Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Paris Terrorist Attack Investigation Focuses on Belgium; Interview with Brother of Wanted Terrorist; Governors Say No to Syrian Refugees; Identity of French Terrorist on Video Identified. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 17, 2015 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:44] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: More than 100 searches and raids in France over night. Here and in Belgium, a frantic manhunt for the man believed to be the eighth attacker. His name is Salah Abdeslam. Police in Paris are now searching two hotel rooms rented by him just before the attacks. Our Jake Tapper was just there this morning. He reports that syringes that could, perhaps, have been used in constructing the suicide vests made with TATP, a highly volatile explosive, syringes were found inside those rooms. Abdeslam was last seen on the road heading to Belgium Friday night.

Our Erin Burnett just spoke to this man's brother, a remarkable interview. We should have more of that in just a moment.

Meanwhile, the Belgian government just raised their terror alert level to three, that's just below their highest here. They even called off a soccer game that was set for tonight between their national team and Spain. They said it simply could not be secure enough.

Joining me now with the latest from Brussels, CNN International correspondent, Ivan Watson.

Ivan, an enormous amount of activity there.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's very clear that a lot of the organization of these deadly Paris attacks appear to have taken place here in Brussels, the capital of the European Union, John.

We're learning more about the suspects in the attacks. For example, the mayor of the neighborhood of Molenbeek has told CNN that just eight days before the attacks authorities here shut down a bar that was registered to the name of Brahim Abdeslam. He's one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attacks. That bar shut down for drug- related offenses. Now, his brother, Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old, born here in Brussels, is the number one man most wanted man in Europe right now, at large.

We've learned from the Belgian prosecutor's office he -- these two brothers, as well as a third suspect, a suicide bomber, another suicide bomber in the Paris attacks, were all known to the Belgian authorities. They had all been on the radar of officials here months before the attacks took place. In fact, the two brothers were actually questioned, perhaps as early as February of 2015. Why? Because one of them, Brahim, who was connected to this bar shut down due to the drug-related offenses, had been deported from Turkey after trying to get to Syria, presumably to be a volunteer jihadi fighter. Deported back to Belgium and then questioned by authorities here along with his brother, who is at large. Both of them were then released. Belgian authorities saying they simply didn't have the manpower to monitor both people supported of wanting to go to Syria, as well as more than 100 Belgian citizens who have gone and come back and are of much higher security priority for law enforcement here -- John?

BERMAN: Ivan, standby.

We have breaking news about what you're talking about, the Abdeslam brothers. Salah, there's a huge manhunt for this man. The survivor of these Paris attacks, the eighth terrorist at large. He had a brother who was killed here, and he has a third brother, Mohammed Abdeslam.

Our Erin Burnett just sat down with this brother, got an exclusive interview. Let's listen to what he said.


MOHAMMED ABDESLAM (through translation), BROTHER OF SALAH ABDESLAM: I think that people do not quite understand what we have been through. But my brother, who has participated in this terrorist attack was probably psychologically ready to commit such an act. These are not regular people. You cannot have the slightest doubt that they have been prepared. That they must not leave any trace which would cause suspicion that they might do such things. And even if you saw them every day, their behavior was quite normal.


[11:35:25] BERMAN: I'm joined now by Erin Burnett, who is in Belgium, just finished that interview with Mohamed Abdeslam.

Erin, that's remarkable. He said he had no idea that his two brothers were planning what has turned out to be one of the most horrific attacks on European soil ever.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, OUTFRONT: It's true. He said he had no idea. John, you know, he was with police for 36 straight hours of questioning during that time he said he had no attorney. They released him. He's completely free. He lived in a house on this square where I am right now with those two brothers and his parents. He said his two brothers had always been close. It was in recent months that they had started -- they stopped working, were out all night. They started going to mosques much more. They stopped drinking. They started collecting books. He also spoke of Brahim. He says, looking back, he thinks when Brahim went to Turkey, that's when he tried to go to Syria. He is trying to say that they were living right with him and that they had no idea. John, he said in the past few days, they were much more kind to their family. He thinks now was their way of saying good-bye.

In our interview, we talked about what he thinks Salah is doing now. He says he doesn't know where he is. That's what he says. He says he thinks Salah could try to kill more people. He's worried about Salah, as his brother. Thinks he might die in a shootout. He talked about all of these things and this neighborhood, which when you're standing here, John, is very idyllic, in some ways, as an American, the cobblestone streets and the beautiful buildings. You think -- you don't think of this as a place where there has been so many people who are going to join ISIS and train to fight jihad. But he did say he knows right now of people he knows who are going to Syria, who are in Syria right now training with ISIS -- John?

BERMAN: Erin, to be clear, he worries his brother, Salah, could kill again. Did he call on him to surrender?

BURNETT: He called on him to call police. He said no matter what it is, no matter how scared you are -- I said, if you have a message for your brother, what would it be? He said, no matter how scared you are, you contact police and take responsibility for the horrible, horrible things, if you've done them.

John, I think that's an important distinction I want to make. He did not dispute at all that his older brother, Brahim, was an attacker. He is not convinced yet that Salah, the most wanted man in Europe and beyond right now, is actually guilty. He didn't say he was innocent. He just said, if he did it, when it is proven. He did not want to fully admit that his brother had done these horrible acts.

BERMAN: Erin Burnett, for us in Brussels right now, just finished a remarkable interview with a man right now, the most-wanted man in Europe, Salah Abdeslam. Erin spoke to Mohamed Abdeslam. That will be on "Erin Burnett, OutFront" at 7:00 p.m. eastern time. Do not miss it.

Thank you, Erin. Remarkable.

Police now in Paris now searching hotel rooms where the suspect stayed before the attacks, including Salah Abdeslam, the man on the run right now. Investigators say these terrorists left something behind, including syringes, syringes possibly used to make the explosive vests used in the attacks. More ahead.


[11:43:08] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN's special live coverage of the attacks in Paris and the hunt now for the terrorists responsible.

In the wake of these attacks and information that one of the terrorists very likely entered Europe posing as a Syrian refugee, there are now growing calls to put the brakes on allowing any more refugees into the United States from Syria. A short time ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan, he called for just that, a pause in allowing any of them in. He says he will actually call for a vote on this very issue as soon as this week. And a growing number of governors across the country, mostly Republicans, are also trying to block efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in their states, though, there is a big question right now if they have the legal authority to do that. Let's discuss this. Joining me is Governor Pat McCrory, from North


Thank you for joining me.

This is a huge question. And you say, you are saying, no to refugees in your state until -- and I was looking at your press release -- until you are satisfied, it says, with the effectiveness of the federal background checks into these refugees. What details are you looking for, Governor, to get you there?

PAT MCCRORY, (R), NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: Well, we've just learned by your previous report that these are professionals. They know how to hide their movements. They know how to hide even from their families, their radicalism and their plans. We know their use of technology. And we need to hear from the White House and Homeland Security exactly what these background checks are, how they communicate to us in the states, where these people are settling, so we can keep track of exactly what's occurring within our states. And right now not only does this governor not only have confidence in having sufficient information, but the people of the country do not have confidence. And we're asking and seeking for cooperation, collaboration and communication.

And I'm pleased to report as of just a few minutes ago, we got a message from the White House for a conference call later on this evening with governors to finally communicate with us and respect our concerns and respect the people of the United States' concerns. That's good news as opposed to being lectured to yesterday by the president. So, we're all in the same team here. My job as governor is to protect the people of North Carolina. The president's job is to protect the people of the United States. We need to communicate not lecture each other. That's what I seek.

We don't --

[11:45:33] BOLDUAN: Governor, can you tell me a little more --


MCCRORY: I don't have a Checkpoint Charlie --


BOLDUAN: I hear you.

MCCRORY: That was just --


BOLDUAN: Can you tell me a little more about this conference call you guys are going to be on this evening?

MCCRORY: Sure. We just got an e-mail from the White House, which I'm very pleased to report, of a conference call that the White House is willing to have with the governors. Hopefully, my public safety officials will also be on that call, to have that communication link so we know exactly what's happening from the federal government. Because, in North Carolina, nor in other states, do we have a Checkpoint Charlie, where these refugees -- we have about, I think, 59 refugees from Syria that have come in, in the past six months. We expect that number to increase from 2,000 the president initially had to 10,000. We just ask to be communicated to so we're assured these people are safe people to come into our states because we have reports that ISIS is trying to infiltrate the refugee community. And so we --


BOLDUAN: Governor, on that point --


MCCRORY: -- we have legitimate concerns.

BOLDUAN: On that point, you say you have 59 Syrian refugees who have resettled in North Carolina. Tell me, then, if there are some refugees already in North Carolina and you're not confident, you haven't received enough information that you're confident of the background check system, what do you do with those refugees now? Do you think they pose a threat? There are some refugees already in your state.

MCCRORY: Well, you're assuming we know where they are. We don't know where they are. They did not come through the state of North Carolina or any Checkpoint Charlie like they used to have near the Berlin Wall. They are -- directly report to nonprofit agencies. So we have to get the information for the nonprofit agencies that the federal government and immigration refer them to. So, that's the lines of communications we need to have, especially with our public safety officials at the state level. And these are the kind of conversations which we need to have. And I'm pleased that the White House is listening now to the governors during the last 24 hours and have just recently called this meeting.

And I think your reports on CNN just show how good these people are. The question is going to be, how can you do a background check on somebody, extensive background check, from someone coming from Syria where you have a completely divided government? We have a tough time doing background checks on people in the United States, much less Syria. So we need to be given the confidence of what exactly the process is from a country that's basically in a civil war at this point in time.


MCCRORY: It's a legitimate request.

BOLDUAN: It absolutely is. It will be very interesting. Governor, please come back on because I'm very interested to hear what you hear from the White House, what additional detail they'll be giving you and what additional information you and many other governors could get that could get you back to being satisfied, if you can get there, having Syrian refugees brought into this country. Governor, Pat McCrory, we appreciate your time.

MCCRORY: Well, again, I compliment the White House for doing it.

Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Governor.

Let's head back to Paris where the investigation continues, the manhunt under way. John Berman is there -- John?

BERMAN: Kate, very interesting. That breaking news right there, the North Carolina governor saying there will be a conference call with the White House later today on this refugee controversy. Great interview, Kate. Thank you so much.

Meanwhile here, we have breaking news. New information about a French terrorist claiming responsibility for the attacks here. Again, new information on this man. That's next.


[11:53:31] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: we do have breaking news AT THIS HOUR. The identity of a French terrorist on video claiming responsibility for the attacks here in Paris.

With more on that, I'm joined by CNN terror analyst, Paul Cruikshank.

And what do you know, Paul?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: John, just in a few minutes ago, a French investigator who has been briefed says they have identified the voice of a senior French ISIS operative on the videos that came out from ISIS claiming responsible. The operative in question is Fabien Clain. He has a long track record of terrorist ties. European counterterrorism officials tell me that he is also suspected to have played a hand in that attempted attack on the high- speed train in August where those three American heroes thwarted the attack, and also that attack on Paris churches in April. This is somebody with significant form in the ISIS movement, and was part of the al Qaeda in Iraq recruiting cell in France, and he was also connected Mohammad Mirra (ph), who launched shootings in Toulouse, they were close friends. And they believe he played a senior role in ISIS and very much a part of the French-language magazine, which is calling for attacks.

BERMAN: Quickly, any known connection to the man they believe to be the mastermind of the attacks here, Abdelhamid Abaaoud?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, the scenario investigators are looking at now is that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Fabian Clain and other names, French and Belgian operatives who have climbed up the hierarchy of ISIS, and they have been contracted by the leadership of ISIS to organize a series of terrorists attacks against France and Europe. They are in and around Raqqa, a very close-knit group who know each other and worked together. And they are making a huge effort now to persuade these French and the Belgian recruits, Western recruits to return. They specifically appear to have been tasked to attack French and Belgian and the French-speaking countries.

[11:55:45] BERMAN: A French and Belgian committee within ISIS, set out to stage attacks in this part of this part of Europe.

Paul Cruikshank, new information, thank you so much.

CNN coverage of the Paris attacks, the investigation, the manhunt continues right after a quick break.