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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Statement on France Terror Attacks; Police: Female Suspect May Have Escaped; Interview with Sen. Richard Burr
Aired January 9, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We continue to cover the breaking news.
Lets listen in to the prosecutor in Paris.
MOLINS: One of the perpetrators of the killings of these actions formerly identified in the vehicle and the perpetrator. From what we can say, he was involved and never detained (INAUDIBLE). He had never been detained in police custody. Other than that, there were two (INAUDIBLE) that he was condemned three years, including 18 months of imprisonment for (INAUDIBLE), as well as the earlier (INAUDIBLE) matter, which he had avoided following the information in the suburbs and information that we had against him.
I also need to say that the terrorist jihadist individuals were trained and we knew that they'd been in Syria and Yemen. Research was therefore issued, information was issued about the two brothers. And Cherif Kouachi was put into police custody, given criminal infringements, which he had carried out. Large numbers of investigations, telephone inquiries, police raids took place throughout the evening and the night in order to find the Kouachi brothers anywhere where they could be accommodated.
Thus, with this operation, different members were questioned about the Kouachi brothers and were detained with a view to planning, preparing acts of terror against other people. The first testimonies came from two or three others and the investigations were particularly concerning Emeraud (ph), who was a witness, about the events at Charlie Hebdo, Cherif Kouachi's brother-in-law. And the investigators were looking to find these places and persons who had to present themselves at the police station in the night that went into Thursday, and was also detained at 23 hours.
The identification of the brothers which were found by the media and led to the ending of the hope, it was decided, it was around 3:00 in the morning, the two Kouachi brothers, the following morning, around 2:26 a.m., were found at a petrol station -- seen at a petrol station, where they attacked the owner, saying two individuals had gone and that these two individuals were threatening.
They were -- there was then high surveillance which confirmed this.
I'd like to come back to what happened in Montrouge on Thursday morning. As you know, on the same morning, a traffic accident took place between two vehicles in Montrouge. The provincial police intervened around 7:20 a.m.. At 8:00, the municipal police intervened on the scene of the accident, having heard gunshots being fired. And there were some injuries. A .9 millimeter Kalashnikov was found on the road and the first testimonies appeared about a man who was armed with a Kalashnikov rifle.
There was a victim, a police officer and someone else who was not wounded.
These were the testimonies that were gathered and appears to have shot and attacked and wounded a gendarme.
The perpetrator of these facts then attacked the driver for escaping and was then discovered near the RER station.
These are the facts, bearing in mind everything that happened, and the anti-terrorist actions of the public prosecutor's office of Paris. The perpetrator was described as someone dressed in dark clothes with a Baklava, a Kalashnikov and carrying an arm. The witness who saw the perpetrator from close by managed to help draw a descriptive picture of the criminal, was then seen near the scene of the crime, then similarities which existed from these different testimonies. We know this today, but this was not about the same crime.
In this context, given the events, the threats on the territory and these different jihadist terrorist threats and attacks, and the characteristic in which this tragic event aiming at the forces of law and order, the police decided to intervene at the scene of these killings, given all these infringements of the law that have taken place. This inquiry was part of the first file of the judicial police of Paris under the direct anti-terrorist management of judicial police, as well as the director general.
BLITZER: The Paris prosecutor speaking out.
We're going to continue to monitor what he's saying.
Happening now, breaking news. On the run -- three terrorists are dead in two violent shootouts with police. But a female suspect apparently escapes and a new hunt begins.
Day of horror -- a siege of a kosher market leaves a gunman and four hostages dead, and the two brothers who massacred a dozen people on the attack on a magazine, they are killed in a final stand-off.
Al-Qaeda connection -- in a chilling last phone call, one of the gunmen says he was trained and sent by the terror group.
And the U.S. on alert -- the FBI warning tonight the events in Paris raise serious new concerns about the terror threat in this country, as well.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news. Amid shattering explosions and gunfire, three terrorists are dead tonight, one suspect is on the run after bloody standoffs with French police.
In a Paris suburb, police kill the two gunmen who slaughtered a dozen people in Wednesday's attack on a satirical magazine. And in the capital, they stormed a kosher grocery store where the gunman who killed a police officer yesterday was holding hostages. That gunman was killed, but so were four hostages.
And a police source says a female suspect apparently escaped.
We're learning much more about how the terrorists were linked in a stunning revelation. One of them spoke by phone with a CNN affiliate, saying he was working for al Qaeda in Yemen.
And first on CNN, the FBI and Homeland Security, they have sent out a nationwide bulletin warning that the Paris attacks may have grave implications for the United States.
The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Richard Burr, he's standing by live, along with our correspondents, our analysts, our guests.
But let's go to Paris first.
CNN's Chris Cuomo, he's on the scene for us and he has the very latest -- Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, all of this would have been unimaginable just a week ago. But now there is a painful reality here in Paris about the threat that is posed and the potential for impact.
And even though we have seen these two dramatic standoffs come to a conclusion, this situation is far from over.
CUOMO (voice-over): After a day of chaos, explosions and death -- tonight an all-out manhunt across Europe for this woman, believed to be the lone terrorist to survive these simultaneous assaults by police on the two locations where hostages were being held.
Early Friday morning, police closed in on the two brothers holed up in a print shop near Charles de Gaulle Airport.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were standing in front of the door to the factory. I shook the hand of Michel, the owner, and the terrorist. He introduced himself as a policeman.
CUOMO: A French journal resist called the building and talked with a man identified as the older brother, who pledged his allegiance to an Al-Qaeda leader. CHERIF KOUACHI (through translator): We are the defenders of the Prophet Muhammad. I was sent, me, Cherif Kouachi, by Al-Qaeda in Yemen. I went there and Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki financed my trip.
CUOMO: The brothers reportedly told police by phone that they wanted to die as martyrs. At 5:00 p.m. local time, they moved out of the building and began shooting at police. As police stormed the building, it was a dramatic scene of explosions and gunfire.
At the same time, a second police assault was launched on a kosher supermarket in Paris, where a close associate of the brothers had taken hostages.
GAEL FABIANO, POLICE UNION REPRESENTATIVE (through translator) the individual immediately entered the shop and fired his Kalashnikov. It seems he may be the same one who yesterday killed our colleague in cold blood.
CUOMO: Police say that terrorist killed a policewoman in Paris on Thursday. But just as scores of police moved in and many hostages were being freed, his accomplice, a 26-year-old female, may have escaped among them. Tonight, France's president says the risks the country faces from fanaticism are far from over.
PRES. FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRANCE (through translator): France is not finished with this threat. And so I want to call on you for your vigilance, unity and mobilization.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CUOMO: The implications are obvious from this situation -- Wolf. However, there are so many questions now. There are questions about what this means for the Muslim community here, for the Jewish community here, for how they treat terror threats here. A lot of questions have been raised, as eyes have been opened to what is the painful new reality that the war on terror, Wolf, isn't just being fought abroad. As the president said, it is being fought right here at home.
BLITZER: The president of France, Francois Hollande, as you know, Chris, he called the attack on that kosher supermarket on act of anti- Semitism.
Do we know the identities, do we know the four people who were killed by this terrorist inside that supermarket?
CUOMO: We don't. But we know a lot of other things that provide us some co-contextual value here, Wolf. We know that the president said that it was anti-Semitic. We know that it's obviously a kosher grocery. We know that he could have picked a lot of other stores in that area, Halal and others, secular ones, but he didn't.
We don't know the identity of the hostages who lost their lives. We do know that he admitted to killing them before this assault to a journalist, even though during the phone call with the journalist, he stayed away from saying why he targeted that grocery. Many believe that the reason is clear. And as you well know, Wolf, the idea of anti-Semitism being generated out of the Muslim extremism community, even here in Paris, is not new. It's been on the rise. We've seen an unusual, some would say unprecedented number, of Jews leaving here and going back to Israel.
The real -- the problem is real and it's palpable. And many believe it was demonstrated by what was done today.
The irony, of course, Wolf, is that that store may be kosher, but it is also used by many Muslims using to fill their religious dietary needs. It's just a complete shame by everyone's account.
BLITZER: Yes. A lot of Jews and Muslims, they share one thing. They don't eat pork. And that's why so many Muslims go to kosher grocery stores, not only in France, but all over the world.
A quick question about this terrorist, 26-year-old Amedi Coulibaly.
Is there any explanation why he would murder these four individuals, these four people in the grocery store, while before even any hostage rescue operation was underway?
CUOMO: Several theories have been offered by those close to the investigation, Wolf. One is anger and spite. He did not explain it as an extension of his mission. He said that was just about the police. But that's one explanation offered.
A second one might have been logistical, for lack of a better word, that when he entered, people tried to flee, and he wound up shooting them.
And that the -- those are the two main ones.
A third one offered that is offered is that he became startled once he was inside, people tried to escape, after, along the way, and he did it -- or it could have been a lie. The problem with it being a lie is that it turns out, Wolf, that four people did lose their lives.
The names, again, though, not known at this point. Other hostages were wounded, as were some of the SWAT team personnel who entered there to save those lives, Wolf.
BLITZER: Chris Cuomo doing amazing work for us. Chris, thank you very, very much.
Let's stay in Paris right. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is on the scene. He's also doing amazing work for all of our viewers.
You were at the scene. You were there at that kosher grocery store. The standoff continued for hours. Give us some perspective on what was going on.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'll tell you, until a short time ago, this entire neighborhood was on lockdown. In several blocks in each direction, that kosher grocery store just down behind me here. I mean, the tension throughout the day was palpable.
In those hours leading up to this raid, you had dozens of tactical police surrounding this kosher grocery store. There was a sense that something was going to happen, but there would be no warning. And then, indeed, with no warning, we heard those explosions. We heard those gunshots.
And I have to say, Wolf, having been to Afghanistan, Iraq, many times, it was reminiscent for me of sights and sounds I've heard and seen and witnessed there many times.
But, of course, today I was witnessing right here in the middle of Paris on an otherwise beautiful winter day.
Here was the moment on our air when we heard those explosions, when that raid began.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Now I'm hearing gunfire. Multiple shots, automatic fire. I'm going to stop speaking there just so you can hear it as well as I am. It's continuing.
Another explosion. This all happening about 300 yards from where we are at this kosher market.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Well, we now have this incredible video, as you know, Wolf. A tight shot, in effect, of the moment when those tactical police entered the grocery store.
You know, I've covered a lot of terror attacks. I've never seen quite a video account like this where you see it so well. Those first images, where you see some of the dead bodies on the floor of the hostages and then later you see the moment when it appears that the attacker charges the police, and you see that moment -- we're not going to show it on the air. But you see right before that moment when that attacker is taken down.
I think one thing to take away from that video, is that we often have the impression that these operations, while they are the most trained groups, this group, this French anti-terror group is the Delta Force equivalent here in France. They're very experienced at these sorts of operations. But we have the false impression that everything is so organized; everything goes according to plan.
But you could see in any raid like this that there is a measure of chaos there. No one knows what's going to happen until it happens. As they say, you know, the best plans disappear the moment of first contact. We saw that there.
Another thing I might mention, Wolf, the human cost, the human tension throughout this. One consequence of this neighborhood being on lockdown during and before this raid was that many parents were separated from their children. All the schools in this area were on lockdown. And I saw many parents in those hours before the raid who were pleading with police saying, "My child is inside the cordon." But the police would not let them inside the cordon. It was only about an hour after the raid when finally those children were let out of school. We were there. We saw them being reunited with their parents. This was a moment of relief.
But I'll tell you as well, we heard it from the police chief. We heard it from the French president on national TV earlier. This is still a city on alert. You have that suspect, female suspect on the loose, and you have warnings about further attacks. The sad fact is this becoming a fact of life here, not only in France but elsewhere in Europe and sadly, as we've heard from U.S. counterterror officials, it is this kind of attack that they're very concerned about happening on U.S. soil, as well.
BLITZER: Three terrorists are dead. But as you point out, that female suspect still very much on the loose right now, Hayat Boumediene. What do we know? How did she get away? Was she inside the grocery store, not inside the grocery store? Did she run out when some of the other hostages ran out? Do we know how she managed to escape?
SCIUTTO: To the best of our knowledge, to the best of the police information available now, they believe that she was inside the store and that she escaped in the chaos. The reason: some who looked at the video of the hostages that survived escaping and saying, "Hey, maybe one of those is the woman." She went in the other direction. Some went this way. But it hasn't been confirmed.
Just too much confusion at this point. I think we have to have an element of doubt here because, remember, on that first day, there was talk of three attackers. The third attacker who turned himself in, you'll remember, he has an alibi, friends of his who say that they were with him at the time. So questions about that third attacker. Is there someone else that the police don't have tabs on? That's become clear throughout this. It's hard to track everyone involved in this, even after an attack unfolds.
So there's still questions as to who is at large and where they were as these raids took place, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, we'll get back to you. Jim's in Paris for us. We just heard part of that chilling phone call in which one of the gunmen behind the magazine massacre said he was sent by al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate, and that's raising serious new concerns in this country. It may pave the way for more action in Yemen by the United States military and the CIA.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us now. What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the younger brother, Cherif Kouachi, said today that he'd gone to Yemen. But that's not actually the brother that the U.S. is focusing on. They're focusing on the older brother, Said. The U.S. believes he went to Yemen in 2011, received weapons training but not just weapons training.
He came to the attention of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric, who is the leader of al Qaeda external operations back in 2011 there before he was killed. He might have even met al Qaeda's master bomb- maker in Europe, Ibrahim al-Asiri. So this is a big concern. Where did he go in Yemen. Who did he affiliate himself with? What skills did he learn?
When he came back to Paris, he went underground, essentially. He was -- people lost track of him. What was he doing between 2011 and this week when this attack was launched?
Right now, the U.S. is looking at that claim that al Qaeda in Yemen ordered the attack. But what was -- what were the Kouachi brothers doing between 2011 and now, Wolf?
BLITZER: And the assumption is they were involved with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, not necessarily with ISIS, right?
STARR: That's the working theory at the moment. The U.S. is well aware of all the rumors that were involved with ISIS. But U.S. officials tell me they can't confirm it.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you. We'll get back to you, as well.
Let's bring in the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us. Let me get right to some of the specifics, because I know you're well-briefed on all of this. A.P. is reporting that a member of al Qaeda in Yemen has now said that they did, in fact, direct this attack, that they're claiming credit, responsibility for it. What are you hearing?
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, Wolf, I think it's too early to know. We hear the same reports, and it's pretty tough to run down whether there's validity in it. You know a group was going to come out and claim credit.
What we do know today is we had two terrorist events that today we now know were linked. And that's an incredible thing.
We also know that all of the participants seemed to have traveled and were in a country that trained them, financed them to some degree but, more importantly today, we learned they were directed at what they did. These are incredible things. And it's really going to set the global intelligence community on their ear to try to search out and find what's next.
BLITZER: Do you know what happened to this female attacker, this woman who may have escaped from that grocery store? Because it's unclear what was going on. What have you been heard -- what have you been told?
BURR: Wolf, I think all of law enforcement and intelligence is in the dark on this. Hopefully, the experts are looking at the video of the hostages that left the grocery. It may be that the stories are inaccurate as to whether she was there at the beginning.
It's hard for me to believe, with that much law enforcement surrounding that grocery, that anybody escaped unnoticed.
BLITZER: Yes. It would be hard to believe indeed. Senator, based on what you know, could there be more terror attacks in France, because I know the French authorities, they're worried about that.
BURR: Wolf, I think every country right now should be worried. As the head of MI-5 gave a speech just 48 hours ago that referenced two massive attacks in western Europe and possibly the United States. The buzz has been out there. And I think all of the global partners of the United States have been looking.
This is the first time we've really seen the direct link between a directed terrorist act, and it goes right back to AQAP in the Arabian Peninsula. And clearly, we've got a great worry still about ISIS and the intent that they have.
BLITZER: We're going to continue our conversation, Senator, stand by. Even as we speak, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, they've just issued a bulletin saying that U.S. law enforcement has to be on alert right now, as well. But much more with the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee right after this.
BLITZER: The breaking news: French police end a pair of terror standoffs, killing the gunmen who carried out the Paris magazine massacre and another gunmen who'd killed a police officer then took hostages at a kosher supermarket. Four of those hostages were then killed, and a source says a woman suspect managed to flee.
We're back with Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. He's the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security here in the United States, they put out a bulletin alerting police all over the country to what they described as sophisticated tactics that are used by terrorists.
Here's the question: Are there credible al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula plots here in the United States as far as you know right now?
BURR: Wolf, as far as I know right now, there's not an active plot that we're after. But as Paris has proven to us, we've been extremely good in the past in Europe and in the United States at thwarting attacks that we found in progress.
This one slipped through, and we've got to reach down through the bureau all the way to the local level and bring local law enforcement into the process to look if we want to try to catch something like what we saw in Paris. BLITZER: If this terror group in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula, AQAP as it's called, if it's now taking responsibility, claiming credit for the massacres in Paris, what should the U.S. do about that? I know that the U.S. targets some of these AQAP terrorists with drone strikes. But anything else you would recommend that the United States and its allies do?
BURR: Let me just say that we put a tremendous amount of pressure on the organization and we've destroyed its leadership several times. We've got to work with the Yemeni government to drive them out of the country, to not give them safe haven. But we've got to also realize that the global intelligence community is going to have to go on the highest alert they've ever been on.
Our intelligence in this country is going to dig deeper than they have in a number of years to try to make sure that we're connecting as many dots as we can find. And I will assure you that our intelligence community will take every bit of information the French will share with us and we'll try to make sure that that doesn't have any nexus in the United States. And if it does, our law enforcement, the bureau will be on top of it.
BLITZER: And would you recommend an escalation in these targeted assassinations, these drone strikes with these hail fire missiles against suspected AQAP targets in Yemen?
BURR: Well, Wolf, sometimes individuals are in areas that they can't be apprehended. And if they're in leadership, then we want to disrupt it. But do understand that if we can bring a terrorist in and interrogate them and learn what they know, that might help us better to make sure that the United States and the rest of the world is safe. So I don't think we can go exclusively to just eliminating terrorists and believe that we're ahead of the game.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers, Senator, some live pictures. These are Parisians forensic teams outside that kosher supermarket where four hostages were murdered by this terrorist who himself was later killed by police as they stormed the supermarket. The president of France, Francois Hollande, he says this was an act of anti- Semitism, this Jewish kosher supermarket.
Is that the information that you're getting as well, this was a deliberate attack on the supermarket because it was Jewish owned?
BURR: Well, I think it may be too early to make that conclusion. But clearly the individual that committed it, that's a plausible reason as to why they might have chosen it. I think that as we look at what's gone on in Paris, we've got to make sure that we glean every bit of information so it's the forensics teams that are there, it's the electronics forensics that they're going to go through to see if these brothers called anybody while they were holding hostages. And we've got to make sure that we literally lift every stone that we can from what we find.
BLITZER: Do you know whether or not one of the two terrorists, they were Cherif and Said Kouachi, that one of them when he was in Yemen back in 2011 actually met with the U.S.-born terrorist, Anwar al- Awlaki, who himself was killed by a U.S. drone strike later in 2011? Do you know if there was an actual meeting between these two guys?
BURR: We can't confirm yet whether he actually met Awlaki. And Awlaki was eliminated in September of '11. So it's consistent with the timeframe that everybody has -- the brother there, that he might have met Awlaki.
But here again, Wolf, Awlaki was a prominent figure then. And it's not like I think he might have met with one person from France and had a lot of contact with him. Awlaki was too prominent who maybe have done that. But clearly he was the voice of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula at that time.
BLITZER: One final question, Senator, what worries you the most right now in the aftermath of these terrorist strikes in France? What keeps you up at night?
BURR: Well, Wolf, I've said for 14 years since 9/11, the lone wolf is the scariest thing that we can be presented daily for those of us that are pledged to keep the American people safe. This has brought it to a new level because we've now seen a level of coordination but as difficult a target a lone wolf to try to pluck out and to thwart any attack that they might carry out, I'm sure that we're going to be rewriting the manual as to what to look for. But we're good.
We're the best in the world. And I know the American people are going to be safe based upon what we learn from this terrorist act.
BLITZER: Senator Burr, thanks very much for joining us.
BURR: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, we have new details about the terrorist brothers who killed more than a dozen people in Paris then eluded a desperate police manhunt until today.
What is their connection to al Qaeda?
We're also getting new details about today's bulletin from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. It's a warning to police all across the United States.
BLITZER: Breaking news, raids by French police and a pair of terrorist standoffs. One suspect, a woman is now on the run. One gunman who killed a police officer then took hostages at a kosher market was shot dead in Paris. Four hostages died. Police say a female accomplice may have escaped, may have escaped in the confusion.
The two terrorists who attacked the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine office, they slaughtered a dozen people. They did die in a final shootout northeast of Paris with police.
So let's get the latest from our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen. He's joining us from the scene of that shootout.
What is the latest over there, Fred?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. It was really a bizarre scene when that shootout happened earlier today here northeast of Paris. I would say that this one compared to the one at that kosher grocery store was actually very clean, if you can say something like that, about an operation like this. I would say that the actual shootout only lasted probably less than a minute.
We know now that the gunman apparently went out of the building, opened fire on police. The police then launched some sort of stun grenade. We -- from our vantage point here, we're about 400 yards down the road. We heard a damp sort of detonation here. Then there were -- I would only say about three or four shots. The police didn't fire very much. And it was very directed shots, it was single fire shots. It wasn't gun burst.
And then there were several more of these damp detonations and all of it, as I said, was over within about one minute. And as all of this progressed, we've heard some very bizarre things that happened during that standoff as these two Kouachi brothers were inside that printing shop. Apparently this morning as they went in there, as they took that place, there was an employee who came in and actually shook hands with one of these terrorists.
He said he thought these two people were police officers and they apparently initially introduced themselves as police officers. They then told him to get out of there as fast as possible and then he learned that these were actually the two terrorists who were being sought after.
We now know, Wolf, and we've been talking about it on our air a lot this afternoon that a French television station, our own affiliate BFM, managed to talk to Cherif Kouachi at some point while he was inside there and he told them that he was sent by Anwar al-Awlaki. So a journalist made contact with him.
Then as things went on, we learned that in fact there was another person who was inside the print shop whom we thought the entire day was a hostage of these two people. It turns out they never knew that another person was in there. So this was a standoff where I have to say the French police here worked very professionally. They cordoned off the area, they set up checkpoints, they were on top of the situation throughout the better part of the day.
But we are learning very bizarre twists as to things that went on. In the end, however, it seems as though this whole thing had ended up exactly the way that the French police would have hoped for. The two gunmen are neutralized and the one person who was inside that building is safe at this point. And at least here in this area, none of the law enforcement officials were injured in the raid.
BLITZER: Yes. Good point. It's over with over there.
Fred Pleitgen, thanks. I want to go back to our chief national security correspondent Jim
Sciutto. He's in Paris. He's got new information that we've just received from the prosecutor there.
What are you learning, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this information coming in just by the minute. So I'm going to run through it as we got it here. First of all, both of the attackers in northeast Paris and the attacker who took control of this kosher store just down the street from me here were extremely well-armed.
Let's just go through the arsenal that was present in northeast Paris as those two attackers were assaulted by police. They had a rocket- propelled grenade primed and ready to go, very powerful weapon. Two AK-47s, a Kalashnikov automatic rifles. They also had grenades.
Let's talk about what the attacker here, the hostage-taker had here at the kosher market. He also had a Kalashnikov rifle, he had grenades, he had a 9-millimeter pistol. And in addition to that 15 sticks of dynamite. So they were very much holed up, they were armed to the teeth really to take on some of the best-armed and best-trained counterterror forces that France has.
Let me give you some more because prosecutors also discovering information about their terror connections.
Let's talk first of all about Cherif Kouachi, he was one of the brothers that carried out the attack on "Charlie Hebdo." The prosecutor confirming that he traveled to Yemen in the year 2011 and that the authorities were aware not only of his travel to Yemen but also contacts with terror groups inside Syria as well. So in addition to Cherif Kouachi's previous arrest, remember he was in prison for attempting to recruit fighters to travel to Iraq.
Remember as well that in 2005 he was stopped at the border here in France trying to travel himself to Syria and then on to Iraq to join the fight against U.S. forces there. And in court documents we received earlier today, in his deposition during that case, he said that the reason he wanted to go to Iraq was to fight and kill Americans because he said Americans had mistreated the Iraqi people, certainly very worrisome because we know that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terror group he had ties with, has its targets set, its sights set on the U.S.
And I'm going to give you another very interesting piece of information. The prosecutor says that French authorities recorded some 500 phone calls between the wives of one of the Kouachi brothers and the wife of the attacker who took the kosher market here hostage as well. Remember, throughout the day, we were wondering -- we had questions about whether these attackers were connected.
Clearly they were connected, not only that the attacker here had called for, demanded the liberation of those two men, the Kouachi brothers who had taken over -- the Kouachi brothers, I should say, who had taken over the office in northeast Paris, but that their wives have been in touched 500 times in 2014 alone. You're really getting a sense of a web of terror here behind these attacks that held the city of Paris and its surroundings in tension for three days.
And as I said earlier, Wolf, this area here that I'm standing in was on lockdown until a short time ago because of course that standoff took place just down the street from here. It's only now that they're beginning to return to some semblance of normality.
BLITZER: Jim, I just want to be precise. Five hundred conversations, phone conversations between the wives of the two terrorists, the Kouachi brothers, and the wife of Amedy Coulibali, he was the terrorist who went into that supermarket, is that right?
SCIUTTO: That's exactly right. Five hundred phone calls between the wife of the terrorist, Coulibali, who took this kosher market, and one of the wives of one of the Kouachi brothers. So clear, consistent contacts between the attackers there and the hostage-taker here.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to stay on top of this. Stay with us. Don't go too far away, Jim Sciutto in Paris.
Joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM, our national security analyst, Peter Bergen, our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, and Middle East analyst, Robin Wright.
Guys, I want all of you to stand by. We have a lot to discuss, a lot to report on. There's more breaking news. But let's take a quick break. We'll resume the coverage right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security just putting out a bulletin nationwide, warning U.S. law enforcement agencies about the tactics used this week by the French terrorists.
Nic Robertson, what do you make of this? What are you hearing?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the very fact that this -- what appears to be now an Al Qaeda in Yemen trained operative or pair of operatives here, and the fact that they came back to France and were able to throw the French authorities off the sort of scent that they were active terrorists who planned an attack, a tactic that they were perhaps intentionally using to lie low for a while and then spring back when no one was watching them with this attack is troublesome, because it implies there's a potential for this in the future.
And talking to someone who used to deal with al-Awlaki, who Awlaki -- Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born Yemeni cleric who was a leading figure in Al Qaeda in Yemen at that time, who was heard one of the brothers saying this was an attack and revenge for his death, the fact that he -- that this -- I talked to this man, I talked to -- tells me Awlaki was asking him to go out and recruit Westerners for just this sort of attack and his concern is there could be more sleeper cells in France and in Europe.
And another regional intelligence source says look, I've been telling you all along, France is a very, very big target for al Qaeda and he expects more in France, possibly the rest of Europe -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure the people -- the authorities in France expect more, as well if you listen to the what the French president said between the lines. He's certainly bracing for more of these kinds of attacks.
These are live pictures, by the way, we're showing our viewers from just outside that kosher supermarket in Paris. Forensic teams now going through it.
Tom Fuentes, why were these two operations nearly, virtually, if not completely simultaneous against the two terrorists, in one part outside of Paris, the second operation at the supermarket?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I'm not sure, Wolf, that the first operation, you know, was initiated by the police. It sounds like the Kouachi brothers came out blazing and they decided it was time to go out in a blaze of glory and initiated the shooting and then the police responded to it. Then worrying at the second site, that when that terrorist heard about the brothers being killed, he might do something they wanted to go ahead and take the initiative and initiate the rescue on the second location. So I think the brothers made this happen at the time it happened.
BLITZER: Peter, what is your reaction to these reports that AQAP, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is not taking responsibility, saying they were responsible for coordinating the terror attack?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It seems very plausible. In fact, quite a number of different reports for different sources about this. I mean, I would go back to the "Inspire" magazine where they threatened "Charlie Hebdo", inspire magazine number 10. They also threatened quite a lot of other people including people in the United States. There was a Seattle cartoonist who -- Molly Norris, who instigated an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." She's been in hiding. She was advised by the FBI to go in hiding. She is somebody who presumed to be FBI's in touched with and talking to her about her security.
BLITZER: I assume those people have security, right?
BERGEN: Well, I don't know. I mean, it's an interesting question. You know, she's not in the witness protection program. She's just gone into hiding. But clearly there was a serious threat against her. And Ali Hasan Ali, who was also named by the Somali Dutch politician, who is in exile in the United States. And also Terry Jones, remember, the pastor in Florida who was burning the Quran, he's also been specifically named by this group.
BLITZER: You wouldn't be surprised, Robin, you've covered the Middle East, you've covered these incidents for a long time. You wouldn't be surprised if there's more on the way? ROBIN WRIGHT, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: No, in fact, one of the -- the
most surprising thing about Paris, frankly, is that it didn't happen earlier. We're now in the third generation of extremists dating back to the early 1980s and we've had them go through, whether it's Beirut, Afghanistan, the Gulf, Algeria, during its violent period of civil war in the 1990s, that we've gone through this long period and produced with ISIS over 18,000 foreigners that are now fighting with ISIS. There are thousands who have --
WRIGHT: 18,000, 3,000 at least from Europe. There are, you know, thousands who have trained with Al Qaeda, and its franchises over the year, whether it's in North Africa or Yemen, that there is -- there's always been this danger. We're in many ways lucky that it hasn't happened earlier. And it's clearly that once you crossed the threshold, once you -- once you've got a sequence of events like this, it triggers a chain of actions and reactions. And so I think we're headed for some tough times.
BLITZER: And very quickly, there's maybe a couple hundred Americans there, as well.
FUENTES: Right. And also, Wolf, the -- you know, not a lot has been said about Asia. You know, we know that they've traveled to join ISIS and al Qaeda from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, countries. So this is a worldwide group of foreign fighters that have gone there to train to become capable terrorists, not just terrorists but capable, efficient terrorists.
BLITZER: I'm going to have you all stand by. We're going to continue to follow the breaking news. Much more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Three terrorists are now dead. A female suspect escapes, now being hunted.
Also, we're getting new chilling information from the police raids. And what we're learning about the gunmen's ties to al Qaeda.
BLITZER: Happening now. Breaking news. On the run in France, after a day of terror, a female suspect. Who is she? Is she poised to strike again?
Hostage horror. Four captives are killed before police move in. Guns blazing, taking out the other terror suspects. Were they trying to become martyrs?