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ISIS Claims Responsibility for Dhaka Siege. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 1, 2016 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Brooke Baldwin.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Jake Tapper. And here we are again, breaking news just into CNN, ISIS now claiming responsibility for an ongoing terror attack in Bangladesh, this according to ISIS' semi-official news agency that is known as the Aamaq news agency.

You're looking at live pictures there from just minutes ago out of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, this just to the east of India, where police are trying to save hostages. They are still trapped in a restaurant there right in the middle of a terrorist assault.

We were told by the cafe owner who managed to escape the site of this -- that is the Holy Artisan Bakery right in the middle of the Diplomatic Quarter in the Bangladeshi capital. We're told by the cafe owner who managed to escape that some six to eight hostage-takers holding perhaps 20 hostages or more.

According to the police, at least 40 people have been wounded. We also have learned that two police officers have been killed in a shoot-out with the attackers there. Look at this map here, see just how close the site of this hostage-taking is to the U.S. Embassy there, the Diplomatic Quarter, hundreds of diplomats from all over the world living in this year, and it is among those diplomats that are being held now by these attackers.

Earlier, police exchanged gunfire with the attackers, who threw explosive devices at them. Sources say, as I reported earlier, at least two of those officers are dead. As of now, the police say the terrorists have made no demands.

Local Bangladeshi TV, they are not broadcasting anything of what is happening live now, that after officials pleaded with the media to go into a blackout. Understandably, they do not want to give away any operational details of the gunmen inside who could be listening, they could be watching.

The U.S. State Department says that it's checked and all U.S. personnel in that city, Dhaka, the capital again of Bangladesh, are thankfully accounted for. We just learned that President Obama has been briefed on the situation. I want to again repeat our headline here. And that is the breaking

news that we now have a claim of responsibility for this ongoing hostage situation in Bangladesh, that from ISIS, all too familiar. This claim coming from ISIS' own news agency, the Aamaq news agency, which is often the source of claims of responsibility for terrorist attacks carried out by the group.

We have correspondents and terrorism experts across the world, here at home, to help us better understand what is happening now in Bangladesh.

First, I want to go right to CNN's New Delhi correspondent, Sumnima Udas.

Tell us, what is the latest we're learning about the situation there? It is still a standoff with those hostage-takers inside.

SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much an ongoing hostage situation there.

Police have said that they have been trying to resolve this hostage situation peacefully. That's what they said earlier. But what they're saying now is the gunmen actually have made no demands at the moment.

As you mentioned, Jim, the owner of the cafe had mentioned that there were about 20 people in that cafe. He managed to escape. About 20 people, some of them were foreigners. Now what the police are saying is that 40 people at least have been injured.

We don't have a death toll at the moment. As you have been saying, this is a very affluent part of Bangladeshi, as some have called it, an epicenter of wealth really. There's a lot of embassies there, the Qatari and Iranian Embassy just yards away from this restaurant.

There is also lots of cinemas, hotels, five-star hotels. And this is really the hot spot for expats and wealthy Bangladeshis, Jim. Now, this is exactly where a Japanese and an Italian expat had been killed back in September and October. Since then, there has been a huge security presence in that area. A lot of expats have been scared to go out. In fact, they used to jog around.

There is a big lake and sort of a jogging area right in that area,so they have stopped jogging, many of them, they say. But a lot of locals continue to go out. Of course, this is the last Friday of Ramadan. So a lot of people would be in this area at the moment -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Sumnima Udas, please stay there. We're going to come back to you.

I'm going to bring in Lori Ann Walsh Imdad. She is a principal at an international school in Dhaka. She is a witness to these attacks.

Lori Ann, thank you for joining us.

Tell us where you were when this all started. What did you see, what did you hear as this attack was happening?

LORI ANN WALSH IMDAD, WITNESS: I live about a block away from where the restaurant is located.

So I could hear the gunshots. And I could see people running on the street. I didn't see actually anyone getting attacked, per se, because I'm far enough away from the situation that I can't actually see the restaurant, but I can see the police down on the street. I can see reporters down on the street. And once something is happening, I see people running.


SCIUTTO: Lori Ann, please stay there.

We want to get more of your view of just as this was happening.

I want to briefly bring in our terror panel here. We have Peter Bergen, our CNN terrorism analyst, long experience of covering al Qaeda, ISIS and other groups, Phil Mudd, who is a former CIA counterterrorism analyst now with CNN as well.

First, Phil, if I can, to you.

ISIS now claiming responsibility for this. I imagine our folks at home are thinking, oh, my God, as we are, here we are again just a few days after Istanbul, a couple of weeks after Orlando, another ISIS -- or at least the attacker there claiming the attack for ISIS.

What does this show us about ISIS' intentions, assuming it is proven to be their attack, and its capability?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think if you look at what we have seen in Bangladesh and what we have seen in Turkey, we're talking about the loss of territory in Iraq and the loss of territory Syria, but we're too late.

ISIS had an ideology obviously with thousands of Europeans and hundreds of North Americans traveling to join the organization that was attractive. Places on the planet like Bangladesh that have had militant groups in the past that are looking for a new sponsor will go to ISIS even if ISIS loses ground in Iraq and Syria.

So, my point is we're trying to intervene. The Russians have tried to intervene. Too late. We're seeing what has happened as a result of that right now.

SCIUTTO: Peter, this would be a change in tactics, at least in Bangladesh.

They had a long history, a horrible year really of attacks, but all individual ones, horrible ones, hacking deaths in the street of bloggers. There was a Hindu priest killed just this morning there, another public and brutal attack.

But this is different. Multiple attackers, hostages, multiple victims. What does that tell us about both capabilities, but also perhaps a change in strategy?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is so-called fedayeen attack, fedayeen meaning those who are willing to sacrifice themselves. We saw this in Mumbai about a decade ago, where 166 people were killed.

Unfortunately, the prognosis for everybody in this cafe is not good, because the people go in knowing they will die and take out as many people as possible. And this is also in the context of the Ramadan offensive that ISIS called for.

Just this week, we have seen a terrorist attack by ISIS in Lebanon killing five, a terrorist attack in Jordan killing seven, the attacks at Istanbul Airport, now this, as you mentioned, the Orlando attack which was inspired by ISIS earlier during the Ramadan season, and also the attack in Paris where they killed a Parisian police official and his partner. So this is a real campaign.

This is what makes this kind of worrisome. This is not, by the way, going to end today. Ramadan, depending where you are in the world, can go on to July 6, July 7. So, unfortunately, this may not be the last event.

SCIUTTO: And as we know, sadly, there were attacks even before Ramadan. We were in Paris. We have been in Brussels.

And I'm sure viewers at home have the same feeling in the pit of the stomachs, here we go again.

Bob Baer on the line, former CIA, great experience in the Middle East, great experience covering these groups.

Bob, if I could ask you this, as you're watching this, we understand the police, they had this initial exchange of gunfire with this group. Now they're back, they say there are no demands, they're attempting to contact the group inside.

But knowing the M.O. of a group like ISIS, as Peter noted, the situation grave. If you're a hostage of ISIS, this is not a group that negotiates. Does it make sense? How can you explain the tactics now of trying to establish contact with the group?

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I agree with Peter that this group is intent on killing these people.

And so the prognosis is not good. And as far as the Bangladeshi police go, they're not used to these situations. They have been in denial for years about the individual attacks, this and the growth of the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

I don't think there's going to be a good outcome to this. And I'm very worried about even more attacks in this offensive, including the United States. It's a very clear pattern, Yemen, Afghanistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Orlando, Istanbul, and now Dhaka, Bangladesh. I think we will see more of these. SCIUTTO: Phil, we were speaking this morning about terror and ISIS

and what is happening, and you brought this up a bit. Oddly enough, ISIS is getting squeezed on the battlefield.

MUDD: That's right.

SCIUTTO: There's been progress against them in Iraq, Fallujah taken away by Iraqi security forces, progress in Syria. They are zeroing in on Raqqa, the capital of this putative Islamic State.

In Libya, this has kind of happened in the background, but they have lost enormous ground on the battlefield in Libya. Battlefield successes, and yet, as that is happening, you have almost this explosion of violence elsewhere. Is that connected?


MUDD: Sort of.

I think you have to look at this in different categories. One is groups in places like Bangladesh saying, we want affiliation with ISIS, even if they don't have direct connectivity. I'm guessing that we will find the individuals in this club are from Bangladesh, they're not foreigners, like the individual we saw in the Turkish attack.

That is different than what we saw in Turkey. A couple years ago, ISIS is moving on the offensive. We're seeing them take territory and claim success, beheading people to gather recruits from Europe.

Now we're seeing defensive operations, going into places like Turkey to object to Turkish airstrikes. So, those are fundamentally different kinds of attacks.

SCIUTTO: A statistic, Peter Bergen, struck me for the terror groups, the terror analysts that keep track of attacks. ISIS has claimed some 600 attacks just in the calendar year of 2016. That is a rate of almost 100 a month.

This is a business of martyrdom. And many of those attacks are directed, but none of them -- are not directed. It's people in effect volunteering to carry out violence on their own. That is a pretty remarkable global capability that they're proving.

BERGEN: Yes, unfortunately.

And picking up on what Phil was saying, some of these groups, these local groups are sort of slapping on the ISIS patch. And they may not have any real connections to ISIS. We have seen this in Afghanistan, where ISIS -- or a number of ISIS groups, they probably don't have much connection to Syria.

We have seen this in Pakistan. So in South Asia, we're seeing quite a number of these groups just sort of saying, hey, we want to be part of ISIS because it's the biggest and baddest congregation of terrorists in the world. And, you know, I totally agree with Phil. Unfortunately David

(INAUDIBLE) told me Bangladesh a week ago that he thinks Mosul will fall by January 2017. That is pretty amazing. This is a two-million- person city. What does that mean for all the foreign fighters those have flown into Syria and Iraq?

Where do they go? What is the plan for when these cities fall? Who is going to govern them? Defeating ISIS great, but what the day after look like? Where do these other -- all the people that have been trained, do they disperse around the world for more attacks?

We need to think about the day two effects of what a destroyed ISIS might look like.

SCIUTTO: You kicked the hornet's net, in effect.


SCIUTTO: Peter, Bob Baer, Phil Mudd, please stay there, because we're going to speak now to Fayed Munaim. He witnessed the attack there on the ground in Dhaka.

Fayed, thank you for joining us.

Can you tell us where you were when this happened, what did it sound like and what did you see as the attack was under way?


I was two rows down, and it was around 9:00. And we heard three large bangs and it sounded like gunfire.

SCIUTTO: Now, you're still close to the scene here. Can you see or hear what police are up to now?

MUNAIM: Right now, I'm in my balcony. And I can see. Basically, it has gone complete quiet.

There is a group people just loitering around at the end of the road. And the cops are just kind of just standing around. I'm not entirely sure what they're doing. They're not doing much.

SCIUTTO: I want to note for our viewers that one reason we're not seeing live footage of what the police are up to now is that the police, the government in Bangladesh have requested Bangladeshi TV not to broadcast images live, because they don't want the attackers inside that restaurant to see and hear what the police response is.

MUNAIM: Right.

SCIUTTO: It is an understandable step and of course we're complying with that as well.

I want to ask you, Fayed, while I have you, as this was playing out, how long was it under way? How long did you hear gunfire, those explosions? Was it minutes? Was it hours? How quickly did it unfold?

MUNAIM: The first three happened at around 9:00.

And then it kept going on for about a good half-hour. I think that's when apparently the cops were firing back and forth with them. And then within a half-hour, there was a pretty big explosion, which we have been told might have been a grenade or a handmade grenade. We're not sure about that. Can't confirm that.

But most of it happened within like an hour, I would say, overall.

SCIUTTO: And the reaction of the people around there. There has been, I don't know if I want to call it a wave of terror, but they have been terror attacks in recent months, but those tended to be individual attacks, individual targets, hacking deaths, horrible, but not as extensive or as broad as this one.

Is this one and the style of this attack, as well as the target, is it a shock to the community there?

MUNAIM: It absolutely is, because the general belief is like, there have been a lot of attacks in recent times, but, as you said, it's always been targeted at specific groups, but there's been nothing like this, and especially -- this is a very high-end area, with -- it's at a diplomatic area.

[16:15:00] Like so nothing -- no organization is organized know what to do (INAUDIBLE).

So it is shocking everyone. It will affect our way of life, because we're going to be too afraid to go out any more, because we're not like a lot of Middle Eastern countries. This is not an every day occurrence for us. It shocked everyone.

SCIUTTO: Fayed Munaim, witnessed the attack, thanks so much for joining us. Please stay safe there. We know it is still an ongoing situation.

Peter, Phil, Bob Baer, if I could bring you back, let's talk about the nature of this target.

This is very much in the M.O. of terror groups like an ISIS or even al-Qaeda. It's international. You got a lot of nationalities. It's a sight of western, quote and unquote, "decadence". It's a night out Friday night out. Restaurant, et cetera, a pretty -- I don't know (ph) if it's standard, but it's understandable target, Peter, for a group like this.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I mean, go back to Mumbai attack. They attack hotels who are catering to foreigners, they attack cafes that were catering to foreigners. I mean, these scenes from that playbook.

Now, that attack was carried out by the Kashimiri militant group. This is almost certainly but not I take this responsibility from ISIS seriously. I agree with Phil, these are likely to be local guys, not necessarily imported from some other country. But this is the easiest target in the world. So, to attack a place, you know, restaurant or cafe on a Friday night does not require any special skills. What it does require is recruiting six to eight people willing to die. That it isn't that easy, but clearly, this is what we're seeing unfolding.

SCIUTTO: But there has been no shortage of it.

Bob Baer, if you're still there. Phil Mudd said something interesting just a couple of minutes ago. He said that in effect, military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria too late to some degree, because you've already created this enormous magnet. And even though they lost the ground there, you have all of these trained and hardened fighters who have to go somewhere and want to go somewhere to carry out attacks like this.

Do you agree with that assessment?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, I go further than Phil and saying that the retaking of Fallujah and soon Mosul will actually cause more violence because so many people across the Islamic world identify with that war. They look as this as a sectarian conflict, they're supporting the Shia in Iraq. We're in effect supporting the Shia in Damascus, the Alawites. And so, every time we drop a bomb on Sunnis, they look at it as some sort of -- you know, it's existential conflict for them.

Now, we don't look at that way, but they do and it just draws more recruit. So, as we keep going north and take Raqqa, I think more and more of these isolated attacks, people have brand themselves as ISIS will occur all around the world, it's just inevitable and it's virtually impossible to stop it.

SCIUTTO: That field moves to the streets.

Bob Baer, Phil Mudd, Peter Bergen, please stay with us. We're going to keep on this.

I just want to remind our viewers the headlines now. The breaking news, that ISIS has now claimed responsibility for what is an ongoing attack in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. A hostage situation still underway. Our reporting, as many or perhaps more than 20 hostages, six to eight attackers still inside that restaurant there.

We're going to continue to follow this. Please stay with us.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

We continue to follow the breaking news. A hostage situation attack under way in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This is the Bangladeshi capital. This attack taking place right in the middle of the diplomatic quarter there, as you see from the map, very close, a little more than half a mile away from the U.S. embassy.

We've been following this for a number of hours now. Police still surrounding a restaurant there that was busy on what was a Friday night in Dhaka.

We also have a breaking news just a short time ago, ISIS claiming responsibility for this attack through its news agency. Still to be corroborated, but that is the claim of responsibility at this point.

I want to go to my colleague, Brooke Baldwin.

And, can you believe it? Just three days ago, another horrific attack at the Istanbul airport, and now, just 72 hours later, Brooke, here were are, talking about another major city, another attack. The sad fact that perhaps several people will die in this attack.

Help us put this into context as we connect these two and particularly with where you are, standing at an airport, the location of the most recent attack, Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: You know, Jim, I think you said it perfectly a minute ago. It is just pit in your stomach. I mean, that's exactly what all of us felt here when we were suddenly, you know, pivoting to the story in Dhaka over the last couple of hours. And as we were -- it was almost surreal for me standing here, talking about Dhaka in the wake of these triple suicide bombing here in the Istanbul airport, because then the evening call to prayer was ringing from this mosque. There is a mosque just outside of the Istanbul airport.

So, we are very mindful here that we are in the waning days of Ramadan, a Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and we also know as we have been covering -- these terrorists have been calling for these attacks on the holiest of days.

Someone pointed out to me, though, here at the airport, a couple of days ago, you know, the airport personnel all gathered around and it's really emotional memorial in this tribute. There were flowers everywhere, the pictures of the employees and the victims and they were reading the Koran. And that was explained to me pretty emotionally. That was their way of the Turks here saying, this is Islam. Not this crazy ideology that you are showing among these terror organizations, you know, whether you're here in Istanbul, or in Dhaka, but it does, to a degree, seem surreal, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And a reminder, I remember being struck just a couple of days ago, Brooke, to look at the pictures of those killed in Istanbul attack. Of course, many, perhaps most of them Muslim, many of them young.

And you can imagine in this attack, it's very like that many of the victims, assuming there are, we don't know yet except for the two police officers, would be Muslims as well. Just -- it doesn't make sense, but it's become something of a new normal.

Brooke, please stay there. You're on the scene of the attack. We're going to continue to update on what we've learned about the Istanbul attack, horrible enough.

But I want to go to Juliette Kayyem. She's former assistant secretary for homeland security here.

Juliette, I don't want to make connections where there aren't connections. But the fact is, you have these attacks just leading up in the hours and days before the July 4th weekend here. We know that following Istanbul, the department of homeland security and other security organizations here, New York police department and others, said they were stepping up security, which is something they often do out of an abundance of caution. But there is no credible or specific threat, and I want to make that clear to our audience as well, to the U.S.

But based on your experience, help people at home who are watching this, who watched Istanbul, who watched Orlando a couple of weeks ago, what should they be thinking as we go into the holiday weekend? What should they be concerned about, and should they not be too concerned or too scared about this?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, look, there is always going to be concern. And I -- you know, as a mother of three kids, I get that. These are anxious moments. All of them abroad, at least the last two, and then Orlando.

The challenge right now and this was just going through the list as Bob Baer was talking is what you're seeing in this, you know, new waves, it's Ramadan is, you have differing levels of sophistication. You have nationals and foreign fighters. You have east and west of the heart of Syria. You have suicides and now, something interesting in Bangladesh, a hostage-taking.

You have them occurring in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. Some are ISIS-directed, some are ISIS-inspired, some are high profile targets and some are random cafes. So when you say, well, what's the threat? I say sort of reality, right?

I mean, that is -- I sort of covered every place. I get the concern.

What homeland security can do is ramp up a security presence, but we also need to do is engage the public in our own safety and security, because there is no way a safety apparatus is going to cover every scenario I just went through. That means "see something, say something". It means active shooter protocols. It means understanding the risk that we're at.

But let me end on good news, which is I am not saying stay put, right? I mean, in other words, we are a vibrant mobile country without a -- without the kind of threat that we're seeing in Bangladesh or Turkey and I think we have to continue to behave that way.

SCIUTTO: No question, and I speak to counterterror officials. I heard from no counter terror officials, and these are very conservative people who do their jobs well, who said, stay at home or you should be scared this holiday weekend. If you see something, say something, as you noted Juliette, but no one is saying, stay at home. It's an important time, be with your families.

I want to go back to our panel now for a moment. Cedric Leighton joining us, long history in U.S. military


We have been talking about the broader context here, because we just spoke to Brooke Baldwin. There she is in Istanbul, three days ago, major attack. Now, here we are, another couple countries away, this attack.

Is this the price to some degree for the military success we're seeing against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and Libya that, you know, you punch that hornet nest, right, that you have the violence spoiling over elsewhere?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Unfortunately, Jim, I think it is in part because any time you breed military success, you achieve some type of military success, you are going to develop a reaction to it, and that reaction is manifesting itself often in attacks like the one we saw in Istanbul, and now, what unfortunately we're seeing in Dhaka.

So these are the kinds of things that you can expect, and unfortunately, I think it does mean that we can expect more attacks like this in varying degrees of intensity in various places around the world.

SCIUTTO: Phil, you said something arresting as we were speaking. We are calling this a hostage situation because there are, to our knowledge, people still alive inside there being held by these attackers. You were saying that that might be by design. Stretch this out.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's right. I mean, when we talk about hostages, that suggestion is that there are people you want to trade for something. I think the trade here is not in a traditional sense of trade for money, a trade for some kind of political settlement.

I think the folks in there, the handful of people who are the hostage takers, the terrorists, expect to die. They want maximum international attention. Attention on a cultural sight, drinking, dancing. Attention on, if you will, a diplomatic site where Westerners, including Americans, are. The longer they keep those hostages, the more they get that attention.

SCIUTTO: Peter, I want to ask your thoughts, Bob Baer who's still with us.

Peter, I've always hesitate to question police reactions to these things, right, because they've got a tough job there. They're in middle of it. But just -- we do know, when we talked about how the guidance for U.S. law enforcement has changed with these kinds of things, particularly when a group like ISIS in involved. They say, don't wait, go in, these guys are not going to negotiate.