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Terror in Barcelona. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 17, 2017 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with horrific breaking news in the world lead today, after the carnage on the streets in one of the most visited cities in the entire world. We're getting word of a second possible terrorist attack in Barcelona, two officers run down at a checkpoint.

Police say they suffered minor injuries and, thankfully, did not need to be hospitalized. This comes just a few hours after police in Barcelona say a van purposefully rammed through a crowd of people near the popular tourist area of Las Ramblas.

A government official in Spain now saying that 12 people were killed and 80 were injured. And after seeing the aftermath, it's difficult to doubt it when police say that the death toll could still rise.

A witness says that this van in Spain was going about 50 miles per hour when it plowed into the crowd. We want to warn you about video we're about to show.

It's very graphic and difficult to watch. We're going to use it sparingly, but, if you have children nearby, you might want them to turn away. That is what terrorism is. It's a jarring and appalling and, sadly, all-too-familiar scene in recent years.

ISIS is now claiming that the attackers are soldiers of their twisted Islamic State. Police now say two people are under arrest. This is an attack that bears the hallmarks of many we have seen in recent years, of course, that Bastille Day in Nice, France, last year, where a so-called soldier of ISIS rammed a truck into hundreds of people.

Let's find out more about this attack and bring in CNN's Tom Foreman at the magic wall.

Tom, I have been to this area, this tourist area in Barcelona. It is usually packed with tourists. It's lined with trees. There are cafes, bistros.

Take us through how this horrific attack unfolded.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you noted, Jake, all of those reasons why this would be attractive to terrorists.

We have Barcelona over here on east side of Spain, one of the great intellectual, cultural and artistic centers of the world. And, indeed, this path right down here would be absolutely filled with people around 5:00 in the evening when this unfolded.

There are some vehicle accesses on either side, but where the trouble began was right here in the middle, where it's all about pedestrians walking. And, as you noted, Jake, some of this video very, very tough to watch. If you have kids in the room, you might want to get them out.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Police and rescue squads rushing to the scene, searching for the terrorists, dozens of people on the ground, victims of the ferocious attack and those trying to help.

This was the horrific scene just moments after witnesses say a white man turned down Las Ramblas, a popular pedestrian walkway in the Catalan capital jammed with restaurants, shops, and tourists from all over the world.

According to eyewitnesses, the van raced along at close to 50 miles an hour, clearly targeting people for a third-of-a-mile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Children and everything. Mothers and small children dead.

SUSAN MACLEAN, EYEWITNESS: All of the sudden, there was this tidal wave of people running towards us. And they were hysterical. It wasn't just a small number. It was a large number of people. Children were screaming. There was clearly a lot of distress.

FOREMAN: The panicked rush for safety had local police at one point referring to a mass trampling. And it wasn't over yet.

When the van finally crashed, other witnesses say two armed men jumped out. U.S. officials say local authorities believe the men were trying to reach a getaway vehicle, but instead ran into a restaurant.

JOHN BOFILL, EYEWITNESS: The police were saying that, go away, there's like an armed man. Run away, because you cannot be here.

FOREMAN: Amid the confusion, blood, shock, and suffering, a few witnesses reporting hearing shots. And as police led some to safety, others were told they had to stay put and await evacuation, even as the investigation, the manhunt, and the agony roared around them.


FOREMAN: In the process, Jake, of this turning into this, there remains a great deal of confusion.

For example, the people who ran into the restaurant, for a period of time, people thought it was a standoff, hostage situation. Authorities now say that never happened.

We don't know if there actually were gunshots or if people simply thought they saw them, and now there's another incident reported out in the western part of town where police were apparently struck by a vehicle at a checkpoint.

We don't have details about that either, whether or not that has anything to do with this. In any event, the Spanish authorities are going to be working very late in the night trying to sort out, Jake, what we have reported on far too often, another incident of terrorists striking innocent people while they were at their ease.


TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

And that is the last time that we're going to show that graphic video during this show.

I want to now bring in Omar Popal, who was in the Barcelona market, very close to where the van drove into a crowded street.

Omar, thanks so much for joining us.

I'm glad yourself -- tell me. You were in the market when this happened. When did you realize something was going wrong? What did you hear? What did you see?

OMAR POPAL, ATTACK SURVIVOR: Yes, hello. Thank you for having me.

So, what happened was that I was in the back of La Boqueria, which is like the fruit market. It's very close to Las Ramblas. And I was with my cousin at the time. And as we're getting, as we're heading towards the exit, trying to head towards Las Ramblas, just because we wanted to get to the main street, it was kind of like a little chain of event, where I just saw a few people turn around and start yelling and screaming.

And then almost instantly, everyone around them was just yelling and screaming and headed in the opposite direction. And, in that moment, me and my cousin just turned around and started running back the way that we had initially come from.

And all you could hear was just people -- just an extreme -- it was just so much chaos and everyone just screaming and yelling, trying to find their other family members, just because that area itself and that market is just so extremely packed.

Everyone was just trying to run to safety. And in the process, like, a few seconds after everyone started yelling and we turned around, I heard like kind of a loud bang. And me and my cousin assumed those were gunshots.

And so, after that, we just tried our best to get out of there as quick as possible.

TAPPER: Did you see anyone who had been injured in any way?

POPAL: I did see one girl who looked like she was around 16, 17, after we had finally exited the Boqueria.

But I just saw a huge gash in her leg. And the skin totally just was -- like, part of her skin just wasn't there and all I could see was flesh. It was very disturbing image. And she was trying to get attention of police who were just coming to the scene after we ran out.

It was about 20, 30 seconds later. And there was a few police cars coming through. And they were just trying to get their attention to get her to a hospital.

TAPPER: Did ambulances come quickly after that?

POPAL: I didn't see any. Right after we exited the Boqueria, people started running again. So, I just saw something else that happened, so then we took off another time.

And then, by that time, we were about five minutes away from where everything had happened.

TAPPER: Did you see the van or the driver at all?

POPAL: No, we were a little bit further from the van in that area.

TAPPER: Can you describe this area for us? I have been there before, but I imagine this is the height of the tourist season. It must have been pretty busy.

POPAL: Yes, the whole market itself was extremely packed, just a lot of children and tourists just all walking around, us included.

It was just very hard -- every single shop had like 10 to 15, 20 people standing outside of it trying to get the people's attention. It just was very crowded in.

We had come here the day before as well. And it was just as crowded, if not more so. It was -- and once everything, once all the yelling started, it was just -- it was very shocking just to see how quick everyone was able to run out of there, just because it was so extremely packed.

But, in the process, a lot of people were tripping and falling because the floors were also very wet, because it is like a fruit market and a lot of drinks and such, and just the floor was very wet. And I witnessed a few people falling over on their kids. And I also fell once. But I was luckily able to pick myself up and run out of there.

TAPPER: Omar, how old are you?

POPAL: I am 19.

TAPPER: You're 19? You're just there as a tourist?

POPAL: Yes. We just got here actually two days ago.

TAPPER: With your family?

POPAL: Visiting with a cousin of mine.

TAPPER: I assume that you have called your parents?

POPAL: Yes, I spoke with them earlier. And I was able to get to them before the news, before the story broke. So, that was good, just because my parents are very easily startled, so I just wanted to make sure I was able to tell them that I was OK and that anything they heard through the news, they would know that we made it to safety, thankfully.

TAPPER: All right, good boy. I'm glad you did that.


TAPPER: Be safe, Omar. Thank you so much.

POPAL: Thank you.

TAPPER: Much more on our breaking news, ISIS now claiming responsibility for the terrorist attack in Barcelona. And Vice President Pence just weighed in. That's next.

Stay with us.




MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The latest scenes of carnage and mayhem sicken us all. And, as the president said earlier today, the United States condemns this terror attack, and we will do whatever is necessary to help.


TAPPER: That was Vice President Mike Pence speaking just moments ago about today's terrorist attack in Spain. At least 13 people have been killed and 80 more wounded.

The terrorist group ISIS is claiming the perpetrators are what they call soldiers of the Islamic State.

I want to bring in CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez, and CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank, who is also editor in chief at "CTC Sentinel."

Paul, let me start with you.

ISIS claims its soldiers of the Islamic State were responsible for the attack. What does that tell you about who they are and their operational capabilities?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, they make that claim, Jake, without any evidence at all or proof to back it up.

And, remember, back in June, they made a similar claim after that attack on a casino in Manila in the Philippines, and it turned out it had nothing to do with that whatsoever.

And so it remains to be seen at this point whether ISIS really had a hand in this, whether they were in touch in some way through encrypted apps with these attackers, whether these attackers were really literally soldiers of ISIS, people who had been in ISIS territory and were trained and dispatched like the Paris and Brussels attackers.

None of those things are clear at this point. But, certainly, it's very concerning that this claim has been made, that they're saying there are multiple attackers involved.

What we know about this attack so far, it was a very-tech type of attack. It didn't involve, as far as we understand, firearms or explosives. It was just going out and renting a van and trying to kill as many people as possible.

[16:15:05] And that's been the M.O. of quite a few of these ISIS- inspired attacks that we've seen in Europe over the last year or so -- most notably in Nice last summer where 86 people were killed.

TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, what do we know about the jihadi presence in Spain? I can't recall a terrorist attack in Spain since 2004, the Madrid train bombings.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The number is certainly lower than a country like France, for instance, or Belgium, but it's present there. I spoke to a security source who just a few weeks ago was in Barcelona profiling the community there. The militant community there, and he told me while it's small in number, it's very insular, it's insulated, it's hard to penetrate. But you have a lot of Pakistani nationals origin there, Moroccans as well, ties to not only admiration for ISIS but other terror groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is a very powerful Pakistani terror group.

If this was indeed ISIS, it would be unusual for two reasons. One, it would be ISIS' first attack in Spain, two, the attackers didn't appear to be suicidal, right? If it appears they did have a getaway car or ran away, didn't kill themselves in the attack.

The final thing is this, is that the power and mayhem that just an automobile can cause. And keep in mind, we've now seen this in France, that Nice attack, which killed dozens of people. This attack here, we've seen cars used twice in Canada as vehicles. And, of course, a different kind of extremist. White supremacist extremist, but just on Saturday in Charlottesville, we saw a car, of course used to very deadly effect.

TAPPER: Evan Perez, U.S. officials say they're learning the terrorists might have tried to reach a getaway vehicle. Spanish media also reporting that one person is in custody who was the person who rented the van. We don't know if he was the driver.

What does all of this information say to you about how many people may be involved in this attack?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Jake, the minute you add more than one person, it really adds complexity to this attack. And so, that's one of the big concerns here. Once the U.S. authorities heard from their Spanish counterparts that there was this idea of a second vehicle that might have been a getaway van or a getaway vehicle, it really then adds to the complexity of it and they started looking to social media, they were trying to figure out whether or not there was a cell that was at work here.

And obviously, with the second incident, with the police officers that were run over, that really caused attention whether or not that might have been the getaway van. Police say on their twitter page that they located the vehicle west of Barcelona and they have been checking out to see whether or not it had any explosives. No -- nothing yet has been reported on that, but I bet you now the concern here is whether there are other people who may have been involved in the planning of this, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Gentlemen, thank you so much.

Much more on the terrorist attack in Spain, and what investigators should be asking the two people in police custody right now.

Plus, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, his harsh words for President Trump. Stick around.


[16:22:16] TAPPER: We're back with the breaking news in our world lead.

A terrorist attack rocking the heart of Barcelona, Spain, 13 people have been killed, at least 80 have been wounded. Both figures we're told could certainly climb.

Former CIA operative, Robert Baer, former counterterrorism official Phil Mudd, and former FBI supervisory special agent, James Gagliano, join us now.

Phil, let me start with you. An ISIS affiliate is claiming responsibility for the attack. But, frankly, we don't know if that's true and we don't know if these so-called soldiers of the Islamic State were trained in Iraq or Syria or just inspired or if they're just claiming responsibility for something they had nothing to do with.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's right, Jake, but that would not be the close to the top of the list of the questions I'd be asking the people who are in custody now. Right now, you're interested in people and imminent threat. If they're going to open their mouths, the first question is, do you know of anything that's supposed to happen in the next 24 hours that's a follow on and can you name the people who would be involved in that?

Even if they don't speak, Jake, there's a second order of stuff they can provide. For example, do they have a driver's license that has a residence? That residence has fingerprints. Do the fingerprints in that residence match the people -- the fingerprints and the people in custody? Do they have a cell phone?

So, there's a lot of information I can acquire passively if they don't to want speak. But the first question ain't ISIS. It's, do you know of something that's going to happen after this?

TAPPER: Bob, we're now learning that two police officers were hit by a driver in a separate incident. These vehicle attacks are becoming more common and frankly, I know they're impossible to stop.

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, absolutely, all you need is to be able to drive a car or a truck and you can cause mass casualties. And, you know, this police attack, if it's connected, what the police are doing in Barcelona is putting up a barriers around town. They're cordoning off parts of the city in concentric circles. And these may be people involved trying to get away, but we're going to have to wait to see.

TAPPER: And let me ask you, James, two people are in custody. What's the most important thing right now for Spanish police to be doing?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, absolutely Jake. They should be definitely interviewing those folks and trying to find out, as Phil pointed, are there other cells, are there other potential imminent attacks that we need to be looking at to try to mitigate or interdict?

The next thing is we need look at the broader picture in our strategy. Since 2006, there've only been I think 31 total vehicular homicide type attacks like this. Five of them, as your graphic just showed, have happened since March.

So, we know this is the new normal. We need to start focusing on this. And I think that that's going to be part of our robust package going forward is figuring out ways to protect pedestrian thoroughfares.

TAPPER: Phil Mudd, there have been a number of attacks in Europe over the last couple of years.

[16:25:03] Is Spain known particularly as a hot bed of terrorist radicalization?

MUDD: No, but ISIS has talked about Spain because -- you know, this seems like ancient history, Jake, but going back to the 15th century, there was an Islamic presence in Spain that then receded and ISIS has talked about, as al Qaeda did before, retaking this territory. They think in centuries old terms. You should also understand proximity to North Africa, places like

Morocco and Tunisia were really key recruitment sites for North Africans going to train for ISIS and Syria and Iraq. So, you have to wonder about whether anybody came across the very short water that stands between Spain and North Africa to conduct it. That's one of the questions you would ask here.

TAPPER: And, James, what kind of cooperation would there be going on right now or in the next few hours between U.S. intelligence and law enforcement and Spanish counterparts?

GAGLIANO: Absolutely. I mean, while Spain isn't part of the Five Eyes, the Five Eyes -- the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, we do have a fairly good system of information sharing. That's signal information, stuff we pick up from comms, human intelligence, as well as military intelligence.

So, I imagine we're working very closely with them because these types of attacks, sometimes these cells had nexus and connections to other countries, and the disruption and the follow-on arrests and intelligence gathering will be part of that effort.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

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