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THE SITUATION ROOM
Terror in Paris. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired November 13, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A state of emergency has been declared in Paris right now.
France has taken almost an unprecedented decision to close its borders right now, President Obama calling this an outrageous attack, an act of terrorism that is unfolding. And it's still not over with yet.
There is a situation unfolding at that Bataclan right now, where an American rock band had been performing, but dozens of hostages are still inside. You just heard Jim Sciutto report that people are being killed inside that theater even as we speak right now.
You can hear the gunfire, among other things.
We have a reporter that is near there, I think joining us on the phone right now from France 24, the reporter Cyril Vanier.
Cyril, what do you know? What's going on where you are?
CYRIL VANIER, FRANCE 24 REPORTER: Wolf, all I can give you is a perspective from about 200 meters away from the Bataclan, which is a popular concert hall in Central Paris.
Bear in mind this is a Friday evening, so there would be quite a large crowd inside. It's a 1,500-capacity room. I don't know how many people were inside when the assailants first came in. A French radio journalist who there for leisure has been able to report that people came in armed with Kalashnikovs. He numbered three or four.
He may not have had the full picture from where he was standing. People came in with Kalashnikovs and essentially opened fire and for a minute, possibly up to 10 minutes were slaughtering people inside the Bataclan concert hall, which is why it's reasonable at this stage, unfortunately, to fear a large death toll.
Now, I have been here for the last 14 minutes. I have seen the rapid intervention brigade come in. That was about 30 minutes ago. New police reinforcements are coming in. You can hear the sirens blaring. In typically this kind of situation, you would have layers, layers of security forces coming in.
And that is what is happening now. Originally, the first- responders would be the policemen who were nearby and (AUDIO GAP) more specialized units. Now I'm seeing Red Cross trucks coming in. I number at least half a dozen. This is telling you the scale.
In fact, I can't see the end of the line right now. This is telling you the scale of the damage and casualties and injuries that authorities are preparing for. And one can only wonder what is happening inside right now. We haven't heard anything like gunfire or shouting for at least
half-an hour. And I'm a little surprised, to tell you the truth, at how close police are letting us be, in a sense. We're 200 to 300 meters max just down the road and they have closed off the road. It's likely that at some stage during the evening, they will push us further back.
BLITZER: All right, Cyril, stand by with us, Cyril Vanier from France 24. He's there outside the theater where these hostages now are being held.
Julien Pearce is joining us. He's a radio reporter.
Julien, I understand you were inside the Bataclan theater during this concert that American rock band Eagles of Death Metal were performing, but now you have made it outside. Tell us what you have seen and what you have heard.
JULIEN PEARCE, EYEWITNESS: Well, I have seen two terrorists from my point of view with AK-47s, Kalashnikovs, entering the concert room and firing randomly to the crowd.
People yelled, screamed, and everybody lying on the floor, and it lasted for 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 horrific minutes, where everybody was on the floor covering their head. And we heard so many gunshots. And the terrorists were very calm, very determined. And they reloaded three or four times their weapons. And they didn't shout anything. They didn't say anything.
They were in masks and they were wearing black clothes. And they were shooting at people on the floor and -- shooting them. And I was luckily at the top of the stage, in front of the stage, so people started to try to escape, to walk on people on the floor and try to find an exit.
And I found an exit when the terrorists reloaded his gun in the meantime, and I climbed on the stage. And we found an exit. And when I went on the street, I have seen 20 to 25 bodies lying on the floor. And people were very badly injured, gunshot wounds.
And I took a small girl, a teenager. She was bleeding very badly. And I ran. I ran with her for like 200 meters. And I found a cab, a taxi. And I led her in, and I said to the cab driver, go to the hospital.
And I have some friends right now who are still inside the Bataclan, who are hiding, because they are not sure if there's any terrorists in there. And they are hiding in some kind of room in the dark. And they text me. And they are very afraid, of course. And they are waiting for the police to intervene.
But it's been over two hours now, and this is terrible. What happened was terrible, terrifying. I mean, honestly, 15 minutes, 10 minutes of gunshots firing randomly in a small concert room, I mean, the Bataclan is not a huge concert room. It's a small one. And so there was -- a thousand people were there, maximum, and it was -- it was horrible.
BLITZER: Julien, were these terrorists -- and you say you saw three or four of them -- you say they were dressed in black. Were their faces covered with masks?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were not wearing masks. They were unmasked.
I have seen the face of one guy, one terrorist. He was very young. He was about 20 years old, 25, maximum. He wasn't wearing a beard or something. He was like a random guy holding a Kalashnikovs. That's all. And there were not masks.
BLITZER: And did you hear any words coming out of his mouth? Was he speaking in French or Arabic or anything you could discern?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing. Nothing. I heard nothing, just the yelling and the screaming of the people.
But they didn't shout anything. They didn't say anything, not Allahu akbar or something like this. They said nothing. They just shot. They just shoot. They were just shooting to people.
BLITZER: So they weren't questioning anyone, who they were, they would just look at someone and shoot and kill them; is that what you're saying?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Correct.
BLITZER: And you say you saw 20 -- 20 people shot and killed, at least 20 bodies there on the floor of the theater?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, I can confirm that. Some of them were dead. Some others were very badly wounded, but it was a bloodbath.
BLITZER: A total blood -- and it's still continuing right now? You're outside the theater. As far as you know, Julien, the hostage crisis there and the killing presumably is continuing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I'm not sure of the information that my -- I have got a bunch of friends who are hiding right now in the concert room.
And they are hiding because they are not sure if the terrorists are still there. And the police is not inside.
BLITZER: All right. Julien -- tell us, are you OK, Julien?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm OK. I'm OK. I'm OK. I'm outside the concert room. I'm in an apartment. And the police -- the police guys are all over me, all around me, so I'm OK.
BLITZER: All right, Julien, be careful over there. Thank you so much for your eyewitness account, Julien Pearce, a radio journalist with a really chilling report, what he saw.
Christiane Amanpour is joining us right now.
Christiane, what are you hearing?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, pretty much the same as all of you.
Just listening to various media outlets in the last hour and more, I have heard the deputy mayor of Paris, Patrick Klugman, talk and you have heard what he said as well, that this is obviously a massive shock for them. They had known, they had terrible premonitions that after "Charlie Hebdo" less than a year ago, it might happen again. Every city believes that right now with the ISIS threat and the blowback.
And yet, he said, how could we have thought, if it is this, it could have happened so soon and so violently? This far outweighs anything that happened in January at "Charlie Hebdo" last January, as I just said, this past January. It's bigger even than 7/7. And it has come as we have seen huge attacks in Beirut, which ISIS claimed just this week.
We have seen what appears to be, pretty much well-confirmed, some kind of ISIS satellite group or splinter group in the Sinai which has claimed and now perhaps even are attributing for sure the downing of the Russian plane.
AMANPOUR: And this also is what a lot of people have had as their worst nightmares, that these people, if it turns out to be something like this, can do it if it turns out to be them, because they don't need visas. They have passports. Many of these people have gone from many of our countries to Syria and can travel back and forth.
But right now, of course, President Hollande, who is at that Stade de France, which is just outside Paris, watching the friendly soccer game between France and Germany, and had to be evacuated, obviously. There were explosions around heard.
As you have heard, he's been on national television, on global television, closing all the borders, putting the country on a state of emergency unprecedented certainly in recent memory. They are trying to find who these perpetrators are and a huge, huge worry obviously at the Bataclan concert hall, that area right which is right next to the Republique. And I was there in Paris just a few hours ago today, interviewing
the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, interviewing in fact the former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who obviously knows so much about attacks since he was the mayor during 9/11, right after 9/11.
And they were talking about the climate conference coming up. They were talking about all sorts of things, but clearly nothing like this was on their minds.
BLITZER: Christiane, hold on for a moment.
Christiane, we're showing our viewers live pictures now from outside the concert hall, the Bataclan concert hall, where about 1,000 people were attending a concert, an American rock band was performing. You see the people who are wounded who are being brought outside now taken to ambulances.
We just heard that chilling, chilling report from Julien Pearce, that radio reporter, who himself had been inside during the concert, managed to get out, but offered a horrendous, horrendous eyewitness description of what was going on inside.
Phil Mudd is joining us, our counterterrorism analyst.
Phil, it's significant, I take it, from your perspective that the terrorists that Julien Pearce saw inside were not wearing a mask. Tell us why.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, if you're looking at an attack like this, we're talking about the emotions of the people who are under attack.
You have to think about the emotions of the people staging the attack. In my experience watching terror groups and terror cells, especially cells that are relatively untrained, there is a tremendous amount of emotion for a human being to decide they are going to go in and a shoot up a restaurant or a theater.
The unmasking to me indicates that this might be a suicide operation. That is, not that they are deciding to kill themselves, but that they went into the operation anticipating they would not come out alive.
You're not going in there trying to protect yourself and you're not anticipating that you can escape. You're anticipating as you would be if you're staging a vehicle bombing or a backpack bombing that you're not going to see life again after another day or two, or maybe shorter.
BLITZER: Stand by, because Philip Crowther is joining us here as well from France 24.
Philip, what are you hearing?
PHILIP CROWTHER, FRANCE 24 REPORTER: I'm still slightly in shock, to be honest, hearing that borders have been closed in France and there is a state of emergency.
I think it's for the Ile de France area. That is the city itself and its surrounding suburbs. What you're not seeing right now is any kind of an assault or a raid on the Bataclan theater, concert hall, rather. Now, one of those reasons is that in situations like this one, the French press are encouraged not to give a blow-by-blow account of what is happening.
That might be happening right now. The police gets in touch with every single media organization in France and tells them now is not the time to give a blow-by-blow account, because people inside of that concert hall or inside of wherever something like this is happening, they might be watching.
That happened in January with the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks. There were people -- some of these assailants were actually watching or listening to news reports. What we know in Paris is that the police force and the military essentially, because they are already on the streets of Paris because it's at its highest terror level right now, they should be ready to go, because they have been on the streets of Paris ever since the 7th of January because of that heightened terror alert.
You have got the police forces in there, you have got the assault forces, they're called the (INAUDIBLE) the raid forces, and, of course, the military, more of which have been called onto the streets by President Hollande.
So, essentially, what we're seeing now is a cabinet meeting pretty much in an hour-and-a-half's time, a midnight cabinet meeting will be happening in France. The whole cabinet has been summoned. The French president, Hollande, he will have to take a decision, might have taken it really, to get with the interior minister, Cazeneuve, what exactly to do with this concert hall, the Bataclan.
We know also that the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, she is outside of the Bataclan as well. So, somebody will be taking that big decision. It has to come right at the top, of course, from the French president.
And I'm not too sure whether we will be seeing those scenes when it actually happens. As you heard from our reporter Cyril Vanier, he's being held back about 200 or 300 meters. I don't know how much footage we will be able to see from that.
And, certainly, we know from past experience that the police and the local authorities, they will encourage reporters to say as little as possible about what is happening, and, of course, the people of Paris, they have been encouraged to stay at home. These are not just the people inside the walls of Paris.
This is the whole Ile de France area. Everybody has been told if you don't have to go outside, please do not. That's how serious it is right now. BLITZER: Clearly, they are afraid there could be others at large
as well, and out of an abundance of caution, the president of France, Francois Hollande, has said there is a state of emergency that has been declared and, indeed, France's borders, its entire border area has now been closed given what is going on in Paris right now.
Deb Feyerick is getting more information.
Increasing indications, Deb, I take it, that this is a suicide attack.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right.
We're hearing from a Western intelligence source that in fact the bombing at the stadium does appear to be a suicide bombing. There is a body in the location that is -- has wounds that is absolutely consistent with what would happen if it were a suicide bomber, and so investigators paying particularly close attention to that.
As we're hearing, many of the borders have been closed. General security very, very tight at this point, and speaking to one expert, one of the points that was raised is that, look, ISIS hit Paris back in January with the attack on "Charlie Hebdo" as well as the Jewish market, and now it's essentially them saying, we hit you once, we can hit you again, Paris is not safe.
So this is clearly terrifying to the people who are there. Also, you think about the concert hall attack and you have to remember an attack at a Moscow theater that killed so many, so there is some replication that's going on, but really a terrifying situation there right now.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
And we're showing our viewers this video that was taken of this football game between France and Germany. I'm going to play for you the explosion that can clearly be heard as the crowd was cheering. Listen to this. Listen now again. You can hear that loud explosion.
Mike Rogers is with us, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, our CNN contributor.
Mike Rogers, take us behind the scenes right now in the U.S. intelligence community, in the U.S. counterterrorism community. We hear from New York City counterterrorism experts, New York City police they are going on a higher state of alert right now, once again, out of an abundance of caution, but presumably they are afraid that if this is going on in Paris, it could go on elsewhere as well.
MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
And you have to remember, there -- in every field office of the FBI, there is an investigation into at least some affiliate. Some individual has an affiliation with ISIS. So, clearly, they're going to go to a higher state of alert. You saw that this was clearly planned for a multiple-location
attack. That's not easy thing to do. The attacks were coincided within a pretty brief time, which tells you there was some effort to get those things to happen near the same time.
They do that, by the way, and they did it in the "Charlie Hebdo" case, to confuse law enforcement and to create a little chaos with the reactionary teams, as well as what is going on, on the ground. This should be a wakeup call to everyone. I think that when France closed its borders, that is an unprecedented event and it tells you that all of the intelligence that's led up to this point saying be careful about this refugee community, they believe they are trying to infiltrate it, that tells you that there is more information behind that closing.
He didn't get up and just decide he was going to close those borders. That is probably a concern not just to France, but everybody that is dealing with the refugee population from the region.
BLITZER: Yes, because European borders have been open to refugees, and hundreds of thousands of them in recent weeks and months have been allowed to come into Germany and to Austria and to France and other countries in Europe.
And you heard from a lot of law enforcement experts especially here in the United States that ISIS could be smuggling terrorists in to presumably commit an act of terror like this.
ROGERS: And there was some social media reporting that talked about the very fact that that's exactly how they got in, and now you have to worry about what the status in Germany is and other places in Europe, as well as do they have a secondary level of attack anywhere else in the world, including the United States?
Our intelligence community is going to have to react to that. I know they are reacting to it, and they are reacting to it..
BLITZER: Mike, we have new video coming in. This is from outside the Bataclan theater.
A thousand people were inside listening to an American rock band, the Eagles of Death Metal, performing as terrorists stormed that concert hall. I want to show our viewers this new video from just outside. Watch this. Mike Rogers, you're a former FBI agent. That sounds like pretty serious explosions we just heard or gunfire.
ROGERS: Yes, sounded like gunfire to me, multiple shots occurring.
Clearly, they are trying to figure out if they have the ability to actually storm the building, which they are trained for -- in a better way than happened in Chechnya in Russia, but now they're just trying to figure out, with witnesses, I will tell you with certainty, how many they think there are, what is the position of the hostages, where are they, are they on the ground, what is the layout of the building, and I'm surprised it's taken this long.
I can only imagine they are planning to breach that building very soon.
BLITZER: You also heard reports that these terrorists who are inside are not wearing masks, as we heard from Julien Pearce, who was inside, the radio reporter. They are systematically going in that theater -- and it's chilling to even discuss this -- systematically killing individuals, not discussing anything with anyone, not asking any questions, but systematically murdering people who had gone to that concert.
ROGERS: Clearly, this is an event to kill as many people as they can. That's why the police are going to have to make a horrible decision of breaching, despite the fact that a few innocent hostages may be killed.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: One thing, Wolf.
I just spoke to French police again. And they said the one message that they have right now to the people of Paris -- and I know that we're broadcasting in Europe right now -- is to stay in their homes. This is a message they have been trying to get out consistently, but they want people to stay in place, because, frankly, they don't know if this attack is contained.
So, that is the message they wanted to deliver very firmly here. And just one other thought about the possibility of breaching. I was in Paris during the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks and during the hostage- taking at the kosher market, you will remember.
And I remember standing outside there for a number of hours before the French anti-terror units went in. It's understandable. They didn't know if hostages were still alive, how many, whether the attacker was still armed.
But I do remember looking back to January when there was a hostage situation then, that French police, they were very careful and took some time before they breached.
BLITZER: Stand by for a moment, because the France 24 reporter Cyril Vanier -- Cyril, you're outside that concert hall where this hostage crisis is unfolding now.
What's the latest? What are you seeing? What are you hearing?
VANIER: Wolf, it's more about what we're hearing now.
For the last two minutes or so, I would say we have been hearing regular loud booms. Now, I'm not a ballistics expert, Wolf, but to me it sounds like some of them were gunshots. Others sounded like something else. Perhaps -- I'm wondering whether perhaps stun grenades, that kind of thing.
Obviously, I'm filling in the blanks with what I imagine is happening. What I'm hearing right now are booms, some of what sounds like gunfire, some of what sounds like detonations, perhaps grenades. Impossible to tell who is detonating them. It appears to be coming from an enclosed space, however.
We're at 200, 300 meters away from the concert hall. It's not coming from directly outside it. It's coming from inside. So I'm asking myself and everybody here at the scene is asking themselves the same question, as to whether an assault might be under way right now.
BLITZER: And you're there. They are still allowing you to stay there, about 200 meters away from this concert hall, the Bataclan concert hall, where this concert was going on.
Phil Mudd, you're watching what is going on very carefully as well. It certainly is an act of terror. The president of the United States has called it an act of terror, simultaneous attacks going on in various locations in Paris, the French president, Francois Hollande, saying a state of emergency has now been declared.
He says that all of France's borders have now been closed as a result of what is going on. What else is your analysis, Phil, of what you're seeing and hearing?
MUDD: Couple things you got to think about here.
Number one, you have a pretty broad spectrum of individuals, which tells me this was planned for some time. This is not a homegrown who decided last night that he was going to go out and operate. Remember, too, they have access to an array of weapons and explosives, which means there is some kind of network in Paris that's not only a broad number of people, but a broad number of weapons, so they are getting access to somebody who is importing those weapons or selling them on the black market.
The selection of targets to me is interesting as well. Typically, we talk about iconic targets like ISIS in the Sinai taking down a Russian aircraft. I look at this and don't see iconic targets yet. That is, did they simply select these targets because they were soft and they were targets of opportunity?
These are not places in the center of Paris that I would think are identified with tourists. I have got to see more on target selection, but it looks like a fairly well-energized, supported, broad group of people who selected targets to maximize the number of people they could kill.
BLITZER: Does it have the appearance of ISIS or al Qaeda? Phil, can we make a determination at this relatively early stage?
MUDD: I would more ISIS than al Qaeda. If you're talking al Qaeda, you're talking more carefully planned
operations, where, typically, already, we could look at the target and say this is why they selected the target. Also, you're talking about this broad number of people. It's difficult to keep that kind of conspiracy secret if you're talking about a centrally directed operation where there is communication with the headquarters in a place like Syria or Pakistan.
I think the most interesting piece of this so far is, will we find that there were red flags that indicated these perpetrators were already up on the radar? The problem with ISIS, with "Charlie Hebdo," with this attack, is that in contrast to al Qaeda, these guys aren't that centrally directed and the red flags you can look at to try to prevent this as an intelligence professional are minimal.
This is going to be tough to stop.
BLITZER: Certainly will be.
And it comes, as we have been reporting, on the heels of other ISIS-claimed terror attacks, including that Russian airliner that exploded over Sinai, killing all 224 people on board, a twin suicide bombing in Beirut yesterday, killing more than 40 people, a suicide bombing in Baghdad today, killing almost 20 people, and now what is going on in Paris, at least 60 people dead, although that number is expected to go up.
On the phone right now is Gabriel Haded (ph).
Gabriel, I understand you were there at that football, at that soccer game where the suicide bombing, apparent suicide bombing occurred. Tell us what you saw. Give us your eyewitness account.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I -- actually, I didn't see anything, because we were inside the stadium.
And, unfortunately, half-an-hour after the beginning of the game, we heard in four or five minutes two big explosions, and we had no idea what it was, but it was really scary. But, you know, the game just kept on playing, and then nobody said anything.
But then at, unfortunately, around halftime, I kept -- I had like 10 missed calls from my sister, my girlfriend, my parents, my grandparents, asking me if I was OK. So, I didn't know what was going on. And they told me that there had been attacks all over Paris, including explosions in -- near the stadium.
I understood that something big was going on. And people were starting to leave the stadium like half-an-hour before the end of the game. And so, you know, that's when I left. And I managed to leave pretty quickly and to get the metro and arrive home. And when I arrived home, I saw that they were keeping people inside the stadium. And I just realized that -- the tragedy of what was going on. But, inside the stadium, they didn't tell us anything.
BLITZER: It was a very scary situation indeed. France was playing Germany inside that stadium. And all of a
sudden, you heard those loud explosions. And we have heard those explosions now.
And, Gabriel, it must have been terrifying to you as well.
Christiane Amanpour is with us as well.
Christiane, you have spent a lot of time over the years in Paris. Set the scene for us a little bit.
When the French president, Francois Hollande, Christiane, says all of France's borders now are being shut, are now being closed, a state of emergency is declared in Paris, the French capital, it underscores the severity of what is going on right now.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's pretty unprecedented, according to my memory.
And this is a major, major issue, obviously. And I think we have to put it in context. Again, we do not know who these people are. But if the worst fears and the worst suspicions play out, then this is another mega-attack alongside other mega-attacks that have been going on around the world in the last few days alone claimed by ISIS, and at a time when the face of this kind of terror that we are faced with is changing to a much more nimble, as you heard Phil Mudd and Mike Rogers say, much, much different to al Qaeda, much less centrally organized, but more freelance, maybe people they have groomed even here online, maybe people who they have sent in somehow, the worst of the worst.
ISIS said in various communiques over the past weeks that they would try to come over, they would send agents over with refugees. We just don't know any of this. But what we know is that terror today in big urban cities is possible with a bunch of people with Kalashnikovs.
They don't have to do 9/11. They can go around to wherever and cause absolute mayhem, and that is a major terrorist attack, especially when it's in multi-pronged, like we're seeing now.
Obviously, the authorities in Paris are looking for these people. That's probably why they've closed the borders, amongst other things. And the worst of the worst is what is happening at the Bataclan concert area, where there are hostages, according to all reports, where the mayor of Paris is trying to, you know, monitor the situation, and where a huge amount of focus will be right now.
But what's happened is, because so many people have gone over from France, from America, from Britain, from Germany, Belgium, all those countries, not to mention North Africa, Chechnya, elsewhere, they are people who have passports and can come back and create blowback without having to lie, cheat or steal their way into getting visas, fake visas, this and that.
So there's a multi-pronged and huge proliferating threat from the kind of blowback that we're seeing, even if it isn't as spectacular and massive as bringing down the Twin Towers. It is a constant rolling threat of these kinds of hidden run -- some small, some big -- attacks.
I spoke to the prime minister of Turkey just a few days ago, commenting on what happened in Sharm el Sheikh, the plane being brought down by an explosive device. So he said this is not just a crime against Russia. It's a crime against all of humanity.
You heard what President Obama said tonight. That this is a crime and a terrorist attack that affects everyone, and we all have to be involved in trying to stand up and face down all of this.
We've heard from President Hollande, who was at that stadium and apparently was being evacuated after that explosion. And this is really close. I mean, to set off a bomb near the president of a country is really, really staggering.
BLITZER: And requires coordination, as well. And if in fact, this is ISIS, it would seem to represent a new chapter right now. ISIS until now basically has been very active in Syria and Iraq, but now if ISIS is expanding to Sinai, to Beirut, to Baghdad and now Paris, who knows where they might be going next.
Let me reset, for our viewers here in the United States and around the world, what's going on. The breaking news we're following, an unprecedented series of deadly coordinated terror attacks in Paris. We're now told at least 60 people reportedly are dead, although that number expected to go higher.
A hostage crisis still unfolding at that concert hall in Paris. The French president, Francois Hollande, just ordering a state of emergency for the entire Paris area, shutting France's borders, a very unprecedented move right now.
Attackers, we're told, striking at least three locations packed with people. Reports of shootings, automatic weapons, a suicide bombing. Dozens of people. Even as we speak right now, we're told they're still being held captive inside that concert hall by as many as eight hostage takers.
Only moments ago we heard President Obama. He went into the West Wing of the White House to make a statement. He called this an outrageous attack on all of humanity and clearly said it was an act of terror.
Deborah Feyerick is watching what's going on.
Deborah, they're taking heightened security measures in New York City right now out of an abundance of caution.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Absolutely and other places, as well.
This is law enforcement's greatest fear. It's a fear that began after 9/11. And that is coordinated attacks against soft targets. And the targets that we're seeing, Wolf, it's a sports stadium, it's a theater, it's an area where there's a lot of shopping involved. It happened at the same time so it -- what it's meant to do effectively is create almost like an asymmetrical warfare you have people who are fighting different areas, dividing the resources of law enforcement, because law enforcement is trained how to respond. But when you have multiple attacks at the same time, you're dividing those resources.
Now, clearly, this is something that law enforcement around the globe prepares and trains for. But again, they hit soft targets, and they did it at the same time, so instead of having sort of one mass response, what you needed to do is have teams going to the different locations in order to respond. That means dividing swat team, dividing police. It means dividing bomb techs, all of that.
And so again, here in New York, that has always been the fear. We've heard it again, sports stadiums, shopping malls, theaters, and that we are seeing right now is all of that play out in France.
And so again, that is one of the big concerns and what everyone is witnessing there, there's a big fear that it could be replicated elsewhere.
[18:35:19] BLITZER: Deborah, stand by.
Philip Crowther is with us from France 24 TV.
Phil, set the scene for us in Paris right now. A city of many millions of people. It was a Friday night. People were out on the streets, as they like to do in Paris and other major cities in Europe and elsewhere, and all of a sudden, you see at various locations, at least three different locations at a concert hall, at a football stadium and as well as a popular tourist area where there are restaurants, a series of shootings and explosions.
PHILIP CROWTHER, FRANCE 24 TV: Well, what people did was they were forcibly had to stay wherever they were. I've been in touch with friends and colleagues who were in that exact area and who are indeed still just about a block or two away from where the shootings happened or from the Bataclan, the -- the -- where the hostage situation is ongoing.
BLITZER: The concert hall.
CROWTHER: They are still exactly where they were before. Essentially, they're not being let out of whatever restaurant or bar there. And the reason I mention bars or restaurants is this happened at the very best time to go out in Paris, on a Friday evening.
What you're seeing, as well, in especially this one part of Paris, because this is a very small part of Paris where three of these attacks or shootings happened. This is in the east of Paris, by the way, not all too far from the "Charlie Hebdo" headquarters. That takes us back to the seventh of January. It's more or less a 20- minute walk from the Bataclan to the "Charlie Hebdo" headquarters at the east of Paris, as Jim, you know is also where that final shootout happened at that supermarket, right. It was in the east of Paris. Wasn't it?
BLITZER: At that kosher supermarket. CROWTHER: So we're looking at more or less the same area.
What people are doing now is they are being told not to leave wherever they are. That also means that those who are in the streets right now, they're being invited into apartments by people because, you know, it's maybe you have to tell one or two positive anecdotes at this time. The people of Paris are certainly showing solidarity at this time over Twitter and social media. People are inviting people into their apartment so that they can get off the street, because remember, the town hall and the French president both said, "You've got to stay indoors. You can't stay outside at this point."
But what people are waiting for right now, and this includes friends of mine. I just got a "What's That" (ph) message from a friend who's just a few blocks away. He says more gunshots/explosions. That is what he is hearing right now.
BLITZER: And I just want to alert our viewers, what we're seeing right now are live pictures coming in from France. We're told that law enforcement, police, perhaps military, they're moving towards that theater, that concert hall right now, the Bataclan theater where hostages are being held, where there was a concert with an American rock band inside. About 1,000 people were inside. Jim Sciutto, you're getting some specific information on what's going on.
SCIUTTO: So I've been in touch through a friend who has friends inside that theater, and they've been texting out information as this hostage situation has been underway that those people, thankfully, still safe where they've been hiding but that they have heard gunfire and small explosions similar to what the France 24 reporter heard outside.
BLITZER: All right. Pierre Goulier (ph), one of our CNN producers, is outside the theater there, the Bataclan concert hall. What are you seeing Pierre?
I think we may have lost contact. Pierre, can you hear me? I think we're trying to reconnect with Pierre. He's outside the concert hall. We're going to reconnect with him. He was -- he was about to give us an eyewitness account of what's going on right now.
Mike Rogers, if in fact, they're moving in to storm the Bataclan theater, I don't know how many people were inside, but that chilling account we heard earlier that these terrorists were going through, randomly just taking people and shooting and killing them, a horrifying, horrible -- hold on. I think we have Pierre on the phone.
Pierre, can you hear me? It's Wolf.
Unfortunately, we don't have Pierre yet. But go ahead. This is a moment, a critical moment right now, Mike.
MIKE ROGERS, CNN: It is, and it's the most dangerous. Those small explosions are likely flash bang grenades that the raid team is trying to destabilize any of the terrorists that may be in there. It's dangerous for two reasons. It's going to be very difficult
and a very quick notice. They'll have to discern between who is a terrorist and who is a hostage. And they won't have much time.
And clearly, you have a group of hostage -- excuse me, terrorists in the building who are willing to kill both the hostages and any police that they can. This is a very dangerous entry to that building, and you can expect casualties, unfortunately, beyond just the terrorists, given the framework and the description of the people on the inside, of the layout of the building and where the hostages are.
[18:40:14] BLITZER: Philip Crowther, you know this area of Paris well where this concert hall is, and these are live pictures we're showing. I assume thousands of police, military personnel, other law enforcement from all over the Paris area have now been brought to these various parts of Paris where these terror attacks have been unfolding right now. But these are populated areas. These are not just isolated areas.
CROWTHER: They would look very, very different now. This is one of the main areas to go out in Paris, the Bataclan concert hall is one of the most popular.
One of the restaurants that was targeted is not one of the most famous ones. It's a Cambodian restaurant in the area. Absolutely nobody knows right now why that was targeted. But this is the kind of area where you'd see thousands of Parisians walking around and sitting in cafes at this point. They are doing pretty much the opposite, except of course, those who were in cafes at that time. They have been told to stay inside. So that is where they're staying.
CROWTHER: What we've heard from reporters on the ground is that the perimeter has been made that little bit larger over the last half an hour or so. Our reporter was -- he said he was two to 300 meters away. That is why pretty much everything we're hearing right now is sound. We're hearing not eyewitness accounts but these are reports of sound, of explosions, of gunfire possibly.
There aren't many eyewitness accounts right now. And our reporters right now I very much doubt are seeing what is happening now. That is all, of course, part of the police tactics. You cannot be showing this on live television at this point. Of course, most notably on the domestic 24-hour news channels on France, and there are several of them. They could be being watched as we speak inside of the Bataclan concert hall. That is one of the big risks at this point.
But in those streets of Paris, what you'll see right now is, of course, fewer people than usual and enormous amounts of security forces, because as we said earlier, they are very much available right now, because Paris and France as a whole are at its very highest terror level. That means that there are soldiers, French soldiers on the streets, patrolling public areas; and they will have presumably been called in, more of them to this specific area, the Bataclan. And remember also that this is, after all, a state of emergency
not just outside of this one concert hall. It's around the whole of Paris. The fear being that there might be further shootings, further events. I'm hearing from my friends who are writing to me, and there are plenty of rumors going around of all sorts of rumors of shootings in other areas of Paris, none of which have been confirmed so far. And the rumors there there are, are more central and of more tourist populated areas of Paris.
Now what we can say, of course, right now, is we would have known by now is that was true, because you would have heard the sirens. Friends of ours would have contacted us and told us what exactly was happening.
So it looks like the concentration right now is on that one concert hall. And as you can see, there's very little footage of that, simply because the cameras are being held a long way back. So we don't have to listen to what people are hearing.
BLITZER: It's a very dangerous situation at that concert hall if, in fact, an operation is now underway to rescue individuals inside. We have no idea how many people may have been killed inside that concert hall. We did get one eyewitness account from Julien saying before he managed to escaped, he saw several bodies on the floor of that concert hall, where an American rock band had been performing. Maybe 1,000 people inside.
Paris firefighters, by the way, Phil Mudd, I want to report to you and report to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, Paris firefighters, they have counted at least 43 dead so far. That's the bodies that they have right now. But that number is expected to go up once people go inside and find out what is going on.
I think Pierre Gouliet (ph), one of our producers in Paris, is outside the concert hall. Pierre, can you hear me? It's Wolf.
PIERRE GOULIET (PH), CNN PRODUCER: Hi, hi, nice to meet you. I can.
BLITZER: All right. Tell us what you're seeing there at the concert hall.
GOULIET: All right. So there's a few things going on right now. I believe about 100, 150 hostages were taken out of the building just about ten or 15 minutes ago. Another 20 were just taken out of the building. And there's 28, as I can hear, 28 hostages trapped in the first floor of the building. And police are trying to bring them out, but I believe I've heard there is a wounded -- wounded by gunshots hostage trapped inside this first story of the building.
Now, there were a few gunshot bursts just ten minutes ago, and I believe this is police trying to get inside the building from the side of the building. So this is from the nightclub (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that's in central Paris.
BLITZER: And so you can actually see. Can you hear -- can you heard gunshots going off right now?
GOULIET (ph): There were gunshots five minutes ago and then ten minutes ago. I believe these were gunshots from the police trying to get in the building, trying to break doors and break through walls to get inside the buildings. I don't believe these were gunshots from terrorists. I believe these were gunshots from the police.
Right now, what I can see is police, those police and firemen trying to get to evacuate about 20 or 28 hostages from the first floor of the building. They have been trapped inside the first floor of the building after having escaped from the main nightclub room where I believe most of the action was taking place and they are now being evacuated by police and firemen and I believe there is one gunshot victim among them.
BLITZER: And even as we speak right now, Pierre, you can see what's going on. How close are you to the actual theater?
CNN JOURNALIST: I'm about 40 yards away, yes, 30, 45 yards away.
BLITZER: And they are letting you stay -- authorities are letting you stay that close?
CNN JOURNALIST: No, I'm actually hidden in the bushes. Police tried to clear off journalist from the scene, so that's why I'm not talking too loud. Police don't want us here.
What I can see now is the first hostage. One of the hostages trapped inside the first floor is being taken down by both firemen and police. It seems to be a young man. That's all I can see from here unfortunately.
There is a lot of police. A lot of heavily-armed police and possibly military, as well. There was an armored vehicle earlier.
BLITZER: Well, we know that the French president has activated the military to come to the assistance of local law enforcement in Paris, as well.
Pierre, be careful over there. We're going to get back to you, Pierre, one of our producers in Paris watching what is going on.
Clearly, this operation is unfolding as we speak.
And, Phil Mudd, as dangerous as it is, it's dangerous for hostages and military and police going inside if terrorists are still armed and they presumably were well-armed with AK-47s and other weapons. This situation is by no means over.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It's not over. The next step, you're talking about the hostages. I'm going to believe the terrorists are not going to come out alive and they've already made a commitment to death.
The next step, though, is equally as dangerous. If you're on the law enforcement intelligence side, your first question here is not just what happened. That's a police event. Your first question is identifying these people to ensure there aren't supporters or sympathizers around Paris now who you can identify by phone, by email, by Facebook, who are either going to do a second wave or are going to be inspired by this to do something they might not have otherwise have done.
The first question you have here is not just what happened as an intelligence professional. The first question is, can you gather intelligence quickly enough off those bodies of dead terrorists to prevent the potential for something else to happen.
BLITZER: Mike Rogers, I assume the French are well-prepared for this kind of -- they practice. They go through the motions of dealing with a crisis like this, given what happened in January at the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine, at that kosher supermarket. I assume they have been gearing up for this and we heard from French authorities in recent days they've actually gone on a higher state of alert.
MIKE ROGERS, FORMER CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The counterterrorism rate team in France is very, very good and have learned their lessons from Charlie Hebdo and they train constantly for exactly these type of events.
So, the odds are good but we shouldn't under estimate the difficulties of going into a room where terrorists control all of the strategic places in the room and you have to make a split second decision between who is a terrorist and who is a hostage. Very, very difficult, although they train well, they can handle it. You just got to wish them the best going in the door. That's the hardest thing they will do all night is go into the secondary room where they believe those terrorists are holding up with the dozen or so hostages.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, you worked at the FBI, you worked at the CIA. I assume you agree it's smart for U.S. law enforcement, local, state, national to go on a heightened state of alert right now out of an abundance of caution. If this is ISIS and they have gone and blown up a Russian plane in equipment, they have done twin suicide bombings and went through another suicide bombing in Baghdad today, and now, in Paris, you got to assume U.S. officials are worried about the United States potentially being a target as well.
MUDD: That's right, Wolf. It's not just smart. It's something you have to do. You have no option in this situation and there's operational steps you can take right at this time, despite the fact that we don't know exactly what happened here.
For example, there are people out there ready tonight setting up shift work to watch the ISIS wires, to watch ISIS communication to see if they're talking about this.
[18:50:04] At the bureau, there are going to be people saying, do we have ISIS sympathizers in the United States who are looking at this and who are going to be inspired to act overnight. It's not just providing security at major facilities in places like New York. It's watching what we know already and ensuring that somebody is not going to act in an American city overnight tonight. BLITZER: Christiane, if French President Francois Hollande has
declared that France's borders are closed, I assume other European countries might do the same thing as tens of thousands of refugees continue to pour into that area from Syria and elsewhere.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that we really have to wait to see because, yes, the whole clashing is sort of imperatives set in because many of the countries have started anyway to try to impose some kind of border controls to restrict the flow in many of the European countries because the flow is just too heavy and it's very burdensome for many of the countries, even the most welcoming countries.
Now, interestingly, France has not had many, if any yet, refugees from Syria. They have only accepted something like 20,000, but they said over a period of several years they would come. So they have not seen the influx and nor has Britain that, let's say, Germany and Austria and Sweden and northeastern European countries, the Baltic countries, the Balkan countries, rather, they have not seen that in France and in Britain.
However, this is going to be clearly front and center of their agenda as they try to figure out whether they will find these people on the run, find out who they are, what is their motivation and then to figure out how to control it because, yes, the Schengen rules allow free movement through Europe.
I will say that as everybody said, France has been, you know, on the state of heightened alert over various recently but also here in Great Britain, about a week, the head of the domestic intelligence, MI-5, said that at no time in recent memory was he so concerned about a possible ISIS attack and that the threat, he said, was that one of the highest levels -- his level of concern was at the highest it's been in a long, long time.
So, it is very, very intense. The worry about certainly ISIS and blowback are particularly -- you know, with the air war that the U.S. is leading with various allies over Syria and Iraq and Russia as well now. So, again, just to put it very bluntly, many, many, many, thousands and thousands of people are going from America and Europe and North Africa, many other countries to Syria and Iraq, and they are able to come back presumably because many of them will still have passports and it's a whole different level of threat.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Christiane, do you remember -- I don't remember the last time a French president has closed France's borders. Do you remember when that has occurred in the past?
AMANPOUR: To be honest, I don't. And I don't have any sort of sheet of paper telling me the last time this happened and I don't remember. I mean, that's the point. This is so extreme and so unprecedented certainly in recent memory. I can't remember whether they actually close the borders. Remember, it was Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who claimed responsibility for the "Charlie Hebdo" massacre and it was a sort of an ISIS claim of responsibility for what happened at the kosher supermarket in eastern Paris. You know, I was in Paris just a few hours ago today, I spent the
day in Paris interviewing the mayor. I was on a totally different assignment. But nonetheless, I was there.
It was a beautiful day. Everybody was out. It is Friday like in every major metropolitan city on a Friday at the end of the week. People are out, you know, drinking with their buddies, out listening to music, outgoing to dinner, outgoing to football matches.
And just the notion that this happened so close to president Hollande and so close to President Hollande and so close to the center of what happened on "Charlie Hebdo" is very near this theater which was the center of that huge response to the "Charlie Hebdo" murders.
BLITZER: These are live pictures we're showing our viewers from the streets of Paris. You see law enforcement, first responders, you see military personnel well-armed right now.
This crisis is by no means over. The terror attacks continuing, we're told. There's a struggle at that Bataclan theater, where the concert was taking place a few hours ago.
We just received a statement by the Secretary of State John Kerry saying the U.S. embassy in Paris is making every effort to account for the welfare of the Americans in the city, and in the days ahead, Kerry says, "The United States stands ready to provide whatever support the French government may require."
[18:55:02] So that from Secretary Kerry, just a statement released right now.
Phil Mudd, these are critical moments right now because it clearly looks like ISIS -- if in fact this is ISIS -- is expanding its reach beyond Syria and Iraq.
MUDD: That's right. Critical moments, Wolf, but when you deal with the situation like this, the first information we get, you talk about a report a few minutes ago, attacks elsewhere in Central Paris. The first reports you get are going to have a lot of air mixed in with facts.
So, the first question you have from a leadership perspective is keep cool. Let's make sure we understand the difference between fact and fiction and as soon as we have information to act on, let's have a standard check list to figure out what has happened here.
For example, as soon as the French identify who conducted these attacks here in the United States at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, you're going to start to say, did those persons ever travel to the United States? Did they study here? Did they e-mail here? Did they phone here?
You've got to keep cool and ensure that there is not a broader conspiracy here that could be a bigger threat than this and the only way you do this is to keep cool in a time of crisis. This is going to be chaos for the next few hours.
BLITZER: I think you're right and we'll see if it only lasts the next few hours.
Mike Rogers, the fact that ISIS supporters and sympathizers on social media, they are applauding what's happening in Paris right now, in France right now. But I don't think even as we speak right now, there's been an official ISIS declaration of responsibility. Is that unusual?
ROGERS: It's a little bit unusual, given the high-profile nature of this event. And so in recent months, we knew that both ISIS and al Qaeda, both leaders, have called for smaller scale attacks and it was unusual that Zawahiri put that out. We think it was to compete against ISIS recruiting and financing and other things.
So, it is a little odd that they haven't taken credit just yet. But that's also a concern that there may be the second order effect, which I think Phil Mudd was talking about earlier.
One of the key events here is, where are the other possibilities of attack? And could it be tonight, tomorrow, over the weekend? That's what all of this effort will go to is to try to make that determination.
And again, it could be in another country as well. We see ISIS operations in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Somalia. We see ISIS operations now -- of course, terrorist operations you've seen watch happen in Lebanon. They are expanding their reach.
They know they are going to be under a little pressure from both Russian and Peshmerga and Kurdish forces. This is their way to reach out and show that they are still in charge. They're winning this fight.
BLITZER: President Obama is supposed to be in Turkey in the next few days for the G-20 summit. But, Jim Sciutto, isn't he supposed to be in Paris for a climate as well?
SCIUTTO: That's right. Two weeks from now is the International Climate Change Conference in Paris. You'll have world leaders from all over the world, obviously, a security challenge, particularly in light of what we saw today.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, you're getting more information. You're monitoring social media. What are you picking up?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as this dramatic situation unfolds at the Bataclan Theater. We have a social media posting from an amateur photographer of the scene just outside the Bataclan earlier this evening.
There you see it. You see people on the ground wounded. What appears to be a lady there with her leg up in the air trying to get some treatment, people being treated on the street. You do not see police around in this scene at the moment. A very short video there posted earlier by an amateur photographer.
This is as we're getting reports that police have stormed the building, have used ladders to get to the first floor of the building, and have brought out several hostages, some who appear to be wounded.
Other tweets basically in real-time from earlier tonight, a gentleman named Benjamin Casanova (ph) who claimed to be inside the Bataclan Theater earlier tonight tweeted out, quote, "I'm still at the Bataclan, first floor, hurt bad. There are survivors inside," he said. "First floor soon," seemingly pleading for security forces to get inside the building. That was a tweet earlier tonight.
That same man Benjamin Casanova also tweeted earlier tonight, quote, "Alive. Just cut, carnage, dead bodies everywhere." That's from a man who claimed to be inside the Bataclan Theater tonight.
Here's a tweet we got a short time ago from French President Francois Hollande. He said, "Faced with dread, there's a nation who knows to defend himself, known to mobilize its forces and once again will defeat terrorists." Of course, that's an English translation from a French tweet so the English may be a little off.
Some very dramatic social media accounts of what is going on in Paris tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: It looks like it's still going on, in fact, even as we speak right now. These simultaneous coordinated terror attacks in various locations in Paris continue. You see live -- these are live pictures coming in from the streets of Paris, military law enforcement, other security personnel with first responders on the scene.
Our live coverage of the terror attacks in Paris continues right now with Erin Burnett.