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Truck Kills Dozens in France; French Officials: Driver in Truck Attack Killed By Police. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 14, 2016 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:02]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the breaking news, horror developing in Nice in France. A truck rams into a crowd on a national holiday, Bastille Day, killing, according to the mayor of Nice, tens, tens of people.

Unclear at this point whether this is a terror operation, but one of the French TV networks, our affiliate BFMTV, is saying that there was an exchange of gunfire with the police from -- quote -- "occupants" inside this large truck.

Jim Sciutto is our chief national security correspondent. Evan Perez is our justice correspondent. We have teams working on this.

Jim, what is the latest you're hearing?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here we are again speaking about terror in France, sadly.

So you have the mayor saying tens dead. You have the French ambassador mentioning as well the possibility of gunfire. But I just spoke with a witness. He's an American pilot. He's been in Nice, France. He was 15 feet away, he said, when this truck, which he described as a tractor-trailer, drove into the crowd.

His description was that the truck, the driver was mowing bodies over, that he accelerated as he hit those bodies. He said to me that he only saw one driver, one person in the cab of the truck. As he ran away, he did hear gunfire. Wasn't clear to him...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Take a look at that picture on the right. That's courtesy of our affiliate BFMTV. That appears to be the truck that rammed into that huge crowd.

SCIUTTO: That's right.

Sadly, we're seeing pictures of many bodies on the ground, which helps explain the death toll. As a matter of context, vehicles have been used as weapons of terror in France before, two times in 2014, including in attacks on police. We know there is precedent for this. I have spoken to U.S. officials. They say it's too early from their view to know if it's terrorism. But of course they operate -- they would take time before they would make such a determination.

BLITZER: We're getting reports local government officials are now saying perhaps as many as 30, maybe even more people, are dead and maybe 100 are injured in this horrific ramming into this large crowd by that truck that you see in the middle of your screen.

Evan, what are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, France has been on high alert this entire month.

As you know, the Euro 2016 soccer tournament just wrapped up. For a month, they were on high alert for possible attacks from ISIS and from other terrorist groups and they managed to get through that period without any attacks. Obviously, now this is Bastille Day, another symbolic time for such an attack.

The French ambassador here in Washington already tweeted saying he suspects it is possibly terrorism, and obviously that's the first thing, as Jim mentioned, that U.S. officials are also thinking. Obviously, there's very little information other than what they're doing the same thing we're doing, which is trying to check some of these reports and try to verify as much as they can.

Obviously, it's still an ongoing situation and appears to not be over in Nice.

BLITZER: The occupants of the truck, those who -- the driver and maybe some other people who were in that truck who supposedly exchanged gunfire, Jim, with police after that truck rammed into that crowd. Earlier, we showed some very disturbing images of -- it looked like bodies.

I will show it again to our viewers. It's very disturbing. You can see the aftermath of this. It's a horrific situation right there. But it does have the hallmarks of a terror operation.

SCIUTTO: It does.

One, look at the event, it's Bastille Day. It's France's July 4, big crowds, not just French in the crowds, but international crowds.

(CROSSTALK)

PEREZ: The height of summer.

SCIUTTO: Height of summer. Think Istanbul. You attack an airport like that because you're going to affect a number of nationalities, one.

Two, we know there's precedent for using vehicles. Even if there was no gunfire, using vehicles, that's a deadly enough tool, particularly when it's a truck of that size. There's precedent for that. And, sadly, all of us have been involved in covering terror attacks in France over the course of the last year. "Charlie Hebdo," January last year, the Paris attacks in November last year.

Sadly, today, just as a matter of context, France actually lifted its emergency laws that it had imposed after the France attacks, which gave them enormous ability to arrest and interrogate terror suspects. They had been a sense that they were getting control of things. And sadly now you have this.

PEREZ: As you look at the pictures there, the promenade where this allegedly or appears to have taken place is one of those places that's so hard to defend, Wolf.

You're talking about -- you see the size of that truck. Even if you sealed it off for pedestrians only, it's still something very difficult, even if you put up barricades. Something like that is one of the hardest things to stop, frankly. If someone has the intent, you can steal a truck and you can do a lot of damage with simply that truck.

As Jim has said, even if we don't have any guns, you don't have any explosives, you can do a lot of damage and sadly the reports are that we're talking about more than 30.

BLITZER: And July 14, Bastille Day, I have been in France on Bastille Day. Sort of like July 4 here in the United States. Huge celebrations. A national holiday all over the country.

[18:05:04]

SCIUTTO: And I spoke to another witness as well who said this street was closed off, it had become a pedestrian street. When those witnesses saw the truck, they knew something was wrong. That truck shouldn't be there and then of course its behavior, and again as the witness was telling me, mowing bodies over, accelerating as it hit people.

Just a sickening case of murder, right, vehicular murder, in effect.

BLITZER: It doesn't sound like the driver of that big truck, Jim, lost control. Looks like a deliberate act to ram into that crowd and to speed up and try to get as many people as possible.

SCIUTTO: Particularly because there were cordons that were keeping cars and other vehicles away from the street.

BLITZER: And then there was gunfire exchanged between the occupants, according to BFMTV, the occupants of the truck and police.

We don't know -- do we know, Evan, what happened to the driver?

PEREZ: We don't know. That might simply be the police trying to stop the truck.

And if you look at the pictures that we have been showing there, it appears that the truck is damaged. It appears that there might have been some gunfire that might have been used to stop the driver. It's not clear if that is the only person who is part of this, whatever happened here, whether if it's just one person or more than one person that was involved in this, Wolf.

But it is obviously -- just the signs that we're seeing here really leads you to believe that this was a terrorist attack, whether it's just one person or if it's a group. Again, it's been a very, very tough period for the French. All their police, they have had hundreds of thousands of officers on the streets trying to guard against terrorist attacks all over France because of this.

Soccer tournament that they have been hosting, it remarkably went on without any problems whatsoever. They had some issues with fights between Russian fans and English fans, but nothing of the terrorist nature. It's been a very surprising thing that they were able to get through all of that, and now to have their big celebration marred by this incident, it's exactly the worst fear.

SCIUTTO: There's a new report here -- again, this coming from our affiliate BFMTV -- that the driver of the truck was beaten. Apparently, the crowd got to him. Again, it's an early report.

But the first report I have heard and seen -- and again this is from our affiliate BFMTV -- that the driver was somehow apprehended. But we're waiting for confirmation from French authorities.

BLITZER: I want to bring in Tom Fuentes, our senior law enforcement analyst, former assistant director of the FBI.

Tom, you're watching these images. You're hearing, as we're hearing, these very disturbing reports, maybe 30 people dead, maybe more, maybe 100 injured, as this large truck rams into a big crowd on Bastille Day in Nice, France.

This is unconfirmed. We don't know if it's a terror operation, but if there was an exchange of gunfire with occupants in the truck, certainly it would have those -- it would certainly appear to be an act of terror, right?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It sure would look like it, Wolf.

And of course that's right out of ISIS' playbook. They have been for a couple years now putting out messages, you don't have to have a firearm, you don't have to have an explosive, use your car or truck and run people over if there's a group of people on the street or on the sidewalk.

In essence, that's what you have here, apparently. But, you know, we have had a couple of instances in the United States where we have just had people that were either very drunk or mentally deranged that also drove a vehicle. But this one has more of an appearance of a deliberate acceleration into the crowd, as opposed to maybe a deranged driver.

BLITZER: Especially, Tom, if the driver of that large truck and maybe there's some other occupants in the truck, if they had weapons with them, driving in the truck in France with weapons is not driving in a truck in the United States with weapons, right?

FUENTES: Well, absolutely. France has strict gun control, which hasn't appeared to be too strict with all of the attacks over the last year or so.

But we don't know if maybe the police were fearful like that truck would never stop and they were trying to shoot through the windows and stopped the driver that way. So we don't know if there were occupants of the truck shooting yet, even if there were shots fired.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen, our national security analyst, is with us as well, an expert on terrorism.

It certainly appears to have a lot of the hallmarks of an act of terror, Peter?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. Selecting a day of national celebration, Quatorze Juillet, July 14, that's a leading indicator.

The size of the death toll. The appearance of a deliberate act. The fact that ISIS has specifically called for these kinds of attacks with trucks or cars. Other terrorist groups have also called for such attacks using cars or trucks. All that adds up to something that looks like a terrorist attack.

BLITZER: In some of the -- al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in some of their online images, if you will, their magazines, they specifically said, you know what? It would be great if you could come fight here and kill the infidels, but if you can't get over to Iraq or Syria or someplace else, do it where you are and if you don't have a gun, use a vehicle.

[18:10:12]

BERGEN: Yes.

There's a rather famous al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula issue online magazine in which they show a big truck with almost like daggers attached to the wheels and you're supposed to just drive it into the crowd and kill as many people as possible.

BLITZER: It's that kind of image online in that magazine which potentially could inspire even what they call a homegrown terrorist, a lone wolf.

BERGEN: Yes.

In fact, in almost every terrorism case we have seen in the United States, "Inspire" magazine has been something people have been reading, including in the Boston Marathon attacks.

BLITZER: We will show another -- Evan, take a look at this. This is a new image of the truck. This is the truck that you can see.

It's a relatively large truck. This is that -- we just got this image. You can see that there are looks like gunshots in the window. Bullet holes in the window of that cabin of the truck.

PEREZ: That's right, Wolf.

It appears from -- we're now getting information from the local prefecture, the local government there that they believe that there may be as many as 30 dead, over 100 injured as a result of this incident. Now, yes, as you mentioned, this is the kind of truck that frankly would not draw a lot of attention. Obviously, the celebrations there would cause them to close the promenade.

It's the seafront promenade there in Nice. People were there gathering to celebrate the holiday. It would obviously be not something that would draw a lot of attention until you get right to where the streets are closed off and that's the reason why they could take people by surprise.

Even if you have dozens of police there, it's really impossible -- it's impossible to stop somebody like this if they really want to do the damage and it appears they have done a lot of damage here.

BLITZER: Would ISIS or other terror group after an incident like this, if in fact it were a terror attack, Peter, claim responsibility?

BERGEN: I think they would relatively quickly, generally speaking, unless it's in particular countries. We saw, for instance, in Turkey that they didn't claim responsibility quickly, because for plausible deniability reasons.

We saw after Orlando that they claimed some form of responsibility for the attack within about 24 hours. I would anticipate if this is a terrorist attack that they would pretty quickly...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Phil Mudd is with us as well, our CNN counterterrorism analyst.

Phil, clearly very, very disturbing. And for viewers just tuning in, probably 30 people dead, 100 injured when this large truck rammed into a crowd on Bastille Day in France. What's your analysis of what's going on here?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: A couple things we have got to talk about here, Wolf.

The first is in the attacks we have seen recently, for example, going back to the major attacks in Brussels and Paris to the attacks in particular in Turkey and Bangladesh, we saw fairly sophisticated cells of individuals using devices like suicide vests that required some expertise.

You have got to contrast that that signals an event that don't require that kind of expertise, that might simply be an individual who is inspired who doesn't have direct connectivity to ISIS, doesn't have training to build a device. I look at this initially, contrast to those events, and say is this

one of those thousands of people who is not really an ISIS person, but just said I'm with the movement, I'm going to go out and do something, Wolf?

BLITZER: It's a very disturbing development.

Jim Sciutto, you're getting some new information as well.

SCIUTTO: I just spoke with another witness there in Nice.

She has an apartment that was just over where the attack took place and she heard gunfire following this attack very clearly. And she said to me the fireworks show had stopped at that point. You know, you might wonder if people were confusing fireworks with gunfire. She said she saw the truck plow into the crowd. It was a very large truck.

It was moving very fast and then immediately afterwards she heard gunfire. Now, to be fair, she said that before it happened she saw a number of French military patrolling, armed, and this is standard in France today in the current environment. It is possible that that gunfire was directed at the truck as opposed to coming from it.

Or it's possible that it came from the truck and came from the police as well. But to be clear, she could very clearly hear gunfire after the attack. She said that from her window she could still see this truck, this large truck that we have shown pictures of before in the same place where it was when it hit those people, and sadly she sees a number of bodies on the ground covered in tablecloths still as they try to react to this.

BLITZER: Bottom right-hand corner, you can see the image of the truck. You see the front window of the cabin riddled with bullet holes right there. Extremely disturbing development. It's now after midnight in France.

We're watching the story. We will stay on top of it, breaking news. Very disturbing information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, at least 30 people dead, 100 people injured after this large truck rams into a crowd on a national holiday in Nice, Bastille Day. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:19:33]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Dozens of people dead and at least 100 people injured when a large truck rams into a crowd on Bastille Day in Nice in France. There, you see the image of that truck. You see the bullet holes in the front window of that cabin.

[18:20:00]

We're getting a lot more information right now on this situation. It's very disturbing information. We have disturbing images we want to show our viewers as well.

This looks, it appears to be a terror attack, but we don't know that for sure.

Jim Sciutto, you're watching this very, very closely. It looks like there was an exchange of gunfire with occupants of that truck cabin, at least according to French media.

SCIUTTO: And speaking to witnesses on the ground, they saw the driver intentionally plow into the crowd, one of telling me that he accelerated as he hit people and he was, in his words, in the words of this witness, mowing people down.

Another witness telling me after that, she heard gunfire. So the question becomes, was the gunfire coming from the truck or going into the truck? And as you see in the lower right-hand corner of our picture there, there appear to be bullet holes in the window of the truck. It's possible this was the police response to the attacker as opposed to the attacker shooting out or the shooting could have gone in both directions.

What is clear is this was intentional. This was not an accidental driver driving down the street because we know these streets were closed off. There were security cordons that kept all vehicles off the street because this was a pedestrian corridor to watch the fireworks. And the witnesses we have spoken to as well as other reports coming out of France is that the driver intentionally drove into the crowd.

We also know this is a tactic that has been used before sadly. And we know that even groups such as ISIS has encouraged followers, in the words of the ISIS spokesman, Adnani, "to run them over" -- quote -- in your attack.

That is a possibility I'm sure French authorities are looking at now, whether this has terror precedence.

PEREZ: That's also what American authorities are doing right now. The FBI and the intelligence agencies right now, Wolf, are trying to look to see if they can find any references, if there's anybody who has sent my messages on social media.

As you know, the U.S. intelligence agencies collect a lot of e-mail and a lot of communications overseas, especially in that area. And one of the things they're doing at this hour is trying to analyze and see if there's any references from anybody who was about to do something.

We know that, from what we saw in Bangladesh, the terrorists in that instance, what they did is, they took pictures of what they were doing and sent messages back to ISIS to sort of give them proof of what they were trying to do. That's one of the things that obviously U.S. intelligence analysts are doing at this hour, to see if they can find anybody who was perhaps trying to claim this in the name of a terrorist group obviously because of the high death count.

It's the first place that they're starting to look.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen, you have studied terrorism for a long time. Do we know if there was any specific threat in advance specifically to Nice?

BERGEN: I don't think there was any specific threat to Nice itself.

But certainly general calls for attacks in the West have been a kind of staple of ISIS propaganda, particularly a call on May 21 from the spokesman that Jim just mentioned, Adnani, who specifically called for attacks in the West. And as ISIS...

BLITZER: The ISIS spokesman.

BERGEN: Yes, the ISIS spokesman.

This is a good place to kill a lot of people, unfortunately, attending a holiday celebration packed in one place. Jim mentioned the deliberate nature of this, the exchange of gunfire, the highly symbolic holiday. ISIS has called for truck attacks. So has al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. All of this adds up to a likely terrorist attack.

BLITZER: We have seen, Peter, these kind of truck attacks, terror attacks in the past, not only in France, but elsewhere. I know in Israel there have been attacks along these lines.

BERGEN: Yes. And there was even an incident in the United States where a student plowed who may have been -- seemed to be influenced by jihad ideology plowed into a crowd. He didn't kill anybody.

But it's not the first time that this tactic has been used.

BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, I'm sure the U.S. is going to be helping France investigate if in fact this is a terror attack. You used to be the assistant director of the FBI.

Walk us through how the U.S. will get involved.

FUENTES: Well, the FBI office in Paris, France, works very closely with the French police and intelligence services.

And they will be working very closely with this. And, again, as any information, the identity of the driver, where that truck came from, who may have rented that truck, if there's any other reporting of a cell in that area, that will all go through the FBI as well to check if there's any information in any FBI database or source reporting that would indicate who might be involved in this.

BLITZER: And, Phil Mudd, there have been warnings from various terror groups, as Peter Bergen points out, whether AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or ISIS, or other terror groups that, go ahead, kill people with a truck.

Phil, are you there?

Unfortunately, I think we lost Phil Mudd.

But Jim Sciutto is getting some new information.

SCIUTTO: The National Gendarmerie -- this is the French sort of national police force -- is tweeting now -- this is how, often, they share information with the public -- that an emergency operation is still under way in central Nice, and they continue to -- they're telling people to avoid the downtown area and, in fact, to stay in their homes, to shelter in place.

[18:25:15]

And that's I have heard from witnesses on the scene as well. They're being told not to go outside, so the French police saying that there is still an operation under way. There's still a danger.

BLITZER: We're also getting word from AFP, the French news agency, President Hollande is going back to Paris for emergency crisis talks right now.

Paul Cruickshank is one of our terror analysts.

Paul, what are you hearing? What are you learning?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well Wolf, local authorities believe that this is some kind of attack.

The Interior Ministry of France has not confirmed at this point that this is terrorism, but it certainly looks like that, based on all the eyewitness accounts that we have coming in of a driver of a large truck going on to the Promenade des Anglais, which is on the waterfront in Nice -- I have walked along there many times -- during the fireworks for the 14th of July, the French national day, and essentially just plowing into people.

I'm hearing perhaps more than 30 people killed in this attack. They fear that the ultimate casualty count is going to be very high indeed. They're scrambling to respond to at this point. It would appear that the driver of the truck was shot dead, Wolf, by police.

But this comes at a time when there's an unprecedented threat, terrorist threat, to France, mainly from ISIS and its supporters. It comes just four days after the end of the Euro 2016 soccer championship. There was enormous concern in France that that could be targeted.

There was one terrorist attack during the month-long tournament northwest of Paris, when two cops were killed by a radical jihadi. But the rest of the tournament, they didn't see attacks. And there was a sigh of relief after that.

But I can tell you, there was significant concern today, because of the fact this was the French national day, because of the fact that ISIS has really been ratcheting up its international attack plotting, and because of the fact that France is the number one target of this terrorist group.

But it's early stages in terms of being able to say who was responsible for this. They are still very much in scramble mode on the ground in Nice, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we clearly that, all the reports suggesting at least 30 people dead and 100 injured when this truck rams into a large crowd in Nice.

Let's take another quick break, though we will resume our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[18:32:38] BLITZER: We are following breaking news out of France, specifically Nice, where a large truck plowed into a crowd, people celebrating France's national holiday on Bastille Day. At least 30 people are reported dead, 100 people injured. A horrific scene under way.

You can see that truck in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen. You see the bullet holes in the window of the truck. Exchanging fire, police shot into that truck.

We're getting new information. Jim Sciutto is working his sources. Jim, you've been speaking with eyewitnesses who saw all of this unfold.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They did. And the sad fact is that this is -- looks very much like an intentional attack.

These streets were closed off. This large truck described as a tractor-trailer ramming into people. One eyewitness telling me it was mowing bodies over, accelerating as it hit people there. These streets were closed off. There were meant to be no vehicles. They were crowded with people. They just watched the Bastille Day, equivalent of sort of the French July 4th fireworks. They were there, out in numbers on a beautiful summer night, and this happens.

I spoke to another witness who was very close, as well. She said that she heard gunfire immediately following. There were initial questions, and we still don't know for sure whether that gunfire was coming from the truck or just from police. We see the bullet holes in the truck window there. It looks like the police were responding, at least. We don't know if the driver of the truck also had a weapon. But certainly now, two witnesses reporting they heard gunfire.

Police saying there is still a security situation underway. They're still telling people to stay in place, to shelter in place, stay in their homes, do not go outside. They consider a risk still to be present there, although as my colleagues in Europe have reported, Paul Cruickshank, it appears that the driver has been killed by police. The question now is are there other attackers? Certainly still on a state of high alert there.

BLITZER: And the French president, Francois Hollande, returning to Paris for emergency talks over at the interior ministry. Evan Perez, you're getting new information, as well.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies are now in contact with their French colleagues, and they're trying to see what -- what assistance they can offer. Obviously, one of the things that the U.S. does a lot of is collect a lot of intelligence, a lot of communications, especially in that region.

In southern France there is -- there has been a great deal of concern about ISIS supporters, about extremists. And obviously all over France.

[18:35:07] We just wrapped up the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, during which time the French were on high alert for a possible attack. There was almost a certainty among officials that I talked to in France and here in the United States that there would be something that would happen during that period, and nothing major happened. And so it appeared that people were getting relaxed. Just today, the French president announced that he was not going to be extending these emergency laws that have been in place as a result of the recent terror attacks there in France, Wolf.

BLITZER: And the reason, Peter Bergen, why authorities are so concerned this may have been an act of terror is because there have been previous incidents where vehicles, including trucks, were used by terrorists, lone wolves and others to kill people.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Including in France in 2014. So, you know, and we've also seen the tactic even in the United States. There was an event at the University of North Carolina in 2006 where somebody, a jihadist, plowed a car into a crowd. Luckily, he didn't kill anybody, but he injured nine. So we've seen the tactic before. Unfortunately, we're likely to see this tactic again, because it's just so -- it's relatively simple to do; does not require any special training.

BLITZER: Paul Cruickshank, you're in Europe right now. You're in Brussels. You're getting new information from your sources. What else are you hearing?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST (via phone): Well, Wolf, it's a very fluid situation. My understanding is that we're going to come out of this with a really horrific casualty count. At least 30 people killed. Probably more on the ground in these -- with this truck just plowing through pedestrians on the Promenade des Anglais, this coming on a very symbolic day for France, the French national day, July 14.

There was a lot of concern that could come through, but not clear at this point what sort of perpetrator this was. Whether this might have been somebody who was a radical Islamist or whether it might have been somebody who suffered from acute mental illness.

In one of those -- the car collisions that Peter was referring to in France in December 2014, prosecutors eventually ruled out that it was a terrorism case, because the perpetrator had been hospitalized a lot of times for acute mental illness. We just don't know yet whether this was terrorism, but it certainly has all the hallmarks of that at this stage.

BLITZER: Especially because ISIS and AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have advised their supporters if you don't have a gun, if you don't have an opportunity to go fight in the region, use a truck, use a vehicle to kill people.

We have on the phone an eyewitness who's joining us now from Nice. Zeynep Akar is joining us. Zeynep, thank you so much for joining us. Tell us where you were and what you saw.

ZEYNEP AKAR, EYEWITNESS (via phone): Well, I was at home, and I'm just sitting where it happened exactly, right in front of where I live.

First I heard -- it was right after the fireworks were over. I went outside on the balcony to watch the fireworks, and I went in because the music -- they had live sets right across the street -- the music was very loud.

Then I suddenly heard the crash and people shouting. When I went to the balcony, I was -- there were so many people on the ground. And then some fire -- not fire -- yes. Gunfires were -- gun fighting was started. So I had to go in and switch off the lights, because I didn't know what was going on.

The courts (ph) of Bastille, the people are still on the -- on the streets. I don't know. I don't understand how he went through, because the road was blocked. It was all pedestrians. People were walking, and there was so many people outside. So many people.

BLITZER: Are you still seeing, Zeynep, are you still seeing people on the streets?

AKAR; Yes. Yes. They are still lying there, unfortunately.

BLITZER: People who are wounded, people -- including bodies? You still see them on the streets, as well?

AKAR: Yes. The wounded were taken away. The bodies are still there.

BLITZER: Really? And was there an indication from, based on what you could see, there was more than one person in that large truck or there were several people?

AKAR: The truck is still there. And according to the news that I'm listening, it was just one driver, but the police are strictly asking people to stay in; and they're not letting anyone out. The truck is still there. I can see the truck. [18:40:13] BLITZER: And based on what you saw and what you heard,

that truck was making maneuvers back and forth to go after people and kill people as many people as possible?

AKAR: Apparently -- apparently, it went straight through, because it's -- the people are along 200 meters.

BLITZER: Two hundred -- so people are lying on the street, some 200 meters. Is that what you're saying?

AKAR: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: And are there ambulances there removing the injured?

AKAR: Yes. Yes. Yes. There are so many police cars.

BLITZER: It's a horrendous situation.

AKAR: And ambulances and fire workers and -- whatever.

BLITZER: How are -- Zeynep -- Zeynep, how are you doing?

AKAR: I'm still on the shock. This is what we live every week in my country. But you never get used to it, and we shouldn't get used to it. It should stop.

BLITZER: All right, Zeynep.

AKAR: It's not the same as we watch on TV. When you see it live, it's -- I don't know how many much -- many times it's worse.

BLITZER: Well, thank you so much, Zeynep.

AKAR: You're welcome.

BLITZER: And we're grateful for you eyewitness account. Zeynep Akar, she's an eyewitness and saw what was going on in Nice.

Jim Sciutto, you're getting more information, as well.

SCIUTTO: Just an update now from the French interior ministry, the French interior ministry now confirming that the driver of the truck, in their words, neutralized, killed, and that's something as we look at that picture there in our lower right-hand corner, the bullet holes in the windshield of the truck; appears that police fired on him.

But the interior ministry now confirming that that attacker, the driver of the truck, is now dead.

And we're beginning to see French officials use the term "truck attack." Categorizing this Wolf, as all indications are, that this was an attack. This was intentional, sadly. And we're sadly watching the death toll rise.

BLITZER: We certainly are. All right. We'll take a quick break. We'll resume our special coverage. A horrific attack in Nice, France. At least 30 people killed, 100 injured. Those numbers will change. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:47:11] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the breaking news, horrific news out of Nice, France, where a truck plowed into a crowd.

Our affiliate, BFMTV is now quoting a local sources, the prosecutor's office is saying 60, 60 people are dead in that truck attack. A lot more people are seriously injured.

We're also now being told President Obama has been briefed on the situation in Nice. His national security team has been updating him as appropriate. The president of France, Francois Hollande, is returning to Paris to conduct emergency meetings on this situation.

Jim Sciutto is with us.

Jim, this has all the earmarkings of a deliberate terror attack.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It does, based not only on the circumstances, but still a crowded pedestrian plaza, midst of the fireworks, many French people there celebrating. But certainly, you'd expect many internationals among the crowd.

But also, what we're hearing specifically from witnesses there who I've spoken to, spoke with one American pilot who was there. He said he was 15 minutes away as he saw the driver of this truck plow into the crowd. First of all, there should have been no truck on the street. There was a cordon keeping all vehicles away. But more importantly, he said he saw the driver of the truck mowing bodies over, accelerating as he hit those bodies and sadly now we're seeing the death toll rise.

It was after the fact two witnesses tell us they heard gunfire and we now have the French interior ministry confirming the driver of the truck had been neutralized, or at least some of that gunfire coming from police. The question is, was the driver also armed? We don't know that yet.

But as a matter of fact, the truck was a deadly weapon enough to kill this many people in a matter of seconds witnesses say there. And just a horrendous night for the people of France, for France who has already endured two horrible attacks in 2015 and now we have this in 2016, and Europe as well. It's something that we're all getting used to.

BLITZER: And, you know, there's a lot of -- Paul, I believe you're still with us. A lot of our viewers here in the United States and around the world are going to wonder why France, why nice if in fact this was a terror operation. Let's say it was ISIS. We don't know that for sure right now. But ISIS in the past, AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, they told their supporters get a vehicle if you don't have a gun and start killing people.

But why France?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST (via telephone): Simply because there are so many French nationals that have gone to join ISIS in Syria, and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. They have given ISIS the capability to launch attacks in France if this indeed is an ISIS terrorist attack.

[18:50:02] But there must be some concern out this early stage that this could be an ISIS attack, but it could also be an ISIS inspired attack, or it could be something else altogether.

The head of French intelligence just a few weeks ago saying that France was the most threatened country in the whole world when it comes to ISIS terrorism, that the intelligence is suggesting a very high degree of plotting from ISIS and its supporters against France. There was a sigh of relief after the Euro 2016 soccer championships that there was not a major attack in France during those championships, during the month of Ramadan.

ISIS had called for attacks. There was, in fact, one attack northwest of Paris by an ISIS-inspired extremist who killed French police officers and actually filmed the aftermath of the attack and broadcast it live on Facebook. But French leaders for some time now, Wolf, have been talking about this unprecedented terrorist threat to their country.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. Everyone, stand by.

Let's take another quick break and we'll resume our special coverage. A horrific attack in Nice, France. Sources now say at least 60 people dead as this huge truck, and you see it on the bottom right hand corner of your screen over there with bullet holes in the windows of the front cabin, as this huge truck rammed through crowds that had gathered on a national holiday, Bastille Day, July 14th, in Nice, France.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:12] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The breaking news in France: the death toll from that truck attack in Nice now at 60, that according to French TV, citing prosecutors.

Witnesses say this large truck deliberately drove into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, a possible of act of terrorism.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us.

Brian, you're learning new information. Update our viewers.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some late information that we're finding out. BFMTV, as you mentioned, the CNN affiliate, saying that police have neutralized the driver and he is dead. The French interior ministry reporting that BFM saying that he drove his vehicle for several meters.

And again, we have to caution, this is very early tonight. A lot of these numbers are changing. French TV reports 60 people were killed and could be as many as 100 people injured and French TV citing the prosecutor's office in that region.

Now, BFMTV says the truck drove through the crowd of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice during a fireworks display. We do know that vehicles have been used to attack people in public areas in recent years. This seemed to be a bit of pattern.

January of this year, a driver was shot and wounded as he drove a car toward a group of soldiers guarding a mosque. One soldier was injured and the driver of that vehicle shot and wounded. That was in the wake of the Paris attacks and that caused a real scare.

In December 2014, two vehicle attacks in France. In the city of Nantes, a van plowed into shoppers at an outdoor Christmas market. At least nine people injured there. The driver stabbed himself after that attack, but survived. That was not believed to be terror related.

That same month, though, in Dijon, France, man shouting "God is great" in Arabic rammed his vehicle into pedestrians. At least a dozen people were injured in that incident. The man was arrested.

Interestingly enough, just a couple of months before that, in September 2014, Mohammad al-Adnani, chief spokesman for ISIS, called on followers to launch personal attacks on Western citizens. Among the methods he recommended, quote, "run him over with your car."

Again, we have to stress, we don't yet know for sure in this incident in Nice is an act of terrorism or not. This is a pattern we're looking at. We do know that Mohammad al-Adnani, the ISIS spokesman, in 2014, did call for this sort of thing. But again, very early on tonight, Wolf, to say at all that this is terror-related in Nice.

BLITZER: On the other hand, it does appear, all of the indications appear to be that this very possibly was an act of terror.

All right. Brian, stand by.

We have a new image. We want to show you the truck in question. A little bit sharper. You see the bullet holes in the window of that front cabin. The driver, by all accounts now officially reported was shot and killed by police.

Peter Bergen, you see how many bullet holes are in that vehicle right there, but that truck, that one truck and maybe just one individual presumably killed at least 60 people and injured many more.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, and I think it says something about the lone wolf attacks if this is a terrorist attack. You know, we saw 41 killed by one individual in Orlando in the nightclub, and this is probably, as far as I can recall, if indeed this is terrorism, this is the largest single lone wolf attack in terms of the death toll that we've seen.

The only other attack that comes close or even bigger was the -- you may recall, Wolf, in Norway, Anders Breivik who was a Norwegian, sort of neo-Nazi, killed 77 people. It's very hard to kill a lot of people if you're one individual. But unfortunately, if you get a very big truck and do what happened here in Nice, you can rally get a large death toll and you can bet that terrorists around the world are observing this fact.

You don't need any special training to do this. This is something you can do very easily.

BLITZER: Some ISIS supporters celebrating online right now in social media.

All right. We're going to stay on top of this story.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Our breaking news coverage continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."