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Mayor Sadiq Khan: Some Seriously Injured in Terror Attack Near London Bridge; Several People Injured in Stabbing, Hoax Explosive Device Found on Suspect; Police: Suspect Killed After Terror Attack Near London Bridge. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired November 29, 2019 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson in for John King. Several stabbed and a suspect shot and dead in what police now call a terror incident on London Bridge.
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NEIL BASU, ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, METEROPOLITAN POLICE: A male suspect was shot by specialist armed officers from the City of London police. And I can confirm that this suspect died at the scene. As you would expect, due to the nature of the incident, we responded as though this was terror related. I'm now in position to confirm that it has been declared a terrorist incident. We believe a device that was strapped to the body of the suspect is a hoax explosive device.
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HENDERSON: London's Assistant Police Commissioner confirming key details last hour and London's Mayor, Sadiq Khan, just moments ago praising the quick response.
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MAYOR SADIQ KHAN, LONDON: I want to thank our brave emergency services who responded to today's horrific attack. Every day they put their lives on the line for us, running towards danger in order to keep us safe.
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HENDERSON: We're also seeing dramatic video of the incident capturing police approaching a suspect and then firing shots as the suspect lays on the ground. Warning to our viewers, this video is disturbing.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh! Oh! What the --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.
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HENDERSON: And CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is on the scene there. Nick, tell us what are you seeing and hearing there on the ground?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, Nia at this point we are hours since that incident began to get police attention about 2:00 local time here. And the scene you're seeing behind me, the empty streets there because of the cordon the police have put it now and now essentially checking that there was no residual threat there. No explosive device.
Remember, police said that this particular assailant seemed to have some suspicious hoax device attached to him. They wanted to make sure that there was nothing left behind in any vehicles or any perhaps other assailant who they may not have been aware of at this particular point.
Let me recap what we know before, about 2:00 this afternoon, the busy end of a Friday lunch here in Central London, near some of the financial centers here in London Bridge, police were called to an incident at a premise. We don't know the detail of the premises or what quite unfolded there.
But it appears to have led to this graphic scene filmed by many passersby, eyewitnesses in this packed part of Central London, showing a man wrestling it seems with members of the public, initially referred to by London's Mayor Sadiq Khan as the very best of humanity, people who clearly appeared to intervene there, seeing this man with a knife.
Some people were stabbed it seems during this incident. And then the graphic moment in which police intervened. They do seem to pull away from there, one of the members of the public most likely intervening, and then shoots the assailant dead. Possibly because he was aware he was wearing this suspicious or hoax device after that, of course scenes of panic around here people hearing the gunshot fleeing exceptionally fast.
At this point we have no idea of who this assailant was. We know that he is now dead he was shot dead by police. And of course there will be suggestions this may be perhaps related to ISIS or other terror groups it has been called a terror incident now some of that of course obvious because of the nature of the weapons being used.
I should point that some of the security services we've been speaking to over the past months are pointing increasingly to the psychological health of people in these circumstances. Since ISIS is degraded in Iraq and Syria, those sort of networks that you might normally think support attacks like this, if it does appear to be related to Jihadist activity, being degraded, so often it's these sort of singular attackers, perhaps with mental health problems who may end up being behind something like this.
At this point though, we simply don't know anything more about this man or where this particular attack initially began. As I say behind me here, what you're seeing is police laying down this cordon. We've seen lots of reinforcements piling in here over the past hours as you would expect in the heart of Central London.
Remember, British police horrifyingly practiced sadly at stopping this kind of attack. You saw the swift response of City of London police officers here. Often they are here in large numbers armed, standard routine, since the attacks predating the 2017 London Bridge attack in which eight people were killed and three attackers shot dead by police in a matter of minutes.
That was the swift nature of their response but the talk now making sure that there is nothing left behind here unanticipated but all the people have been in their offices for quite a period of time can begin to go home. What you can't see other side of the camera here are absolutely packed streets, people moving around this busy part of Central London, perhaps changing their plans of the evening because of this horrifying incident here.
We don't know the conditions of all those people have been stabbed, the London Mayor had some was seriously injured and we do know the assailant is dead. But at this point police work begins to establish exactly where he came to attack initially and then his identity and perhaps the motivation behind this attack, Nia.
HENDERSON: Nick, thank you so much for that report and we'll keep in touch with you throughout the hour. More dramatic moments from the bridge scene, cell phone video shows bystanders trying to pin the suspected attacker to the ground and the moment when police fired. Here's how the man who recorded that moment described it.
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LLOYD GRIFFITHS, RECORDED THE VIDEO OF POLICE TAKEDOWN OF SUSPECT: When I realized something was happening, I kind of looked up from my phone and there was - it looked like members of the public were shouting with a man that looked like he was trying to be pinned down on to the pavement on the left-hand side of the pavement on London bridge.
At that moment, I kind of saw like - it looked like a shine of light come across from the man on the floor. I realized quickly it was a knife. The sun was shining on the knife. It was a relatively large knife. At that point, I realized it was something quite serious what was going on there. And very quickly, it was at least one member of the public went actually cries to help. And then police went over with some guns, and it ended with the man being shot.
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HENDERSON: Here with me CNN's Senior Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson, CNN Terrorism Analyst Paul Cruickshank and CNN National Security Analyst Paul Bergen. Peter, I want to go to Peter Bergen. I want to go to you first on this Peter; it's obviously been declared a terrorist incident at this point. What do we know about the incident in terms of why it's been called a terrorist incident at this point?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the police must have made that determination. Interestingly, they're saying something slightly contradictory because they're also saying it's not clear what the motivation is. By definition, terrorism has a motive, right? It's not motiveless.
So, perhaps they know something more than they're saying publicly. If it's terrorism, by definition, it's an act of political violence, trying to spread a message. So there's always a motivation. The fact that they're saying we're not going to talk about motivation is kind of puzzling.
Maybe they'll look at this guy's social media. They're going to see who else is in his network. The fact that it happened at exactly the same place with exactly the same - of a Jihadist terrorist attack two years ago, kind of adds to the likelihood that it's somehow related to Jihadist terrorism. But there is a big caveat.
There was an attack at a mosque in London a couple of years ago, in which it was a right-wing extremist and we've had a British MP who was also killed by right-wing extremist. So certainly right-wing extremist is a problem just as much in the United Kingdom as it is here. That's perhaps why the police are reluctant to immediately ascribe a motivation.
HENDERSON: And the suspect Paul, at this point is dead. So what are the concerns of the police now there? Is possibly another person on the loose? What must they be doing right now?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERROISM ANALYST: Was he part of an extremist network is the number one question. Now there are other people like him who might move forward to launch attacks in the hours ahead or was he just a loaner acting completely on his own steam?
As of this hour, there's been no claim of responsibility by any terror group, Jihadist or otherwise we hear nothing from ISIS. We've seen them move very, very quickly after past attacks to claim those attacks. We saw that after the London Bridge attack in the summer of 2017. There's striking similarities with that attack, as Peter was alluding to, the use of knives, but also in that attack 2017, all three of the attackers were wearing fake suicide vests.
Why were they likely in that attack in 2017 wearing fake suicide vests? Because they wanted to be killed by police and they were killed by police. They wanted to be martyrs, to go to paradise. Could that be the case with this particular attacker? We don't know. We don't mow the motivation was as Peter was saying?
HENDERSON: And Nic, talk about the state of fight against terrorism as it stands right now in the UK.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think the perception is that the threat has been reduced. That's actually been something that the British Home Office has done visibly by reducing the terror threat level to the medium level if you will. So that would be signaled to the British public that the country is safer.
There certainly were a lot of concerns because so many young men went to join the ISIS fight in Syria and Iraq. And there was concern when they came back. There's still concern about some of those who have come back. It's a real concern now that ISIS has lost its caliphate and some of those people are looking for ways to get back to their countries of origin.
ROBERTSON: Generally the view is there is not a big wave coming into the UK that the security services have better experience at tracking, coordination with other intelligence officials across Europe.
So I think that the perception that has been that it is generally safe. That's a perception on the streets. I think what you saw today with the public stepping in, the Mayor, the Police Commissioner and the Prime Minister in London Boris Johnson, all commending members of the public and the security services for stepping in and being brave.
You saw on one video, what appeared to be a member of the public having stepped away from the scene of where the person was being pinned down on the street holding a large knife. I think that also speaks to the mood in the UK that people have become used to these types of attacks and are not going to stand by.
I think just one other point to make you know the fact that there are similarities between this and a last attack on London Bridge can speak both ways. They can speak to somebody with a similar radical Islamic motivation and they can speak to someone who is a little bit mentally off the hook. We have had those types of attacks in London as well recently where people have been injured but the perpetrators turned out to be a little bit unhinged.
HENDERSON: Yes. And the police certainly looking into these leads as you talked about to figure out whom this person is? And more on this breaking news story including how the UK government has been dealing with these threats?
HENDERSON: We're following this breaking news of a terror incident out of London. Police have confirmed officers shot and killed a male suspect after people were stabbed near London Bridge. The White House has told us that the President has been briefed and is monitoring the situation.
Joining us now by phone right now is Pauline Neville-Jones she's the Former Head of Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee. Pauline thanks so much for being with us. Do the hallmarks of the attack indicate anything specific to you?
PAULINE NEVILLE-JONES, FORMER HEAD, BRITIAN'S JOINT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Not anything specific. It's the kind of attack we've seen previously. Guns are not all that easy to get hold of in the UK. And so a lot of the attacks take place with a knife and this man had a knife. It looks to be a really big kitchen knife that he was armed with.
It was a member of the public that disarmed him and removed the knife. Several people before the police arrived who arrived extremely fast, nevertheless he was tackled by members of the public presumably as the attack began. I imagine that some of those who were injured were some of the people who actually tackled him and disarmed him.
HENDERSON: And how key is this hoax vest which he was wearing, how key is that in identifying who the attacker is?
NEVILLE-JONES: I wouldn't think that tells us a great deal. He would have had obviously some help in how to make it look real? It appears as you say to have been actually a dummy vest. It was made up to look like something real in order obviously to deter people from trying to do exactly what happened which was to tackle him.
So I think in all of these attacks, even if there's only a single individual involved, so far and as far as we know the case at the moment is a that there's only a single individual involved in the attack itself, but there's always a bit of organization behind. One thing that is difficult about modern terrorist attacks in the UK is that they have learned the terrorists have learned over time that the more they communicate, the more electronically they're likely to be picked up before they actually get to the point of attacking.
So a lot of these incidents are organized extremely locally by word of mouth. So there's very little trace beforehand that the activity they might be planning. That's one of the difficulty that we face. The counterpart of that of course is the attacks are smaller. This is a good example I think of an attack that didn't take long to organize, didn't involve a lot of people, though I think it will be more than one.
And the decisions where they went and so on not really been decided quite locally this particular attack have taken place on a bridge that was involved in an attack 18 months ago - the big one - there were people inside one of the big London markets were also injured. London Bridge is the bridge that leads from the south side of the Thames into the financial district and the so-called city. And this is indeed the City of London Police and their squad of specialist armed officers who actually shot the terrorist dead.
HENDERSON: Pauline, thank you very much for joining us. We want to bring you inside the room here. Paul, we do know are that the terror level was downgraded over the last few weeks seems to be a mistake at this point that it was downgraded. What do you make of why it was downgraded and the fact now that we have this terror incident that occurred?
CRUICKSHANK: It was downgraded earlier this month from severe, which is an attack that's likely to substantial, which is an attack is likely. That process of downgrading or upgrading is done independently of the government. It's done by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center, which is within MI-5.
At the time they made that announcement it was uncontroversial amongst people focusing on security on terrorism, because overall the assessment is that the terrorism threat to Europe has gone down. Certainly has gone down since it peaked in 2015. 2016, there were being fewer attacks, less energy in this Jihadist system as ISIS has lost ground and all its territory now in Syria and Iraq.
A lot of its key operatives who were instigating in helping to plan these attacks were killed in Syria and Iraq. Others went on the run and so were less able to plan, plots and encourage attacks. In recent months there's been concerted effort by security services to go after terrorists across the continent.
Just in the last few days there was a big push by Euro Poll who coordinated a takedown of ISIS on the messaging app - ISIS propaganda on the messaging app Telegram. And so I think the threat level has gone down even with this attack the threat level has gone down. But there will be questions for those that may have - that analysis.
But for a threat level system to be meaningful, you have to be able to take the threat level down as well as push it up. And at the starting it was made a few weeks ago, it was not a surprise to people following the threat closely.
HENDERSON: And the last terror attack happened on London Bridge and a few weeks before an election in similar situation here, Peter.
BERGEN: Yes, I mean, December 12th, the British will go to the polls. The main issue is not going to be the terrorism it's going to be the Brexit. That's basically what this election is about. So two weeks away, my guess this will receive if it is what it looks like right now it's some kind of terrorist incident. Some people were injured, doesn't to be dump part of a bigger plot would have that change.
But right now, that's what it is and British Londoners in particular are fairly new to this so I - I mean, a little bit of political hay and may be may but ultimately the big question is whether the United Kingdom should stay in Brexit, whether the conservatives should lead that and I think that will remain the big issue for the election.
HENDERSON: Peter, Paul and Nic thank you so much for joining us. Next more dramatic eyewitness accounts from London Bridge and the swift police response to stop a terrorist.
HENDERSON: The major breaking news this hour. Police shooting and killing a terrorist on London Bridge stunning video shows by standards disarmed of the knife holding attacker wrestling the suspect to the ground after he stabbed several people. Police say the London Mayor moments ago described some of those injuries as serious. We've got CNN's Nina Dos Santos who is on the London Bridge. Nina, talk about what you heard from people on the scene who saw this terrible incident.
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Hi Nia let me just step on to the way because I believe that the police are about to clear road for another vehicle to pause by. This is the type of situation we've seen right throughout course of the last three hours or so. I arrived here on the scene 45 minutes after that incident began.
Police say that they recruit to the scene here in London Bridge at about 2:00 pm London time on Friday. That is where further down the street, as you can see about 2 to 300 meters down that direction, just past that red bus which is part where London Bridge begins. I'm currently standing on the south side of the River Thames. That is the Bridge heading north to the other side of River Thames and that's where this knife wielding man was eventually shot dead by police officers.
As you said, a number of people have sustained knife injuries. The Mayor of London said that some of them were serious. A number of those people are being treated in nearby hospitals, about a half mile away from here. This area does in fact have a very significant big hospital that is an expert in treating knife wounds. So you can expect the best surgeons will be dealing with that as well.
I just want to point out that Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, because we are two weeks away from an election, that been tweeting about this incident, he's about to give, we believe, a statement on camera. He says I want to thank the emergency services and members of the public for their immense bravery in responding to this suspected terrorist attack at London Bridge. This is an appalling incident and all of my thoughts are with the victims and families.
The metropolitan police have said that they are treating this as a terrorist incident as a precaution. For now the national terror level remains at substantial, Nia.
HENDERSON: Nina thanks for that report. We'll continue to follow this story as we get new developments. We expect to hear from the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson soon. But up next, we're going to turn to American politics. The President says the Taliban talks he ended are back on.