Return to Transcripts main page


Police: 8 Dead in Munich Shooting Spree. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 22, 2016 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the globe. I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

Today, we begin with bad breaking news, an all-out full-speed manhunt going on right now after yet another deadly shooting rampage. This time, it happened at a shopping mall in Munich, Germany. Police are now saying it looks as though it is another act of terrorism.

Six innocent people were shot and killed and several others were injured. We have video from one of the shootings. I want to warn viewers this video that I'm about to show you is disturbing. So, before we run it, if you have any children, you might want to change the channel or turn it off. That said, here it is.

This horror happened just before 12:00 Eastern time. As you saw in the video, a man who appears to be one of the gunmen began firing his weapon in front of McDonald's restaurant inside this mall in Munich. It's not clear how many people are behind this terrorist attack, this shooting spree.

Munich police are saying there could be at least three people with firearms involved in the attack. Now a massive manhunt is under way for the gunmen who remain on the loose. Police all across the German city are on the highest evil of alert trying to hunt down the terrorist suspects while urging people to avoid public places.

The U.S. Consulate in Munich is telling all American citizens to shelter in place.

Let's first go to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what can you tell us about this attack?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, even as this hour, the U.S. military trying to account for all of its service members and family members in Munich.

As you say, the Munich police now calling it a likely terror attack with at least six people dead, three or four gunmen possibly on the loose. This is a matter of urgent concern to get it under control, to find out who is behind it, what is happening, all of it, all the images captured on video. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): As the shooting broke out initially at a McDonald's at a popular Munich shopping mall, and dozens of people fled, terrified eyewitnesses offering what information they could.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hear this, like an alarm, boom, boom, boom. And he's still killing the children. They make nothing. The children were sitting to eat. They can't run. I hear this Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar. This, I know because I'm Muslim too. I heart this and I only cry.

STARR: German police quickly began to assemble, warning people to stay off the street. A massive manhunt quickly was under way amid the confusion of the early hours with little intelligence about what was happening.

No one even certain here the man here in the black shirt is a perpetrator. U.S. officials were awaiting an assessment from German law enforcement and intelligence services and awaiting a credible claim of responsibility.

However, one U.S. official says there has been concern for months about potential ISIS activity across Europe, attacks either inspired by ISIS or directed by operatives back in Syria and Iraq.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our hearts go out to those who may have been injured. It's still an active situation, and Germany's one of our closest allies, so we are going to pledge all the support that they may need in dealing with these circumstances.

STARR: Whether ISIS has an operating cell in Germany is unclear to U.S. officials. What is clear, it is another attack leading to the same questions about who is responsible and how to protect potential targets where civilians gather.


STARR: Now, at this hour, across Washington, intelligence and security agencies trying to work with Germans to figure out what is happening.

Why is it maybe possible that this was ISIS? We want to emphasize, nobody knows yet, no credible claim of responsibility. But all summer long, there has been worry about ISIS operatives in Europe.

The CIA director, John Brennan, has been testifying on Capitol Hill and speaking out in public about the assessment that ISIS now has operatives it is trying to send back into Europe, and it is trying to both inspire people already in Europe and send operatives in and direct and order up new attacks in Europe.


Whether this is ISIS is too soon to tell, but it has certainly, none of these events are lessening the worry -- Jake. TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr, thanks.

Let's bring in some live video right now that we have of individuals in Munich you see. We're told this is an evacuation going on, as there is this manhunt in Germany for at least three terror suspects. Munich has a population of more than 1.5 million people. Right now, police urging Munich residents to stay away from public places, as the hunt for the shooter or shooters continues.

Let's bring in CNN correspondent Will Ripley right now, who joins us from London.

Will, what are you being told by German police?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As we have been mentioned, they do say this does appear to be a terrorist attack.

And the citywide response is indicative of the fact that they feel there is still perhaps a clear and present danger for the 1.5 million people living in Munich. It's why you saw at the height of the Friday afternoon rush hour all of the public transportation came to a halt, the subways, the buses.

They evacuated those metro stations and they told people to get as far away from public areas as possible. The police certainly not wanting any gunmen who are still on the loose right now to have an opportunity to attack another area where they might find crowds of people, similar to that mall, the Olympia Mall, which, coincidentally or not, Jake, is very near the Olympic stadium where in 1972 Palestinian terrorists slaughtered members of the Israeli Olympic team and a German police officer.

No claim of responsibility, but police are saying this looks like terrorism and that is how they're treating this right now.

TAPPER: Will, obviously, in this era of social media, people who were at the mall took pictures and there have been photographs being tweeted around the world. The Munich telling those doing that to stop, don't post photos or videos. Why?

RIPLEY: Because they have seen in previous incidents that terrorists have used the videos and photos that people post on social media, in addition to what's being broadcast on television and the radio, they use those images to determine where police officers are, and to either counterattack or to put actually those officers in danger or compromise police operations that may be happening as we go.

But the police are also saying -- this is in addition to the U.S. State Department and the consulate there in Munich, the U.S. Consulate -- they do want people to use social media to let their family and their friends know they're OK. That's why Facebook activated the safety check.

But what they don't want is for people to be posting pictures of the police. They don't want to compromise their activities. TAPPER: While you're saying that, Will Ripley -- and I bid you adieu -- let's alert the viewers that, of course, the photographs we're bringing you from Munich are ones that took place a little while ago. They are not revealing any tactical information if they're terrorists watching this broadcast right now.

Will Ripley, thank you now.

Joining me now, we have a panel, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank, CNN military analyst Cedric Leighton, and CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer, Michael Weiss, co-author of the book "ISIS:Inside the Army of Terror," and retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

Thanks, one and all, for being here.

Obviously, a very fluid situation.

Bob Baer, let me start with you.

The gunmen reportedly still at large. Night has fallen upon Munich. What right now do you think the German police and German intelligence officials, what are they doing right now to find these gunmen?

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Jake, they're madly putting together intelligence, and it's not easy. It's not like they can go through the metadata from phones. That takes days to get that stuff.

They're looking at what pictures they have, but more than that they're asking eyewitnesses what the shooters were carrying. How many were -- did they have suicide vests, and where they are specifically. The last we heard, the German police don't know where.


TAPPER: We're getting some interference on our ears right now, as this information is coming in. There is some sort of crossed wire in the control room, if you could fix that.

Cedric, what are the challenges of a police assault on a large mall if the gunmen are holed up there?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Jake, one of the big challenges is the multiple entry and exit points that a mall like this would have.

Malls are designed to facilitate customer traffic. They're not designed to prevent terrorist attacks. And what you're going to find is, there are going to be lots of places for terrorists to hide out in. If they're still alive, if they're still active in the mall, then the police have to go through and basically sweep every store, every room, every nook and cranny of that mall. And that's huge deal for them to do, under even the best of circumstances.

TAPPER: Paul, as of now, no claim of responsibility. We heard the German woman, the Muslim German woman testifying that she heard one of the gunmen saying Allahu akbar, which is of course is Arabic for God is great, is often -- I don't want to say it's said in terrorist attacks. It's said all the time. But terrorists certainly say it all the time.


Got to be -- the number one suspicion right now from German intelligence has to be that this is an ISIS attack.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: They're certainly going to be looking at that.

Those reports on Allahu akbar have not yet been fully substantiated. Just one eyewitness so far. And don't rule out right-wing terrorism at this point. This attack coming exactly five years to the day after that terrible atrocity in Norway by that far right extremist Anders Breivik killing more than 70 people in Norway.

But certainly they're looking at Islamist terrorism. I have that just in the past few days, there's been a lot of concern amongst German intelligence officials that ISIS had been trying to reach out to their supporters in Germany and to encourage them to launch attacks.

They have got specific intelligence that they have been trying to do that in the past few days. They's also been concern that they're trying to recruit German members of ISIS to come back and launch attacks in Germany. They find it quite difficult.

The French and Belgian ISIS recruits have been more keen to come back to launch attacks. But according to recent testimony of a German ISIS operative who was arrested, they're actually trying to get through to attack Germany because German part of that broader anti-ISIS coalition.

TAPPER: That's right.

Gentlemen, stick around.

Witnesses recounting a horrifying scene in Munich, including one witness who tells CNN that the killers seemed to be targeting children.

We will be back with more of this breaking news. Stay with us.


[16:15:43] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Breaking news out of Munich, Germany. Police say at least six people have been killed outside of a shopping mall. It is unclear how many good men police are now looking for. They say this is a suspected terrorist attack.

Moments ago, Brian Todd talked to a witness that saw one of the shooters. Brian joins me now.

Brian, this woman told you that children were among the victims?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake, and said that this gun was apparently targeting children. This is a woman we're only going to call Lauretta. That's her first name. We don't want to say her last name, just out of concern for her safety at the moment. We reached her, my producer Duggal McConnell (ph) who speaks fluent German was able to reach her where she was hiding at a store next door, a windowless store next store where she had taken her children there to hide, but this woman Lauretta says, she just was inches away from this attacker when he emerged from the men's room in McDonald's, the place where you saw in that video of him coming outside.

She says that her 8-year-old son saw him loading his gun in the bathroom of the McDonald's. Here is a snippet of the sound that we got from here.


LAURETTA, EYEWITNESS (via telephone): My son saw in the toilet, the man loading his gun. It was a pistol. I come out of the toilet and I hear the -- like an alarm boom boom boom. He is killing the children. They make nothing. They were sitting to eat. They can't run.


TODD: And this woman says she heard the man yell "Allahu Akbar". She says she knows this because she is Muslim as well, she is from Kosovar (ph). She told us, she saw the man go out of the McDonald's, shoot people on the street, and go across to the mall where it could have been a second location for where this attack occurred, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Brian, just to be clear, so this woman's little boy was in the bathroom, saw him loading the gun, and then the gunman, this terrorist, came out and started targeting children?

TODD: She said he appeared to be targeting children. She said she came out of the toilet, she heard a man -- she heard the sound, like an alarm, boom, boom, boom, he was killing children. Basically indicating to us he was at least aiming for children among others possibly. It's not clear whether he was specifically targeting them, Jake, and only them. But according to her, he targeted some children. Not clear how many children are among the dead at this point.

TAPPER: Brian Todd, thank you so much.

Joining me on the phone, Thamina Stoll. She was near the site of the shooting spree. She's a Duke University student from Germany.

Thamina, first of all, you're okay? Everyone in your family and friendship circle is okay?

THAMINA STOLL, NEAR SHOOTING SPREE (via telephone): Yes, everyone I know is okay. Thank you so much.

TAPPER: Tell me what did you see, what did any members of your family see?

STOLL: Yes, so I was in fact inside shopping mall twice earlier today about half an hour before the shooting started. My grandma lives two to three minutes away by foot from the shooting mall. So, we just returned to her apartment and decided to go back to do some window shopping. Once we were down on the street, there was a family approaching us and they were panicking, they were in shock, and they said they just ran away because they heard gunshots inside and outside of the building.

TAPPER: You were born and raised in Munich. Tell us about the shopping center briefly. Is this a popular shopping center? What kind of neighborhood is this?

STOLL: Uh-huh. So, it's located next to the Olympic Park, which is the place where in 1972 Olympic Games took place.

The shopping center is connected to the local subway system. So, usually, a lot of people who live close to the shopping center would go through the shopping mall to go home. There are a lot of taller apartment complexes here where a lot of families live. I think the shopping mall is actually the biggest one in the area.

[16:20:01] It has two stories, more than 100 shops there including restaurants and cafes and bistros.

TAPPER: Thamina Stoll, thank you so much. Appreciate your time. Just a reminder for those watching, since we are broadcasting this internationally, Munich police, if you're in Munich, police are cautioning all individuals avoid public places. Three gunmen are still suspected to be on the loose. If you're an American citizen, the U.S. consulate in Munich is saying shelter in place, do not leave where you are right now.

Again, to get people up to speed, police in Munich, Germany, say at least six people were killed in the shooting spree in a mall in Munich. The U.S. State Department is cautioning individuals to shelter in place. We'll have much more on this developing story after this quick break.


TAPPER: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the globe.

I want to get CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott into the conversation. She's been in touch with her sources in the State Department, trying to find out more on the shooting spree in Munich.

Elise, do we know anything about possible American victims?

[16:25:00] ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We don't at this time, Jake. The State Department is not only trying to find out about all its personnel doing a head count of its personnel, but also trying to find out if any Americans are involved. Unfortunately, this has been an all-too common occurrence for U.S.

embassies around the world, issuing a security message for Americans in Munich right now. I want to read some of it to you.

"U.S. citizens are advised to shelter in place pending police announcements that the situation is under control. Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings and monitor local new stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security."

Now, several times over the summer, the State Department has been warning Americans traveling abroad, particularly to Europe, where they've been so many attacks and the threat level is so high, to be careful at some tourist areas where people could be congregating. Everybody knows that there are a lot of threats against not only Americans, Westerners out there, very concerning, Jake.

TAPPER: Several world leaders met just yesterday to discuss attacks like this.

LABOTT: That's right. Well, this was a meeting of the anti-ISIS coalition. Some 30 foreign ministers and defense ministers were in town. Now, of course, we don't know at this point whether ISIS is involved, but, you know, the ISIS coalition used to get together to talk about the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. Increasingly what they're talking about is how to ward off these attacks as ISIS looks to launch international attacks outside of Iraq and Syria.

They're talking about sharing more intelligence, about some of these foreign fighters coming home, but also about people that could be radicalized in various countries.

So, it used to be just more about a military campaign and increasingly these ministries are talking about how to keep their country safe and keep their borders safe, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Elise Labott, thank you so much.

Let's bring back our panel now.

Michael Weiss, let me talk to you. Obviously, you wrote a look on ISIS. Do you believe this has the hallmark of an ISIS-conducted or ISIS inspired-attack?

MICHAEL WEISS, CO-AUTHOR, ISIS: INSIDE THE ARMY OF TERROR: I have to be hone, it's way too soon to tell. There is so much contradictory information out there. I have seen reports and watched a video of the alleged gunman identifying himself as a German after having racial or ethnic slurs hurled at him by a bystander who saw him wielding a gun. As Paul and others have noted, this is the five-year anniversary of a massacre in Oslo.

If you're asking, does ISIS want to strike Germany? Absolutely. We have been in constant contact ever since then, and he told me two or three months ago that Germany was the likely next target and we have already seen this on Monday. A 17-year-old boy wielding an ax and injuring four on a German train.

So, absolutely, ISIS has got Germany in its sights. But Germany has other problems. They have the rise of a far-right ultra-nationalist fascistic movement coming on the back of a very open door immigration policy with respect to refugees.

So, it served like the (INAUDIBLE) seen in Star Wars. There are so many bad actors that could be responsible for something like this. I really don't want to come out and say this is jihadist. And the German authorities are very quite cautious and responsible and saying, look, let's not speculate too much, and so far, this is all that's been confirmed. This incident occurred and six people are dead.

TAPPER: Michael, I appreciate your circumspect to answer.

Paul, let's talk about Germany as the site of terrorism, because obviously, this was a terrorist attack, whether it was by a right wing group or an Islamic extremist group. We don't know, or some other group, but it's terrorist no matter what, and obviously just Michael referred to the attempted attack, but successfully it was not successful and no one was killed, by the young Islamic man with an ax on a train in Germany, where is Germany when it comes to terrorist attacks in Europe? Do they happen a lot there? Is it relatively not as bad as other places such as Brussels and France?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: There has not been a deadly terrorist attack in Germany since 2011 when two U.S. servicemen were killed outside of Frankfurt airport. They have nod had as many terrorist attacks as a lot of other countries in the West. And ISIS found it more difficult to persuade German ISIS recruits to come back and launch attacks than French and Belgian recruits.


CRUICKSHANK: They've been quite resistant. It's not totally clear why. This comes out of interrogations of some German ISIS members. I think they feel that Germany has not been as involved in that anti- ISIS coalition as country like France, which is launching air strikes in Syria and Iraq. Germany is not launching airstrikes against ISIS. They're doing some surveillance missions with aircrafts over Syria.