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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
ISIS Says It's Behind Attack, Hostage Siege Unfolding Now; Ongoing Hostage Standoff at Cafe One Mile From U.S. Embassy. Aired 7- 8p ET
Aired July 1, 2016 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:12] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. This is a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington and the breaking news tonight.
ISIS says its terrorists are holding at least 20 people hostage right now at a restaurant in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. The siege, which has been underway for more than seven hours now is in the heart of the diplomatic zone just a mile or so from the U.S. Embassy there.
U.S. officials say that all American personnel are accounted for, it's advising all U.S. citizens in the city to shelter in place. At least two police officers have been killed and 40 people injured in the standoff. Bangladeshi television stations are in blackout, in effort not to give away any details of the police's tactical response. As far as we know right now, police have yet to make any contact, get any demands from the terrorists inside. It is very possible, it may be likely that if this is indeed ISIS, a claim senior U.S. officials do doubt, there may be no demands.
That is the chilling reality right now in a week in which the terror group has shown its ability to strike across the globe. We are covering this breaking news in the only way CNN can. We have CNN correspondents and counterterrorism experts here at home and across the globe to bring you the very latest.
I want to start, though, with CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara, you are getting new reporting now. Some inside the intelligence community think that this may not be an ISIS, perhaps an al Qaeda-linked group. Why is that?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Jim. Well, it is probably very important to say right off the bat, nobody actually knows, right? But tonight a source, a U.S. official familiar with the latest intelligence is thinking says, there is some analysis inside the administration that this may be an al Qaeda attack. A group called al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent just yesterday labeled by the State Department as a terror group.
They have been active in Bangladesh and especially in the capital city of Dhaka, said to be responsible for some of the attacks against secular activists, bloggers, writers. So, when U.S. officials look at it they begin to look at all of this and they say these may be -- we have some reason to believe that these may be the people who are responsible. They are said also to be monitoring social media accounts from this al Qaeda group. Now, could it still be ISIS on the other hand?
Most certainly. Some of this could match ISIS tactics and ISIS very much, let's face it, on a rampage right now with so many of these recent attacks ISIS has claimed responsibility in its official Amaq News Agency, it may be very tough now for al Qaeda to jump in and say no, it's us. So, ISIS making that public claim, but inside the administration tonight still very much hedging, very much looking at the possibility this could be an al Qaeda attack in the region -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: And to be clear, whether al Qaeda or ISIS, both groups one word describes him, they are ruthless. That makes the situation very gray for any hostages that might still be alive inside that restaurant.
Barbara Starr, thanks very much, at the Pentagon.
I want to bring in my panel to help with this in perspective for us, Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst Cedric Leighton, former U.S. military official also CNN military analyst Philip Mudd, long time with the CIA and CNN terrorism analyst.
So, let's begin with that first question responsibility. Barbara's new reporting there. We have this ISIS claim now, U.S. official saying, equally, perhaps even more likely it is an al Qaeda-linked group. Peter, it seems a basic question. Does it matter, really?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, if you're a victim, obviously it doesn't matter, but you know, for law enforcement and intelligence it does matter. Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent has been around for a couple of years, big presence in Pakistan, some presence in Afghanistan. They haven't done this, and I talked to a counter terrorism official and that person said that typically they don't do like multiple-man operations and this kind of thing. So that person was putting it more in the ISIS camp and that was before the claim of responsibility, but here is sort of a question, you know, for all of us which is to what extent are ISIS claims of responsibility usually accurate?
I'm sort of racking my brain to think of one that was really, really wrong, but let's go back to the Egyptian air attack. No claim of responsibility by ISIS. They could have had a huge coup by having a false claim because we still don't know what happened with that plane that went down with many people onboard. So, you know, I think ISIS claims of responsibility from the semi-official news agency should be taken pretty seriously and as Barbara said, we still don't know.
SCIUTTO: No question. Phil Mudd, regardless of who it is, and there's been a lot of talk about this bloody, blood thirsty competition between the groups because al Qaeda has fallen by the wayside to some degree in terms of attention. ISIS has grabbed this attention. Al Qaeda is aware of this and has and this has happened in other countries felt the need to kind of declare itself important from the perspective of us, our security, you know, whatever group it is to have that competition does not bode well.
[19:05:32] PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's right. That's one of the reasons you might have seen ISIS come out and claim it so quickly. I agree with Peter. I was sitting there trying to rack my brain and say, when did they file a false claim? The point is, that as they compete they want to get out there in a place like Bangladesh right away before al Qaeda says anything and they says, this is us. You're right about the violence of this.
Interestingly, one of the differences between the groups is actually is that al Qaeda sees ISIS as too violent. They would say one of our responsibilities is try to recruit the faithful by being on TV and beheading people you eliminate that opportunity. We would have thought of al Qaeda 15 years ago as the most brutal people on the planet. They are not.
SCIUTTO: Well, now there's this crazy one upmanship. Let's talk about this specific situation here, Cedric. Because we are entering the eight hour. This often times we will cover these terror attacks, they will have happen, we will look at the aftermath and missed signals, et cetera. This is still ongoing and we call it a hostage situation, but let's be frank. If it's ISIS or al Qaeda. These are not groups that negotiate over hostages.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They don't. That's exactly right. And one of the big problems is the silence. Right now what we understand is that there is absolutely nothing emanating from the restaurant and the fact that there is nothing that can be heard, or that it's at least being talked about, that is not a good sign unfortunately. Hopefully we're wrong and hopefully the hostages are alive, but that's something that we have to be very concerned about.
SCIUTTO: This speaks to Peter, just the durability, the capability of these groups to expand across the globe because a lot of this is branding, right? I mean, Bangladesh had its own, homegrown terror groups that were operating on their own and they may have attached themselves whether it's to ISIS and al Qaeda and that's one of the challenges in terms of snuffing these groups out.
BERGEN: Yes. And a lot of groups want to sort of affiliate with al Qaeda and al Qaeda has a process with ISIS and ISIS has a process, they declared a waliat (ph), which is they went for a provincial affiliate. Anyway some of these are very tightly bound, so it's essential in Libya for instance to sort of highly on subsidiary. In Bangladeshi I suspect it's more loose, it's more flapping on the patch, but you know, certainly people want to, you know, if you're a jihadi group in Afghanistan, you actually want to say, hey, I'm part of ISIS because it kind of helped your profile.
SCIUTTO: I want to remind our viewers, this is an ongoing security situation in the capital Dhaka of Bangladesh just to the east of India, very close to the U.S. Embassy there and right in the middle of the diplomatic quarter. We're entering the eighth hour of this siege there. Lives in grave danger inside that restaurant. As you can see there, just about an hour's drive from the U.S. embassy and questions about the police response. They're surrounding. What are they going to do now?
One step we know they have taken there is the media blackout. The pictures you are seeing now, they came from some time ago because they do not want to show what's happening right now in case the attackers inside could learn something from that, respond to the police response.
I want to bring in CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. Elise, what do we know right now about Americans and there are many of them working in and around the capital there of Dhaka?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. Not just American personnel, but aid workers. A lot of aid workers there. All personnel from the embassy has been accounted for. Right now the embassy is working to see if U.S. citizens or local staff is inside. As we've said this is a place frequented by foreigners. The embassy has what they call a warden system reaching out by email and text to Americans living in this city and urging them to check in with the embassy with their families. You remember earlier this day when that shooting happened the embassy issued a shelter in place order not only for personnel, but all Americans in the area and we've been listening to some of these guests sheltering in place and that cafe very close to a diplomatic corner, a very -- area where foreign diplomats, aid workers and ex-pats are living.
SCIUTTO: And where they feel safe, they have felt safe. Elise, has the U.S. issued any sort of warning either to travelers or to its staff or other Americans living in Dhaka before this attack?
LABOTT: Well, you know, they've been very concerned about an uptick in violence. And in February, the State Department warned about an uptick in violence in Bangladesh putting out this travel warning about attacks believed to be undertaken by either groups related to ISIS or this al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent the State Department just yesterday officially designated it a foreign terrorist organization. So, a lot of concern about the growing extremism and potential for terrorist attacks there.
[19:10:20] SCIUTTO: Elise Labott, thanks very much there. Just one question, as we continue to watch this. To this point, folks at home might not have heard of terror in Bangladesh that's happening, it's on the other side of the world, but the fact is drip by drip there have been a series of attacks and they tended to be on single targets, horrible daytime hacking deaths using the shadiest on bloggers, gay activists, foreigners et cetera.
Peter, this is though, would be a change, a more coordinated, multiple attackers, multiple victims potentially here.
BERGEN: Yes. Sure. I mean, the previous attacks of the LBGT activists, secular, self-proclaimed atheists.
SCIUTTO: One at a time.
BERGEN: One at a time. I think there have probably been about two dozen in the last couple of years. You know, well-known novelist, some of that guy who was working at the American Embassy and that was worrisome in itself, but this was a whole other order of magnitude and very, very different from what we've seen before.
SCIUTTO: Greater coordination. Peter, Cedric, Phil, please stay with us. Just a reminder to our viewers. We're entering the eighth hour of this siege, this deadly siege in Dhaka. The sun about to rise there in the Indian subcontinent. A horrible night for those hostages inside there, still no word on their safety. We're going to continue with this story.
Thanks for joining this CNN special edition of THE NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.
[19:15:34] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to this special edition of the CNN NEWSROOM. We continue to follow an ongoing terror attack. Really a night of horror still under way in Dhaka, Bangladesh, entering the eighth hour, nearly 5:00 a.m. in Dhaka and the sun about to come up, but no news on the fate or perhaps more than 20 hostages inside this restaurant in the center of the diplomatic corridor there held by some six to eight gunmen who went in there guns blazing, explosives, throwing grenades at police. Silence since then inside this restaurant as police surround it. We are waiting updates from Dhaka.
To get updates, we are going to go now to CNN New Delhi correspondent Sumnima Udas. What are you learning at this hour about police efforts and any news about the faith of those hostages?
SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very little information coming out of there, Jim, as you can imagine because of this media blackout and as you mentioned we understand the whole area is quiet right now and the only concrete details we've been getting thus far is really from the restaurant owner who spoke to us earlier who said that there were about 20 people trapped inside held hostage. About six to eight attackers.
They were young or they seemed young. They not only had guns, but they had explosives, as well, and also that they were shouting Allahu Akbar and that's pretty much all we've got and that's from the restaurant owner. The police officers, as you can imagine, it has been very, very difficult to reach anyone there. We know there is a very large presence of officials, authorities there, but that's really all we can say at the moment, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Sumnima, you can say something of a precedent for this kind of attack, the Mumbai attacks a number of years ago. Of course in India there, those played out over several days. In Bangladesh, though, has there been any precedent for a coordinated, multiple attacker attack like this on a western target, a soft target like this restaurant in the diplomatic corridor there?
UDAS: This is absolutely unprecedented. At least in my memory I can't think of any other attack anywhere close to what we're seeing happening right now in Dhaka. Of course we've been reporting over the past two years of several attacks on bloggers, writers, intellectuals and people from the minority groups but these have been isolated attacks against individuals and what we've seen is attackers come in motorbikes and attacked them with machetes. Now, this is the first time we're seeing such a coordinated attack in such a high-profile area with so many embassies.
You have got the Qatari and Iranian Embassy right there, yards away from this restaurant, this is the restaurant of course as we've been saying which a lot of ex-pats used to frequent. There's also a huge park there with a lake which is where a lot of ex-pats used to jog around. So this is a very popular area, an affluent area and, you know, people in Bangladesh are absolutely shocked. Even though they've gotten used to hearing about these isolated attacks against bloggers and writers, this kind of thing they've never seen, they say.
SCIUTTO: Sumnima Udas joining us from New Delhi there. I want to share details as we get them tonight. Just an update. We're hearing from witnesses that as the gunman took over this cafe, this already some eight hours ago, they were shouting say witnesses, "Allahu Akbar," that is God is great. That is something you will often hear from jihadists as they carry out attacks like this. We will continue to share details as they come in to CNN.
I want to turn now to Leone Lakhani, she is a journalist based here in Washington, DC with the tremendous amount of experience covering Bangladesh. You also have family members in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, you know this area, the diplomatic corridor very well. What can you tell us about this area and why terrorists like this would have choosing this target?
LEONE LAKHANI, BENGALI JOURNALIST WITH FAMILY IN DHAKA: It's a very high-profile target, Jim, to put it bluntly, because as we've heard from Sumnima it's an area that's frequented by ex-pats and lots of diplomats and more affluent part of the city. So it's definitely a high-profile target. It's a bakery that is frequented by many people in the area and it's kind of got a European feel, it's got a garden. They baked their own breads. So, it's a type of cafe that doesn't exist really in Dhaka, so it's a place that everybody knows.
And on top of that, it's a very densely populated city, Jim. So, regardless of where you are, I mean, I spoke to family members that are two street away which literally is about five minutes' walk from there. You can hear everything, you can see everything from where they are. So, it's a type of an area in the city that will make an impact because there are so many people around and high-profile people, as well.
[19:20:43] SCIUTTO: You know this, folks at home might not now that there have been a series of attacks there over the last several months in Bangladesh but they've tended to be on one target, horrible machete attacks and on one target, individuals. This one, different, certainly. Multiple attackers, multiple victims. What was the sense of safety prior to this? Were folks concerned about the terrorist threat when you visited there or were they not? Or was this something that's different, qualitatively different?
LAKHANI: This is very different, Jim. You know, as we heard this is completely unprecedented to have a gun attack of this magnitude with this type of organization. There was more security in that area after we've seen those brutal attacks over the past couple of years especially since we saw, you know, the tragic death of the Italian ex- pat last year and as well as a Japanese citizen at the end of last year. So there has been a step up in security, but nothing like this was expected.
This was a restaurant that anyone could just walk into and, you know, we've heard about, you know, the government launched a massive crackdown over the past month where they picked up some 14,000, thousands of people, and they've always said that, you know, we don't have ISIS or al Qaeda cells in Bangladesh, but regardless of who these people are, local groups or foreign groups, you know, it's clear now that this is a very different type of threat and that whole crackdown really didn't achieve much. So, they are going to have to look at this very carefully and, you know, change tactics and take this a lot more seriously -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Leone Lakhani, thanks very much. We continue to follow this ongoing terror attack in Dhaka, sunrise approaching there nearly 5 a.m. in Bangladesh after a night of horror for some 20 hostages there since that initial moment of attack there's been silence. Their fates unknown inside. We are staying with this story. We'll be right back after this break.
[19:26:27] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. We continue to cover this ongoing hostage standoff in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Holey Artisan Restaurant. This is the target and this is where the hostage standoff is currently unfolding right in the diplomatic zone of Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital. This map here gives you a sense of all of the different embassies and consulates in that area, and I would point out there in yellow, the U.S. Embassy a little more than a mile away by roads. Very popular this whole area with Foreign Service personnel, ex-patriots including many Americans.
I want to speak now to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. She's a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security as well as the House Armed Services Committee. Congresswoman Sanchez, thanks for joining us tonight.
REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE (on the phone): My pleasure to be with you and your viewers. Thank you for keeping everyone informed.
SCIUTTO: So help us here. You're aware of this growing threat whether this is ISIS, we are hearing from U.S. officials about the possibility of an al Qaeda link to this as opposed to ISIS. Does your Intel tell you that Americans here at home and abroad are at risk from similar terror following the string of attacks we've seen here, we've seen in Istanbul and elsewhere just in the last several days?
SANCHEZ: Well, I believe that this will be interesting. We do generally think of Bangladesh and the al Qaeda affiliate within that area and not so much to ISIS but remember, it is these extremists who are -- mean to do harm to our way of life and that's one of the reasons that they have targeted places where you see where you see are diplomatic, places where you see people are enjoying the western way of life or -- or just fine dining.
So it is very alarming and would that happen here in the United States? Well, I've got to tell you, we have a pretty open society. We have a lot of targets that we have to protect, but we have, in fact, over the past 15 years done a great job, I believe, in making sure that our local, state and federal officials are on top of most incidents that could occur.
SCIUTTO: We've spoken with counter terror officials today, intelligence officials who have said there is no credible or specific threat as the U.S. enters the July 4th weekend. I would as you because I often find as myself as a parent and I'm sure viewers at home, they see this. They understandably get scared of this kind of terror, what recommendations would you give to Americans on this holiday weekend as they travel, as they go to fireworks events, as they celebrate the holiday weekend?
SANCHEZ: Well, the first thing I would say to you is, we are Americans, and for me what that means is that we cannot be scared to go out -- we cannot be scared into going out of our homes into assembly and to celebrating our heritage. So please move forward and do what you would do with your family. But most places where there will be large crowds we now, as you know, do security checks and I would imagine those are going to be at most places.
And secondly, there is the front line. The front line is, if you see something that you think is unexpected, wrong, a little off, somebody off, please tell somebody. See something, say something. We are the first defense against any of this.
[19:30:01] SCIUTTO: This is happening while there has been some good news in at least the military fight against a group such as ISIS and again, we have U.S. officials telling us just as likely this could be al Qaeda, but against the broader fight against terrorism, you have ISIS under pressure in Iraq, ISIS under pressure in Syria, losing ground in both those countries and Libya, as well.
Is it your view that as they get squeezed on the battlefield, groups like this tend to strike out abroad to show their power, in effect?
REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA (via telephone): Well, their whole incident of this is to instill fear and to back the population and to put pressure on our politicians, on our administration to settle back and not take on the fight in the places where we have. And so, they do tend to try to make a big scene, if you will, if order to attract more as they are losing funding, they are losing people who want to get into this type of a battle, if you will. They certainly will use this for propaganda to try to recruit because they are losing recruits. People are leaving the battlefield.
SCIUTTO: To the sad fact that a group such as ISIS or al Qaeda is that they can recruit very well and relatively easily just via the internet. They don't even have to make a phone call. They don't have to coordinate these attacks although in some cases they do such as in Istanbul, but in other cases, they don't have to.
What is the status of America's fight against the ideology, stopping and trying to stand in the way of young people answering this call to jihadi violence?
SANCHEZ: Well, if you're speaking to American use and the lone wolf situation that we've seen several times now, we have stepped up our efforts on our own homeland to do that, but with respect to other countries and the disenchantment by some. As you know, tough economic times. Now, you've seen the Middle East very destabilized and the refugee crisis going into Europe. It's much more difficult for many of our allies to have the resources to be able to really infiltrate and take care of some of these situations and that's why we see this.
SCIUTTO: And they've shown their ability to attack in countries rich and poor, western, not western. They're showing tremendous power.
SANCHEZ: They -- we have -- we have to protect everything, and we try to in layers, and the cost is increasing every day to do so. They get the chance to probe and find the weakness. They have only two strikes, one to strike fear into us.
So, in the insurgent war, they have the upper hand and that they can wait and they can strike them. We have never, at least here in the United States, thwarted, so many attacks to our own country.
SCIUTTO: Representative Loretta Sanchez, thanks very much for joining us on this holiday weekend.
SANCHEZ: It's my pleasure. I hope everyone has a safe a great Independence weekend.
SCIUTTO: You heard from the congresswoman there. Be alert, if you see something say something, but the encouragement we're hearing consistently from U.S. officials is enjoy the holiday weekend.
We can send you to follow this continuing terror attack in Dhaka, a night of horror there. Daybreak approaching. No word on the fate of perhaps more than 20 hostages inside this restaurant.
We're staying on this story. Please stay with us.
[19:36:54] SCIUTTO: Welcome to this special edition of CNN NEWSROOM.
A terror attack under way and ongoing as daybreak approaches in Dhaka, India. The fate of some 20 hostages still unknown, competing claims, possibilities of ISIS being behind this, perhaps al Qaeda's affiliate there in the Indian subcontinent. We continue to follow this story.
I want to start with Michelle Kosinski. She's at the White House where we know the president has been briefed on the attack.
What are White House officials saying tonight, Michelle?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim.
Well, right now, they're not responding directly to this because it is still developing. But it comes only days after we heard the president and White House officials while they were traveling abroad, express their continued concerns over the fact that ISIS and other terror groups still had the ability to carry out attacks like this and they keep happening.
What we do know is that the White House is watching this very closely. Going into this holiday weekend, the president wants to stay briefed as it develops. He has already been briefed by Lisa Monaco, his assistant for homeland security and counter terror.
We've seen the White House have to respond to these kinds of attacks and so many times recently and to questions of, you know, what does this mean for ISIS' ability? What about the strategy to fight it and the threat level at home? That threat obviously does still exist and what we heard repeatedly from officials is right now there is no specific, credible threat here in the United States -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: The presidential briefings on terror attacks seem like almost daily events now in this day and age. Michelle Kosinski at the White House, thanks very much.
I want to go now to our panel to discuss the broader implications of this latest attacks. We have Juliette Kayyem. She's former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Bob Baer is CNN terrorism analyst, former CIA, Glenn Carle, also former CIA. With me here in Washington, Cedric Leighton, former U.S. military intelligence officer, and Michael Smith, as well who has advised on terrorism matters on Capitol Hill.
Juliette, if I can begin with you, because we are headed into the July 4th weekend and I had the privilege of speaking to Representative Loretta Sanchez. Her advice to Americans was, no credible and specific threat, be alert, but enjoy the weekend.
Do you agree with that advice?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. Look, I'm the mother of three children, and I think about, you know, sort of these big, public events and so what we need to do at least as a homeland security matter is to educate ourselves and our family and engage in the world.
There's really no other option, but when I talk about education, you know, people in homeland security tend to talk in a way that makes the American public either tune out or freak out. You know, there's nothing in between. So there are ways in which you know, people, if you see something say something. Discuss emergency management plans.
If you go abroad, understand what the equivalent 911 number is. Often, our teenage children don't even know the name of the hotel that we maybe at.
You know, just a basic 15 minutes, talking it through and then go enjoy yourself because in a world like this, given that there's no sort of -- there's no rhyme or reason, right, to what's happening.
[19:40:07] The only other alternative is to say, well, I'll never go outside and that certainly cannot be an option.
SCIUTTO: And no one is making that recommendation.
Michael Smith, if I can speak to you. Bangladesh, at least from Americans' perspective might seem far afield and they might not have heard of terror attacks there, but the fact is there had been a series of them, but not quite as large as this. In your view, is Bangladesh something of a sleeper or unknown hotbed, unknown to this point, hotbed for this kind of extremist violence?
MICHAEL SMITH, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: Well, as your other guests will confirm, it's been well known that Bangladesh is a hotbed for Salafi jihadist groups and has been known for decades now. I mean, one of the signers of bin Laden's 1998 fatwa declaring war against the West and the Jews was a leader of a major jihadist group in Bangladesh.
So, al Qaeda has long had a network present in Bangladesh. There's been an outflow of people from Bangladesh into Pakistan and Afghanistan. And I do want to touch on something.
You know, it's been said in your reporting that this is the first major attack that could be attributed possibly to the Islamic State. I think it will be attributed to the Islamic State, but last fall, they struck at a Shia mosque in Dhaka.
So, they have executed more than a dozen attacks in Bangladesh over the past eight months and many of them are targeted, assassination- style attacks going after a Japanese businessman or going after a Christian missionary from Italy or going after Buddhists and quasi- political leaders in small communities, and Hindu leadership figures, but this is not the first attack if it is the Islamic State that would be something they've conducted in the country, and I think we can see a lot more of this coming.
Now, as Bob will tell you and others will tell you, after 9/11, one of the problems with Bangladesh became a blind spot for the United States intelligence community and it wasn't high on the priority list even though there was an awareness of a massive jihadi scene there. So, there are knowledge gaps when it comes to the jihadi scene there and the Islamic State is definitely building out an influence capacity there and it's expressing aspirations to expand operations.
It has literally declared a province in Bangladesh in recent months and so, we see it declaring provinces in the Caucasus, in the Philippines, and all of that can easily land here in the West because we're not paying adequate attention to what's developing in a lot of these countries right now.
SCIUTTO: Bob Baer, as we're watching this, and a reminder to our viewers, this attack is still under way and authorities there have taken a somewhat unusual and understandable step of not broadcasting live images of this while it's under way because they don't want word to get into the attackers if they're inside as to what police are doing outside.
But I wonder, Bob, as well if part of this is to prevent them from making statements, making claims of their own from -- from inside as the attack is under way. Is that also a driving force behind that step?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Jim, you're absolutely right. That's disingenuous. The first thing you do in a hostage rescue, we cut the electricity and that would cut the TV and you can jam all signals in and out there. The Bangladeshis have just been in denial for the last couple of years.
And I have to say, Jim, is that Islamic Sunni violence started in Pakistan in 1979 with the burning of the U.S. embassy and killing two of my colleagues. So, in a lot of Afghanistan, really is a South Asian problem and this spreading to Bangladesh in a big way and a big attack shouldn't come as a big surprise to anybody. It's absolutely -- we haven't focused on Bangladesh, the origins and roots of Islamic extremism --
SCIUTTO: Glenn Carle, whether it is ISIS or al Qaeda and we don't know yet, these are both groups that are ruthless in terms of their methods here. What does that say about the fate of the hostages and the level of danger to those hostages inside this restaurant?
GLENN CARLE, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, I think you implied in the question is the sad response that is most likely that these are ruthless people and they are not interested in saving the lives of anybody. These are just tools to draw out the people, to draw out the attention of all of us, of CNN and the world to the extent that they can. The more terror they spread, the happier and more successful they are in their view.
[19:45:02] So, I'm afraid, short of a successful intervention by a SWAT team or counterterrorism, that lives of hostages are not --
SCIUTTO: Cedric Leighton, you've personally with U.S. cooperation with Bangladeshis on this issue. What's the degree of cooperation?
CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Jim, it's certainly not like it is with the U.K. It is a middle of the country in terms of the degree of cooperation. However, the Bangladeshis were very receptive during my experience with working with them. It was very clear and they wanted to learn and they wanted to implement as many tactics, techniques and procedures as we call it in the military speak to actually use and be effective in the military operations that they could be conducting.
They weren't necessarily considering counter terrorism operations, but the cooperation does extend even into that realm. And in that particular case, there are a lot of areas where specific units have worked directly with Bangladeshi forces with military and police.
SCIUTTO: To help train them.
You do see, the police have a rapid response force. You have a lot of these trained units and trained specifically to respond to events like this?
LEIGHTON: That's right. And the more developed those units are the better off a police force is going to be in a situation like this.
In Bangladesh, of course, they're fighting resource constraints. There are a lot of political shenanigans that go on there and there are so many different things can that can impede an effective response. But there are areas where they do have some of the equipment that is needed and hopefully they'll be able to implement and execute as appropriate.
SCIUTTO: Let's hope they're able to end this peacefully. Let's hope.
Cedric Leighton, and the rest of my panel, thanks very much. Stay with us. We are continuing to watch as the sun right here in Dhaka with this hostage situation, this terror attack still under way in its eighth hour now.
Stay with us. We'll be right back after this break.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back to this special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. You're looking at new pictures there.
This is as the sun comes up in Dhaka, just down the street from this continuing terror siege of a restaurant in the diplomatic corridor of the Bangladeshi capital. This police here part of the response. A reminder, the bakery where the siege is under way, a little less than a mile from the U.S. embassy there surrounded by other embassies and residences for foreign diplomats, expatriates and many of the people who visited this restaurant where foreigners as well.
The U.S. has confirmed the safety of its personnel, but many others questions remain. I want to speak to now to Fayed Munaim and he is quite close to where it is.
Fayed, can you tell us how close you are right now and what you're seeing right now and hearing right now in terms of a police response?
FAYED MUNAIM (via telephone): OK. I am two blocks away from the restaurant. I am standing on my balcony. Now -- it's raining right now. It's early morning.
And the police have taped off the area so, as you know they kind of like stop reporters from coming in. There is a blockade and they're not letting anyone through right now.
SCIUTTO: Fayed, you were also there some eight hours ago as this attack was under way. First starting, tell us what you heard and what you saw then as the first shots were fired.
MUNAIM: So it was 9:00 at night local time. I was out on my balcony, and we heard three loud noises and it sounded like gun fire to us, and the first thing we did is we tried to go inside and turned the news on to see what was going on. SCIUTTO: This must be just a shocking blow to you, but to your
friends and family and others in this area here, an attack like this just not expected, I imagine?
MUNAIM: It really isn't. It's actually kind of unheard of especially in this area. It's kind of a more of an upscale area, and there have been attacks before, but as you've mentioned before it targeted specific people, and something this big has never happened. So it comes as a huge shock to everyone.
SCIUTTO: Fayed, as you're there waiting for news, waiting, I imagine, for updates from the police, from the government, is saying what the status is of the hostages inside and what the police are doing right now or is it a complete blackout on information?
MUNAIM: It's a complete blackout. We pretty much know as much as you guys do. There is literally no information coming in or out. So we have no idea what the strategy is. We don't even know what is going on. It's kind of scary because they're a few feet away and there are 20 people.
SCIUTTO: Fayed Munaim, thank you. Our thought goes out to you and all involved in this.
You're seeing there, as we speak, the first pictures of a new day, Saturday as day breaks there in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital . These are police, part of the enormous response to this attack which I'll remind our viewers, is still underway, the fate of the hostages inside that restaurant and in fact, the attackers inside is still unknown.
We're staying with the story and we'll be right back after this break.
[19:58:28] SCIUTTO: This is CNN's special coverage. The sun is now up in Bangladesh and we are coming up on hour nine of a hostage siege in that country's capital Dhaka. Police say at least 20 hostages are holed up inside the Holey Artisan bakery right now.
Two police officers killed by the terrorists. More than 40 other people have been wounded. The fate of those hostages, unknown.
ISIS says its terrorists are the captors inside the cafe, but some senior U.S. officials are telling CNN the attack pattern indicates the more likely culprit here is al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. The State Department says thank level all American personnel, at least, have been accounted for, but they warn every single U.S. citizen in that city to shelter in place.
Reminder, this attack still under way. This cafe right in the heart of the city's diplomatic zone, less than a mile away from the U.S. embassy there. It is a popular haunt for foreigners and the fear here is an American might be caught up in this carnage.
Right now, we have very little idea where newsstand and a news blackout under way because police have asked local media to observe that blackout. They don't want to tip the terrorists off to what special response teams are doing outside that cafe now.
Innocent people's lives still very much hanging in the balance. Everyone involved in this operation remains, sadly, in the line of fire.
Stay with CNN throughout the evening for the continuing coverage of the hostage siege in Bangladesh. You can always get the latest, of course, on CNN.com.
That's it for this special hour of CNN NEWSROOM.
We go now to "ANTHONY BOURDAIN, PARTS UNKNOWN: Scotland."