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France Under State of Emergency; First Bomber Had Syrian Passport; One Suspect Identified in Attacks. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 15, 2015 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: People trying to have a semblance of life here. There are skateboarders around us, and yet, the tone, the mood, the sounds is very quiet here as the nation is in shock.

HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Yesterday, the weather was chilly, the mood was intense and chilly. People were in mourning, the streets of Paris, I've never seen it as empty as it was yesterday on a Saturday night. But today, you really get the sense that perhaps of the weather and also because of the fact that French people and Parisians have had an opportunity to digest what happened, people are out.

And what is sad some of these messages of unity and of resilience date back to January. It's only nine months since the "Charlie Hebdo" massacre and it happened again on a grander scale.

CUOMO: I've also watched people and as they're there observing and taking in the emotion of this moment. Some people, there's lots of different propaganda. They're up on the statue there. That's not unusual in a situation like this. But people going aggressively ripping down things that are sending messages that they don't like about things that were vibrant here just days ago about the impression of refuges and about what is going on to Muslims around the world. Those ripped down by people here and obviously a lot of anger.

GORANI: Sure. And our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour has some breaking news this hour about one of the attacks. This one at the French soccer stadium, the State de France, outside of Paris.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There were reports that we have now verified that one of the attackers was carrying a Syrian passport that was false and that he got from Greece.

So, here's what happened, according to the French senator who briefed me, who in turn is being briefed by the interior ministry. So this is an official. That they have identified this first Syrian bomber as one of a new wave of terrorists who are organized gangs, hiding themselves inside the refuges and migrants who are coming over, bedraggled on boats, no paper work. They arrive in Leros, in this case, Leros in Greece, and because they have no papers a whole new international regime of emergency paper work that is given for them.

So, this particular person said that his name was Ahmed Abu Mohammed, that he was born in 1990 and that he was a Syrian. We have now seen pictures of this passport printed in a Serbian newspaper that have exactly these statistics on them, his name and all of the rest, because he went from Leros in Greece, to Macedonia, Syria, Croatia, and then came here to Europe.

So, why is this mattered? It matters because he was the first suicide bomber. They matched his actual finger to the print on the passport. This print was not in any French database and that means they didn't know who he was and had no record of him.

Therefore, they believe that he came in this wave of migrants and that it shows a dramatic -- it's the first example of what they feared with all these migrants coming over, which is politically horrendous for the genuine refugees and migrants and it's going to cause a huge wave of reconsideration of immigration policies in Europe, but also to say and we are still working on fully getting more statistics and data on this. The two other bombers, there were three suicide at the Stade de France, two others we're told have false Turkish passports. So, all of them carrying false passports.

They are presuming that all of them is part of the same gang that came over. They said it was very well planned, highly organized planned some time ago and matches what ISIS has sent out weeks ago which was we will come and fight you where you live because we are going to send them over with the refugees and migrants.

CUOMO: Also not unique to France. Military intelligence sources are directing us to reporting out of Italy, over a dozen of potential jihadists were arrested before these attacks and no known connection to what happened in Paris but they, too, were taken from among the refugee community, that population having come from Syria through Greece into Italy.

AMANPOUR: And you remember, of course, that the first waves when we all started reporting they were coming over on boats from Libya to Lampedusa in Italy. Italy was the first big reception center of so many of these sad migrants who were coming over.

GORANI: And it's going to be interesting to see how this man who came presumably from Turkey into Greece, took the migrant route through Serbia, Croatia, other countries in Europe, how did he connect with the group that organizers -- this was highly sophisticated.

AMANPOUR: We have to find out.

GORANI: We have to find out all of those questions.

AMANPOUR: Maybe they came together? It's unclear. We don't know. But, yes, that we have to find out.

CUOMO: But what's taking shape is this new model of what they are calling a hybrid that you did have a national involved. You do have technology used in these attacks, these vests. They believe that was an unstable chemical compound that had to be made locally and does not transport well.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's TATP, which is a homemade explosive that can be made here, but needs training, needs instruction.

[07:05:02] Basically, the president of France said that this was planned abroad, conducted here with accomplices here. So, the bits of the puzzle that we are fitting together fits that picture.

CUOMO: Do you think they know that at this point? Like, where it was planned and what the different parts were?

AMANPOUR: It was planned in Syria. That's what they believe. It was planned in Syria and the operatives were sent over on these boats and made the long journey across, so it's a long -- they are in it for the long game. I heard that "Charlie Hebdo" reported talking today on French television and really interesting, because if you remember, after "Charlie Hebdo" and we were all here, this place was solid. You couldn't move here.

The reason it's empty is because the French president has told everybody to stay at home and they are defying it obviously today and where everything is empty because they are told to stay at home. They don't know what is going to happen next. This woman was saying that then we was talking about a war against our civilization and our culture.

Now, the president has said war has been declared on us by an army. Not just by a bunch of criminals but by an army, he called them, of terrorists and jihadists and we will hit back, that is the prime minister today, we will hit back strong and we will destroy them. We will see what that means. We will hope that it's not empty rhetoric.

Also she said, you know, this country is in a state of ideological emergency, too. This is an ideological state of emergency whereby can be radicalized to the point of killing their own citizens in such a brutal way. And they went very carefully. They hit the music. Music is forbidden by ISIS. They hit sports stadium. Sports is forbidden by ISIS, just like by the Taliban.


AMANPOUR: They hit bars, alcohol is forbidden by ISIS and everybody else. I mean, it's dramatic and it's very well-targeted. And then they put it out in four different languages just in case we didn't get the message. Well, you know, Russia and French, you know, Arabic, English.

GORANI: And this comes after ISIS claiming responsibility for downing a commercial airliner for suicide bombings in the Hezbollah neighborhoods of Beirut, killing over 40 people. This is a huge shift in strategy for ISIS that was focused on holding land in Syria and Iraq but now clearly wanting to expand its influence of terror in countries outside of its area of control.

CUOMO: That's obviously the void in this commodity. They are not going to win a land war over time. They are not going to hold as a force in the state.

Look, you're right to raise your eyebrow. They've done a very good job so far. But if that's something you can commit too quickly and make a change. You and I (INAUDIBLE) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: They won't win -- they won't win if they are pushed back. They will not win if they are pushed back. Right now, OK, the Peshmerga with U.S. airstrikes, they took back Sinjar, that's great. More of that has to happen.

CUOMO: But they don't have to have a caliphate in existence on the ground to do what they did here.

AMANPOUR: Actually, they do. Actually, this is what people who study ISIS say -- the reason they are so successful and able to radicalize so rapidly and so intently and so violently is because unlike al Qaeda, they have a caliphate. They are calling people to defend the caliphate. They have land. You know, they are pounding their chest that we are even better, bigger and badder than al Qaeda.

CUOMO: Also, those are their bragging rights for being the brand of access.

GORANI: But, Christiane, when you say push back, I mean, the thing about pushing back --


GORANI: Defeat militarily, we are talking about such a huge military effort that would achieve that. There is absolutely no appetite for that, hardly any appetite for special forces on the ground.

AMANPOUR: Ask their elected leaders whether their elected leaders have been elected to keep them safe. And when this happens in a major metropolitan European city, I think -- I assume the questions are going to get more pointed. Up until now, you know, they have seen this carnage on this scale in a European city.

CUOMO: Suicide bomber by using vests locally made.


AMANPOUR: There have never been suicide attacks in France before.

CUOMO: Not, can't say that anymore. And that's what's driving the investigative curiosity as well. Who else was involved?

We have senior correspondent Clarissa Ward joining us.

And you know this conversation all too well, Clarissa. You've had it in so many different parts of the world. Now, the obvious desire is for an answer that somehow makes what happens here less likely.


And just to piggyback on what Christiane was saying there about the importance of holding that land and having the caliphate -- you know, I speak to one young man, I've been speaking to him over a year now. He started initially -- he went to Syria he told me because he wanted to help the Syrian people who were being bombarded brutally by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But through the course of our communications, he actually joined ISIS.

And I can tell you, having talked to him on a regular basis throughout this entire period that the transformation in his ideology and his outlook and behavior toward me and his methods of communications was just stunning. It was the blink of an eye. The first thing they do when young men join ISIS is they are indoctrinated.

[07:10:03] They are inculcated in a very intensive program where they have no contact with the outside world. They have weeks and weeks and day through night massive indoctrination with this brutal ideology and it's extraordinarily effective. I still continue to talk to this young man but it's very difficult to be honest because he is now so polarized in the way he sees the world and the way he understands things. There is absolutely no flexibility in terms of communication or discussion whatsoever.

So, it really is important they have that space, that land where they are able to take these young minds who have already been desensitized to brutality and violence around them. So, I do think that is a really important point.

But to touch on the main progress that we are hearing about in terms of the French investigation here in Paris, with we now that one of the attackers has been positively identified as a French national. His name is Ismael Omar Mostefai. He's a 29-year-old French of Algerian descent. He grew up in Courcouronnes, which is a southern suburb.

We know had a quite a rap sheet but mostly for petty crime. He never actually served time in jail. We are also hearing from French media that six people connected to him are also being held and they are being detained and they are being questioned.

So, obviously, authorities here really trying to find out who Mostefai was, where did he get his training, who was he working with, did he spend time in Syria? Because as I mentioned before, it's that time in the ground in Syria that is the game-changer in terms of radicalization and it can happen in a matter of weeks.

CUOMO: And when you're talking about radicalization, this is something that Hala and I have been talking about this morning, Clarissa. I mean, what do you make about the dual goal here, Hala, which is to stop the violence on the ground but also the violence in these people's minds of Islamism and how this toxic reality overtakes them?

GORANI: One of the things I think was interesting and Clarissa was talking about how the source in these groups has changed and evolved over the last year, is for normal people, somebody -- you just don't even understand it. So, how do you combat something you just cannot even wrap your brain around, your mind around, of someone who can became so radicalized and convinced and become such a fanatic as to just murder innocent people in the streets?

CUOMO: And themselves.

GORANI: And, of course, themselves as well.

AMANPOUR: It is, actually, you know, what the intelligence communities are asking themselves right now. The head of MI-5, the British domestic intelligence, said in a speech in September and repeated it again a few weeks ago, that they've, A, never seen such a threat, such a threat level, they are very concerned, and B, they are so worried about the proliferating ability of the technology that they have never seen people radicalized from aboard online sitting here at home, whether in France, or wherever they may be, radicalized to violence so quickly, quicker than they can jump in and try to stop it.

And that -- that's scary. It's outpacing their ability to recognize and intervene, they fear.

GORANI: And also, this ideology was born somewhere. It's financed. It has spread deliberately over the last several decades, this kind of very, very extreme interpretation of Islam. This Salafism.


GORANI: It has been financed and spread deliberately and ended in this monster called ISIS that is now striking in Europe.

AMANPOUR: And that's certainly part of it. The other thing is --

GORANI: You have to consider that too.

AMANPOUR: -- and we saw this in Afghanistan, in Bosnia and now in Syria. When ordinary Muslims, and this is the fear, that mainstream Muslims are being dragged to the extreme because of what is happened in Afghanistan, Bosnia here.

What is happening in Syria, when I say here, is that Muslims are under attack by Assad, right? He has been slaughtering his people four and a half years and it hasn't been stopped. That makes Muslims angry.

So, what does it make to the extremists who want to fight, who are now called to the jihad and who now, you know, made into this evil death cult? So that -- this lady from "Charlie Hebdo," she said, the problem is that the extremists, the Salafists, and all of the rest of it, and the ISIS people, are trying to force us to accept that as mainstream Islam.

GORANI: Which it is not, but that is -- but they have succeeded in some ways, I think, with Western audiences.

CUOMO: And it is a long work.

Clarissa, please weigh in on this? I mean, obviously, it's a dual front war, what is going on in the heads, and what's going on in the ground through actions?

WARD: Well, Chris, one other thing that I think is very interesting -- again, Christiane just touched on it -- that this idea that people are being radicalized online now.

[07:15:00] I spoke to a counterterrorism official in the U.K. who called it bedroom jihad -- young women, young men going online late at night, spending all hours talking to people on the ground in Syria and Iraq. But also, you know, fellow young men who are being radicalized.

And often, the parents don't know about it. The family don't know about it. So, how can you expect authority to know about it? This is really an unprecedented quagmire that authorities and security officials find themselves in trying to monitor the vast amounts of data that are coming through social media.

And I should say, as I mentioned, I talked to this one guy from ISIS. I talked to several young men who are fighting with different radical groups inside Syria, also Jabhat-e-Nusra, al Qaeda's affiliate there, they're all using instant messaging.

They're all using Telegram, WhatsApp, Kick. They have developed ways to stay ahead of the curve, to stay one step ahead of authorities, and it's almost impossible for surveillance teams, even across the world, to be monitoring the vast amounts of data, the vast amounts of conversations that are going on.

These people are -- it's like a cancer. It spread so quickly and they in fact, each other through these conversations, through these shared video and shared conversations.

GORANI: All right.

CUOMO: Clarissa, we're going to check back with you. And, obviously, look, there is an irony in this the poison is spreading so quickly, yet leaders are desperate to catch up.

The United States -- you won't even hear the president use the word Islamic terror or Islamism. He won't even say those words. And yet, it's spreading as fast as it can over the digital media.

We'll take a break. This investigation is advancing. The Kalashnikov rifles or at least more of them have been found in a car outside Paris. We have someone on scene.

Stay with us.


[07:20:01] GORANI: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Hala Gorani. This is Chris Cuomo.

We continue to follow our breaking news here in Paris.

CUOMO: We do have new developments into the investigation. CNN has learned from a member of the French senate that the first suicide bomber who was at that stadium where the soccer game was going on, he blew himself up outside there. He came to Europe as part of an organized group.

What does that mean? That it was part of the refugee movement that's coming in, landed on the Greek island of Leros a month ago. We're going to have more on that in just a moment. But there is also another development this morning.

GORANI: All right. We have new details on one of the other attackers. His name is, he's a 29-year-old named Ismael Mostefai, a French citizen. So, of course, that makes him a homegrown terrorist as they're called, born in this country, known as a criminal. It's a kind of a profile that we saw in January with the "Charlie Hebdo" attackers.

Right now, six of his relatives are taken into custody. They are not charged or arrested. They are being questioned right now by authorities.

CUOMO: And, obviously, the investigators are scrambling. They know it was a hybrid, meaning it was part in country, on cellular level, of a cell here, as well as with outside influence.

GORANI: Now, we are able, I believe, to go outside of Paris, to Montreuil. This is where a car believed to have been used by the attackers was found with three assault rifles inside.

Our Fred Pleitgen is there on location and can tell us more -- Fred.


Yes, and this car was found early this morning pretty much exactly in the spot where I'm landing here in Montreuil, which is just to the east of Paris. I'm going to get out of your way because the scene has changed a little bit. If you look here, the car that's standing here right now is not the car believed to have been used by the attackers. The car that was believed to be used by the attackers is a black Seat Leon. That was since been removed.

You might be able to see there. There is still broken glass there on the streets. That's because apparently, when the police officers, when they came here and discovered this car, they broke open the windows on both sides of the car and that is when they discovered inside that there were apparently those three AK-47 assault rivals inside that car.

Now, we have been speaking to some people around the area here, people who are neighbors of this exact location. There's one lady who lives next door. She says she didn't hear anything.

But there was one gentleman we spoke to a couple of minutes ago said he did not see the car being parked, he did see the law enforcement officers come here very early in the morning hours of today at around 1:00 a.m. They came here, discovered the car and then eventually broke the windows.

Now, people we have been speaking to here did not see when the car was parked or who exited that car whether or not it was one person or several people. But certainly, the existence of this car has been towed away by the police is certainly one of the hottest leads apparently that the French police have at this point in time as they have a manhunt under way for the people who are part of that group of attackers that still appears to be at large -- Hala.

CUOMO: Fred, you have the right questions and, obviously, the right direction on this. Investigators certainly are following the instinct now that more were involved. The key question is how did that car get there? Was it done by those who wound up going on to kill others and themselves? Or is this part of the larger situation here?

The Kalashnikovs also leading investigators to figure out how it was sourced locally. They say the guns are easily in supply here, 800 in the U.S., and you can get them on the black market here. Obviously, one of the big things here that is balanced by people out on the streets investigators may believe there could have been other attackers who got away and this search is still very active.

GORANI: And there are many investigations, strands of this investigation in Belgium as well and we're going to be looking at that. The investigation into this attack moves to another country and we'll have the latest. There were raids. There were arrests made overnight.

We'll bring you the latest after a break. Stay with us.


[07:27:24] GORANI: All right. Welcome back, everybody. We continue our breaking news coverage of the Paris attacks.

We were discussing, before the break, Chris, the investigation spreading into Belgium. And we have on the line, in fact, the Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders.

Foreign Minister, thanks, first of all, for being with us. It must be an incredibly busy day for you. But I've got to ask you -- first, we are hearing one of the raids conducted in Belgium was conducted to the attacks in Paris on Friday night. Can you tell us how?

DIDIER REYNDERS, BELGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We have received some information from Paris about the use of different cars during the terrorist attacks. And so, due to that, it was to have a good collaboration on the investigations and we have organized some investigations in Brussels in a very small part of this, and there, we know some people are under arrest and we tried to exchange information with France, and to see what the exact role of those people in the terrorist attack in Paris.

It's not the first time. We had this last year the attack in Brussels, and it still was a French guy coming back from Syria and staying for weeks in Brussels before this attack last year.

GORANI: But do you believe that the people arrested in that raid that authorities believe was connected to the Paris attacks that they were involved? Is that the belief of investigators right now, that they were connected to that network?

REYNDERS: We seem to have some evidence from them, but there are a lot of investigations going on. So there are some exchanges instead of information between Brussels and Paris about that. We tried to see if it's possible to have a real explanation about the role of the different people. You know we have seen seven or eight people in Paris. But we are sure that it was possible maybe to have orders in such a series of tragic events.

And so, in Brussels now, we have five people who are under arrest and we are quite sure that they have a role in such a project in radicalization in Paris. But, again, the beginning of the investigation process and ready to see, it will be possible to prove that with some evidence in the next hours and the next days.

CUOMO: So, just to be clear with our audience, what you are telling us, Mr. Foreign Minister, is that there are five people who have detained so far. You're trying to find out if there is evidence to link them to what happened here in Paris.