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140+ Dead in Sri Lanka Easter Sunday Massacre; Biden Expected to Launch Presidential Bid This Week; Hundreds Gather for Mass After Notre Dame Fire; Update: 160 Dead, At Least 560 Injured in Multiple Church And Hotel Bombings; Brooklyn Man Arrested for Partially Decapitating a Woman. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired April 21, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:08] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news world.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and hello to everyone around the world. I'm Victor Blackwell.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Jessica Dean, in for Christi Paul this morning.

BLACKWELL: We are following breaking news out of Sri Lanka. At least 140 people are dead, more than 560 injured in a series of coordinated bombings. At least eight explosions rocked four cities throughout the country, targeting churches and high-end hotels.

DEAN: Earlier this morning, the pope delivered his Easter message at the Vatican and he called the attacks, quote, such cruel violence and referred to the bloodshed as mourning and pain for Christians at Easter. We are also learning at least 20 foreigners are among those killed.

BLACKWELL: Let's go now to CNN correspondent Will Ripley who is following the story.

Will, we know that they are telling people not to crowd around these locations and there will be a curfew in effect later.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, because at this point, this is still a very an active and unfolding situation with reports of the eighth bombing coming in the last hour or so. So, clearly, they are not out of the woods in Sri Lanka and they don't know who is responsible because nobody has yet to come forward.

What this is, clearly, is a coordinated attack on multiple fronts. As I mentioned, eight explosions, three of them targeting churches, four of them targeting hotels. And then an explosion at a house in this south Asian island nation.

So, you have a target of Christians who were celebrating Easter. They're targeting foreigners who are in high-end hotels across multiple cities in Sri Lanka, including Colombo, which is their commercial capital and their largest city, also locations in Batticaloa and Negombo. And you have an attack also on the Sri Lankan economy, which next month is the tenth anniversary of Sri Lanka's quarter century civil war.

The nation has struggled to bounce back from that and in recent years, has become a hot spot for tourism. Obviously, now some people may be afraid. So, there are lots of people who are affected by terror attack, a coordinated attack such as this. The numbers are staggering in terms of their scope. At least 140 people confirmed dead. More than 560 people injured and we know at least 20 foreigners are amongst the dead and that was at the Colombo national hospital.

The scene that is being described so gruesome. At one location, St. Sebastian Church, the blast occurred after Easter mass and thousands of people who attended that church. We were told there were 30 bodies lying in the church, pieces of flesh were thrown on the walls in the sanctuary and even outside of the church.

As you mentioned, the Sri Lankan government is trying to keep people away from areas where they could be targeted. The president of Sri Lanka expressive shock and dismay, and ordering his law enforcement back from Easter break, so they've been all called off of their leave, and they're trying to take every possible step the president of Sri Lanka says to maintain law and order right now. But clearly, in addition to that, the island while in curfew, they're also closing schools for at least two days until Wednesday, and just trying to come to grips with what happened and, at the moment, at this hour, trying to contain the situation and make sure they can prevent more people from being hurt and killed.

DEAN: All right. Will Ripley, thank you so much. We know this is a lot of information taken and we will check back in with you. We appreciate it.

The full horror of the scene in Sri Lanka is only just now becoming clear. We are getting new video in the aftermath and moment of the explosion. This video purportedly shows the explosion at St. Anthony's church in Colombo. Take a watch.

You see there on the left side of your screen that explosion which you can tell even from a distance was quite violent, quite abrupt and caused, as we now know, incredible destruction damage and bloodshed.

BLACKWELL: As this goes on, we are getting the reaction from world leaders coming in.

British Foreign Minister Theresa May, she tweeted this: The act of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all to those affected at this tragic time. We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practice their faith in fear.

DEAN: And the president of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, tweeted: I condemn in strongest terms possible the Easter terror attacks in Sri Lanka. This is an assault on all of humanity. On behalf of the Turkish people, I offer my condolences to the families of the victims and the people of Sri Lanka and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.

BLACKWELL: Moments ago, President Trump tweeted this: Heartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels that have killed at least 138 million people and badly injured 600 more.

[07:05:05] We stand ready to help.

Of course, 138 million, that is obviously an error. It's been up for 16 minutes and the president at some point will change that. But that from the president of the U.S. He says they are standing ready to help.

DEAN: We discuss it now with Kimberly Dozier, a CNN global affairs analyst.

Good morning, Kimberly. Thanks for being with us.

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Good morning, Jessica.

DEAN: As we're taking all of this information, help put us in context for us there on the ground there in Sri Lanka. This looks to be the work of radical Islamic terrorists, but we don't know at this point. Help us understand the dynamics there in Sri Lanka and kind of what you're taking in and assessing at this point.

DOZIER: Well, there has been no claim of responsibility as we are stressing, but when you look at the hallmarks of this attack, the sophistication, the number of targets, the targets that were chosen, it's the kind of thing we have seen before from ISIS, al Qaeda, even Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Mumbai attacks back in 2008 in India. So, it speaks of something larger than the kind of militant attacks that Sri Lanka saw against its battle against the Tamil Tigers which ended around 2009.

Now, there have been some homegrown Islamic militants on the island. There's one news report out there that there was a possible plot at least we're watching against the churches of the island. But we also know the Sri Lankan justice minister told parliament that at least 32 prominent Muslims from the island had joined ISIS in Syria. Some of them may have come back.

We also know that there has been a call by ISIS for reprisal attacks after the killing of so many Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.

BLACKWELL: Kimberly, I think it's also important as we talk about the religious element of this and the targeting of three churches but also to highlight that four of these locations were these high-end hotels. So whichever group is responsible for this, not only wanted to attack churches on one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar but also to affect as many people and as many countries as possible by going after these hotels where there would be large numbers foreigners?

DOZIER: Absolutely. This is one of the things that counterterrorism analysts have been warning about as ISIS contracted inside the war zones of Iraq and Syria that their long-term plan was to send people out to soft targets, places that might not have their guard up and to try to find both Westerners and Christians to attack to try to keep the momentum going in their battle. Sri Lanka is a horrible way a perfect target for that. While there was a small Muslim militant movement on the island, this speaks of a much larger international campaign.

Another thing they try to do, the various militant groups, is look for the seams in society and in Sri Lanka, the mantle of the population is Hindu and Buddhist. They only have a very small fraction that is Muslim and Christian. So. they already have some sectarian tensions there and this will exacerbate that -- Victor and Jessica.

BLACKWELL: All right. Kimberly Dozier for us helping to understand all of the complex elements of what the people there in Sri Lanka and around the world are now trying to understand about this coordinated attack. Kimberly, thank you.

DEAN: And a short time ago, the pope offered his condolences of the victims of the Sri Lanka bombings during his Easter Sunday mass at the Vatican. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): Dear brothers and sisters, I heard of sadness the news of a horrendous attacks on this very day, Easter Sunday, have brought mourning and pain to some churches and other places in Sri Lanka. I would like to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community. Attacked while gathered in prayer. And to all of the victims of such a cruel act of violence. I entrust to the Lord all so tragically who died and I pray for the wounded and all those who suffer because of this traumatic event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: CNN senior Vatican analyst John Allen is in Rome.

Tell us what else the pope said. I mean, several of his predecessors have had to address congregants and believers there after attacks on Easter. What did he say?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Hi there, Victor and Jessica.

And despite everything, happy Easter to you. Yes, you're right. This is hardly the first time a pope has spoken on Easter following a brutal attack against Christians someplace.

In 2015, there was an attack on a university in Kenya targeting Christian students that left more than 100 people dead. 2016 on Easter Sunday, there are bombs went off at a park in a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, Pakistan, where Christians were celebrating Easter. Last year, there were a spate of attacks on Christians in India that left a number of Christians dead and injured. And this year, of course, we see this violence in Sri Lanka.

Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the victims in Sri Lanka which he described as having been struck today by sorrow and by pain. He described what happened as cruel violence. He called for prayers by Christians all over the world and indicated, of course, that he would continue to carry the nation of Sri Lanka in his heart as it copes with the aftermath of these attacks -- Victor and Jessica.

BLACKWELL: Our John Allen for us there in Rome -- John, thank you.

Let's turn to politics. Former Vice President Joe Biden, he is scheduled to become now the 19th candidate running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Coming up, how the vice president could shake up the 2020 race.

DEAN: Plus, how Democrats are demanding the full unredacted Mueller report and now one of the president's lawyers says he has no problem with them seeing it.

BLACKWELL: Also, Easter amid the ashes. Holy services will not be held at Notre Dame Cathedral this year but church goers are hopeful this holiday. We will take you live to Paris.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:56] DEAN: Former Vice President Joe Biden is expected for launch his third attempt at the Democratic presidential nomination this week.

BLACKWELL: And that stage is going to be tight because he is doing with 18 candidates vying for a chance to challenge President Trump in 2020. The decision would end months of speculation about the vice president if he would enter the race.

His announcement would make him an entrant front-runner in the polls. Look at these, the latest out of Iowa and New Hampshire showing him with a commanding double-digit lead in Iowa and not so much in New Hampshire but still very far ahead.

Cory Booker had this to say about the possibility of the vice president entering the race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm excited about having a vibrant debate in the coming year. We are still a very long way from first votes being cast, and I think it's going to be a really wonderful debate and I'm looking forward to that. But my philosophy has always been from the time I was running track in high school is that you don't look to the left and you don't look at the right when you're running your race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Well, his team has not announced exactly when or exactly where the vice president will make the announcement.

DEAN: President Trump is spending Easter morning at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, before flying back to Washington today. And as the picture painted by the Mueller report becomes clearer, he was on Twitter attacking the report and Senator Mitt Romney for his reaction to what it revealed. Those close to Trump say he is getting newly furious at the current and former staffers who were interviewed for that report.

CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood is live in West Palm Beach for us this morning -- Sarah.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Jessica and Victor.

Yes, President Trump is frustrated with his portrayal in the Mueller report. He's frustrated with his depiction as a dishonest leader and one whose aides ignored his commands for the first couple of years of his presidency. And former aides are questioning the strategy that his then legal team, which included lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb employed at the time which is to have all of the aides cooperate fully with Mueller and hand over any documents, to give any testimony.

But that did put a lot of damaging information in the hands of investigators, so there's a lot of second-guessing that strategy. The president is very frustrated at his former White House counsel Don McGahn who sat with investigators and talk to them for more than 30 hours, also provided them contemporaneous notes for some interactions he had with President Trump, including one conversation in June 2017 when the president according to Mueller asked McGahn to find a way to get rid of the special counsel.

And this comes as House Democrats are pushing the Justice Department to hand over an unredacted copy of the Mueller report that's being led by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler. But Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, is saying he's fine with that unredacted copy going to Congress because there's nothing in his redactions that changes really what's' in the report.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: As far as I'm concerned, you know, he can have it, but I'm not the attorney general and the attorney general can't break the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: The president has always been active on Twitter since the Russian report has come out and he is going after Senator Mitt Romney who is one of the few Republicans to react harshly with a statement against the president since the Russia report came out. Mitt Romney said he was sickened to read what he did in the Mueller report, particularly about the president's obstructive acts.

Here is what the president wrote yesterday. He said if Mitt Romney spent the same energy fighting Barack Obama as he does fighting Donald Trump, he could have won race, maybe, referring here, obviously, to the 2012 raise when Romney was a nominee.

And later today, Jessica and Victor, the president is expected to head back to D.C.

DEAN: All right. Sarah Westwood, live in Florida for us -- thanks so much.

BLACKWELL: And with us now, politics reporter with "The USA Today", Eliza Collins.

Eliza, welcome back.

ELIZA COLLINS, POLITICS REPORTER, "THE USA TODAY": Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So, let's start with the vice president, Vice President Biden. The great contemplation is now nearly over. There will be some announcement this week.

[07:20:04] Vice President Biden says he is an Obama/Biden Democrat. Can he put together an Obama/Biden campaign and how does he do that and what do we know he is coalescing to try to get that coalition back together?

COLLINS: Well, I have no idea if he can put together an Obama/Biden campaign, but as you guys showed earlier, polling does show him right now as a front-runner in these early states which is probably a big reason he got into the race or expected to get into the race. But an Obama/Biden Democrat would probably take sort of those mainstream Democrats, more establishment Democrats that Obama was able to capture and then it would also be the group that Biden is so go at appealing to. So the white working class voters, Biden is hoping to capture some of those voters that did go to Trump in 2016, so those Obama Trump voters, Biden feels he can bring back into the fold.

BLACKWELL: Can we talk about money for a moment? Let's put aside the politics and the policy.

"The New York Times" is reporting that several big donors, Democratic Party donors and fund-raisers have received emails asking them to write some big checks to support Vice President Biden's campaign. Now, we know that Senator Warren, Senator Sanders have sworn off those big dollar fund-raisers. Everybody is touting and flaunting their average, you know, $20, $30, $40 donation.

Is this problematic enough going after the big dollar, the big fund- raiser for the vice president that could cause him some major problems in the primary?

COLLINS: Well, the Democratic base is really over, that big money right now. We saw it with the rise of Bernie Sanders in 2016 and it's only expanded there are more candidates now vowing off the big dollars. We are seeing even candidates at lower levels doing the same thing.

Biden comes from a different time in politics and so I think he is afraid of not having enough money so he has to be reaching out to those big donors in order to compete. But it's a different field and a different kind of time for money, so we will have to see is he able also to get the small dollar donations and be able to tout the small numbers in addition to the big dollars? Because you know that will be something the Democratic base is questioning him on. BLACKWELL: Let's turn to Rudy Giuliani and saying yesterday on Fox

News that, yes, Nadler and the House Judiciary Committee can have the unredacted report. Do you receive that as Rudy Giuliani saying, you know, one of those things that he'll have to come back and clarify or correct later? Or is there some new strategy from the president's attorneys where they are allowing the unredacted report or supporting the unredacted support going to the committee and the House that would have the purview to start impeachment proceedings if they decide?

COLLINS: Well, it's very easy for him to say that, right? Because it looks like they are pushing for transparency. But right now, grand jury material which is in the report redacted, it is illegal to unredact that.

So, whether Giuliani supports it or not, that doesn't change. So, I think we are heading towards a court battle. Nadler and other Democrats say they are not looking for less redacted version but want full redactions gone and they rejected actually Barr's offer to have some of them come in and look at the less redacted version.

So, Giuliani and the president's team can say that they support, but they're not the ones making the ultimate decision here.

BLACKWELL: What is the impact of the 2020 candidates on impeachment? We know Senator Warren said the House should start impeachment. We've heard from other candidates, they're being kind of pushed to go on the record.

Does that ratchet up any pressure for House leadership who said thus far we are not going there?

COLLINS: I think it does because we are talking about this morning, right? Nancy Pelosi has been able to keep the talk of impeachment down. I interviewed her last month. She told me impeachment would be a gift to Republicans if Republicans were not on board.

They're still not onboard. They feel like the Mueller report cleared the president or at least of them do at least. What it did do, Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats and House Democrats are saying impeachment proceedings should start so the conversation is back.

So, Pelosi and Hoyer and other leaders are responding and don't want to alienate a part of their party that does believe impeachment should be an option. But they also need to protect some of these Democrats in areas, at districts and states where the president is still popular and don't want to talk about impeachment and do want to be able to work with Republicans and the president to get things done so they can go back and win these really tough re-election.

So, it's a tough position for Democratic leadership to be in.

BLACKWELL: You know, you mentioned the Republicans who are not on board with impeachment. I think for context it would be good to show some sound, old comments that are making the rounds the last couple of days for, you know, some of the Republicans who are now saying that the episodes that were uncovered in the Mueller report don't constitute grounds for impeachment.

[07:25:12] Let's look at Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham 20 years ago. This is what he said. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He encouraged people to lie for him. He lied. I think he obstructed justice. I think there is a compelling case he has, in fact, engaged in conduct that would be better for him to leave office than to stay in office.

You don't have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic. If this body determines that your conduct is a public official is clearly out of bounds and your role because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: That was Lindsey Graham 20 years ago. New standard today? What is Lindsey Graham saying about these talks of impeachment?

COLLINS: Well, Democrats have certainly been circulating those clips. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sort of one of the most progressive and most well-known members of the House was showing that exact clip saying Lindsey Graham said it's time for impeachment, let's go forward.

Graham is defending Trump. It's a lot easier to defend your guy than to go against the other one. So, it is different today but Democrats have seized on that and are trying to point out the difference.

BLACKWELL: Eliza Collins of "USA Today," good to have you.

DEAN: For the first time in years, there will be no Easter holiday services at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Today, in some sense, it will be remembered as an Easter amid the ashes. Last night, people gathered for a benefit concert to help rebuild the cathedral after last week's massive fire.

CNN international correspondent Erin McLaughlin is outside a different church where churchgoers will attend services today.

Hi, Erin.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good morning, Jessica.

That's right. Easter services have ended here, the same service that would have otherwise taken place at Notre Dame Cathedral, but for that horrific fire which tore through the cathedral's roof earlier in the week. The service for the Sunday service took place here. Instead, it was standing room only, lines of people outside craning their necks to be able to hear and listen to what was a poignant service.

It was opened by the archbishop with a prayer for the lives lost in Sri Lanka, that horrific Easter Sunday attack. It was closed, though, with a message of thanks to the firefighters who risked their lives to save Paris' beloved cathedral. The archbishop presented the firefighters with a holy book that was recovered from the fire covered in ashes in order to preserve God's word, the bishop said.

And it was also included in a statement from a priest who stood on top of this church and looked out and saw the fire unfold earlier in the week at Notre Dame. The statement described the ferocity of flames, the courage that must have been required of those firefighters to extinguish them, a fact not lost on parishioners where, which I've been speaking to. The parishioners telling me how moved and how thankful they are that at some point, to be determined in the future once again Easter services will take place at the beloved Notre Dame -- Jessica.

DEAN: Erin McLaughlin, thanks so much.

BLACKWELL: Next, at least 140 dead, nearly 600 injured in multiple church and hotel bombings in Sri Lanka. We've got the latest on the breaking news, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:33:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are following breakings in out of Sri Lanka this morning.

This is what we know right now: at least 140 people are dead, more than 560 injured in coordinated bombings. At least eight explosions rocked four cities across that country, targeting churches and high- end hotels.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We've got new video in, just coming in from Colombo, the scenes of one of the bombings. You see the ambulances there racing through. Police officers here as well rushing to the scene.

You see people kind of standing along the side of the road. They are putting people in ambulances. Listen. There is an alert for people not to crowd around the sites because they do not know if this is over.

Earlier this morning, the pope delivered his message, his Easter message to the Vatican, he called the attacks such cruel violence and referred to the bloodshed as mourning and pain for Christians at Easter. We are also learning that at least 20 foreigners are among those killed, two of them we know confirmed Turkish citizens.

DEAN: CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins us now.

And, Nic, let's zoom out for a moment to recap what has happened during this holy week. Churches are among the targets of, of course, the coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka. But a man has also been charged with attempted arson after taking multiple cans of gasoline containers into New York City's St. Patrick's Cathedral. And, of course, you're in Ireland, a journalist killed as troubles flair again there.

So, there is kind of a grander question, if this major Christian holiday has become a target for terrorists intent on revenge?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Certainly, the Easter weekend and, you know, the holy nature of the week and the fact that additional people would be going to churches would attempt to attract any terrorist intent on revenge.

[07:35:07] It's not clear precisely who's behind the attack in Sri Lanka, but it does speak to the issue of a planned complex and coordinated attack, and there are not many groups that could carry that out, it doesn't appear to be indigenous to Sri Lanka.

When we look, as you say, more broadly at the time that the church is having at the moment, of course, the abuse scandal has been ricocheting along for sometime, it continues to dot the church. But fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in the past week, as you say, the arson attempt and St. Patrick's in New York, and the church burned down in Louisiana just last week, and the killing of a journalist here, just in clashes between republican dissidents, an IRA gunman shooter according to the police, and this at a weekend that traditionally in Ireland is the time when the Easter parades commemorate when the Irish were able to throw out the British government.

And it's always an intense time here and associated with a church, of course. So, all of that coming at this time. But I think when you look at the situation in Sri Lanka, you do have to say this was Easter weekend and anyone attempting to or wanting to target Christians, and we have heard from so many world leaders in recent months saying Christianity is facing pressure, particularly in the Middle East, that churches in Sri Lanka would be an unlikely target for anyone. It's not a sort of country you expect this sort of targeting to happen.

So a soft target at a time of prayer and reflection for Christians with more people would be at church and a time when the church is having a very difficult time but really feeling a lot of pressure on Christians right now.

DEAN: All right: Nic Robertson for us, thanks so much.

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining us is CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen.

Peter, good morning to you.

I want you to pick up where Nic left off where he said this is not the country where you expect this type of attack to happen. Something sow well-coordinated and so severe in Sri Lanka. Your initial thoughts.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. The targets set here Christians celebrating Easter Sunday, one of the most sacred days on the Christian calendar. These high-end hotels which attract foreigners, this is not a typical target set I would say for Sri Lanka. You know, of course, there was a civil war there which was very

bloody, which ended about decade ago, which was between the Tamil Tigers, actually a group that carried out a lot of suicide bombings. But this doesn't seem like the kind of target they would select and also the Tamil Tigers have been largely defeated by the Sri Lankan government.

So, if you look back in history of the kinds of groups that would carry out this attack or have both the capability and intent, because I think intent is important and capability is important. The groups that would fall into that category are groups like ISIS, groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the Mumbai attacks on multiple targets about a decade ago, Jemaah Islamiyah, which is largely confined to Southeast Asia, which also has carried out these kinds of attacks against Christian targets and hotels.

It's not a very long list of groups. They all tend to be Islamists in flavor. But, you know, we just simply don't know. But the targets that set would suggest that somebody wanted to kill foreigners and, obviously, wanted to kill Christians, and that leads you to these Islamist groups as the first possible group of suspects.

But it could be anybody. Right now, no one has claimed responsibility which is interesting. Usually a group like ISIS even if it has nothing to do with these kind of attacks, might quickly claim responsibility and I would suspect that they will even if they haven't actually been involved.

DEAN: And, Peter, what comes next in terms of both responding to this horrific situation there in Sri Lanka within that nation but also in a broader international context in terms of security? Do we see any changes? What do you see going forward?

BERGEN: Yes, I mean, we have seen a lot of attacks against hotels around the world for the reason that they do attract foreigners. They are by nature, and they can't turn themselves into prisons and typically after one of these attacks, we have seen multiple attacks, for instance, in Amman, Jordan, multiple attacks in Jakarta, Indonesia, multiple of attacks in Pakistan against hotels, and, you know, usually, security changes at hotels in these countries after these attacks and it becomes a lot harder to bring in explosives through park a car with a bomb near these hotels, and typically happens this kind of event.

But I would say, also, what I'm concerned about right now is, if 560 have been injured, you now, the hospitals in this country are going to be overwhelmed.

[07:40:03] We're going to see the death toll was going to go and, you know, this may not be over. The Sri Lankan government has imposed a curfew and we say see other events unfortunately.

BLACKWELL: Peter, you mentioned that ISIS is at or near the top of the list of potential suspects and we know that parliament was aware of dozens of Sri Lankans who joined ISIS. I mean, this will be -- if ISIS is involved in some way, a challenge for many countries as the caliphate has dissolved, and these fighters were returning home to these countries, the challenge of surveilling them, finding them and making sure something like this does not happen in other places around the world.

BERGEN: Yes. I mean, that is absolutely right. I mean, the numbers of Sri Lankans that have gone to join ISIS is small compared to European countries like France where we have seen 1,500 joined, and Britain, where more than 700 joined, Germany, where more than 700 joined, you know, Tunisia, where more than 6,000 joined. I mean, much larger numbers.

So, you know, if it is ISIS, it would be that in itself would be kind of unusual because the numbers of Sri Lankans that have joined the group talking about a few dozen. So, you know, it is -- this is very puzzling, because this is not the kind of attack that we have seen in Sri Lanka in the past where Christians have been targeted, and high- end hotels and the groups that have the capability and intent are not based in Sri Lanka. So, we will see.

BLACKWELL: Peter Bergen, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

BERGEN: Thank you.

DEAN: And moments ago, President Trump corrected his tweet about Sri Lanka saying, quote, 138 people have been killed in Sri Lanka, with more than 600 badly injured in a terrorist attack on churches and hotels. The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help.

Now he had originally tweeted that 138 million people killed. We know that the death toll currently stands at 160, but the number may climb.

BLACKWELL: Yes, those numbers in the immediacy after attacks like this always fluctuates, so the number of those killed, the number of those injured, those numbers will change as they get a fuller picture of what happened today in Sri Lanka.

Back in the U.S., police in Illinois, they are looking for a 5-year- old boy who disappeared early this week. Investigators have not yet issued an Amber Alert for A.J. Friend. We'll tell you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:46:59] DEAN: Police in New York City have arrested a man for a gruesome murder in a Brooklyn housing project.

BLACKWELL: A 20-year-old woman was found partially decapitated in an apartment as she had been stabbed several times. An ax was found in the building's trash compactor. Another woman was hospitalized with critical injuries from the attack.

Let's go now to New York and CNN correspondent Cristina Alesci.

Cristina, what do we know about this suspect? CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, police have now arrested a

34-year-old man in connection to this brutal killing, which happened inside of even apartment at a Brooklyn housing project. Jerry Brown is facing the following charges: murder, attempted murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

This after NYPD found a 20-year-old woman's body partially decapitated with severed fingers and several stab wounds. A second woman was injured in the attack.

Now, during a press conference yesterday, NYPD said it believed the two female victims and their assailant, who is male, all knew each other. But the official declined to provide other details on the nature of their relationship to each other.

Some background here: NYPD discovered the body after the other victim of the attack left the scene at approximately 1:30 in the morning Saturday, stopped a car in the middle of the street and the driver noticed the woman was injured, called 911, reported intense amount of bleeding.

That 21-year-old woman, as you mentioned, suffered lacerations to her head and body. She's in critical condition but stable at an area hospital. At a press conference yesterday, we also learned that law enforcement said authorities found an ax in a trash compactor at the housing complex.

While the ax is part of the investigation, officials have not determined it's the murder weapon. Police, the good news here, found a 4-year-old child and that child was physically unharmed and is now with family members.

BLACKWELL: Some good news.

All right. Cristina Alesci, thank you.

ALESCI: Of course.

DEAN: Police are looking for a missing 5-year-old boy who disappeared from a Chicago suburb. Andrew A.J. Friend disappeared sometime after his parents put him to bed Wednesday night.

But no Amber Alert has been issued. Investigators say the little boy did not walk away and was not abducted. Canine teams only picked up the boy's accident within the home.

BLACKWELL: We've got more on the breaking news out of Sri Lanka this morning. The number killed is 160 and almost 600 others injured in the Easter Sunday terror attack. You can follow all the developments on our website, CNN.com.

More in a moment.

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[07:53:50] DEAN: It's referred to by its acronym, ASMR. In this week's "Staying Well", we look at how people claim it gives

them a brain tingling sensation that helps relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HALEY, SUFFERS FROM INSOMNIA: So, this is my favorite ASMR. The only one I go to for sleep. It's just the soothing sound of cutting brings me to a relaxed state, takes away anxiety and constant thinking. So, I'm focused on this.

LAURI LEADLEY, SLEEP VALLEY CENTER: ASMR is autonomous sensory meridian response. And it's actually a sensation that some people get, but it happens with certain triggers, certain sounds.

HALEY: And it brings this sensation, a relaxing sensation. I have a tingling in my head, and a tingling in my spine, when I listen to it.

LEADLEY: The studies are still out there. We're waiting. We should note that ASMR doesn't work for everybody. And there's no guarantee. There's hundreds of YouTube channels out there.

MARIA, GENTLE WHISPERING ASMR: ASMR has become popular in the last couple of years. For example, my YouTube channel, Gentle Whispering, at this time has over 600 million views.

There's a wide variety of different triggers you can explore.

Talking into your ears.

There are soft spoken voices. There are tactile triggers. Tapping, crinkling, there's slime or cutting. It's just a very comforting sensation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: All right. Just in, the Sri Lankan governments has decided to temporarily block sites like Facebook and Instagram. The president says it's because false reports are spreading through social media.

And we've just gotten new video in of some of the devastation. You can imagine with the numbers of those killed climbing what's happening there. Eight explosions ripped through the country. At least 160 people have been killed, 560 plus injured.

Go to CNN.com for updates throughout the day.

DEAN: Thanks so much for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts after a break.

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