Return to Transcripts main page
Week of Terror Attacks Across the World; July 4th Security; Heightened Washington Security; Saudi Mosque Targeted. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired July 4, 2016 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:06] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Wolf Blitzer. Wherever you are watching from around the world, thank you so much for joining us.
It's been a week of terror, trepidation, and tears, a stunning spate of attacks has the world reeling. In Badgered, the death toll from a weekend blast is soaring, today it was raised to 215, making it the deadliest single attack in Iraq since 2000. In Bangladesh, relatives of those killed in the Dhaka restaurant siege were joined by the country's prime minister in a memorial service for the victims, 22 people were killed.
And well ISIS has claimed responsibility. Bangladeshi officials say it was carried out by home grown militants.
And then in Turkey, 16 more suspects in last week's deadly attack on the Istanbul airport are appearing before a judge. And separately, police have arrested two suspected ISIS militants at the Istanbul airport this weekend.
Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Baghdad. We have CNN correspondent Alexandra Field in Dhaka, Bangladesh and senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir in Istanbul.
We begin with Ben, Ben what are you learning from where you are?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna there is very little in terms of information when it comes to exactly what happened. We do know that it appears that it was a refrigerator truck that went off just before midnight Saturday night.
But what is notable about this bombing is that it seems to have created a wave of flames that went out to both sides of the street causing huge damage to this commercial area, killing at this point where we know as many as 2000 -- or rather 215. But it's expected that the death toll will rise as they dig deeper and deeper into the ashes and the rubble.
At the scene now, according to the Iraqi police, of the bodies recovered, 81 are simply charred beyond all recognition. So they're going to have to do DNA tests. But this means that hundreds, thousands perhaps of people in Baghdad have no information about loved ones who seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth Saturday night. We were at the scene of the blast today for about five hours and there, for instance, I met a woman who told me that for more than 24 hours, she has been going from one Baghdad hospital to another, from one morgue to another searching for her 29-year-old son who was shopping clothing shopping at one of those malls on Saturday night.
She said, all the bodies she saw simply were beyond recognition. Another man was sifting through the ashes and the rubble and found his brother's prayer beads. When he found that, he broke into tears sobbing uncontrollably, then of course he had to call his mother to tell her that her son had died in the blast. So there are many people desperately seeking for information but there seems to be very little information available. Brianna?
KEILAR: Heartbreaking stories that you are telling there, Ben. Thank you for that report. And I want to go now to Alexandra Field in Dhaka, Bangladesh. You're actually learning more information about one of the attackers, right?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We've heard from authorities here that all of the attackers were Bangladeshi. They have been identified as being between 18 and their mid-20's, interestingly Brianna, they've all also been identified as being affluent or upper middle class, well-educated.
I spoke to the father of the youngest attacker, his name is Meer Sameh Mobasheer, his father says he had not seen his son since February. His son has suddenly disappeared from the house, the family has gone to law enforcement authorities for help looking for their son. The father has become increasingly concerned that his son had perhaps taken up with an Islamist group, because previously, Sameh had never shown any sign of radicalization or religious extremism, but at 18, he believed that his son was immature and impressionable.
Despite that, he says his son was full of humanity, a kind and loving person, that's why he cannot swear the child that he knew with the man who acted out that hideous massacre with a gang of assailants storming into a cafe killing 20 people inside, killing two and two other police officers who tried to stop the hostage situation, freeing 13 people in the end. The father says that he cannot bring himself to go identify his son's remains, because he just cannot believe that his son would carry out an act like this.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks. U.S. intelligence officials are also looking at ISIS as the likely perpetrators of this attack. However, officials here in Bangladesh say they are focused on whether it was carried out by a domestic terror network. Brianna.
[13:05:15] KEILAR: Alexandra, thank you.
And Nima, I want to turn to you now, we're learning that Turkey is actually striking ISIS targets. Can you update us on that development?
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is Turkey's some officials an Italian news agency. You remember couple days ago, the Turkish president (inaudible) blistering speed things that to everyone of us they kill, we will kill 10of them. It appears he's -- attempted to make good on that vow. They say that they have hit 68 targets -- 68 ISIS targets in Northern Syria, that they have confirmed the death of 14 ISIS militants.
But of course, this isn't just about retribution, the Turkish authorities believe that these targets and these militants were actively involved in preparing a new strike against Turkey. And given the week that we have just seen with the attacks not just here in Turkey but in Bangladesh and of course Baghdad, authorities here continue to be on high alert, they appear believe ISIS when their spokesman say that this isn't over, that more attacks are being prepared, Brianna.
KEILAR: And Nima, there seems to be this pattern that we are seeing, not just in Istanbul but also in Bangladesh where it seems ISIS is targeting, I mean really these are Muslim targets but these are secular governments. It seems to be that they are sending a message.
ELBAGIR: Absolutely. And of course Turkey is a very valued member of the U.S. led coalition in Syria. But it is also about trying to get as much impact for your strikes as possible. And so Turkey with its multibillion dollar tourism industry, a number of countries, European and American travel agencies specifically target Turkey, you know, it's extraordinary cultural heritage.
So, for ISIS looking at Paris now which is on high alert, looking at Brussels, or Berlin, it is much easier to resonate by hitting somewhere like Bangladesh or like Istanbul where you can appear to be targeting western targets by proxy. The other interesting shift in strategy is this use of home grown terror networks, not only to support the foreign fighters as we've seen here in Istanbul, but to operate much more easily under the radar as we saw in Bangladesh, Brianna.
KEILAR: It gives them this sort of exponential effect in a way, Nima Elbagir, thank you so much for your report.
The attacks in these attempted attacks too, they don't stop there. We want to warn you the video you are about to see is disturbing. Today, the Israeli security agency revealed that the two gunmen who carried out the June 8th terror attack at a Tel Aviv market were inspired by ISIS. Four Israelis died in that attack, 16 were wounded.
And then in Saudi Arabia a suicide bomber killed himself -- killed only himself after detonating an explosive near the U.S. consulate in Jeddah early this morning. Police reportedly had been suspicious of the man because he appeared to be roaming around a parking lot of a major hospital.
I want to discuss this growing number of attacks with my panel. We have international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson with us in London, we have CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Col. Rick Francona, his joining us from Oregon and CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, joining us from Boston.
Nic I know you have some information about a suicide attack that just happened in a mosque in Saudi Arabia, what can you tell us?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, this happened in the city of Qatif, in the east of Saudi Arabia, we're just been learning the first details of it, not all the details are clear.
But the suicide bomber was approaching a Shia mosque in this town the east of Saudi Arabia, where Qatif is. It's a predominantly Shia area. It is not unusual for ISIS to target and they have done several times in Saudi Arabia before a target Shia mosques.
There -- we don't know who the attacker was, who we may lay to find out claims responsibility for this, but at the moment, the details that we have is a suicide bomber was approaching the mosque, a Shia mosque in the town of Qatif, in east of Saudi Arabia. He wasn't allowed, he was stopped somehow from getting close to the mosque.
His explosive vest detonated. That's what we understand at the moment. We're also told there were no casualties. Now we've been learning some other details that there may have been another attacker involved in that particular attack.
Also, from the same sources, and again this needs to be checked and run down. So I keep the details on it brief. But from the same sources at the moment, we're getting information of a possibility of another suicide bombing attack or attempt in another city in Saudi Arabia.
[13:10:10] Again, we're running that information down, but the one in Qatif, no casualties but an attempt to kill Shia followers as they were at a mosque.
KEILAR: And give the sense that there is just one attack after another coming. Juliette, I want you to listen to comments from Col. Christopher Garver, he is the spokesman for the U.S. anti-ISIS operation in Iraq and Syria, here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. CHRISTOPHER GARVER, SPOKESMAN OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: As we take terrain away from them and we defeat them, and they have not won a battle in the last seven months ever since the fall of Ramadi last year, they have not won a battle they have only lost ground.
They're trying to remain relevant on the global stage and they're trying to show that as they attract crazies and sickos from across the globe, they are trying to show that they were still a viable threat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And so Juliette, speak to that, because yes, we know that ISIS has lost 25 to 30 percent of its territory that it held in Iraq and Syria. But does it really matter when we're seeing these attacks on soft targets increase?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, yes, it absolutely does matter, because what will make ISIS thrive is their capacity to hold on to geography. So the fact that they're failing at that is good news even though we do have all this bad news.
So, you know, it -- what happen is now they have limited space to train people, to have recruits come to, you know, to be able to get money.
So while the geographic losses for ISIS are good news. Obviously, the secondary impact, which is there are a lot of men who are now leaving the geography of Iraq or Syria or getting inspired by what's happening with ISIS and now launching attacks on soft targets.
So this is just a -- not just but a second wave that wasn't anticipated, however, sort of, you know, scary it is right now given that there is an attack every sort of 24-36 hours.
KEILAR: And Colonel, talk about this attack in Baghdad. We -- yesterday, the death toll we believed was 125. Then, this morning, it is up at 215. Talk to us about this neighborhood, the Karrada neighborhood. And why this was targeted, as we're seeing this pictures that give us a sense of the tremendous scale of this attack.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yeah, Karrada is a large Shia neighborhood right in the center of Baghdad. This is not on the outskirts. So for them to get into the city that far undetected and to mount this kind of attack really says something about the state of Iraqi security and of course the Iraqi people are very, very upset with their government for not being able to stop these attacks.
This is a huge casualty. This is a very crowded area. The bomb went off in a shopping area. And as Ben described earlier, this wall of flame went out. And we still don't know how many people are still missing, how many are buried in the rubble. I mean the devastation of this in a truck bomb in that crowded area really is going to cause a lot of problems for the Abadi government. The citizens of Baghdad are very concerned with their own security and they're starting to take it out on the government.
KEILAR: Nic, I'm assuming that you have been to this neighborhood right?
ROBERTSON: I have, yes, and it seems to me obviously that what ISIS is trying to do here is to create a massive site terror and divide within the country. Why would they do that? Because the west of the country is Sunni, that's where Fallujah, that's where Ramadi is, that's where the areas so they have taken control of all, but if they can create such a sectarian rift in the country and make it impossible for a Shia-dominated government, because of the animosity of Shias toward Sunnis, simple as that, if they can make it impossible for a Shia-led government to be able to control and rule the west of the country over time, their aspiration would be to take it back control of that territory, maybe rule it more politically than -- that what they've been doing through terror at a moment, they're aspirations look way beyond where we are at right now.
KEILAR: Nic Robertson, Juliette Kayyem and Col. Rick Francona, thanks to all of you for being on the panel. And coming up, heightened security in major cities across the U.S as Americans get ready to celebrate the fourth of July. And Donald Trump deletes a tweet featuring what appears to be the Star of David then defense the tweet of full two days late. We'll explain the controversy.
[13:17:52] KEILAR: New information in the Central Park explosion that severely injured a teenager. The victim has been identified as 18- year-old Connor Golden. Golden had his leg nearly blown off when an explosion went off as he and two friends jumped off of a rock in New York's Central Park.
Also in New York, security is being heavily stepped up for Independence Day celebrations after several terror attacks around the world in just the last week.
CNN national correspondent Deborah Feyerick takes a look at what precautions are being taken in New York and beyond.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a series of deadly attacks overseas, U.S. counterterror officials heightening security measures at so-called soft targets across the country, including the July 4th fireworks displays tonight.
CHIEF CATHY LANIER, METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have a pretty tight security plan for the Fourth of July.
FEYERICK: In the nation's capital, much of the dramatic increase in security will be hidden.
CHIEF ROBERT MACLEAN, U.S. PARK POLICE: We do have technology that folks will not see.
FEYERICK: The biggest fireworks show in America, along New York City's East River, with an estimated 3 million spectators, has the police in the big apple on high alert.
WILLIAM BRATTON, NYPD COMMISSIONER: You will see a very significantly enhanced police presence in the city.
FEYERICK: Out on the water, officials patrolling the harbors around Manhattan and conducting security dives along the Macy's fireworks barges.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: We are very, very vigilant. We'll have exceptional NYPD presence to keep everyone safe.
FEYERICK: The New York City mayor deploying 500 plus highly trained, highly armed officers, ready to prevent terror. The first Fourth of July the critical response team will be out in full force.
DE BLASIO: It sends a powerful message to anyone who might try and disrupt, that we are ready to prevent that.
FEYERICK: Tensions already high.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounded like a cannon.
FEYERICK: After a small explosion in Central Park Sunday left a tourist's foot mangled.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His foot's all but detached. His friends claim he was just walking on the rocks and stepped on something.
FEYERICK: That something believed to be an experiment with fireworks or a homemade explosive, set off after a young tourist actually stepped on it, according to the NYPD.
[13:20:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe this could have been put here as some sort of experiment.
KEILAR: And Deborah Feyerick joining me now. She is live along New York's East River.
And, Deb, what - this is just a tragedy for a young 18-year-old man. I know that we have a statement from the University that Connor Golden attends.
FEYERICK: Yes, we do. And they just named him. And, actually, Connor Golden underwent surgery at he is at Bellevue Hospital, which is just a few blocks from where we're standing. He was attended the University of Miami. They did release a statement. It says that, "the University of Miami's thoughts and prayers are with Connor Golden as he recovers from this horrific accident that took place in Central Park Sunday morning. We will provide Connor and his family with complete support through his recovery and his rehabilitation."
Police are saying that they don't believe that this was terror related. That this device was left there with, quote, no intent to commit harm. However, it did. And they believe that when he jumped from a rock on to the devise, which was in a plastic bag, it somehow exploded. And so they're looking into why it was there and who may have placed it there, but they don't think it was terror related, but it scared a lot of people and certainly the police who are already a little alert and on edge right now even more so.
KEILAR: Yes. And he has some challenges ahead of us. We're certainly thinking of him and his family as they go through this.
Deb Feyerick, thank you so much for that.
Well, security is expected to be extremely tight for celebrations in Washington, D.C., in light of the recent ISIS-linked attacks in Bangladesh, Istanbul and now Iraq. Despite the holiday events planned at the White House today, President Obama is staying informed and being briefed on all of this.
And our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski has been following this. She's joining me now.
What is the White House monitoring, Michelle?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they want to pay close attention to what's happening around the world, especially as that relates to a potential risk here in the U.S. I mean we know that the president was briefed on Bangladesh as it happened. He wanted to be kept informed through the weekend as developments happen.
We know that the White House is watching what just happened in Iraq. They put out a statement yesterday in fact saying that, you know, things like this only strengthen the U.S.'s resolve to support the Iraqi government and intensify the fight against ISIS.
And, you know, as horrific as this string of attack has been, and how many times now we've seen the White House have to respond to them, I guess the one reassurance there is what we hear from U.S. officials over and over again is that now there is no specific, credible threat within the U.S.
What they want to be careful of, though, are the possibility of copy cap attacks. Of things that have been planned under the radar. And we know that U.S. officials often say, that's the kind of attack that keeps them up at night. It's a most difficult kind of attack to prevent, but it is, you know, something that we hear repeated often. That at least right now there's no specific threat targeting any - any known targets here in the U.S., Brianna.
KEILAR: And what is the president up to today on this July Fourth?
KOSINSKI: Well, we don't hear from the White House today. I mean there's no daily briefing. There's nothing official as it relates to the press. But, yes, every year they have a barbecue. There's musical performances here at the White House. So that's going to get underway.
But, because of the weather, I mean here it feels like the sky is going to open up every second, that's been changed significantly. There's supposed to be some 6,000 people on the South Lawn. We've been told that that's now been whittled down to about 500 people. And the whole thing now has to move inside the White House.
Also, it is Malia Obama's 18th birthday today. So we expect that the president's going to have some time with his family as well. The party here is for military members and their families. So the president will spend some time with those families, as well as his own, before he heads out on some travel. Remember, tomorrow, he's going to appear for the first time on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton and then right after that he heads for Warsaw for the NATO Summit. So a long spade of travel heading up for the president after he spends a little time celebrating the Fourth of July today.
KEILAR: Right, a big - a big week for him after a family celebration and a Fourth of July celebration. All right, Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much. Well, it is a holiday, but Donald Trump hasn't taken a vacation from
Twitter. He's talking about his meeting with potential vice presidential candidates, giving some shout outs to Republican colleagues and also defending his weekend tweet featuring a six- pointed star. We have that coming up.
[13:27:58] KEILAR: All right, we just got some new video in. This is of this attack in Saudi Arabia that is outside of a mosque in Qatif. You can see that a vehicle is on fire. Obviously, it is evening time there. So you can't - it's somewhat difficult to see, but there is a vehicle there on fire as this camera makes a turn in the corner there.
I want to bring - I want to bring in CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson.
Nic, this is the first look that we're getting at this. What are you learning about what's going on in Saudi Arabia?
ROBERTSON: I think we have a lot more details to get a hold of here yet, to try to -- to try to ascertain precisely what happened. It was late afternoon. It was it appeared people going to the mosque at the end of the day, nightfall just as they would be breaking their fast. It's getting to the holiest part of Ramadan right now. The next day or so is the big Eid festival. This is a time of -- you know, for Muslims of absolute joyousness of coming together, where families are buying presents for everyone. It's a huge deal. So there would have been a lot of people at this -- at any of the mosques in that area. But it's not quite clear from this video precisely what one was being targeted here.
The source that I spoke to said that the suicide bomber that was trying to get to this mosque wasn't able to reach it, blew himself up. He didn't -- wasn't able to explain why the suicide bomber couldn't reach the mosque. Blew himself up. There were no other casualties other than the suicide bomber.
I did say a little while ago that we were getting indications that there may have been another suicide bomber in another part of Saudi Arabia. It does appear that that is the case and the city there is Medina, which is one of the two holiest sites for Islam throughout the whole world. After Mecca, Medina is the other place that people go to on their spiritual pilgrimage, the Hajj.
[13:29:55] Again, these are -- these are early reports. We need a lot more information. We need to run down these details a lot more. But it's very troubling knowing that ISIS is operational in Saudi Arabia, knowing that they have killed people this year in Saudi Arabia, knowing that ISIS itself, its leadership