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Report: At Least 18 Dead in Paris Attacks; Hostage Crisis Unfolding in Paris; Terror Grips Paris in Night of Attacks; Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 13, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Paris terror fear. Multiple people are reported killed in a shooting. There's also word of possible explosions outside the national stadium. And a hostage situation unfolding right now, as well.
[17:00:44] We're following a night of unfolding terror right in the heart of the French capital.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, what appears to be a coordinated attack unfolding right now in Paris, including shootings, possible explosions, and a hostage crisis happening right now. All of this taking place at multiple locations in the French capital. And the latest reporting from our French affiliate BFM is that at least -- at least -- 18 people have been killed.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is with me here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're getting the latest information, the latest reports. It sounds very ominous. What's the latest?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Extremely ominous. And a French official telling our Elise Labott that it is considered a terror attack at this point, though we don't have that with certainty.
These are the details we know, and I've spoken to French police just a short time ago. At least three attacks in Paris. At the Stade de France as well as two other neighborhoods, the national stadium where there was an enormous soccer match going on between France and Germany. I'm told by French police that there were one, possibly two explosions at the Stade de France.
And elsewhere, in the other attacks, the use of AK-47 Kalashnikov automatic weapons. These are serious weapons. They are not common in France. The explosions, the use of those automatic weapons, the multiple targets and now we have additional reporting of possible hostage situation at a theater.
All these things at least have the earmarks, the hallmarks of a terror attack. And of course similar to what we saw at "Charlie Hebdo" in January in Paris. The earlier reports of a death toll were 18. We are watching those
numbers closely, because those numbers, at least reports of those numbers have been rising very quickly. It is a, by all indications, really an unprecedented attack in terror -- attack in Paris in terms of scale, in terms of the number of attacks we're seeing here. At least early indications of the casualties of this attack.
I've spoken to U.S. counterterror officials. They are aware of the reports. They are checking now with their French counterparts to get word of whether the French believe that this is a terrorist attack. But early indications we're hearing from French officials is they believe this is not criminal. They believe it has the hallmarks of terrorism.
BLITZER: Certainly looks like that. Jim Sciutto, stand by.
Joining us on the phone is the deputy mayor of Paris, Patrick Klugman.
Mayor, thanks so much for joining us. What can you tell us? What's the latest information you're getting?
PATRICK KLUGMAN, DEPUTY MAYOR OF PARIS (via phone): Well, the situation here in Paris is pretty confused. We have information coming from all over about at least three sites that were attacked tonight. At the stadium -- at the stadium, where there were explosions, of course. And shootings -- in two shootings. In one, it's not exactly -- separate in the area where "Charlie Hebdo" newspaper. And so the same area that was already struck last January.
We know that there are a lot a lot of casualties. We are speaking now about 18 dead. And apparently, there is going on a hostage situation which is small concert of "Charlie Hebdo" -- so they could be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) going on in Paris...
BLITZER: Mayor, let me interrupt and just get, is it the conclusion already that these are coordinated acts of terror?
KLUGMAN: Well, it's far too early to have conclusions. But this is what it looks like. There's no conclusion so far. It looks like terror attack. And it could be the worst ever in Paris.
BLITZER: When you say there were explosions, Mayor, at the stadium, at the football stadium there, what kind of explosions, big bombs, hand grenades, what kind of explosions were they?
[17:05:14] KLUGMAN: Well, the information we have that explosions, we don't have much to say. We know that President Francois Hollande was in the game (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at the break, at the halftime break of the game. We don't have, really, details. We know that probably there were already three dead at the stadium, 16 in the center of Paris, which is the area of "Charlie Hebdo" where there could be also, as I mentioned (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- apparently shooting going on as we're speaking.
BLITZER: And the suspects, the people who committed the explosions and the gunfire, are they captured? Or are they still at large? KLUGMAN: We have -- we have no information about anybody captured.
There was a possibility that the attacks at the stadium were committed by suicide bombers. But this is also not confirmed. It's something that was reported but unconfirmed so far. So I cannot give you more precise information at this stage.
BLITZER: Mayor, if you don't mind, please stand by with us. Patrick Klugman is the deputy mayor of Paris, providing us with information, unconfirmed reports that there was suicide explosions at that stadium.
Paul Cruickshank, our terrorism analyst, is also getting more information. Paul, what are you learning?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I mean, it certainly looks like a serious coordinated terrorist attack from everything that we've heard and seen so far. But French authorities have not yet publicly made that determination.
But French security experts, French security analysts who've been working their sources, they all believe that what they're seeing at this point, seeing unfold is a coordinated terrorist attack tonight in Paris. And if you look at the type of weapons that are being used, AK-47s, you're hearing unconfirmed reports, potentially, even of suicide bombings.
All of that at this very early hour makes you think of Islamist terrorism, makes you think of those awful days in Paris in January, those 48 hours when 17 people were killed in the "Charlie Hebdo" satirical news magazine headquarters and also a kosher market.
Francois Hollande, the president of France, has said that there's an unprecedented terrorist threat to the French because so many French nationals have gone off to Syria and Iraq, more than 1,000 to join up with groups like ISIS. More than 250 have come back. And those are the ones they know about. They believe that there's just this huge threat right now.
Just a few days ago they thwarted a terrorist plot to attack the French naval base in Toulon in the south, which is the home of the Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier.
Francois Hollande recently said that every week in France they're learning of new information about terrorist plotting. The scale of the threat really is just unprecedented in France right now.
So when we look at these images, when we hear these reports, we obviously think about Islamist terrorism. We think about ISIS. We think about the fact that French ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq have released a number of videos threatening exactly this: gun and bomb attacks in France.
But the French have not yet made the official determination this is terrorism. And nor should we until they do.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Paul, because we're getting more information. I just want to repeat what Patrick Klugman, the deputy mayor of Paris, just told us that the incident at the stadium could be, they haven't confirmed this, some sort of suicide bombing. Three people dead there. And then these two separate shootings near the area where the "Charlie Hebdo" terrorist attack occurred back in January, 15 people dead there.
Jim Bittermann is joining us from Paris right now.
Jim, what are you learning?
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've got an assistant producer who was out at the scene at the Bataclan. And he tells me that the police are breaking in to the back of the Bataclan. And they're also firing at a rooftop position around that theater.
So apparently, that hostage crisis that we heard was taking place there is indeed taking place. At least the police are still in action around the Bataclan.
And as you're reporting earlier, we heard that there were, in fact, three explosions at the Stade de France where the football match was taking place. Our sister network just played the tape from the football game and you can actually hear at least two of those explosions taking place in the sound track of the football match.
So it is several attacks in several different parts of the city. You can hear the police right on the Champs-Elysees, rushing down the Champs-Elysees. This is the height of the Christmas season here, and there are all along the Champs-Elysees hundreds of thousands of shoppers who are out tonight. And I think that there's a great deal of concern that something more could happen as certainly at the Bataclan, there is at this moment something going on there, Wolf.
BLITZER: And what you're suggesting and what we heard from the deputy mayor is that the city already, even before these attacks, the gunfire, the explosions, perhaps suicide bombings at that football stadium, even before, earlier, there had been a heightened state of alert in Paris, is that right?
BITTERMANN: That's absolutely right. And we heard from several of the American and other expatriate installations here that, in fact, security had been quietly but steadily stepped up in the last perhaps week or two weeks.
So seems to me that the French had some kind of intelligence that something may be in the works. And as Paul was reporting there, there was the thwarted attack down in Toulon where the French said that they picked up someone who was trying to attack French sailors. So there are -- clearly, there was some kind of noise out there on the terrorist network that put people on alert, put the police on alert here.
This tonight, though, I don't think anybody was prepared for this. I mean, we're hearing anywhere from 15 to 30 people killed in the attacks here this evening. AFP is reporting -- Agence French Presse is reporting 30. It's hard to imagine that number, but we just don't know at this stage of the game. BLITZER: Jim, stand by for a moment. We're going to get back to you.
Jonathan Johnson is joining us. He's at the stadium there where those explosions took place.
Jonathan, you're a journalist. Tell us what you saw, what you heard and what's going on now.
JONATHAN JOHNSON, JOURNALIST (via phone): Through the first half of the game, we heard a couple of loud explosions. Explosions here in France, they're not entirely uncommon, however, those are as loud as we heard them tonight, you know, they're very rare, if unheard of. So that immediately put everybody on edge, at least that perhaps something might have been up.
And then round about halftime of the game, we filtered through a couple incidents in Paris, the bombing outside of Stade de France itself could have been an explosion. And then it escalated to grenades were thrown in the close vicinity of Stade de France. And then shooting and the hostage taking in Paris getting everybody's attention on social media through mobile phones and such.
And now we've come to the end of the game. People are able to leave the stadium. The stadium's not in a state of lockdown. However, there are a large number of supporters who come to the games tonight who are on the pitch at present, because they're not able to leave their area of the stadium and get to their cars or go to the train.
So there are still areas of the stadium (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the pitch at present. It's still unclear. You know, the extent of the massacre tonight is really around about maybe 30 people dead so far. But it's unclear exactly how bad the situation is to us in the stadium, how bad the situation outside the stadium is right now.
BLITZER: Jonathan, is there any doubt that these were coordinated acts of terror? Because so far they're reluctant to officially confirm that, but what does it look like from your vantage point? And you are right there in the middle of it at that stadium.
JOHNSON: Definitely feels like, you know, these incidents are perhaps connected. May be a little too early to speculate exactly how coordinated they are. But it does feel very suspicious.
There was a bomb threat on the German national team's hotel earlier today. And then for these incidents to happen at the stadium and almost exactly at the same time, the shooting and the hostage situation, to also be going on at the same time it does feel like it's been too well-organized for them to be isolated incidents.
BLITZER: Jonathan, I want you to stand by.
[17:15:06] Jim Sciutto, our chief national security correspondent, is getting more information. What else are you learning?
SCIUTTO: So Wolf, I've been in touch with someone who is in touch with four people who are inside that concert hall where this hostage situation is underway. I'm told that it is ongoing and just a dramatic frightening scene inside there. That the hostage takers -- again, this is from an eyewitness inside who is one of those hostages, counting six to eight hostage takers. The hostage takers are going through that concert hall right now, looking for any people in that hall who have been hiding from them.
You'll have seen reports now that there's some dozens of people may be inside. And these witnesses from inside the concert hall saying that there's a shootout under way as we speak between police outside and hostage takers who are on the roof, or at least the police are firing at a target on the roof.
So, again, this is an eyewitness report from inside that concert hall where a hostage situation is under way, describing six to eight attackers. They are looking for any people inside there who may still be hiding from them, because they have apparently corralled others in one central place.
But when you look at that, in just one location six to eight attackers, and the police telling me earlier today that there were at least three attacks. You have the concert hall. You have the Stade de France. You have a restaurant, possibly another location. We're talking about multiple attackers involved in this.
That speaks to serious coordination, serious resources, in addition to the weapons that they're telling us that they've used, police telling me AK-47 Kalashnikov automatic rifles, as well as one, possibly two. And as the deputy mayor of Paris was telling Wolf just a short time ago, one, possibly two suicide bombings at the Stade de France.
So really, this number of attackers, the weapons, the resources they have, the number of attacks taking place, unprecedented for coordination. Really a level above what we saw even with "Charlie Hebdo" in January in Paris, Wolf.
BLITZER: It sounds like that hostage situation over at the concert hall is still ongoing right now. The hostage takers, hostage holders are clearly there. Police have presumably, Jim, surrounded that concert hall right now. They're trying to get in there?
SCIUTTO: If not surrounded the concert hall, they are at least exchanging gunfire with attackers, I'm told, on the roof of the concert hall. But we did hear the deputy mayor say early or witnesses reports of them trying to break into the concert hall.
Of course that's a very risky operation, right? Because if you have people's lives in danger there, of course, the question is what do the attackers do to those hostages if the police engage them?
BLITZER: Yes. Clearly a terror situation under way in Paris right now.
Paul Cruickshank, you're getting more information, as well. What are you learning?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, this hostage situation, Wolf, is very, very concerning, indeed, with reports of up to 60 people being holed up in this theater. Clearly, a lot of concern that some of these people may be killed by the hostage takers.
Ever since that terrible attack in Mumbai in November 2008, where you had marauding gunmen launching attacks across that Indian city, there's been concern that this could be repeated in the west. To some degree, it was repeated earlier this year in Paris with the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks and other attacks in Paris. But this appears to be on a much larger scale than even that.
The loss of life already is horrific. And these are just early reports coming in. A lot of concern at this hour about those 60 hostages holed up, presumably by people who are going to show very, very little mercy and may want to die tonight themselves.
BLITZER: And the reports from the deputy Paris mayor, Patrick Klugman, saying that there may have been some sort of suicide bombing under way at that football stadium. We were just getting a report from there, two separate shooting incidents, at least 15 people dead elsewhere not far away from the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine headquarters. We saw that terror incident back in January. Also a separate terror incident at a kosher supermarket very nearby, as well. And now this hostage scene unfolding at one of the main theaters, the concert hall in Paris, as well.
Tom Foreman, you've been taking a closer look at these multiple areas. It seems like a lot of this must be coordinated.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you take a look at the lay of the land here, zoom into Paris a little bit and talk a little bit about more about what you can see as we get closer.
The main tourist area that most people would know is right over here. This is where you would find the Champs-Elysees. You would find Notre Dame down in here and the Eiffel tower over here.
This is the first one over here. When we talk about the Bataclan Arts Center, this is actually located a very short walk from where the "Charlie Hebdo" offices were, down in this area.
You talked about earlier some shots being fired toward the roof of this arts center. Almost every building around here is at least a little bit taller than it, so there would be a higher vantage point there.
It's also worth noting -- I don't think we've noted this yet -- the act scheduled to play there tonight was an American band from California. We don't know anything more about it. Other than that we don't know if that's actually what happened, but we do know that was the schedule for tonight. This is the theater in question.
If we move to the next location and take a look at the street view at this, this is over in the tenth -- excuse me. This is up in the stadium up here. This is well north of town. You might pass it on the way to one of the airports. Big modern stadium. Lots of people there. This gives you a sense of what the lay of land is there and what it would look like if you were there outside in the daytime.
So this is the second location, lots of people there.
But the area right now that so far we've had the most talk about, on signs where people have already been killed or hurt seems to be down near this restaurant. Let's go down to the street level here. This is in the Tenth Arrondissement, Tenth District there. You can see the outside of this restaurant obviously closed up at the time this picture was taken. But this is a very popular area for a lot of young people. A very densely used area. So lots and lots of people here.
Wolf, that just gives you an idea of what we're talking about. And these two locations at least the restaurant and the theater, particularly the theater, are really quite close to the old "Charlie Hebdo" offices. So for many people there who aren't even caught up into it, must be a terrifying moment, Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom, stand by. I want to go to Anne Charlotte, she's a reporter with France 2. She's got an update on this hostage situation unfolding at the concert hall, the theater there in Paris.
Anne, what are you learning?
ANNE CHARLOTTE, REPORTER, FRANCE 2 (via phone): Well, listen, I'm standing on the boulevard just behind the Bataclan. You can see right now people are running like really fast, apparently being evacuated by policemen all around the area. Basically, it's been shut down from all over the place and they're evacuating people.
We've been just walking around in the neighborhood here, and indeed we have colleagues, like, looking at us and saying, like, you have to go down on the bottom, move away, move away. So they're evacuating all the area. Apparently way beyond where -- which is really like 100 meters where I am, but it's impossible for us to actually get in and see anything.
What we can see is people running really scared. I've been watching in the area and basically people were talking on the phone, because this is an area where people go out at night, on a Friday night, especially. This is very popular for young people like mid-30s in Paris. Actually going into those cafes, going into this concert hall. This is very, very popular.
So basically right now, the area is totally blocked, totally locked down by many, many police forces. I've seen many of the emergency trucks running up and down. Apparently, also some medical teams were hiding behind buildings, because apparently there were two -- it was too -- it was not secure enough for them to actually move forward towards the concert hall.
Really, what's happening now is a situation of total lockdown around one of the most busiest areas in Paris over the weekend. And it's really very, very impressive to see all those policemen running around, shouting at people, heavily gunned. We have no idea what's going on. Basically, I've been hearing reports about what's going on but hostage situation in the Bataclan. But here it's the total silence. What we hear is screams. We don't
know where they're coming from. We heard some gunshots earlier on, as well, but it was very hard to tell from what direction it came from.
It's very difficult to describe, you know, precisely what's happening, which is clear what is clear is that it's under siege kind of Paris right now that I'm witnessing. And this is going way beyond what we've seen on January 7 from where I'm standing because of the many places where, apparently, some violent action took place.
I can see right now just firemen, like rushing to their trucks to leave the area. Apparently, they've been called to another scene. So maybe we're going to be able to move a little bit forward and get closer to the area. Obviously, heavily secured by police forces right now.
BLITZER: Anne, do you have any idea how many people are inside that concert hall? We're told an American metal rock band was performing inside and that earlier we heard maybe 60 hostages. But do you have any idea how many people are being held hostage inside there right now by these hostage holders?
CHARLOTTE: I have absolutely no idea. No source will confirm how many people were in. Indeed I've heard the report about an average of 50 or 60 person in the theater right now. Actually, no confirmation of that.
[17:25:06] BLITZER: Anne, I want you to stand by. Anne Charlotte is a reporter for France 2. And Jim Sciutto is getting more information, as well.
Jim, what else are you learning?
SCIUTTO: No one has claimed responsibility for this yet. And as always, we want to caution that we don't know for certain it is terror, although the French officials are treating it as terror at this point.
But I should note that ISIS, the terror group ISIS already has a hash tag on Twitter celebrating the Paris attacks. It is in Arabic. And you're seeing on Twitter in Arabic a lot of celebrations and support for these attacks here, which we've often seen in the past with other terror attacks or things that appear to be terror attacks. So you have something of a tie there, but no official claim.
And just one other note at the Bataclan theater, it was an American band that was playing there. The way these groups operate, if it is confirmed it was a terror attack, they likely would have been aware that it was an American band playing there tonight. So you could look at that as a way to attract attention and perhaps make not just France a target of this attack tonight but the U.S., as well.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by. We'll see if this ISIS applauding what's going on is genuine, if it is formally part of an ISIS terror operation unfolding in Paris right now. I just want to update our viewers on what we know. There are at least
three, possibly four separate incidents that have been unfolding in Paris over the past few hours, including at the football stadium there. Apparently, a suicide bombing. Some explosion. At least three people dead there.
Two other gunshot attacks at an area not far from the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine, where there were at least 15 people, 18 people killed in January. And now we're told at least 15 people are killed here.
And also there's an ongoing hostage situation unfolding at a major concert hall in Paris right now. And dozens of people, we're told, are still inside. And there are at least six to eight hostage holders.
Jim Bittermann is joining us from Paris right now. Jim, what -- first of all, what else have you learned about this hostage situation that's still underway?
Bittermann: Wolf, it apparently still is underway. The police are still targeting the building, upper floors on the building where the hostages apparently are being held.
Now, some people have been freed. There have been, as your reporter from France 2 was reporting earlier, in fact, some people have been evacuated from the building. Our assistant producer's on the scene, and he said he saw at least one stretcher come out of the building.
He also said that he overheard the police talking about explosive belts. This was something he overheard. So it's not confirmed that the gunmen and the terrorists involved in this have been -- armed themselves with explosive belts. But in any case the police were warning each other on their radios to be on the lookout for explosive belts.
But they are continuing -- the action is still continuing there. And I don't feel that they -- I don't think that they feel that they have freed all the hostages have taken place.
One thing else I just add to what Jim Sciutto was saying, and that is that, according to a witness who was interviewed just a short while ago, that as the gunman attacked the Bataclan, they were heard to be saying, "Allah Akbar." And this is something that the eyewitness reported. We don't have confirmation. But this is something that was coming from the eyewitnesses that saw the attack take place.
BLITZER: And our affiliate there in Paris, Jim, BFM, saying six shootings have taken place, three separate explosions at the stadium right near the stadium over there. The death toll presumably is going up even as we speak. No official numbers coming in yet.
Paul Cruickshank, you're working your sources in Paris. What else are you hearing?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, Wolf, no official confirmation yet from French authorities that they believe this is a terrorist attack, but obviously, as we all see these images, as we all hear these reports, that's exactly what it looks like at this stage, especially because of the reports of potential suicide bombers being involved, of "Allah Akbar" being chanted by some of the shooters, because of the kind of weapons being used, Kalashnikovs and so on. And because this appears to be a coordinated ongoing attack, because there's a hostage situation, all of that points to this being some kind of spectacular terrorist attack unfolding tonight on the streets of Paris. And it seems this is far from over.
But one thing that the French are is they're prepared. They feared for some time that something like this could happen. French politicians have been warning the French public that there's an unprecedented terrorism threat in the country and that the attacks of "Charlie Hebdo" in January were only just the start.
They're very concerned by all the travel flows, more than 1,000 French nationals going off to fight in Syria and Iraq, hundreds coming back.
[17:30:01] Thousands of French citizens being radicalized inspired by ISIS. And this drum beat of calls from Syria and Iraq, from French ISIS fighters in videos which are released every week, every month it appears, calling for attacks exactly like this. Gun and bomb attacks in Paris.
So is this what we're seeing play out on the streets of Paris tonight? French authorities have not yet officially weighed in calling this a terrorist attack, but I know that French security analysts and others being briefed by their sources believe that is exactly what we're seeing at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by as well, Paul. We just got some video in, a Vine video. This is six seconds. This is at the football stadium. I'll play the video. You can hear the explosion. Listen to this.
You heard the -- yes, this is a loop. This is a six-second loop video on Vine. You can hear that explosion as these football players, these soccer players are on the field over there. That is a huge, huge explosion. Let's listen one more time.
All right. There you could hear it there. There you could hear it right there. I want to show our viewers live pictures coming in right now. The Associated Press says we anticipated that the death toll is going up. The Associated Press now reporting at least 35 people are dead in this attack. I think it's fair to say we can call this a terror attack unfolding in Paris right now. The Associated Press saying at least 35 people are dead.
These pictures coming in from Paris in multiple parts of the city. It looks coordinated near the stadium. Elsewhere a popular tourist area it's going up.
Paul Cruickshank, I know you're working your sources, you're getting more information as well. We've gotten these initial -- these initial tweets from ISIS supporters. They're applauding what's going on in Paris right now. What are you learning? CRUICKSHANK: Wolf, I'm learning this from Eric Pelletier who is one
of the top national security reporters in France with the "Parisian" newspaper. He says just moments ago France launched a terrorism investigation. That doesn't mean it was necessarily a terrorist attack, but they have launched a terrorism investigation.
Also sources now, other sources suggesting there were possible suicide bombing attacks outside the Stade de France. You have just a few moments ago the deputy mayor of Paris, Wolf, tell you about unconfirmed reports. There appears to be a little bit more corroboration now that those may have been suicide bombings, so they're still trying to sort out exactly what those very large explosions were that we just played on air, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a very disturbing situation. And as heartbreaking as the numbers are, unfortunately we have to report our affiliate BFM, our Paris affiliate, now reporting at least 60 people are confirmed dead in what is clearly a Paris terror attack. And who knows how many people have been injured in explosions, gunfire, AK-47s in multiple parts of the French capital.
Evan Perez, our justice reporter, is getting more information as well.
Evan, what are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that counterterrorism officials here in the United States have convened secure conference calls around the country to try to gather information. They don't know yet what they're dealing with. And really to assess whether there's any danger here to U.S. cities. So far there's no indication of any actual threats here in the United States. But it is something that they're keeping an eye on.
And, Wolf, immediately what they're looking at here is, again, from a distance having very little information on the ground yet from Paris, what their immediate suspicion from officials that I've talked to is that, you know, the French have long been worried and the U.S. has long been worried about returnees. People who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq and have returned. And so that's the first place where everybody's looking at the population of people who the French have been concerned about.
They've had a very hard time keeping track of which Jim Sciutto and Paul Cruickshank have been talking a little bit about in the last hour. So that's where this investigation begins. Again, there's no confirmation yet of who actually carried this out. But obviously the coordinated -- the appearance of coordination in these attacks is not escaping anyone's notice. U.S. counterterrorism officials are very much keeping an eye on this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Our French affiliate once again now reporting at least 60 people are dead in what clearly is now considered to be a terror attack unfolding in multiple locations in Paris right now.
We're also told -- our White House correspondent Jim Acosta has been told by a White House official that President Obama has been briefed on the situation in Paris by the assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco. So the president has been informed.
[17:35:07] And you just heard Evan Perez say U.S. counterterrorism officials have convened secure conference calls to find out precisely what's going on as well.
Brian Todd, you're getting more information now on what's unfolding at that concert hall in Paris. The Bataclan, where we're told an American band, rock band, was actually performing.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. A very dynamic situation still ongoing at the Bataclan Theater. This is in the 11th District in Paris. We're told not far from the other place where a shooting took place at the Cambodge Restaurant in the 11th District. Not too far away from that location.
We're told by authorities in Paris two to three gunmen opened up on law enforcement as they tried to enter the Bataclan Theater. So clearly a very dangerous situation apparently ongoing there. We got reports of two or three gunmen opening fire on law enforcement, but as Jim Sciutto reported earlier witnesses are saying there may be six to eight gunmen going around the theater looking for people who might be hiding.
As you mentioned we did get some indications, some word from Billboard and other sources here that an American band called Eagles of Death was scheduled to play at that theater. But again, we have to be cautious here, Wolf. You know, that could have no connection at all to what's going on tonight at the Bataclan Theater. But clearly a very dangerous hostage situation going on there.
Again, the numbers of hostages, we have to be very careful in reporting these as well. We have heard that the figure 60 hostages. We've heard up to 100. But again, this is very, very fluid ongoing here at the Bataclan Theater in the 11th District in central Paris, Wolf. And again, we're told that is not very far away at all from the Cambodge restaurant where some people were gunned down earlier tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: And once again our affiliate BFM reporting that at least 60 people are now confirmed dead in this terror attack, coordinated series of terror attacks in the French capital.
Melissa Bell is joining us, she's from France 24.
Melissa, I understand you're right at the Interior Ministry in Paris, which is in charge of the law enforcement counterterrorism operation. What are you learning?
MELISSA BELL, FRANCE 24 REPORTER (via phone): Well, Francois Hollande of course as you know was at the football match tonight where some of the explosions took place earlier on. One of the many attacks that Paris has seen over the course of the last couple of hours. He left there and has come here to the Interior Ministry. He's in a crisis meeting with the country's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. Of course they're monitoring the situation and deploying forces to deal with it.
We believe now that at the Bataclan forces from Le RAID which is the French elite police unit that you'll remember had dealt so efficiently with the hostage situation at the end of the "Charlie Hebdo" attack back in January. They're now on the scene and involved in trying to secure it.
And you were talking a moment ago about the geography of Paris. You have to understand that all these areas apart from the Stade de France which is outside the city are very close together. The (INAUDIBLE) where the first shooting took place tonight, minutes later in the 11th. The Bataclan also in the 11th. These are small part of historical Paris. And it is tonight a scene of complete chaos.
BLITZER: And you say that Francois Hollande, the French prime minister plus the Interior minister, they are both there at the Interior Ministry. And I take it they're in charge now of monitoring what's going on, trying to find out what's going on. Is that right?
BELL: Monitoring, Wolf, events and making sure that the right forces get deployed to the right places. And of course so much of this has happened in such a short amount of time that you can imagine the task (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Melissa, I think we're losing your cell phone service. I'm going to get back to you.
Melissa Bell reporting from France 24 TV.
The situation there at the Interior Ministry underscoring what's going on. These by the way are live pictures you're seeing from the streets of Paris, our affiliates, Reuters, others showing us these live pictures you've seen at various times, you've seen people who've been wounded, they've been carried away on stretchers. It's an unfolding situation. And you know that if at least 60 people are reported dead you got to believe a lot more are injured as well.
So the hospitals in full battle station right now as this terror situation continues. It is by no means over. There's a hostage situation taking place right now at one of the main theaters, one of the main concert halls, the Bataclan theater where an American rock band was performing. And it's a hostage situation that's unfolding right now there as well.
Jim Sciutto is getting more information for us. He's with us. Jim, what else are you learning?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're just learning from our Jim Acosta who's at the White House that the president is going to make a statement in the briefing room shortly. That just speaks to the magnitude of this event, a Mumbai-style attack you can say based on all we've seen so far. They're not confirmed publicly by French officials but that level of coordination is what we're seeing here.
[17:40:09] And of course one thing to keep in mind, and again I've been in touch with people who are inside that concert hall, you still have hostages. The death toll is at 60, but you have dozens, perhaps dozens of people police say held in that theater whose lives remain in danger. And you have I'm told by witnesses inside that building that there is a gunfire, a gun battle rather underway between security forces outside that hostage situation and with those attackers inside. We're told six to eight attackers inside that concert hall.
BLITZER: That concert hall, the Bataclan concert hall where an American rock group, Eagles of Death Metal were performing tonight. And that hostage situation continuing even as we speak right now.
Once again we've been told by the White House that President Obama is momentarily going to go into the White House briefing room and make a statement on what's going on. We will of course have live coverage of that once the president is in the briefing room. We will go and -- and we will hear what the president of the United States has about to say as well.
Evan Perez, our justice reporter, is working his sources. What else are you learning, Evan?
PEREZ: Well, Wolf, we've just heard that the NYPD is stepping up security across the city just as a precaution. There's no indication of any threat. And as I told you just a few minutes ago there are counterterrorism officials around the country who are on these secure conference calls trying to gather information really. They don't know yet what we're dealing with. There are all indications obviously, the pictures are very obvious that we've been showing that this appears to be a terrorist attack.
And so these officials are taking no chances. They want to make sure they find any indications of chatter that could indicate something could also be happening here. And again, no indications that there's any actual threats here in the United States. NYPD as they do in these types of events are stepping up security. Some of it will be visible, some of it will not be, but that is something they're doing out of abundance of caution, Wolf.
BLITZER: So it's -- but it's clear that people in New York City at least now they'll notice there's heightened security on the streets of Manhattan and elsewhere?
PEREZ: That's right, Wolf. That's right. And I have checked with counterterrorism officials in other parts of the country. And they're not yet doing this. New York obviously for obvious reasons, you know, it's the place where everybody thinks of as target number one. And they always feel that. And this is something that the NYPD tends to do whenever these events after the "Charlie Hebdo" attack they also stepped up security.
Again, there's no indication of any actual threats here. But they are doing this out of a precaution. And to give people -- make people -- put people at ease given it's Friday night, it's going to be crowded on the streets of New York. They want to make sure people are safe.
BLITZER: And once again our affiliate BFM now reporting at least 60 people are dead in what clearly is a series of terror attacks in the French capital at various locations. Obviously highly coordinated.
We're showing our viewers live pictures from the streets of Paris right now. This is -- we're also told that the French government has told everyone in Paris to stay indoors at this time.
Paul Cruickshank, we're awaiting the president of the United States, President Obama's about to make a statement to the nation, indeed to the world. We'll have live coverage of that. He'll update us on what the United States knows about what's going on and what the U.S. is presumably doing as well.
You just heard Evan Perez saying that in New York City counterterrorism officials are going on a heightened state of alert right now out of an abundance of caution to make sure what's happening in the French capital doesn't happen here in the United States.
But, Paul, you're getting more information. What else are you learning?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, they've opened up a terrorism investigation, which is hardly surprising in France. They do that if there's any suspicion that it could be a terrorism event. Obviously what we're seeing clearly appears to be a major coordinated terrorist attack on the streets of Paris tonight, Wolf.
They're investigating those blasts that we were just playing outside the football stadium. You have the deputy mayor of Paris just on saying that some early reports suggesting those were suicide bombers potentially creating those blasts outside the stadium. But those reports still unconfirmed. So they'll be looking at all of that.
Clearly French authorities have a lot more information than we do right now. Presumably they will already know if they were indeed suicide bombings outside the football stadium. But obviously right now the biggest concern is this hostage situation with up to 60 people holed up in that theater. Obviously concerned that every last person there could potentially be killed given the fact from everything we're seeing tonight this is a very ruthless band of gunmen and potentially bombers involved in this attack. When we look at these images --
BLITZER: We're about to hear -- yes.
[17:45:01] BLITZER: Yes, I was going to say, Paul, we're about to hear from President Obama. He's about to walk into the White House briefing room. There you see the microphones there. The reporters have been told. He will be out momentarily. The president has been, I am sure, fully briefed by Lisa Monaco, his counterterrorism adviser and other official in the U.S. government of what's going on.
Joe Johns, you're there in the briefing room. They just announced this a few minutes ago that the president would make a statement.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. Very short turnaround on that, Wolf. We have been told we should expect to see the president here in the briefing room within a minute or two as a matter of fact.
We also have been told as you just reported that Lisa Monaco, the president's homeland security adviser, has briefed him on the situation in Paris, although we do know it's unfolding and still a lot of details yet to be revealed.
Now we've seen the president once today. He met here with a number of officials talking about Transpacific Partnership trade deal. He's headed to Turkey tomorrow afternoon. But before that we're going to hear from the president shortly here in the briefing room about these tragic events in Paris. And we'll be getting it back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Of course. We're going to have the president -- in fact he's walking out right now.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening, everybody. I just want to make a few brief comments about the attacks across Paris tonight. Once again we've seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris. It's an attack not just on the people of France. But this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.
We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need to respond. France is our oldest ally. The French people have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States time and again. Now we want to be very clear that we stand together with them in the fight against terrorism and extremism. Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress.
Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong. The American people draw strength from the French people's commitment to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberte and galite, and eternite, are not only values that the French people care so deeply about but they are values that we share.
And those values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening. We're going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people.
We don't yet know all the details of what has happened. We have been in contact with French officials to communicate our deepest condolences to the families of those who've been killed, to offer our prayers and thoughts to those who've been wounded. We have offered our full support to them.
The situation is still unfolding. I've chosen not to call President Hollande at this time because my expectation is that he is very busy at the moment. I actually by coincidence was talking to him earlier today in preparation for the G-20 meeting. But I am confident that I'll be in direct communications with him in the next few days. And we'll be coordinating in any ways that they think are helpful in the investigation of what's happened.
This is a heartbreaking situation. And obviously those of us here in the United States know what it's like. We've gone through these kinds of episodes ourselves. And whenever these kinds of attacks happened, we've always been able to count on the French people to stand with us. They have been an extraordinary counterterrorism partner. And we intend to be there with them in that same fashion.
I'm sure that in the days ahead we'll learn more about exactly what happened. And my teams will make sure that we are in communication with the press to provide you accurate information. I don't want to speculate at this point in terms of who was responsible for this.
[17:50:03] It appears that there may still be live activity and dangers that are taking place as we speak. And so until we know from French officials that the situation is under control and we have more information about it, I don't want to speculate. OK? Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any change in your plans, sir?
BLITZER: All right. So there the president of the United States mincing no words calling this an act of terrorism, an outrageous attack the president saying. The U.S. will do whatever it can to help the people of France during this awful, awful ordeal. France being the America's oldest ally right now. Well, the president is supposed to leave, by the way, for that G-20 summit in Turkey this weekend.
He's supposed to head over there. The French was supposed to be there. Let's see if all that continues to unfold as scheduled right now.
We're also told that the president said some of these acts of terror were continuing. In fact there is still a standoff, hostages are being held at the Bataclan theater, that's where a rock concert was taking place and it looks awful. At least 60 people are reported dead. BFM, our affiliate, they're saying at least 60 but we fully anticipate unfortunately that number is going to go up.
Jim Sciutto, you're getting new information as well.
SCIUTTO: This is a terror attack in modern connected times and people on social media from inside that Bataclan Concert Hall are posting to social media, Facebook. I'm seeing a posting here of one person inside and while I can't confirm this independently, they do have details of what is happening inside and one of them says -- begging the police to raid the theater because they say the terrorists are slaughtering them one by one.
So yes, people inside that theater and I've been in touch with others in the theater who've been communicating by phone and text message. Here you see reports of them communicating by social media and saying that the hostage takers, which I've been told, numbers six to eight inside there, apparently threatening to kill them one by one. And it's just incredible to see this play out with that connectivity
that we see today.
BLITZER: These are live pictures we're showing our viewers coming in from Paris right now. Police all over the streets, the French president, Francois Hollande, he's at the Interior Ministry, he's monitoring what's going on but this is a situation that's still unfolding. Terrorists remain at large in Paris right now and remember, Paul Cruickshank, this follows, if in fact this is ISIS- related and ISIS sympathizers on Twitter and elsewhere on social media, they are applauding this terror attack in Paris right now.
It follows an ISIS claim of responsibility for that Russian airliner in Sinai that was down. 224 people killed there. Twin suicide bombings in Beirut yesterday. At least 40 people killed there and more than 200 injured and another in Baghdad. Today almost 20 people killed there and now at least 60 people reported dead according to our affiliate BFM in Paris right now.
Once again these are live pictures. You see firefighters, you see police, you see other law enforcement dealing with this still unfolding situation. This is clearly somebody who's been injured, wounded being brought to that ambulance over there right now.
Paul Cruickshank, if this is in fact ISIS it looks like they are clearly expanding their mode of operation going from Sinai, going to Beirut to Baghdad and now Paris.
CRUICKSHANK: That's absolutely right, Wolf. And it would be very disturbing indeed if it was ISIS, there have been no official claim of responsibility yet from ISIS or al Qaeda or any other terrorist group, but ISIS is increasingly be getting into the international terrorism business. We saw that claim for the Metrojet --
BLITZER: All right. Hold on, Paul, hold on for a moment, Paul. President Hollande is now speaking in Paris. We have translation.
PRES. FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRANCE (Translator Translator) Security of all districts that may be concerned. I've also asked there can be military reinforcements which at the moment are in the Paris conglomeration to be sure that no further attack may take place.
I have also called the cabinet, which is going to meet soon. These decisions are being taken. This state of emergency will be decreed, which means certain places will be closed. Travel may be banned and decisions may be taken about arrests throughout about whole France in the past. And the territory.
The second decision that I have made is closing borders. We have to assure ourselves that no one can enter in order to commit any act, whatever that may be, at the same time that these crimes that have last taken place can be stopped.
This is a terrible hardship, which is striking us. We know where this is coming, who these terrorists are. In such difficult times, I have thought for the victims, for the numerous victims, for their families for the wounded and we have to show compassion and solidarity. We also have to show unity and keep our cool.
France must be strong and great and the state has to be strong. We also have to call on everyone to be responsible. What the terrorists want is to make us afraid to seize us with fear. And there is something to be afraid of, but faced with this fear there's a nation that defends itself and mobilizes itself and once again we'll be able to overcome the terrorists.
French women, French men. These operations are not over. There are some which have been, the security forces are taking place at the moment, in particular in a place in Paris. I'm asking here for you to maintain your trust in what the security forces can do to protect the populations from terrorists attacks.
Long live the public, long live France.
BLITZER: All right. There is the statements from the French president Francois Hollande making it clear he is taking major emergency measures right now declaring a state of an emergency, restricted travel and perhaps most important right now, closing France's borders.
France has had open borders, a lot of refugees have been streaming into France and other countries in Europe over these past several weeks and months. Refugees from Syria and elsewhere. The French president Francois Hollande are not over yet but there are still -- they are still ongoing saying the operations are not over yet. There are still -- they are still on going and as a result of this, France has taken this major right now to close step right now to close its borders.
Paul Cruickshank, this is highly unusual for France to make a decision like that.
CRUICKSHANK: This is an unprecedented in the modern history of France to do something like this. There are no borders really in Europe you can pass from one country to another. So these are unprecedented emergency steps, a state of emergency, if you'd like that's being announced in France that the French authorities now calling this a terrorist attack saying they know where it came from.
That language suggests that terrorist group like ISIS or al Qaeda groups that have wanted to target France in the past, I mean, there's going to be a lot of suspicion about ISIS just because the sheer number of French nationals that are going to join the group in Syria or Iraq and hundreds who have returned to France.
And in fact Europe-wide, Wolf, more than 6,000 European nationals have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq and over 1500 have returned. They just can't monitor all these people 24/7. They've opened surveillance files in France on 5,000 people. They could only monitor a hand full of those 24/7 around the clock, so it's no surprise that now putting forward these emergency measures.
BLITZER: Paul, stand by. Jim Sciutto is getting more information, as well. What are you learning, Jim? SCIUTTO: Well, Wolf, again, in touch through a friend with people
inside that Bataclan theater right now among the hostages inside the theater and what they are hearing from inside the theater are screams and gunfire, screams and gunfire, so you have really just a horrendous situation there. Dozens of hostages held, I'm told by people inside there, six to eighty attackers and frustration you have some frustration from those people who have been in touch with French police, I'm told, begging in effect for the police to come in because of what is happening inside there.
Of course, you have to wonder how they would react to the police coming in, but it appears from eyewitnesses inside that those attackers are taking the lives of some of those hostages as we speak.
BLITZER: It's a definite situation that is an act of terror according to the French president, Hollande, the state of emergency has been declared in Paris right now. France has taken almost an unprecedented decision to close its borders right now.