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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Military Coup Under Way in Turkey; ; France Terror Attack: 84 Dead, 200+ Injured, 52 Critical. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired July 15, 2016 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:11] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Tonight OUTFRONT, breaking news, major breaking stories, a military coup under way in Turkey tonight and a terror attack in France that has killed at least 84 people. I want to begin with the coup, look at the pictures on your screen right now. Two o'clock in the morning in Istanbul beginning just hours ago in a stunning move. The Turkish military announcing it has taken over the country and imposed martial law.
At this moment, gun fire on the streets of Istanbul. The witness saying tourists are blocked in hotels by soldiers and now in defiance of martial law some Turks leaving their homes and taking to the streets and some even jumping on tanks. Police have been responding in kind with tear gas. We can tell you for sure and reports perhaps of more violence, shooting, all flights at Istanbul airport in the meantime suspended. Social media sites shut down and American citizens urged to shelter in place and told not to go to the U.S. Embassy or consulates at this time.
In fact, citizens from countries around the world told to stay inside. The shocking move coming as the whereabouts of Turkey's leader President Erdogan is unknown. He resorted to using an iPhone to address his country. An iPhone saying, "Go to the streets and give them their answer." Meantime military units are on the move across that key NATO ally, the second largest army in NATO.
The U.S. Embassy reporting low-flying jets have been flying over the streets of both Istanbul and the capital city of Turkey, Ankara, this comes as we are following breaking news out of France and we want to go there live in just a moment.
I want to begin though with the breaking coup in Turkey with Jim Sciutto. And Jim, this is a stunning development, a crucial ally for the United States in the war on terror. What do we know right now?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, you almost want to shake your head. Completely unexpected. This is a city in Europe, one of the most major cities in Europe. It is, as you say, a major U.S. ally, a NATO ally literally on the front lines on the war against ISIS. What we know right now is that elements within the military, at least elements declared martial law, they declared a curfew, they closed ports and airports and then you have as you mentioned the democratically elected President Erdogan calling on people to go to the streets to defy that curfew.
And as we look at these pictures now, it appears that many people have indeed, heeded that call. In the midst of this, there are reports of gun fire at crowds and at the presidential palace in Istanbul and also government buildings in the capital Ankara with real violence and we just had a senior adviser to the prime minister on CNN who said that there were casualties. He didn't know how many, but he said that there were casualties.
Meanwhile, from the U.S., radio silence. We have not heard any comment from the White House other than to say that they are monitoring the situation. Keep in mind, you might expect a statement of support from the democratically elected government of an ally. They have not. This is a very fluid situation there, but that is something that we are waiting for, as well, from the White House, from the State Department and from intelligence agencies, as well. They're all telling us that they are watching this situation closely, but awaiting further comment -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Jim, and obviously, you will going to stay with us. Of course, the President there in Turkey, a controversial leader, an autocrat. Obviously, Turkey has been in many ways helpful to ISIS. Let's just listen to what we're seeing on the streets here from the footage we can see. Whether someone's helping or not -- someone's helping, it's unclear or fighting there on the street, but you can hear the gun shots. Let's just listen here for a moment as we show you the live streets of Istanbul.
We're looking at these live pictures. I mean, it is a stunning moment that we are watching here. Barbara, you're talking to sources in the United States, obviously they're watching this closely. Jim pointing out though that formally there has been silence. What are you hearing?
SCIUTTO: Well, also from the Pentagon tonight, Erin, they are watching this and we are now several hours into it and I think it is very fair to say they do not know exactly what's happening inside Turkey here in Washington. They don't know when they look at these pictures who the people are, who is fighting who? Which military forces you see on the streets may exactly be pro-government or pro- coup. It's a huge problem for the United States tonight because here is the issue, the Turkey is the one of the major U.S. allies in the war against ISIS.
[19:05:12] At a Turkish Air base in the south called Incirlik, there are about 1500 military personnel and they conduct air strikes even today, even as we speak against ISIS targets across the border in Syria. If the military, the Turkish military is not in full control or the coup forces are not in full control, who is controlling Incirlik? The problem for the U.S. is this, if there is a coup, U.S. military policy is -- you don't work with governments where there is a coup by force. You have to pack and go, but the fight against ISIS is of such strategic importance everyone will be watching carefully if the U.S. really sticks to that.
It may be that the U.S. decides that the fight against ISIS overtakes U.S. policy about not dealing with countries that are in the middle of a coup and simply staying and conducting operations against ISIS. Tonight, it's just one of the big questions we don't know the answer to. The U.S. provides billions of dollars in U.S.-made weapons to Turkey and if those weapons are turned on the people in the streets it will provide another complication. The U.S. will have to decide whether it wants to cut off arms sales as well -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Barbara. And these headlines as we're getting them and of course to emphasize to everyone as you're looking at these pictures. When you don't know on the street who is fighting whom and who is on what side it adds to the confusion. The headlines, the few ones that we are getting from inside Turkey are coming from broadcasters and state-run broadcasters. So you take that for what you will, but they're saying a Turkish fighter jet has shot down a military helicopter that was used by members of the coup.
The state-run Anadolu Agency is saying 17 were killed in a Special Forces unit. So, from those headlines that would appear that there was fighting going on between right now, the coup and those fighting against the coup. These again, the headlines that are coming right now and do you just want to emphasize also that President Obama now -- it is coming up that he had a chance to speak with Secretary of State John Kerry who has been on the ground in Europe and in Moscow and they are saying that Turkey should support the elected Turkish government which is, of course, a direct support for President Erdogan.
As we're looking at these picture, let me just bring in my panel, people who perhaps interpret what we're seeing here on the streets right not of Istanbul. Mike Rogers is the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, retired FBI special agent with me along with Peter Bergen, national security analyst and the former commanding general for Europe, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.
Let me just start with you, General Hertling, when you see what's happening here in Turkey, second largest army in NATO, 26 NATO bases across Turkey, you see what happened today, the stunning development. What goes through your head?
GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It doesn't surprise me, Erin, to be honest with you. One of my last official visits in Turkey was in 2012nd when I was commanding in Europe. I had dinner with a bunch of Turkish generals, they were still very upset about the court- martialing of several hundred generals and admirals, they had many disagreements with Mr. Erdogan. It is, as you have already said, the second largest army in NATO.
There are more U.S. bases than just the one at Incirlik that Barbara Starr pointed out. There is, in fact, the Southern Air Force base is in Izmir and we have one of the NATO headquarters in Turkey. So this is somewhat critical, but there's been a lot of both external and internal pressure to the Turkish government and the Turkish military, truthfully, has been really given the charter by Ataturk back when he formed modern-day Turkey to make sure they took charge of democracy within the country.
HERTLING: Most of the military does not believe that Mr. Erdogan is leaning toward democracy. He is, in fact, leaning in other directions and I think that's what generated this coup. Surprising in terms of the timing, certainly, they are certainly under pressure on their borders and also internally but I truthfully, I think a lot of military intelligence analysts have seen this coming for a while.
BURNETT: Mike Rogers, what is your view of this, right? It is unclear right now where President Erdogan is. He had to resort to going on an iPhone to tell people to go out in the streets and fight back against the coup, to go against the martial law that was imposed tonight. That's pretty stunning in and of itself.
MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Well, it is. And here's something to remember, the prior to -- excuse me, prior to Erdogan, the military interceded in pushing out Islamist influence in the government about four times.
BURNETT: Right. It's in the constitution in Turkey that the military is responsible for keeping Islamic influence out of the government of Turkey and I think that's lost in this whole debate. And so what happened is, about 2011 Erdogan decided to start jailing officers because he was moving clearly toward a more Islamic State. He started jailing senior military officers, at one point they had 275, about half of their admirals and about one in five generals total were in custody by the government, and that was very disruptive and what happened is in April of this year an appeals court overthrew those conviction of those 275 people.
So you can see that tension has been building for a while. Erdogan has taken over two state -- excuse me, two newspaper outlets --
[19:10:35] ROGERS: One of which went up for auction and he put his son in charge of it. The other one he put federal trustees in charge of the newspaper. So, Erdogan has been going down a very dangerous path. To me it was just a matter of time before these generals were able to get enough core support to do what they believe is constitutional and that's what's going to be the tricky part here. They're arguing and I saw their statement that they are upholding the constitution of Turkey.
ROGERS: And that's what I think is going to be a really interesting few days to see how this shakes out.
BURNETT: And Peter Bergen, what is your take on where this is going? Again, I will now say that our affiliate CNN Turk is reporting a Turkish F-16 shot down a military helicopter that they say the helicopter was being used by the -- part of the army that was attempting this coup. That's the latest that we have. That was just shot down, but where does this go, Peter?
PETER BERGEN, AUTHOR, "UNITED STATES OF JIHAD": Well, no one knows, including the people involved and this is what happens when you have a sort of revolutionary or coup-like situation. But this is going to pose a very interesting quandary for American policymakers if the military does succeed and reminds me very much of the situation in Egypt in 2013 when a democratically elected Muslim government was overthrown by essentially in a military coup.
BURNETT: Right. Right.
BERGEN: And the United States at least radically should have cut off aid to Egypt and a major recipient and in fact it didn't, because at the end of the day the military government and their policies on ISIS and other groups aligned pretty closely with American interests. And so if, indeed, the military does succeed here, theoretically, we should cut off relations with Turkey as one of the top ten recipients of U.S. military hardware, but my guess is that we would just sort of say, well, you know, there are interests outweigh the general principle that we won't deal with people who come to power by overthrowing a democratically elected government. And of course, we might find a democratically elected government to take control. But I think that accounts for the radio silence as Jim Sciutto put it coming out of the White House and also out of the Pentagon right now.
BURNETT: And of course it gives President Obama an out when he says he supports the democratically elected government of Turkey as what exactly how you define that.
Former CIA operative Bob Baer is also with me now. And I know Bob, you've actually been speaking to Turkish military, some Turkish military leaders. What are they telling you right now?
BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, this came as a surprise to them. In fact, I was talking a month ago to them and they say, there's going to be coup. The military was broken after this fake coup attempt that Erdogan arrested all of these people a few years ago and a lot of them just got out of a jail recently. And what they're saying is, that they do not think this is going to work. Now, senior officers -- it sounds to me like a colonel's coup.
They do not have the support in the ranks or nor among the Turkish people to unseat Erdogan, but this came as a surprise to them. So you can imagine it came as a surprise to the White House, and they don't -- they just don't know where it's going to go, but they are predicting violence.
BURNETT: General Hertling.
BAER: A lot more.
BURNETT: General Hertling, a lot more violence?
HERTLING: I certainly think there will be violence. In the four coups in the past in Turkey, we have not seen the Turkish military fire on their own civilians and somewhat different circumstances now. But I'm not sure it's a colonel's coup. You don't get the kind of coordination that we've seen thus far in terms of taking over media elements and getting to the streets and rolling units the way we see them roll based on just a few individuals. This seems to be a pretty big deal. There's about half a million people in the Turkish army or in the military, rather that includes all forces, but they also have about 170,000 Jean Dhar Marie (ph), those are considered military forces but they also report to the government, it's the police forces.
So, there's going to be some confusion early on. You are hearing shots fired, that's to be expected, but what we're seeing so far is a lot of milling around and it seems with the flying of the flags that there's a lot of support for changes within the government and we all know Mr. Erdogan only has about 48 to 49 percent approval rating and getting worse.
BURNETT: So, I wanted to just show everyone as we're flipping through these pictures. I don't know how much control we have over our cameras. But one of the scenes that you have been seeing here is actually inside the airport. This is an airport which two weeks ago the entire world knows was the subject of a terrible attack that they said was ISIS when they went in and started firing on people in that airport. The airport now, people are marching through. You can see them chanting. Those are the scenes going on in the airport right now which is completely shut down as by the way is Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites and Twitter in Turkey right now, Peter Bergen.
[19:15:25] BERGEN: Yes. I mean, this is, you know, an extraordinary day, and what does this mean for the fight against ISIS, it's an interesting question. Turkey has sort of really stepped up in the last year and a half allowing Incirlik Air Force Base for instance to be used for operations against ISIS by American planes by cutting down on the flow of foreign fighters that come through this airport, that used to come through this airport in great numbers and ISIS itself is sort of saying, hey, Turkey has really had a change of heart within the last year, year and a half in terms of cracking down on the foreign fighter flow. So with those policies remain in place with the new government.
BERGEN: Interesting question.
BURNETT: And I want to now, we have a CNN photojournalist who actually is in Ataturk International Airport right now, Jeff Kehl.
Jeff, I don't know if you can hear me, but please, just tell us, what are you actually seeing?
JEFF KEHL, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST AT ISTANBUL AIRPORT: More than a thousand people peacefully and jubilantly stormed the airport and they were carrying flags and chanting and everyone is on the tarmac right now. There was no violence. There were no issues and people are coming on the tarmac en masse. And all I can see it's been a surprise and where it's going and Turkish flags are flying high. BURNETT: All right. Jeff, I know it's been very hard to understand
him. Let me just say what he just said. There are about a thousand people there in the airport waving flags and chanting and that they have all been going on to the tarmac. If we can get him back, we will. But, just so everyone can understand here. It's very hard to get direct voices out of Turkey right now when you think about the fact that the social media sites have been completely shut down. So, if we can get them back, we're going to do that. But as he said, people are flooding the tarmac.
That airport is completely shut down. And what you can see right now, some of the pictures that we are getting that are coming in from Turkey. When you see all these flags, Mike, being waved around, what does that say to you about who is out on the streets? Because the context that we have here is that when you see people stepping up on tanks right now, that's sort of a scene that reminds me of being in Cairo, actually. But when you see, the military said martial law. Everyone should stay inside. Erdogan went on his iPhone and said, go outside. Do we then presume that the people out on the streets are supportive of Erdogan or no?
ROGERS: I wouldn't make that assumption candidly, it's so early.
ROGERS: It's so hard to tell you. You don't know who is there. I would imagine you are getting a combination of both. And remember, there is this notion that this corruption of Erdogan, this pushing of an Islamist state is really counter cultural to where they've been in the last 70 years. So there is a lot of people out there that are fairly anxious about where the country was going. So I don't know. It sure looks to me that the military had a lot of communication about this, as well. You see armor units not rushing to the defense of Erdogan, but deploying to places, it looks like to keep some peace at the airport and other strategic places around Istanbul according to all reports.
So, it tells me that there was -- again I agree, this is probably more than a colonel's coup. I imagine you didn't get all the general officers but you have a whole cadre of officers who have been abused by this government who I think are going to be pretty sympathetic by this, and I think they have the loyalty of the -- of a good chunk of the military, so that's why I would be really careful about finding out who is out there. Does Erdogan have supporters who are going to be out chanting? You bet. Does he have opponents who are going to be out chanting? Absolutely and that's what's going to make this so confusing. It would have been great to get the guy in the airport, your reported journalist there, to tell us what they were chanting. It was pro-Erdogan or it was an anti-Erdogan? It's going to be interesting to know.
BURNETT: And that is the next question that I have for him. We are trying to get in contact, we're going to get that to your point, Mike. Andrew Finkel is with me now as well, a freelance journalist. Andrew, what we're seeing in our screen is a military vehicle moving through a crowd slowly. There was a military vehicle that people in the crowd were throwing bottles at, it looked like punching and there were military officers inside that vehicle. They didn't look afraid, but certainly the situation looks incredibly tense and like it could go pretty dramatically one way or the other pretty quickly here. What are you seeing, Andrew, where you are? Obviously, you are in the capital where this all began.
ANDREW FINKEL, JOURNALIST (on the phone): Well, I'm in Istanbul. They're not having it their own way. (INAUDIBLE) appeared on television on a very strange form, on an iPhone. The announcer held it up and he used that opportunity to summon civil disobedience. You said, people should come out into the streets and people should come out and occupy the airports and that's clearly what some people have done. So, and you know, and that's the military and the people staging this military coup are prepared to fire on civilians and then this coup is clearly going to be (INAUDIBLE) and very clearly -- and not prepared to do then and this situation, this tension is going to remain for some time, his followers, this is going to increase.
[19:20:57] BURNETT: All right. Jeff Kehl is back with me from the airport. I want to try again, Jeff to establish communications with you. The crucial question, what are you hearing them chant? Jeff, I don't know if you could hear me. I was asking you, what are you hearing them chant at the airport?
KEHL: Hello. Yes.
BURNETT: It looks like we're still struggling to get that contact, even if our producer for those of you watching can get that information from him, we're going to share it with you. Obviously, what we're seeing, Peter, on the streets here, though, from the images that we're getting, from the specific slices that we're seeing of Istanbul is you're getting more and more people on the street. We said there were some people who seemed to be sort of attacking a military vehicle. Now we're seeing people cheering for a different military vehicle as it's driving through, patting the soldiers on the backs, very supportive of them. So, two very different scenes playing out just in the past couple of moments here live on our screens.
BERGEN: Yes. And Erdogan, you know, has earned a lot of enmity because of the, I mean, let's take the way that he's treated journalists and media in Turkey. You know, he's a democratically elected leader but he's also behaved in a very autocratic manner particularly when it comes to the media and journalist. So, the fact that the army has some support is not surprising.
BURNETT: Mike, what's your interpretation of what we're seeing? These are two different shots, okay? Two different moments in time, one an incredibly supportive crowd of those soldiers and one very angry crowd.
ROGERS: Yes. The problem is again, you're going to have some military forces that look like some of those, were they police and their version of the federal police forces. So you don't know if they've declared that they are with Erdogan or not.
BURNETT: Right. ROGERS: And that's the confusing part about these scenes. I hate to draw a conclusion without really understanding who these folks are and what they're talking about. What are they -- if they're pro-Erdogan then these folks probably, the military guys in the vehicles have probably declared that they're there to help support Erdogan.
ROGERS: If not, then it kind of gives you a whole different feeling that these folks out on the street are anti-government, but it's really hard to tell just given those shots. Even the people who are, you know, flying the Turkish flag, does that mean necessarily that they're pro-Erdogan or pro-coup? You don't know actually.
BURNETT: Right. Right. It's a fair point, General Hertling.
HERTLING: It is a very fair point and I was watching the faces of the soldiers in that crowd and you could tell those are some of the younger soldiers. You're talking about -- the Turkish military is a very professional force, for the most part, but they have a yearly recruitment effort. So you will have some of the younger forces that might be designated to reinforce the Erdogan protection where some of the older forces and some of the Special Forces might be on the side of the coup makers.
Not sure yet and that's the confusion of all of this, but the sad thing is they're both wearing the same uniforms. So we're seeing flags being flown in both directions and again, I would like to reinforce what Congressman Rogers said is that the Ataturk doctrine is that the military protects the democracy. So it really has to deal with who is in charge of the military at the time and how is the democracy continuing on?
BURNETT: And Jim Sciutto is back with us now. And Jim, obviously President Obama and John Kerry who has been obviously on the road for the past few days including in Moscow have now had a chance to speak.
SCIUTTO: That's right. And this was the substance of their message, the White House releasing the statement saying that the President and Secretary agree that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically elected governments of Turkey. So there you have the unequivocal statement from the U.S. supporting the democratically elected current sitting president of Turkey over the coup plotters in a very public statement.
Shortly after that, Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement saying that he had spoken to the Turkish foreign minister emphasizing that same message, the absolute support of the U.S. for Turkey's democratically elected civilian government. So, you have the U.S. now saying in public without equivocation, they support the government, not the coup plotters.
[19:25:22] BURNETT: Bob Baer?
BAER: The problem is Erdogan was trying to destroy democracy. I think it is pretty clear. You know? So, we really are in a difficult position. The army is the protector of democracy. It's been said over and over here. And you know what we're seeing is part of the army reacting to Erdogan going after since 2003, putting all these officers in jail, senior officers forced our officers who had nothing to do with the coup and this was a fake coup. Sledgehammer. So you're seeing the reaction from the military.
They were very upset about this, and again, I say that my contacts are telling me that they're unsure that this is going to actually work. And so when I say a colonel's coup, I mean, it wasn't the chief of staff that just took over the government. Now, that could very well be wrong. Again, first reports are generally wrong, but this is what I'm hearing out of Ankara.
BURNETT: General Hertling, you know, when we talk about President Erdogan here though, as I mentioned a very controversial leader as all of you have been pointing out, right? In terms of his history. In terms of Turkeys in flood taxes support of ISIS and then coming out against ISIS. Also an autocratic leader who was building in violation in all sorts of codes and public opinion of billion-dollar, something palace, very autocratic, how does all of that play into this?
HERTLING: Well, you add to all of those. And as you just mentioned Erin, the fact that he has been pushing down journalists and the right of free speech. He has been back and forth in Russia and in terms of how he's supporting them. He has not closed the borders to the extent that NATO would like him to do and there's been conflict with Israel. And back and forth with Israel. As well as that, he has on his southern border, Syria, Iraq and Iran as well as all of the Kurdish factors.
So, other than that, he doesn't have much to do. So, he's trying to please all people all the time and he is somewhat of an autocratic ruler. In fact, a great autocratic ruler, and again, when you talk to the military leaders that, in fact, I had the honor to speak with, they are extremely professional and want to continue in terms of the culture of the Turkish people. And so, there is that conflict there and they had seen the military has seen, Mr. Erdogan go further and further to the right and away from democratic values.
So I think all of that has contributed to the coup and at the same time he's doing that, there is the perception that he has not been protecting the Turkish people not only from ISIS, but also from the PKK and the Kurdish influence as well as dealing with other multinational forces.
BURNETT: So, General Hertling, let me ask you as we're looking at this just to explain some of the basics here of NATO. You talk about the second largest armed forces in all of NATO. Twenty six bases across Turkey, obviously crucial ones to the United States and the fight in Northern Syria when we talked about Incirlik. But also within NATO. What happens then? Obviously an attack on one is an attack on all. This is an internal coup but could President Erdogan tried to somehow use that to get more specific support from the United States?
HERTLING: Well, yes, Mr. Erdogan has attempted to do that in the past not only with ISIS, but with the PKK and in fact, there's been multiple discussions about the Commission of Article 5 as Turkey has continued to be under attack by those crossing its borders and by what they've see as a terrorist force.
HERTLING: So he has gone to the NATO conference in Brussels on multiple occasions and suggested other NATO members helped him with internal strife. This is an internal problem that he has. So, will he ask NATO for help? He might, but if he does, that's going to be a hard push because NATO is not concerned with internal conflicts within a country. It's more of a defense against external threats.
BURNETT: Right. Which of course this calls into question an unstable Turkey is a threat to all. Listen, we have new video coming in from Ankara that I want to show from the capital of Turkey. This is a video -- we'll get it up in a second, I just described it to you because I had mentioned a moment ago that an F-16 reportedly shot down a helicopter and that is ostensibly what we believe you are hearing here. That F-16 jet shooting down a helicopter.
The Turkish State broadcaster says, was a helicopter that was being used by members of the military who were part of the coup. And that explosion that you hear in Ankara.
Christiane Amanpour is also with us on the phone.
Christian, where do you see this going here over the next few hours?
[19:30:02] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is incredibly delicate at this moment right now obviously with President Erdogan having taken to Face Time to make a live call for his people to come out on to the streets. And clearly, the pictures that you're showing on CNN and around the world are showing that many, many people are coming out on to the streets, waving Turkish flags, going into the airports and on to the tarmac and many other places, as well.
Look, Erin, you know, President Erdogan and before that, Prime Minister Erdogan, presided over the longest period of history in Turkey with no coup. But before him from 1960 through to 1971, through the 1980s down to the '90s, in fact up until 1997, there have been a series of rolling military coups in Turkey.
Of course, the United States worked with Turkey all through many of those instances as NATO partners, but this is something that's been going on in Turkey for many, many years and what defined president Erdogan in the beginning of the 2000s is he started to implement a much more democratic Turkey. He reformed politics. He put the military through all intents and purposes back into their barracks and took them out of the political arena. Now, that was very, very welcome by many people in Turkey but not welcome at all by many people at the top of the military. There has always been a very, very deep division between the highly secular military and certainly, President Erdogan's Islamic government and his what they believe is way too much in the direction of Islamist rule.
Erdogan himself, as you know and you've been reporting and I've interviewing him many, many times as well as the prime minister and others has taken on a much more authoritarian role in the past several years, particularly as he became president, as he tried to change the Constitution as he cracked down on the press, on the judiciary, on many, many other aspects, not to mention active wars now with the PKK and the huge challenges that ISIS has presented. Fourteen major terrorist attacks in Turkey over the last year or so. So, that's the context in what you're seeing all of this.
ERIN BURNET, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
Congressman Ryan Zinke joins me now as well as we're watching these live pictures out of Istanbul. House Armed Services Committee, former SEAL Team Six commander.
In that capacity, Congressman, I know you've had a chance to deal with members of the Turkish military. What was your reaction when you first heard that there was a coup in Turkey tonight?
REP. RYAN ZINKE (R), MONTANA, ENDORSED DONALD TRUMP: The Turkish military is also a place of stability and there have been coups in the past, but that's a professional force. And what we're witnessing is within the military there's confusion, within the population of Turkey, and the president himself and his popularity has diminished. He has become more authoritarian and moving to more of an Islamic state and tried to in many ways change the constitution.
But the military itself has been with the people and to see pictures of a population going against the military, that is strikingly unusual.
BURNETT: So, the pictures that we're seeing here to the left of our screen, I don't know -- just, General Hertling, if you can see, I want to ask you what we're seeing here. It looks like you're seeing some sort of a police force. I know you have police involved here, as well as military, those are different things. But others in bulletproof vests and it looks like there's escorting going on. It's unclear.
What do you think we might be seeing?
LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, again, Erin, we may be seeing some of the younger soldiers, but certainly a strange set of circumstances when you have members of the gendarmerie or the police escorting men in uniform. Again, it just shows the confusion and what's going on.
It may be dependent on where you are in the different cities and in the different locations who provides support to whom? So, as this unwinds, you're seeing tanks bursting through barricades and running toll gates and at the same time, you've seen trucks either -- trucks with military either supported or had bottles thrown at them.
So, it's a very confusing situation. Until you literally hear and know what's going on on the scene, you can't really describe who is winning and who is losing.
BURNETT: Right. And, Bob Baer, of course, the times have changed. We may have social media. We maybe so well-connected and yet you see, when you have a coup here, as you see it happen in the middle of the night.
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Always in the middle of the night. Cease the communications and there are manuals written about coups and this sounds like one to me. We take the key positions.
And I've lived through a lot of coups across the Middle East and, you know, they've always come as a surprise and they're tightly held within the military.
[19:35:04] And who comes out on top? It's very fluid, and it's always a surprise, and it's from Syria to Iraq to the rest of it, it always comes as a surprise because these people obviously do not communicate because they're worried about intelligence service and military intelligence specifically.
So, if we are confused, the Turks are confused and certain parts of the military and this came as a surprise to and that's why it wasn't a neat coup and that's why they didn't arrest Erdogan at the beginning because that's what you want to do, of course, is grab him and put him in a jail and then you can continue on with the coup.
So, you know, through the night and through tomorrow, for a long time probably, we're going to have to wait for the outcome of this and seriously, nobody knows at all right now.
BURNETT: And, Congressman Zinke, of course, in this entire situation, with the complexity with Turkey's relationship with NATO, with its allies, with the situation in Syria, you have some governments who are going to be very supportive of this coup across the Middle East.
ZINKE: Well, and there's no doubt tomorrow as the Turkish people wake up, Turkey is going to be very, very different than it was today. Where it goes, no one really knows, but Turkey is absolutely is, with Iran, with stability in the region and Turkey now is in flux.
I think we had to be very, very cautious to make sure that the United States provides leadership, provides certainty that we will support a democracy, we will support a stability in the region and be very cautious to make sure we don't repeat the mistakes we did in Egypt.
BURNETT: General Hertling, as Bob Baer is talking about the planning that may have gone into this and how closely held it may have been and it stuns people that military of this size be that silent about something like this and obviously the question is how many people really knew and how significant this coup truly is.
What's your feeling, though, of the planning, of the military forethought?
HERTLING: Yes. That's a great question, Erin, and what Bob said I wanted to reinforce. These things don't just happen. When you're rolling tanks and trucks and thousands of soldiers out of a gate, it takes a lot of planning and a lot of coordination and a lot of communication. To do that under the cover of secrecy where it becomes this much of a surprise not only to the people of Turkey, but the people of the world, as well as some of the military officers that several of your analysts have already covered and said this was a surprise to them. That takes a lot of effort.
I've studied how coups are made. As Bob says, they always happened in the middle of the night. You usually try to grab the president or the prime minister at the first chance you can get. Well, Mr. Erdogan was away on vacation, so that negated that and perhaps that drove some of the coup planning.
But it's very, very difficult to not only man and then arm and then equip and then supply logistics to not just trucks and soldiers marching, but when you're talking about rolling tanks, that's a major effort. And when you've got an army of close to half a million, I don't know how many have deployed in this fight, but when you have that many getting ready to conduct a coup, it takes a lot of coordination and communication and it's tough to keep it a secret.
BURNETT: So, Christiane, what happens to Erdogan right now? I mean, we know he was on vacation. We do not know where. He was desperate enough to have to resort to using his iPhone to communicate with the Turkish people and people around the world, but his whereabouts are obviously crucial right now.
AMANPOUR: Well, it is crucial, and what happens to Erdogan is crucial and the fact that he was able to broadcast that via CNN Turk, it was actually very, very important and it seems to have had some effect of bringing his supporters out to the streets as we're seeing right now.
As we've been discussing, in general, when you try to launch a coup, I mean, the very first thing you do is arrest, you know, the president who you're trying to launch a coup against. And if they haven't done that, that indicates a certain lack of organization and it indicates a certain division within the military or whoever these coup plotters.
And again, we're doing a lot of speculating here because nobody quite knows what is going on beyond the fact that there's uncertainty. There are people in the treats. There's been military action, but we're not sure what it all means. And so, Erdogan has said that he wants to come back to Ankara and he's going to try to face it down. That's what he said. Whether he can or will, we shall see.
I mean, look, it reminds me to an extent of what happened in Egypt in 2013 when the military went against the elected Mohamed Morsi, the president who had been with Muslim Brotherhood. The military deciding that it wanted a more secular, less Islamic presidency did that.
[19:40:02] They refused to this day to have what they did to call the coup, but they removed the democratically elected president because they were concerned about the direction of the country. He remains in jail. The first thing they did was capture him and capture the whole hierarchy and many of them remain in jail, if not all of them. I remember back in 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev, the reformist president of
the Soviet Union at that time, when there was an attempt to coup against him, again, he was on vacation, as well, and the generals mounted a coup and he came back to Moscow and one thing came to another and they faced that one down.
So, it is very important to know what has happened to President Erdogan and whether he's in any position at all to gather his forces and to be able to face this down. But it's a remarkable moment. Erdogan has been larger than life, in politics in the region, and between Turkey and the West. Since he took over, since he was elected as prime minister in 2002 -- Erin.
BURNETT: I want to go now to Moutasem Atiya, an American who was there right now in Istanbul on the Asian side of the Bosphorus.
Moutasem, what are you seeing? Please, tell us.
MOUTASEM ATIYA, AMERICAN EYEWITNESS IN ISTANBUL: I'll tell you right now. The environment here has been completely electric. I came visiting and I was trying to make it back to the European side where my hotel was and we couldn't make it because the bridges were blocked. We were told to turn around and there was an attempted coup. We took a hotel, but the streets were rather quiet.
And as President Erdogan came out with his statement telling everyone to come to the streets, it just crowd upon crowd came out. We saw people in dump trucks, dumpsters coming out. We saw people on tour busses coming out waving the flags and rallying to their call to their democratically elected president. I have never seen anything like this in my life and a six-lane highway in front of me by the water filled with people.
It was amazing and it all happened when he came out and asked people to come to the streets and you can see that people really love him. They're responding to him and there was a military coup and the people responding against that coup.
BURNETT: What you are seeing, Moutasem, it is clear from where you are that the people who have come out are supportive of Erdogan?
ATIYA: Absolutely. The streets were empty and there were a few people going around honking before his call and after his call it was a non-stop traffic jam of cars, people, families waving flags, responding to their call of the democratically elected president of this country. They love that man. They showed it in the streets, so I --
BURNETT: Have you seen, Moutasem, I'm sorry, have you seen any violence at all between soldiers and people protesting? What is the interactions you've seen specifically between the people, the civilians and the military?
ATIYA: I'll tell you. On this side, I have not seen a single police officer or a single military vehicle. All I saw was the public responding to the call of their democratically elected president. It was empty prior to his response, his call for people to come out. Even when the coup happened, people weren't coming out in the streets cheering the coup. As soon as he came out to the Facetime call asking people to fill the streets and they filled the streets and they responded.
BURNETT: Moutasem, what have you heard in terms of specific chants that you've heard?
ATIYA: I've heard them giving the typical, god is great, god is great, and sort of response to, you know, it's a typical thing we do as Muslims. It's not a cry to war whatsoever. It's just a cry to bring people's hearts together and that's exactly what they were doing.
I saw absolutely no violence. Everyone was peaceful, honking their horns, and the air was absolutely electric, and they were responding to the call of the democratically elected president against his coup.
BURNETT: Right. I understand where you stand vis-a-vis President Erdogan. It's 2:43 a.m. where you are right now, Moutasem, how many people do you see?
ATIYA: The streets are empty. The feeling is Erdogan and the government has been able to take over control and the coup has been subsided and the streets are literally emptied, I'm seeing a few cars and everyone has gone home, and a little bit of honking and that's about it.
I can see a few people now walking back toward their home, but for a few miles this whole street was packed with people.
BURNETT: All right. Moutasem, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
Moutasem Atiya, as I said, an American who's on the Asian side of the Bosphorus was not able to come back as he was trying to come back to the European side to his hotel. He talked about a six-lane highway full of people. In his view, those people were all supportive of Erdogan. I think clear from the conversation that he was, as well.
But the people he saw were very supportive of the president of Turkey, of President Erdogan.
What's your reaction when you hear what Moutasem had to say? Mike Rogers?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, this scene here is a little bit different. That doesn't look like euphoria to me. You have armed military individuals firing rounds in the air. You can see a little bit of tension building between the crowd and the military there. He's trying to keep them back and we don't know for what purpose.
One other thing you have to remember -- all the levers of government are in Ankara. So, the heads of their intelligence services, their military, that core of military officers that probably feel slighted are not in Istanbul, they're probably up in Ankara, and we've had very little reporting from Ankara itself.
So, you know, just -- it's really too early. Even given these scenes, I think it's just too early to make an assessment if this coup is winning or not. I'm seeing this scene with the military exchange here is a little bit -- that concerns you because you don't know, I mean, why are they pushing back on the crowd? We don't know the answer to that, but they are clearly trying to keep some sense of order in keeping that crowd in check.
BURNETT: So let's just listen in for just a moment because this is unfolding, live, everyone, as we're speaking; 2:46 a.m., this crowd is in Istanbul. You saw the military there shooting into the air. An altercation right now going on between the military and protesters that we're seeing right here.
So, let's just watch for a moment.
BURNETT: Not into the crowd. You can see the feedback and you are watching this play out live.
General, what -- you hear obviously the eyewitness that we saw was from another location and obviously he was very pro-Erdogan with a completely story than what you're seeing here play out live. Now shots again on the streets of Istanbul.
HERTLING: Yes. This is tense. I'll tell you, those soldiers, and I'm watching the infantry men in front of the tank, but the tank commander and the weapons pointed in the air and they come ever closer and you can see just a few minutes ago when you saw one individual that looked like he was coordinating and engaging with the crowd and then the crowd followed him back toward the tank.
This is not a good situation for the soldiers. As we like to say, the pucker factor is very high right now with all those men in uniform, but they seem to have control and they seem to be talking at least, engaging with the crowd as opposed to either shooting at them and trying to convince them to turn around.
So, it is a very interesting situation. Again, Erin, this is one location, probably of thousands that are going on all over Turkey, and this is Istanbul. And unlike the comment before, there haven't been any reports from Ankara, that's the capital. What is happening there is the same kind of tension there that's in Ankara, that's in -- I'm sorry, that's in Istanbul or Izmir or any other major Turkish city?
BURNETT: Bob Baer, what's your view of what we just saw a moment ago in those obviously 30 seconds ago, live pictures of the shots in the air and the confrontation between the military and the protesters there?
BAER: It's a divided country, Erin, you know? Erdogan, they describe him as a Muslim brothers, you know, not a particularly strong one, but he was heading the country that way, and he's very popular among the poor Turks. He's a populist leader and the military just doesn't like him, and that's why the last decade he's gone after the military every time he could to defang it.
So, I mean, this is really going to get played out, the old secular Turkey and the new Turkey, which is becoming more Muslim all the time. What's going to happen is Erdogan gets through this, he's going to crush the army. It's not going to be the same. He'll have no choice and he truly will become a completely authoritarian leader of that country.
BURNETT: Congressman Zinke, what happens here then from the United States side in the next few hours as you deal with finding out with where President Erdogan is, whether he's going to be going back to Turkey and what level of support the United States is going to provide. It's one thing to say the United States supports the democratically elected president of Turkey. It's another for the United States to actually come out and do something that would show that support, physically, directly.
[19:50:02] ZINKE: Well, I think our goal is stability and tomorrow morning, Turkey is going to wake up with three options. One is the coup will be successful, in which the government will be dealt with, or the government will be successful as was pointed out, and then the military will be dealt with and that will be bloody. And lastly, they'll go to a standstill. They'll go where a needed party with overwhelm another.
But I think our goal is let -- it's a Turkish issue. It's going to spill over, unfortunately, to Syria, to Iraq, to Iran and to the region because of how important Turkey is to the stability of the entire region.
Tomorrow is going to be a different day in the region. In the U.S., our position should always be on values, on constitution, on democracy, on stability. But who has control is confused and I will say likely will be confused for the next couple of days.
BURNETT: I want to share what's coming out in this rapidly developing situation. The Turkish national intelligence unit just announcing that the coup is over and that the coup is defeated. The press officer to that organization is telling that to our Turkish affiliate CNN Turk.
Obviously, you're still seeing confrontations on the streets. It's unclear what to make of this, but they are saying it is over, it is defeated.
General Hertling, at this point, could that be possible?
HERTLING: If it is, it's interesting. Again, how do you connect with the people who are leading this if it is occurring in multiple places? There is a lot of forces -- it appears that there are a lot of forces on the ground. It may be over in some places and there may be calm returning in some places.
But there are already reports of other things occurring in Turkey and again, as some of your analysts -- whatever does occur tomorrow morning when we wake up, it will be interesting to see how Mr. Erdogan comes out. He's going to be very much stronger or deposed.
BURNETT: All right. This is all going to play out in the next few hours as our live coverage continues.
We're going to take a brief break. When we come back, the breaking news, continuing from Turkey and terror attack in France, the significant new details tonight about the attacker. We'll be right back OUTFRONT.
[19:55:51] BURNETT: And breaking news on the terror attack in France. We're learning much more about the man who killed 84 people including ten children in the city of Nice. The man behind the carnage identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a father of three.
There are many questions tonight, though. Intelligence officials in France say that was not a name they're aware of, even though they're tracking 11,000 individuals in France, with concerns of radicalization. So far, no terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Clarissa Ward is OUTFRONT live in Nice tonight.
And, Clarissa, I know you've been learning a lot more tonight about this man.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin.
And essentially authorities here are getting a really muddled picture. There's been no claim of responsibility from any terrorist group and so far, no clear indication that he had any terrorist or extremist leanings. In fact, French media reporting that a lot of his friends and family said he had no interest in religion. He was more interested in bodybuilding.
He was more well-known to people in his neighborhood for his erratic behavior, allegations of spousal abuse, but no indications, really, that he even attended a mosque let alone was engaging in terrorist or extremist activities. So, there's a lot of confusion as to whether this may have been the act of a disturbed individual, but authorities are essentially still trying to put together the pieces of how this attack happened. Take a look.
WARD (voice-over): Mayhem and carnage as a large truck careens through crowds of tourists and residents for over a mile, sending hundreds running for their lives. Tonight, the driver has been identified as 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a resident of Nice born in Tunisia. The terrorist was known to authorities for petty crimes but wasn't on the radar of counterterrorism investigators.
FRANCOIS MOLINS, FRENCH ANTI-TERROR PROSECUTOR (through translator): he was entirely unknown by intelligence services and had never been the subject of any file or indication of radicalization.
WARD: Authorities are combing through the suspect's house where he lived alone. A neighbor described him as odd. He wouldn't say hello, only nod his head. The attacker's ex-wife was taken into custody and is being questioned by police.
Together, they had three children. Investigators are trying to figure out if the assailant acted alone or had help, and there have been no claims of responsibility for the attack by any group so far.
The horrific scene unfolded at 10:30 p.m. Thursday night. Thousands were gathered to watch fireworks celebrating French Independence Day. As the fireworks were ending and revelers began walking back along the promenade, the attacker first opened fire on the crowd from inside the rented 18-ton refrigerator truck.
He then proceeded to accelerate, indiscriminately plowing through the crowds for over a mile, swerving left and right to hit as many people as possible, including dozens of children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There were people crying, people covered with blood. It is so sad.
WARD: When police tried to stop him, the attacker opened fire.
MOLINS (through translator): Police chased the truck for nearly a thousand feet. The police officer was able to neutralize the person.
WARD: When the truck finally came to a stop riddled with bullet holes the attacker was dead, slumped on the pass edger seat. Inside the cab of the truck, police found a semi-automatic handgun and ammunition, as well as several fake guns and a fake grenade. Also, the attacker's ID card and cellphone.
Among the dead, two Americans, Sean Copeland and his son Brodie of Texas.
Tonight, President Obama is condemning the attack.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We pledge to stand with our French friends as we defend our nation against this scourge of terrorism and violence. And this is a threat to all of us.
WARD: This is the third major attack in France in just over a year and a half, Erin, and there is a definite sense when you talk to people that they're starting to question the ability of this government to maintain a secure situation here -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Clarissa, thank you so much, live from Nice.
And our breaking news coverage of Turkey and France continues now with "AC360."