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Police Investigating Incident Outside U.K. Parliament; U.K. Parliament On Lockdown: Police Respond To Incident; U.K. House Of Commons Leader: Assailant Shot. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 22, 2017 - 11:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Having said that, very reliable sources in the political reporting press based just yards from the scene that you're looking at now are saying there is a serious incident unfolding. The area has been completely cleared. From what you can see and what I can see, Wolf, the area is in lockdown. So this is a very serious incident just by looking at the reaction there.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's pretty extraordinary in London to have an incident like this, although there have been warnings, we have no idea what the cause of this is, there have been warnings, Max, in recent days of potential terror plots, is that right?

FOSTER: Well, there's ongoing concern about terror plots, of course. The most recent attachment of that has been this electronics ban on flights into the U.K. from certain areas of the world in the Middle East in particular, North Africa. I know the U.S. has done the same sort of thing as well.

But there's been some sort of intelligence, we don't know whether it's U.S. intelligence or whether it's British intelligence, which suggests some sort of threat. Not an inland threat, but they are concerned about something.

So there has been a heightened sense of alert in London, in the U.K. anyway. And when it comes to this, my most recent briefing with the anti-terror police in London is their eyes are very much on those landmark targets in the United Kingdom, and of course, parliament, Buckingham Palace, just down the road, they are the sort of buildings they are talking about.

So certainly parliament is seen as a target. Any sort of incident happening there will be treated very seriously indeed. We can't talk about what level of concern here at the moment, apart from they locked down the area. It could be a lone incident of some sort.

Because they're so sensitive right now, a car crashing into the railings around parliament that would cause a big reaction. I can tell you that I'm hearing some quite serious reports of scenes coming to me from the political reporters down there.

BLITZER: Well, how unusual is it, a full lockdown of parliament and the area around London? To me it sounds pretty extraordinary.

FOSTER: It is unusual, but in this heightened sense of alert, this is how they will react. That's been heightened, you know, when I say it hasn't officially been heightened, but I know that they are looking at sort of potential targets around London more closely than they have been in years gone by.

So any sort of incidents around there would have this sort of reaction. We haven't had any sort of incidents on whatever level recently. So what we can say is just it's been cleared and the police are doing what they can.

If they weren't that concerned, they would have cleared it by now, because we're heading into rush hour, another reason we're concerned.

BLITZER: We're looking at a picture, Max, of a car that looks like it crashed into the fence around parliament right there. I don't know if you have any more information. Was this an accident or was this deliberate? What can you tell us?

FOSTER: Well, if it was an accident, I suggests the area wouldn't have been locked down, but I just don't know at this point, Wolf. It looks like a car has gone into the railings. What we need to know is what happened ahead of that. So what was that car doing before it went into those railings and who was affected as a result?

If we tie that image with what we know from the Metropolitan Police, there's been a firearms incident, there are two serious incidents in a small space of London, which is next to a landmark building. So this is very concerning indeed.

BLITZER: We're getting word from Reuters in London, Max, that there are people who have been injured, at least a dozen people injured near the parliament according to a Reuters photographer who is on the scene. Let me read from Reuters.

At least a dozen people have been injured on Westminster Bridge after large bangs were heard outside the British parliament according to a Reuters' photographer who was on the scene.

And you're getting more information as well. But if at least a dozen people have been injured, that would represent clearly a very significant and ominous development.

FOSTER: It is. A lot of what we're getting is from Reuters, because of that photographer. We're also hearing from Reuters that an alleged assailant was shot by U.K. parliament, at the U.K. parliament by armed police as well. That's a Reuters-sourced story, but obviously very reliable on their stories coming out of London.

Also Angie Neil (ph), who is a very prominent parliamentary journalist is reporting that the prime minister has been evacuated as well, because you can assume that either she was in parliament or Downing Street, but she's been moved out of the area. So it's getting increasingly serious. The reaction is certainly serious. So we can only wait to hear what the police know and report it. I don't think we're going to hear a huge amount, I have to say, Wolf, because there's going to be information around this.

If it's an ongoing incident, the U.K. authorities are known for being very clear that they'll give as little information as they can in these sorts of instances. If the prime minister is being moved, we're looking at something pretty serious.

BLITZER: And as far as you know, the lockdown clearly is still in effect, right, Max?

FOSTER: Well, it's just based on the live images that we've got coming in. If you look at it, they've stopped all the buses on the bridge and got everyone out of the way. All I can see is emergency services.

[11:05:08]So a sense of urgency down there for sure, and they haven't cleared it yet. Now that that photo has come in, the investigation is going to be why that car was in the railings? What it deliberately aimed at the railings or was that linked to the firearms incident?

BLITZER: Was parliament in session at the time? You say the prime minister is being evacuated. Was parliament in session?

FOSTER: Well, that's an interesting thing. I don't know whether the prime minister was in parliament. It's in session, yes, and it's just getting going at this time of the day as well. When we say that's been evacuated, I don't know whether that's from parliament or from Downing Street.

Downing Street is not far from there at all. If they've brought in anti-terror police, and I can't confirm they have, one of the first things they would have done is asked where the prime minister is and moved her.

BLITZER: Standby for a moment because I know you're going to be collecting some more information, Max. Bob Baer is with us, former CIA counterterrorism analyst. Bob, in a situation like this, a car crashes into that fence outside of parliament, shots clearly have been heard by eyewitnesses. Is it out of an abundance of caution that there's a complete lockdown, that the prime minister is evacuated, or does it sound a lot more ominous?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Right now, Wolf, we're going to have to wait for the details. We don't know who did the shooting. It could have been the police. It could have been the attackers and it's standard for the prime minister to be moved.

And it's standard to close down that entire area around parliament simply to make sure that the attackers don't get away. What you do is close it down. It doesn't mean there's a larger attack. It's just that in the confusion, it's so easy to get away unless you close all the streets. And you have to remember, with parliament, it's pretty much an indefensible target. There's so many tourists around there, so many people. You could do a lot of damage very quickly with something as simple as a truck, sort of like the Nice attacks.

BLITZER: The U.K. police are investigating what they are calling this firearms incident right near the British parliament in London, Bob, London's Metropolitan Police say they were called in reports of this incident near Westminster Bridge, right near parliament. It's being treated as what they call a firearms incident. When you hear a firearms incident, clearly people have some firearms, and we assume that they've been fired?

BAER: Yes, it sounds like that. Right now it sounds like this was an attack with guns and Wolf, remember, in Britain, they're very tightly controlled. It's not just somebody who has lost their mind, a psychopath. I would say right now, and I could be wrong, it was an organized, well-organized, well-planned terrorist attack. First reports are always corrected later on, but that's the way it sounds to me.

BLITZER: Henry Mance (ph) is joining us on the phone right now. Henry, I understand you were inside parliament and you have been given instructions. Tell us what you've seen and heard.

HENRY MANCE, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "FINANCIAL TIMES" (via telephone): Yes, this was a fairly quiet Wednesday afternoon. You had members of parliament going down to vote in a parliamentary vote then all of a sudden there was some kind of commotion outside, and the members of the parliament had been sent back the other way, were told to get down and away from the windows, away from the glass entrance to the building. And what I'm now told by my colleagues is that there is a person down and injured, just where the MPs would have been walking. This was not far away from where senior people work.

BLITZER: Have you been told that you have to be in lockdown, you and your colleagues and associates inside parliament? Is that right?

MANCE: Yes, that's right. You have an area of the building where the journalists were, they're locked up there. We've been -- I'm in a newer part of the building, people from academics to students, advisers and officials have been herded into the meeting rooms to get away from the glass, some feeling that people could still be at risk within the building.

BLITZER: Max Foster, I want to go back quickly to you, I understand you're getting more information, what are you learning?

FOSTER: We're relying on Reuters, they have a photographer right there on the scene. I don't want to draw too many conclusions here, but I'll give you what facts are coming through from them.

[11:10:03]So what we have is a report of two people on the ground on the bridge bleeding heavily. We've got an official report from the police saying there was a firearms incident. We've got a vehicle that's gone into the railings there at parliament just off the bridge. We then hear from Reuters that at least a dozen armed officers have gone inside the British parliament. Now we've heard from the leader of the House of Commons that a policeman has been stabbed within parliament.

So it seems as though there's been a breach. I don't want to link these incidents, but it does suggests that's the pattern of events. People lying on the bridge, the car going to the railings and a policeman being stabbed inside, and we do know that the prime minister now was in parliament when all of this happened and she was evacuated.

BLITZER: And when they say she was evacuated, do you know where they evacuate her to an undisclosed location?

FOSTER: Well, it just depends on the level of threat, whether they feel they've contained it. All of her security is set up in Downing Street. If they feel that the perimeter of the threat is very small, just around parliament, I suspect she would have gone to Downing Street. I don't know what their conditions are in these.

BLITZER: Because other reporters, and I'm looking at some of the reports, Christopher Hope, a political journalist for "The Daily Telegraph," says he heard shots fired outside of parliament. We also heard a loud explosion then he heard more shooting.

He says man lying shot outside gates to parliament, gunshots outside. He calls this -- and he's there on the screen -- frightening. That's just one journalist who happened to have been at parliament on this day.

We're getting more reports along those lines. But stand by for a moment. Phil Black is also getting some information. What are you learning, Phil?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Wolf, where I'm standing now is just across the road from Britain's Houses of Parliament, that iconic building. It is now currently surrounded under absolute lockdown in what is a very large and new police operation.

Police around here are still in the process of driving people back from the scene. They've established lines. There are vehicles, police motorcycles, heavily armed police officers. All of them have locked down this area.

If you're familiar with it, we're talking about Houses of Parliament, the area in front of that parliament square. Police are moving people back down, a road known as Whitehall, the historic road that runs through this city's government area.

We're just a short distance from Downing Street, the prime minister's residence. This is the location where according to police, only a short time ago, they responded to what they are describing as a shooting incident.

That's all we know at this stage, according to many and varied witness accounts, pointing to potentially gunfire, explosions, right in this area, very close to Britain's Houses of Parliament. No one officially has talked about who was responsible for this yet or what the potential consequences of it were.

The British media are reporting that at least a number of people have been injured as a result of what has happened here today. I can tell you, on a day-to-day basis, at this time of day, this is an incredibly crowded area.

Two things to consider. First of all, Houses of Parliament is where prime minister's questions took place, every parliament member in the country was in that building today. On top of that, it's an incredibly busy site for the many tourists that come here on a daily basis.

The crowds around the Houses of Parliament are always very large, so is the security. You see it here every single day. Despite that it appears some sort of shooting incident has taken place. And as I speak, the police are directing us back from this immediate scene where this event has taken place today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So clearly, Max, it's still an ongoing situation there, there has by no means been an all clear. It's a serious ongoing situation based on what you're seeing on the scene now, right?

FOSTER: Incredibly recent, so the police said they were called to respond to whatever happened here, only 20 minutes after the hour, which wasn't that long ago. The police have only just started to arrive in the numbers we're describing here, a very large police presence.

Many vehicles, motorcycles, and emergency services, a helicopter of some kind has landed in parliament square, this is right in front of parliament itself. And really as I'm talking right now, the police are still securing the area.

They're still driving people, tourists, workers, journalists coming down here. We're only now being pushed back from the very edges of parliament square itself, which is very close to where this incident is supposed to have happened -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Max. We have on the phone Sir Gerald Howarth, a Member of Parliament. Sir Gerald, you were inside parliament. Tell us what you've seen and heard, what is going on right now?

[11:15:09]SIR GERALD HOWARTH, MP, LOCKED DOWN IN PARLIAMENT (via telephone): Well, the situation here is, the House of Commons, was that in the business of voting, so most Members of the Parliament were here, the session was suspended, and we are locked in as we get reports from Reuters that it's very, very serious indeed. It's confusing.

What we've been told is that one police officer has been stabbed. It would appear that what happened is a car was coming from Westminster Bridge, those who have been here know the situation coming towards Houses of Parliament. There were inbound pedestrians on the way.

It seems the driver then it appears she came in, got access onto the estate and stabbed the police officer, and that appears to have been himself shot. You just heard the report, I gather there's a helicopter landed in Parliament Square.

It's all very confusing. So the members voting are suspended pending the securing of the estate so we can carry on with our business. It shows that we face this threat of terrorism, we have to live with it.

BLITZER: Has anyone there at parliament, Sir Gerald, suggested this is an act of terrorism?

HOWARTH: Well, it's either somebody who is a complete nutter or a terrorist attack. Obviously we don't know at this stage. We have very stringent security measures here and it would appear that they have largely worked, but we're in the middle of the incident.

All I can tell you from within the building, it's locked down, is what the leader of the House has already told us and what we're picking up from external news reports from people like yourselves, CNN.

BLITZER: It's a very disturbing picture we're showing. Sir Gerald, I would love you to stand by. Max Foster, the live pictures we're seeing now, aerial video is showing the car that seems to have crashed into a fence outside of parliament and you see a lot of police surrounding that vehicle. Set the scene for viewers not familiar with this area.

FOSTER: Well, actually hearing there, a lot of people are saying what you just heard from that MP, that this vehicle came over the bridge which is to the south of the image that you're looking at now. Our main Parliamentary Building is on the left. That's the fence going into the Parliamentary Building.

The suggestion there, a lot of the reports, we have to have this confirmed by the police, but a lot of eyewitnesses suggesting that car came over the bridge, mowed down some people, which is why we've seen bodies on the bridge, we're trying not to show them in detail for obvious reasons, and hit the barrier.

From that scene, it looks like it was all over there and then, but then we learned armed police have gone into the building. And MPs involved in session in the chamber have been locked in, effectively. Parliament has been suspended. The entire area around parliament is in lockdown and there's something going on around that car.

That could simply be, of course, police investigating, but it looks like it's ambulances around there, there looks to be some bodies around that. We know that firearms were involved as well at some point on the bridge episode.

But serious incident unfolding here in London today. Parliament on lockdown, MPs locked inside, and reports of some sort of stabbing or attack inside against a policeman. BLITZER: One of those MPs in lockdown is Kevin Brennan. Kevin, I know that you're there. Give us your sense of what you've been told about this lockdown, this incident.

KEVIN BRENNAN, LOCKED DOWN IN PARLIAMENT (via telephone): Well, Wolf, we were just about to take a vote. We call it a division in the House of Commons, when this incident occurred, which meant a lot of Members of Parliament were on their way to the chamber in their division lobbies to vote.

As we arrived we were told to remain in the area of the chamber because of this incident. And of course, subsequently the sitting has been suspended and the leader of the House has told us about this incident where a police officer apparently was stabbed by an attacker. He's been shot by the security people at the House of Commons and we hear that there's been other incidents involving a car outside the gates.

[11:20:05]BLITZER: When you hear "other incident," what does that mean, that the individual who was shot by police, the individual who stabbed a police officer, there is a separate incident related or unrelated, involving the car that we've been seeing?

BRENNAN: I can't confirm that, Blitz. In the House all that was confirmed to us was that somebody managed to get through the gates in the House of Commons, which is the main entrance into the parliament here in Westminster and that that individual attacked a police officer and was subsequently shot by the officers.

There were reports of a loud bang outside. Perhaps that's related to the incident with the car, which some of us obviously through social media have seen pictures of. But currently, along with my colleagues, we're all locked down in the House of Commons, in the chamber itself, and the lobbies around it whilst the incident is resolved.

BLITZER: So you're there on lockdown right now. We are told also, Kevin Brennan, Member of Parliament, that the British Prime Minister Theresa May is safe, and she has been evacuated. Do you know where she's been moved to?

BRENNAN: I don't have any information on that, Wolf. She had weekly prime minister's questions, which happens every Wednesday in the U.K. House of Commons. I know that's watched by a lot of people in the United States on C-Span and that session was held. So she may be in the House of Commons, she has an office here, or she may have already left, I couldn't confirm that either way.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers video of the Westminster Bridge. The area is in lockdown. People have been injured on that bridge. No traffic moving at all, clearly a serious situation. We're also told that President Trump has now been briefed on the situation by his national security advisers. But we're showing our viewers some pictures from the bridge. Kevin Brennan is still with us, Member of Parliament. How unusual is this in London?

BRENNAN: Well, of course, we did have a major terrorist incident back in 2005, Wolf, when there was attacks on public transport, on the tube in particular in London, and of course many, many years previously, people in London got used to terrorist attacks during the era of the troubles in Northern Ireland with the IRA.

But in fact, the security forces have been very successful in recent years in thwarting anything that might be a terrorist incident. I don't want to speculate because we don't know what the motive here is of the attacker.

But it is hardly unusual that we would be lockdown, but obviously the security forces, as in every capital these days, are prepared for this kind of occurrence.

Wolf, can I also say, not knowing fully the extent of the injuries, I know that members of the House of Commons want to send their thoughts and prayers to those who have been affected and injured in this incident, and to get that message out more widely.

BLITZER: And it looks like there are some serious injuries on that bridge. You can see people walking and you can see people being removed. It looks like injured being removed right now, even as we speak. It's a very, very tenuous situation.

Max Foster, if you're still there, how close are you to the parliament right now? I know that police are trying to keep you and other journalists a bit away.

FOSTER: Yes, Phil Black has gone down there, we're just a couple of miles away here. There's no way of getting close to these situations, from past experience, they're keeping the area completely clear. Look at the images coming in to us, there are clearly people injured.

Look how far those members of the public or whoever they are on the bridge, quite a way away from that car that's crashed into the fence there, and there are still people clearly lying on the ground there because the ambulances are surrounding them.

And then there's been some sort of breach into parliament. A policeman has been attacked and sources say that whoever attacked the policeman have been attacked themselves as well.

There are gunshots the police responded to, but we're also hearing about other gunshots, which I'm assuming may have come from the police, we can't assume they're from any sort of assailant.

For anyone to have got from the bridge over the fence into parliament and to have closed down parliament and created a security lockdown in the area is extraordinary, actually a major breach.

BLITZER: It sounds like a very, very extraordinary -- Nic Robertson is now on the scene for us as well. Nic, tell our viewers first of all where you are, what you've heard, what you've seen.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Wolf, I'm just looking straight down the road towards the bridge. It sounds as if the police are coming further back at this time. We're at a big green in front of the Houses of Parliament.

On the green there's an emergency services recovery helicopter that seems to be brought in for the injured. There's a helicopter circling overhead. Police are moving people back from where we are right now. From where we can see, the swarm of police vehicles on the edge of Westminster.

Wolf, we're going to move, the police are asking us to move. We're just moving. So Wolf, the situation here is, it seems the perimeter that the police have put in place around the parcel aments building, the perimeter is being expanded and pushed further back at the moment. It is as we would expect. There has been quite a crowd gathering here to witness what's taking place --

BLITZER: We're going to get back to Nic. We'll try to reestablish that connection. Nic Robertson is there. Clearly they're expanding that perimeter, the parliament, the entire area now very much on lockdown.

This is a serious situation, extraordinary situation in London unfolding. Clarissa Ward, you're here with us in Washington right now. But you know this area well, you've spent a lot of time there.

As we just heard from that Member of Parliament, Kevin Brennan, he doesn't remember anything like this going back to 2005 when those horrendous terrorist incidents occurred in London.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I actually went to a school called Westminister School so I have spent an enormous amount of time in this area. As you heard from Max Foster, this is a crowded, bustling area, filled with lawmakers attending Houses of Parliament, filled with tourists visiting the many beautiful sites that London has to offer.

And of course, it is literally the seat of power of the United Kingdom. This is the beating heart of Britain's democracy. It is hard not to wonder at the symbolism of an attack like this. Now, there have been multiple attacks in the United Kingdom, most memorably in 2005, as you cited, the attacks on London's underground system.

It appears one of the underground stations, Westminster, which is very near to the location where this attack took place, appears to be closed, although there's no indication that there's anything actually going on.

But just that that perimeter does continue to expand as they want to make sure that everything is secure in that area. Then famously, of course, some years ago there was another attack on an off-duty soldier, Lee Rigby, in a different part of London, towards the southeast, another horrific attack.

And then last year, I should add, there was an attack on a British, very beloved British parliamentarian, Jo Cox, not by an Islamic terrorist group, that was by a right wing radical fanatic.

At this stage, of course, we have no idea who has perpetrated this attack, what might be the motivation behind it. I can tell you, regardless of who is responsible or what drove this attack, this certainly is putting a real fear into the hearts of British people.

Because although everyone in the United Kingdom understands that there is an elevated threat, that we do live in dangerous times, as I said before, this is the center of London. This is the seat of power. This is a bustling area.

You can see all of those red double decker buses now lined up, stuck as they lock down that entire area. Anyone who has been to London, who has spent time in London, has been to this area.

And presumably most of these people wouldn't feel unsafe in this area, because there is a heavy police presence around. One simply, Wolf, does not expect this sort of thing to happen in broad daylight, for a car to be able to go over Westminster Bridge like that, mowing into multiple people.

And then another incident, possibly the same, possibly separate, we're still trying to put together the many pieces of this puzzle, it really does raise enormous concern, not just for Britons, not just for people who spend time in that area, but for people around the world who love London and who are watching this scene unfold -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The center of British power, the parliament, the entire area now in lockdown.