and they don't necessarily communicate with each other. But subsequent to that, we're going to look to see if any particular group is going to take responsibility, either for the Haymarket or for this particular attack, today.
HOLMES: All right, Will Geddes, security specialist and a trooper for us. We appreciate you hanging tough, hanging tight out there with us and offering your expertise, know it's coming down on you, it rained pretty good there, but we certainly appreciate you this morning, Will.
NGUYEN: So, what does this mean for us here in the United States? That's a big question that many of you viewers are probably asking right as you look at these pictures come in from Glasgow Airport and a vehicle that has tried to ram into a terminal there and caught on fire.
Let's talk to CNN homeland correspondent Jeanne Meserve. She joins us live in Washington.
And I know authorities have been watching this, Jeanne, but at this point, do they still feel like it's just localized over there and it is not going to be taking place over here?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: They do. I mean, I'll tell you that U.S. authorities don't have anything to say at this point about what's happening in Glasgow. They point out that this is a British investigation that is where the information is going to come. However, Richard Colcow, a special agent here of the FBI in Washington, has put out a statement saying the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security continue to monitor the situation in the United Kingdom. We will continue to assess the situation, but at this time, we have no intelligence that there is a credible threat in theory (ph) based on these events.
I will tell you, Betty, as someone who covers Homeland Security, that airports have been of particular concern and I'm not just talking about the planes in the air. I am talking about perimeter security; I'm talking about exactly this kind of thing, large numbers of people congregate at airports. They've been worried about what happens inside the terminals. They've been worried about what's happened in front of the terminals. It is why, when you and I go to the airport to pick someone up or drop someone off, there are usually police stationed right there, shooing you away, trying to get you out. And at times of increased threat levels and is why at some airports, they don't let you drive that close. They keep you further away from the airport because they're worried about exactly this kind of an event, if indeed this turns out to be terrorism.
NGUYEN: Well I know, Jeanne, authorities are saying that at this point, it is something that they don't think is going to be happening, here in the U.S. as of yet because they don't have any credible evidence as to that, but of course, you know, that is a statement that does not instill any panic, it's a statement that shows we are in control, but I imagine behind the scenes -- and you have covered this for quite some time -- behind the scenes plans have to be in place and I'm sure they're looking at this and possibly tweaking their plans for security in the U.S.
MESERVE: Oh, certainly, absolutely. They will be looking very carefully at everything that comes out of this investigation in Britain. They're going to be looking at the methodology that was used, they're going to be looking at the source of equipment that is used. In addition to looking at the hard intelligence about any individuals or groups who may be involved and they will take all of that and they will incorporate that into their planning.
In fact, they've started to do it already. There was a bulletin that went out yesterday from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, to state and local authorities around the United States giving them little bullet points on what had happened yesterday in London, telling them how you can detect a car bomb, giving them advice on possible ways to deter a car bomb.
So there's constantly, constantly reworking of plans that are already on the books. But there are plans that were on the books specifically to deal with this kind of thing you're seeing in Glasgow with something blowing up in front of a terminal.
NGUYEN: I know yesterday when we were investigating, at least covering the investigation of the two car bombs there in London. After that we saw many people, officials around the nation and in large cities come out and say that, yes, we are stepping up some security on the different transit systems and, yes, we are putting more police officers on the street. Do you expect after seeing this and a vehicle very much on fire there -- these are not the pictures that anyone wants to see outside an airport -- when officials look at this today in the, and the news does spread, we're going to see an increase in security in our airports?
MESERVE: It is going to depend completely on what this turns out to be. If it turns out just to be some kind of an accident or mishap, no, I wouldn't expect it. If it turns out to be something else, you can bet there's going to be a lot of discussion about...
NGUYEN: Jeanne, I'm going to have to interrupt you for just a second, because we are getting some witness accounts on SKY News so we're going to listen to that for just a second. Please stand by -- Jeanne.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JIM MANSON, EYEWITNESS: ...coming up in the front of the car but then, it was almost as if there was a kind of mini explosion, as if there had been a petrol canister or something, and the flames were shooting right up to the top of the terminal building, which was quite dramatic and then the terminal building seem to catch fire, the front of the terminal building seemed to catch fire. There was smoke and flames obviously going inside the building and outside, as well. And everyone just ran. I mean, there were absolutely terrified, as can you imagine because first thing in all our minds, was, you know, is it an accident? Is it a terrorist? Is it a terrorist attack?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
NGUYEN: And that's just a little bit of the witness accounts that we were listening to. That coming to us from ITN. The pictures coming to us from SKY News. We have a lot of resources on the ground that we're trying to provide you with the latest possible information in the investigation that is taking place, not only with those two car bombs yesterday in London, but now with the vehicle that has rammed into an airport there in Glasgow in Scotland.
HOLMES: And of course, U.S. officials, again, they say they have no reason to think that any of this is coming here, coming to the U.S., any reason for that just yet, but they are monitoring the situation. U.S. officials certainly have.
And are our Ed Henry is actually in Kennebunkport, Maine where the president has been.
Hello to you, Ed. Tell us what has been going on there as far as monitoring what's happening across the pond?
ED HENRY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well T.J., the very latest from here in Kennebunkport is that senior White House officials, as you noted, are monitoring the situation, as Jeanne has been reporting. They're trying to do exactly what U.S. officials in Washington are trying to do, get a handle on the situation after this glazing car crashed into that terminal building in the Glasgow Airport.
They're in contact, White House officials say, with senior British authorities just to try and figure out exactly what happened on the ground, as Jeanne was reporting. Is this an accident? Was it an act of terror? Everyone trying to get a handle of it, trying to figure out whether there's any tie at all to what was happening yesterday in London, but also, being very careful here in Kennebunkport, not to get ahead of the story, not to get ahead of the detective work, there on the ground in Scotland.
One U.S. Official pointing out there are no dots, at this point, to connect in terms of what happened today and what was happening yesterday in London.
We do know that President Bush was briefed twice today on the situation in London, once early this morning before he went out on a bike ride, then White House officials say he got a second briefing after he returned from a bike ride, but that was before this situation in Scotland.
Then the president headed out for some more boating and fishing and White House officials do not believe he has yet been briefed on the situation in Scotland, but White House officials also point out they're not sure there's very much they can brief the president on right now because they're basing their information on the information we have, frankly, it's on these preliminary press reports. Some of those can turn out to be true, some can turn out to be not be true. So, the White House wants to be careful to monitor it, but also be very careful not to get ahead of the detective work there on the ground. Now, from a political standpoint as well, obviously, the White House is very sensitive to the image of the president being on vacation while all of this is happening.
They've taken criticism before, other White Houses, other presidents in both parties have taken criticism for being, you know, on vacation, rest and relaxation while there are major events going on. It's a fact of life in a post-9/11 world, in particular, that the president is never really fully on vacation. But they're tying to find a balance here, where he wants to get rest and relaxation, but they're constantly trying to brief him when something comes up, but on this particular situation in Scotland, they don't see any reason for him to cut anything short because they don't have any information yet tying it to what happened in London yesterday -- T.J. HOLMES: Well, that's a pretty good point you make there, and that image, I guess, of the president possibly vacationing while this is going on, is certainly looking like and turning into a larger situation. But, like you said, Ed, there's really nothing he can do. He can go back to the office, but really nothing the president can offer besides support, but really nothing for him to do, right?
HENRY: Well, that's right. In a post-9/11 world, as well, it should be pointed out wherever the president is traveling, he has essentially, not exactly, but essentially the same resources he has back at the White House in terms of being in contact with officials, whether he needs to do a secure video conference, secure teleconference or the like. He does that down in Crawford, Texas, as well.
But again, at this point, the White House is not certain that this is a larger story or whether or not this is an isolated incident. So, they want to be cautious and make sure they're on top of the situation both specifically and literally, but also from a perception standpoint but they also again, don't want to get ahead of that detective work Jeanne was talking about. U.S. officials across the board not just within the traveling White House, they want to make sure they get the best information from the ground, not the information from here. Obviously they need to know what's going on in Scotland -- T.J.
NGUYEN: Well, Ed, this is Betty. I want to ask you something, especially on a larger picture of the possible political ramifications of this because, again, we don't know if these are linked, but it does come at a peculiar time because there has been a change in government, there in Britain, and I was wondering what the administration was doing to look possibly into that and how that may be something that is an issue of investigation at this point.
HENRY: Oh, sure, absolutely, that is part of the equation. You're absolutely right. I mean, the fact that what was happening in London yesterday was happening just a couple of days after Gordon Brown officially became prime minister, is obviously very curious, but again, the White House just as the media doesn't want to get ahead of connecting those dots. We don't know whether there's any connection, just as the White House does not know whether there's a connection with Gordon Brown taking office and all of a sudden, this terror situation popping up in London yesterday, then the situation today in Glasgow.
They don't even know whether it's terror let alone whether it's tied to Gordon Brown taking office. But certainly, everyone has to take note of the fact that the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, was the president's most stalwart ally in the war on terror. There's certainly a question hanging on it there as to whether or not terrorists are trying to test Gordon Brown very early in this new administration.
There's been a lot of talk and speculation about whether or not Gordon Brown will be as stalwart an ally of this U.S. president, whether or not Gordon Brown will be moving towards pulling more British troops out of Iraq and certainly, everyone is going to be taking a look at whether or not this unfolding situation has anything to do with the change of government, but again, we have no evidence that it does, but it certainly is very, very curious timing -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Yes, it is, CNN's Ed Henry joining us live today as we cover this story from all angles. Ed, we appreciate that.
In the meantime, for those of you just joining us and watching this breaking news unfold and the pictures we're bringing to you out of Glasgow, Scotland, let me just reset the scenario for you.
A little but earlier today, oh about an hour-and-a-half ago, we were reporting there was news of a vehicle that may have crashed into the terminal there as Glasgow Airport. Well, this is the new video that is coming into CNN.
You see the black smoke there, and if you look toward the right- hand side of your screen, you see a big orange ball of flames. Well, that is the vehicle that was on fire when it did, indeed, ram into the airport. Here's another look at that vehicle. It was being described as a Jeep Cherokee.
Now, the question is, who is behind this and was it, indeed, a deliberate attack, an attack of terrorism? What we know so far, and the official word is that two people have been taken into custody. We were speaking with a lot of terrorism experts a little bit earlier and they point out something that is very important to note in that a vehicle like this doesn't just catch on fire and ram into a building unless there was a deliberate spark. And if that was the case, then that would lead to a deliberate act of terrorism.
We want to take you now to London and CNN's Paula Hancocks who -- I'm sorry, pardon me, Paula Newton, who has been following this story from the very beginning as the information just keeps trickling in, although sometimes sketchy at moments.
Paula, I know that we've been talking a lot about what we know. Have you been able to learn any more about at least the two people who are in custody?
NEWTON: Not anymore about the two people that were in custody. Again, Scotland Yard continuing to try and get their information. They're based here in London, they're speaking to the local authorities in Glasgow. These two people are detained. One of them may have actually been taken to hospital. It's going to be quite a few hours, I think, before we can get any more details on that.
Right now, the best information I have -- that we have, I think, comes from those eyewitness accounts. But some of those pictures that we've been showing make it quite clear, a vehicle with a gas tank in the back just doesn't explode that way by accident, and when you put those pictures together with the eyewitness accounts, it is definitely unsettling.
I can tell you, we had just reviewed aviation safety just this last week here at CNN, we prepared to do a story on it, in fact, on Monday. All week, we've been trying to get an interview with the head of security, the person who heads up security for the airports here in London is the same person who heads up security for that airport there in Glasgow. He pulled out of our interview. We're told he pulled out of a significant conference he was supposed to attend this week.
Aviation sources tell us that the reason he pulled out of that was because there were clear concerns brewing against attacks on aviation assets and when we say assets, they had seen a clear distinction that as the security, the airport security tightened for passengers in terms of when you get into that terminal and you check in, everyone's been through it, the security really is quite tight. That they felt that there was an increased security threat to the assets on the outside of the airport, on the roads, in the terminals and in those place where people gather.
You know, it's been pointed out several times and I'm going to take a lot of people back to last August. If everyone remembers that there was an alleged plot, those people will face trial in the next year, an alleged plot to blow up simultaneously at least nine airliners going to the United States with liquid explosives. After that happened, there was chaos at Heathrow Airport.
Now, I just want to draw your attention now to new pictures. I believe this is new video that we have here. And you can see how that vehicle's burning. Now look, as we've been told before by authorities, I mean, when a vehicle burns that way, that is not by accident. Most people there on the scene are saying, look, that was ignited somehow. There was absolutely no -- from the eyewitness accounts that we get, again, this is not coming from police, there was no reason that it should explode that way.
Thankfully, the explosion that you see, the fire that you see right there from eyewitness accounts says that that actually happened at least a minute or a minute and a half after people were taken into custody, so hopefully, there were enough people away from the scene there right now.
Sorry, just getting back to what I was saying before about the airline plot at Heathrow Airport. One thing the security and aviation experts kind of looking back on that incident said and one mistake they had made, was everyone remembers the pictures of the chaos at the terminal and they believe that unfortunately, at that point in time, thankfully nothing happened, that they had left thousands of people exposed because they had packed them into the terminal building.
And that's -- and more than that, in tents (ph), completely unsecured outside of the terminal building, and I think they were reviewing those kind of security situations.
On an earlier picture that we have seen of this airport before this damage occurred, you could clearly see steel barriers at that front door, and the head of the security we were trying to talk to for this airport last week, those were some of the things we were going to talk to him about, the fact that those barriers are in place and you can clearly see from the picture that we're looking at now, that that vehicle was stopped which means that damage -- that, sorry, casualties, hopefully, they can save a number of lives by doing that and the reason is that people don't tend to congregate toward that door, the door is a thoroughfare, people go in and out.
If you can protect that -- the inside of the terminal building, keep people moving on the perimeter of the airport. If there is an incident like this, you can cut down the number of casualties a great deal and that's what security experts were looking at.
It's incredibly unsettling just looking at the pictures that we're looking at right now, and again, if you match that with the eyewitness accounts, again, not confirmed by police, but this does look like a very concerted effort to try and get that car into the terminal building.
NGUYEN: Well, and I think the point is very valid that a vehicle just doesn't catch on fire unless there's a detonation and that's why there possibly could be, again, none of this is confirmed, but possibly could be a link between what has happened today and the two car bombs that were found yesterday.
And as we look at this, I mean, just take it for face value, though, Paula. When we look at a structure like an airport, obviously, something like that could become a target, is a prime target, in fact. But especially on a weekend like this one. Tell us how busy an airport like this is and especially today.
NEWTON: Incredibly busy, I mean the place -- the price of flying has really come down a great deal. Aviation in terms of the actual number of flights has definitely increased. What has been happening here in Britain is that they're getting away from a lot of the airports like Heathrow, where you get a lot of business traffic into London and a lot of it through Europe, traffic through Europe, traffic through all of Britain has been going to these secondary airports, Glasgow being one of them.
But also Glasgow being the busiest airport in Scotland, an incredibly busy airport, thousands of people going in and out of the terminal. Many, many flights each day, many flights from the United States. The reason this would be an opportune time is because the charter season is well under way. Most charters gear up around June and into the fall for that excess holiday travel. And, in fact, there were a lot of people in that -- from the eyewitness accounts that we have that were headed off on holiday. Again, U.S. flights going directly into that airport as well, a lot of them charter flights.
You know, the one thing we can say, Betty, at this point is that because police say they don't know if anyone's been injured and they don't believe anyone has been, they will get back to us on that. That is good news. As you can see from the scene right there, we are not seeing a lot of ambulances right there and that is good news. We cannot confirm, perhaps people were injured but at this point in time, police in Glasgow telling us that they do not have any reports of anyone injured.
NGUYEN: Yes, that's absolutely good news, especially considering how much fire came out of that accident, I won't even call it an accident at this point. Police are looking at it as a deliberate attempt there as an attack on the airport.
Again, the information is still coming in, but I think we do point out the fact that because of this, obviously flights have been suspended, the airport is closed. And that is going to affect maybe travel here in the U.S. if someone's waiting on people to arrive from a flight from Glasgow or, perhaps, going to be taken off and headed to that airport. Obviously, this is going to slow things down.
Have you learned anything more about -- I know the information is coming in -- anything more about what exactly has happened and the two people in custody because earlier, we had heard that there were upwards of four people. Were you able to clarify any of that?
NEWTON: Police say they only took two in custody. I think it's safe to say that if they'd given us that information, that's as many people as they have in custody right now. That's not to say that they aren't questioning these people at this moment, going to the properties where they live at this very moment, and trying to see if they can gather any more evidence from the places where they live.
I mean, the fact that these people are in custody, again, at this point in time, they will have a lot of investigating to do. And the first place they're going to hit is where these people live. That's not to say that they live in Glasgow.
We have seen this happen before, in terms of the way the targets, in terms of the way the threats are carried out, the attacks are carried out, sometimes people have traveled from other places in England down to London and perhaps this is a situation where these people did not live in Glasgow, but decided to take this vehicle from perhaps somewhere in England up to Scotland.
Again keeping in mind, these are the pictures we're looking at right now. Again, emphasizing how much CCTV footage there will be of this incident. They will now already be downloading most likely digitally, all the CCTV footage from the cameras on the highways, tracking that vehicle and exactly what happened and where it came from. No country is blanketed by CCTV cameras the way this country is. I can tell you, even on the highways, they can sometimes track a car for miles and miles just by CCTV footage. Right now, they'll be downloading all of that.
Downloading all that information takes hours and that's just downloading, and that does not include actually going through it and trying to look for clues as to if there's anyone else linked to this at all.
HOLMES: Look -- can you tell us, certainly airports all around the country and certainly around this country, all around the world, deal with threats here and there from time to time. Do you have any information that lets us know that this airport had gotten any reports or any threats in the past or anything like that leading up to what we're seeing today?
NEWTON: Nothing specific, and when you look at this kind of thing and when you look at the bombs -- sorry, the car bombs that we uncovered here in London yesterday, this is what you call an amateur job. This is not the kind of thing that you're going to hear chatter about on the Internet. This is not the kind of thing that authorities, security authorities are going to get any kind of a credible assessment of or a tip-off about beforehand.
If we look back to what we have seen happen in the past, I'm not speaking about this incident. I'm not speaking about the incident yesterday. I'm speaking about incidents that we've investigated here, that we've already seen unfold in courts here in London. What happens is, these cases are usually what we call "al Qaeda inspired."
Sometimes, you have one person, a mastermind, if you will, who has gone to and had some kind of instruction from al Qaeda or some kind of training from al Qaeda. They then return, certainly, to what can be described as the cell here in Britain and then, very slowly, very carefully, make their plans known to this other group of people.
In terms of how all of this is triggered, some people have speculated that there might be one person pulling the strings. Again, I'm talking about the transit bombings that occurred here in London, not about these events. But what security sources have learned is that security investigators have learned is that these are the very, very loose structure and in terms of connecting these things, it may look absolutely identical, and that may be what we learn from officers, from police in Scotland Yard later on today.
That does not mean that the suspects in custody have anything to do with what happened in London at all. It just doesn't. It's a very, very loose kind of structure here, and it has really been quite challenging for authorities to really try and crack these cases.
You know, we had an interesting case here recently, it was called the "Fertilizer Bomb Plot," and during that, it was known that the 7-7 bomber, one of the bombers, Sadik Khan (ph), who blew up one of the trains July 7th, 2005, was actually on police surveillance, captured as early as 2004.
That's how many plots they're dealing with right now. That's how many suspects they have under surveillance at any given time. Police admit that they missed him, but they say when you're dealing with hundreds of suspects, they have to prioritize and he just wasn't a person that they ended up prioritizing at this time.
Authorities have told us over and over again, they've said it in very chilling language that attacks like this were inevitable and that was what they told us from all the intelligence that they were gathering on the scene. They continually tell us, we are on top of a lot of different plots and a lot of different suspects, but we just can't get to it all. They assume that, sooner or later, something like this can happen.
NGUYEN: And we're watching it play out today, at least with this particular incident. Again, we don't know if they are connected, this act here with the two car bombs that occurred yesterday in London.
Paula, I'm going to ask you to stand by for a moment because we are getting new information into CNN. We want to take our viewers to a piece of video that we have just gotten our hands on. It is an interview with ITV reporter Gordon Chree, who is on the scene at the airport. Listen to what he was able to find.
VOICE OF GORDON CHREE, ITN REPORTER, GLASGOW: Well Steve (ph), it's now around two hours since this happened. The airport is completely evacuated tonight. Passengers who were hoping to get on or off of flights are around the car parks here, a state of real confusion for them. No one giving much information to them about what's happening.
But from the footage that we have seen here, the Land Rover was crashed directly into the front of the airport, has exploded, eyewitnesses tell me, as you say, of seeing people on fire there. One of them apparently being restrained as he tried to break away.
The situation tonight is that no flights will be coming in or out of Glasgow Airport for today, certainly. Thousands of people disrupted by this. In terms of the official word from the police, not much so far, but I did hear one officer refer to this as a crime and not an accident.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Gordon, can you tell us how passengers reacted while all this was unfolding?
CHREE: Obviously, very dramatic for them. At the time, it does seem to have been quite a calm reaction. So, as people made their way out of the airport, a few shouts of smoke, but not too much in the way of panic.
The reaction now is a mixture of frustration and anger. What they want to know is, what's going to happen to them tonight. A lot of local hotels already full. There are people, some of them with medical conditions, really worried about how they'll be spending their Saturday night.
NGUYEN: And that was Gordon Chree with ITV there on the scene at the airport in Glasgow where flames just erupted a little bit earlier as a burning vehicle attempted to ram into the terminal there. Apparently, it doesn't get that far, but what it has done is cause panic and shut down the airport. Flights have been suspended. There's a lot of frustration on the ground. People very frightened, obviously, by looking at these pictures and experiencing it firsthand as they're walking through the airport and seeing the emergency crews on the ground.
What we have learned, though, and we heard it again with Gordon Chree, is that looking at the information, piecing together what we have been able to learn here at CNN, it appears that this was a deliberate act. Now, if this is tied to the other two car bombs that were discovered yesterday in London, that is something that is up for debate, that is something up for investigation. We don't know that as of yet.
But what we do know is that this Jeep Cherokee, as many are calling it, an SUV of some sort, did crash into the Glasgow Airport there in Scotland. It is Scotland's largest airport, and just to give you an idea why this would be a target, it services some 8.8 million people a year, so obviously, very, very busy.
There are a number of airlines, some 40 airlines that fly out of there. And it's the largest, again, of Scotland's three main international airports, so it is causing quite a backup, I would imagine, as flights are suspended, the airport is closed. And more importantly, an investigation is under way as to who was behind this and if there are more to come, hopefully not, but everyone is on high alert at this hour.
HOLMES: All right, and these pictures are kind of a bit (ph) telling that story for us here. An indication that a car that runs into whatever it may be is not just going to burst into flames for no apparent reason. You can tell by the intensity of those flames, something is fuelling that and that was the indication that possibly there were canisters in there and fuel in there.
We've been getting new video in all the past hour or so as we've been watching this story. Our Paula Newton has been standing by and helping us with this as well, as we anticipate new pictures here any second.
Paula, you have been in London covering the story of those two car bombs that did not explode but were found and that investigation continues now. Both of those found or one found at least in a very populated, very busy area there in London.
But you talked to us the other day about, you know it hasn't been -- people aren't exactly panicked just yet. People deal with terrorism. These bombs didn't go off. People there are vigilant. They're not complacent but, at the same time, they don't panic and they deal with it and they live with it.
How is this seen now, these pictures going to possibly change the equation there for folks in London?
NEWTON: Will change the equation quite a bit. I mean, certainly, if you're looking at the dramatic footage that we're looking at right now, people will be unnerved. And especially since many people will be making their way to airports, to train stations, on the highways, for their own holidays.
But keeping in mind that when we had the attack two years ago here, and 52 people were killed in that incident on July 7th, thousands -- literally thousands injured, several hundred seriously. When that happened, still Londoners, people in Britain did -- were very resilient after that attack. I think they will look at this event and say, again, relief because nothing has happened and they will again continue to be more vigilant.
I think this puts a lot more pressure on authorities, though. People will be looking to Scotland Yard, will be looking to the security agencies to come up with some arrests on the two car bombings that were found in London very, very soon because now, the fear will be now that these are connected, that perhaps you can expect more of these.
And as I've been saying, that is the worst fear, not just of authorities, but of people in Britain. They want to be sure just like happened after the transit -- after the transit problems, we had two incidents, one on July 7th that killed 52 people, one on July 21st. The jury, incidentally, in that trial, the July 21st bombings, that jury out right now deliberating the fate of six suspects.
That did not -- those failed. Those actually detonated on the tubes and on the one bus and that incident failed, thankfully, and no one was injured. But when people look at this, they look at it as a pattern and they want to see a finality to it, they want to see the end. They're gratified, in fact, that after those two incidents on the transit systems, there have not been any more incidents on the transit systems. They will be looking for an end to this.
And the more that they compound it by having more vehicles found or having more incidents like this, it will just continually ramp up the anxiety here in Britain and then, change the way people feel about going out to events like Wimbledon and going under the tube and going to the airports.
NGUYEN: Paula, let me ask you this, how much talk is being spoken and how many questions are being asked, not only about what is occurring with the two car bombs yesterday and this today, but with the motives here and the change in power that has occurred there as Gordon Brown has taken over as prime minister.
Had there been some talk prior to that that you know, the government needed to be on high alert, that security forces needed to be on high alert as the shift in power was going to occur and perhaps that could spark some kind of terrorist activity?
NEWTON: It was nothing that was certainly discussed with the public, but the security agencies have said that at those times of transition, that there was a real risk and they do look for these kinds of opportunities to send a message.
You know, Tony Blair is been -- the former Prime Minister Tony Blair who just stepped down this week, was very clear in speaking about what he called blowback, blowback meaning that Britain becomes much more of a significant target because of everything that goes on in Iraq and because of the fact that they're involved in Iraq.
And here, we see perhaps Iraqi-style tactics being used in Britain and because of that, authorities were definitely on edge saying to themselves, perhaps someone will try and send the message to the new government of Gordon Brown that they need to get out of Iraq. At this point in time, it's not anything that was said in any type of a public alert, but certainly something that was thought of.
We did have reports yesterday that at least one Web site was calling for some type of an attack on London, but when CNN investigated that, we were unable to confirm it.
Again, it's always -- I can't underline enough how many security threats there are on any given day here in London and how many have to be investigated. There are so many at any given time, the authorities are unable to predict exactly what to put out to the public and what not to put out to the public. We still remain at an alert level that is one below the highest alert level and before they get it up to that other level, they have to have significant credible evidence of some type of an impending attack and we're not there yet.
NGUYEN: All right, CNN's Paula Newton joining us live from London. Paula, I know that you're going to be on this story throughout the day. We do appreciate your time and your insight and of course, we will be checking in with you momentarily, but in the meantime, we have some more information coming in to CNN.
HOLMES: Yes, we do want to pass along to you what's happening with the president, actually, first of all. We heard from our Ed Henry who's recovering (ph) with the president in Kennebunkport, Maine. The president enjoying a little R&R, even though you never get away from the job of being president, but he has now, we understand, according to Tony Snow, the White House spokesperson, the president has been briefed on this situation here that's happening at the Glasgow Airport.
Again, there's not much that the president or the U.S. can do. They are lending support to the British authorities, but this is a British investigation, but still Tony Snow saying that there is no credible evidence that there is a credible threat to the U.S. that has anything tied to what's happening right now in Great Britain, so we do want to pass that along to you.
And as well now, we've been hearing from eyewitnesses, all kinds of eyewitness accounts about the scene there. We do want to get back to another eyewitness that we heard from a little earlier and talk about what he saw there at the Glasgow Airport.
VOICE OF JOHN GEARSON, TERRORISM ANALYST, KING'S COLLEGE: I could see a large, what looked like a Range Rover or a Land Rover, with a couple of guys in it, trying to push their way into the airport terminal building. The Land Rover suddenly caught fire, and what was really odd was that one of the guys was on fire, but he was trying to sort of open up the back of the Range Rover and it was very, very dramatic, I have to say.
It started out with some flames coming up from the front of the car, but then, it was almost as if there was kind of a mini explosion, as if there had been a petrol canister or something, and the flames were shooting right up to the top of the terminal building, which was quite dramatic.
And -- and then the terminal building seemed to catch fire, the front of the terminal building seemed to catch fire and there was smoke and flames, obviously going inside the building and outside as well and everyone just ran. I mean, they were absolutely terrified as you can imagine, because we -- the first thing in all our minds was, you know, is it an accident, is it a terrorist? Is it a terrorist attack?
HOLMES: All right, there again, we're hearing from eyewitness there. And those were some of the accounts we've heard, that one person staggered out of the vehicle and was taken into custody, and another person possibly got out of the vehicle and was on fire. We heard there from that witness that that person who appeared to be on fire actually went to the back of the vehicle, and was trying to get something out or open the back of the vehicle. So, some dramatic accounting there from an eyewitness who was there at the airport and watched some of this happen.
We do want to head to the phones now. On the line with us, Terrorism Analyst John Gearson is on with us.
Sir, thank you for your time and what are you seeing happening right now in terms of the connection between possibly this event and the two car bombs that did not explode, but the two car bombs that were found in London? Is there any question just yet for you, likelihood that these two are linked?
GEARSON: Well, I think, I think the concern would be if there were any linkages, this would change the component for the British government very substantially. Geographically distant attacks, one after the other, it's the thing that is most of concern to security services.
I still think we're a little bit early to be able to make that judgment. But clearly, the two vehicles in London had propane gas cylinders and petrol tanks in the trunks of the vehicles as well as nails, so it is possible that that's -- that somebody had a explosive device that had ignited the petrol, but not the propane gas cylinder, perhaps.
It's of great concern. Although I'm not too aware usually of suicide bombers usually using two people in the vehicle to deliver a load, so I think we have to be quite careful at the moment before we jump to too many conclusions.
HOLMES: Mr. Gearson, a word that we've heard a little bit this morning is amateurish. What -- would you use that word as well in describing what we're seeing with, I guess, this, what appears to be an attack right now and also, the unexploded bombs in London?
GEARSON: Yes, I think my description would be deadly serious and professional intent but amateurish delivery. So I think, these people were either encouraged or inspired by, if they do turn out to be terrorists, very serious people, but the individuals concerned and the materials they've got are not of the highest order.
The problem is that, if you use amateurish equipment, it's pretty hard for the authorities to track you down. One of the reasons for using household goods is that they are not controlled in the same way. And obtaining explosives gives lots of indications to the security forces that something may be going on.
So, amateurism does not necessarily mean less dangerous.
HOLMES: Is there a reason we're seeing what we're seeing now as far as the bombs in London, and this right now, what appears to be a deliberate attack and an attempt, tied to what's going on with the government now, the transition to a new prime minister ...
GEARSON: Well ...
HOLMES: ...to possibly the anniversary coming up of the London transit bombings?
GEARSON: Yes, I mean, there are a number of factors. The new prime minister, Gordon Brown, is Scottish. He would normally, previously have gone to Scotland at the weekends to visit his constituency. I don't believe he's there this weekend. And he's just taken over this week and certainly, these events have completely overshadowed the coming into power of Gordon Brown and the announcement of his new ministerial team.
Anniversary of 7-7, I'm not so sure. We also recently had the queen's honors list, in which a controversial author, Salman Rushdie, was given a knighthood and that's led to some criticism from people in the Muslim world, including Pakistan.
So, there are things one could indicate, but to be honest, security services have stopped over a dozen serious terrorist attempts in the U.K. in the last three to four years, and I think these people look for any opportunity rather than necessarily calendar dates.
HOLMES: Is there any -- when we look at this picture, if someone just waking up and just turning it on and saw that close-up shot of a vehicle into a building, they don't necessarily think U.S., they don't necessarily think that's happening somewhere in Great Britain. They -- we see these so oftentimes somewhere in Iraq, somewhere in the Middle East.
Is there any reason to believe, and folks there in London and Great Britain have been dealing with terrorism for a long time, any reason to believe that what we're seeing now is any type of new era, possibly being ushered into where we are going to have to deal with these in more areas of the west, the type of attacks, the car bombs that we're used to seeing elsewhere?
GEARSON: Well, I think you've hit your finger on one thing and that is that a lot of information, a lot of images are being sent out across the world from what's going on in Iraq and also in Afghanistan. There are also individuals from Great Britain who've been identified as having traveled to Iraq and certainly, one of our concerns is that people may be coming back having been trained in some of these techniques and bringing them back to the U.K. and to the U.S. in the future, the so-called "blowback" of terrorists. And that is something that people are very concerned about. Whether we've necessarily seen this in this case, again, I think it's early to say, but certainly our buildings tend to be pretty well protected against vehicles being driven into them because this is an obvious danger.
What we haven't seen in the U.S. and the U.K. are suicide car bombings. Britain and other countries in Europe have seen a lot of car bombings over the last 30 years, but not suicide car bombings designed to kill and maim dozens, maybe even hundreds of people, and that would be a huge change.
Thank heavens so far, we've still haven't seen it, and we're not absolutely clear whether yesterday was such an attempt, although I think by now, with two vehicles identified with the same devices in them, it seems, I think we have to start assuming that this was an attempt to let off a very deadly car bomb.
HOLMES: And sir, you mentioned it earlier, and we're not clear on it yet, but we certainly have several eyewitness accounts that there were possibly two people in this vehicle. You say that's usually not the case in a suicide bombing. Is there any way you can try to explain that or does that leave you a little baffled?
GEARSON: Well, I mean very simply put, if you've indoctrinated somebody to give up their life by driving a vehicle, at a check point, at a building, you might as well use them in two vehicles. And -- you know, why waste this resource? So far in Britain, we haven't had -- we've only had four suicide bombers identified.
If you have gone to the trouble of training and indoctrinating these people, I think you're quite -- you want to use them as effectively as possible. It seems odd that one person was on fire, one person wasn't.
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