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tv   Early Today  NBC  March 22, 2016 4:00am-4:31am PDT

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whether his accomplices would be pushed into action. we'll have more ahead from new york. our correspondents are fanned out, and we'll give you the latest information the second we have it. we'll take a break, allow our stations to reset. we'll be back with you in a second. good morning. breaking news. terror in brussels. powerful explosions rocking the airport and the city subway system overnight. reports of at least 15 people killed. dozens more injured. this morning, the chilling images from inside the airport and underground, as passengers are evacuated from train cars through darkened and smokey tunnels. a senior counter-terror official this morning telling nbc news, isis, the terror group, is likely behind the attacks. the hunt for suspects is underway today, tuesday, march 22nd, 2016. good morning, everybody. welcome to this edition of "today" on tuesday morning. i'm savannah guthrie alongside
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matt lauer. we're covering this breaking news out of belgium. the prime minister said this is a terror attack, a dark moment for his country. what we fear ee eed has happene >> someone or someones went up to the airport area, detonated one device outside of the building. someone else, apparently a suicide bomber inside the terminal, packed with morning commuters. people lining up to catch flights to other parts of europe and parts of the world. near a starbucks, waiting to get coffee. standing side by side, everyone with a backpack, suitcase or package, when the explosion ripped through the terminal. the devastation is apparent for anyone who can see the images. at least 15 people confirmed killed. this is anrea of an airport where you haven't gone through security yet. you pull up in a car, get off a
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bus. one of our colleagues from msnbc said, he came up from a rail system beneath into the great hall, the departures terminal, when the explosion had gone off. no one had been screened for security. >> as we speak to counter-terrorism officials, like they say, this is a soft target. little to no security. as we said at busy airport situations, this would be presecurity. maybe some but not what we recognize when you're boarding a flight. >> a short time later, another soft target with little security, a metro train underneath the streets of buss el -- brussels. you're looking at video of the darkened tunnels where passengers were torres e train bomb went off, maybe their way to safety and the area aboveground. >> to add context, brussels is
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the seat of the european union's government. it has also become a hot bed for terrorist activity and planning, as we learned after the paris attack. the cell most of the attackers came from the neighborhood in brussels known as molenbeek. we just had the arrest of one of the paris suspects, salah abdeslam in the last few days. he's been interrogated by authorities. unclear how much cooperation he's given. this morning, the key question is, what and to what extent his arrest, this man's arrest, may have to do with what we're seeing this morning in brussels. >> other accomplices in that area fear that after he was arrested, as we look at images inside the metro in brussels, did other accomplices fear that after he was arrested, he would divulge information their locations, their identities? did that force them to carry out these plans before they had intended to? we've got complete coverage.
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beginning with keir simmons. what can you tell us? >> matt, good morning. clearly coordinated and terrifying series of events in the heart of europe. brussels airport rocked by explosions at around 8:00 a.m. then the metro hit close to the seat of european government. the city is now in lockdown. transportation shut down. with images emerging that tell a story of substantial blasts causing extensive damage. you can see here, matt and savannah, passengers from the airport being evacuated. the images you saw earlier of the blast inside the airport and the blast on a subway train speaks to a very, very serious, substantial explosive device being used. the belgium prime minister now saying that he believes that at the airport, it was a suicide bomb. at the metro, it was a package of some kind.
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he is saying what we feared has happened. this morning, the u.s. embassy is urging u.s. citizens not to use public transportation in brussels. there are troops on the streets of that city. as officials, matt and savannah, scramble to establish whether more attacks are planned. whether, as you mentioned, this is connected to the arrest of salah abdeslam, who was wanted in connection with the paris attacks. it is in a suburb of brussels that many of the paris attackers from last november came from. the question this morning, are these attacks connected to that same network of isis affiliated jihadists? >> keir simmons, stay there. we'll go back to you as we follow these developments. >> let's bring in our chief justice correspondent, pete williams, who talked to his sources this morning. pete, anything new you can add to this? >> a couple of points. one is we're expecting a statement shortly that, apparently, will come out of the
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white house. noting that the government is well aware of this. they're assessing and trying to decide what to do. there's been no formal guidance to airports or subway stations or train stations in the united states from the u.s. government. there have been internal messages from the usual places that keep these operations informed of attacks. these messages have been flowing for the past several hours, to let the operators of airports, train stations, subway stations in the u.s. know what happened, give the best information they have and urge them to take appropriate precautions. the security of all those facilities is not a federal matter. it's in the hands of local authorities. we only know of one specific plan to do anything in response, and that is not surprisingly in new york. the new york police department says it is going to have a very aggressive and visible presence today at subway stations, train stations, bridges and tunnels.
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but we have not yet heard of any specific plans by airports in the u.s. to adjust their security measures in response to the attacks in brussels. whether they will restrict travel, restrict curbside check-in, whether they will restrict cars getting near the airport. we don't have any word of any of that yet. but in the hours to come, those local airports are going to be making those decisions. coincidentally, the administrator of tsa that is responsible for the aviation security was actually in brussels for scheduled meetings with european officials. he's obviously been in touch with people here about what he knows. but because of the uncertainty of who is responsible for this, the u.s. authorities are still trying to decide what the best steps are. we're told there will be a white house statement coming shortly, though we don't expect a great deal of substance in it. >> pete williams, thank you. we got a note, the u.s.
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officials briefed on intelligence tell nbc they've been expecting these attacks, or some kind of attack in europe after what happened in paris, that they're struck initially, not as coordinated or sophisticated as what we saw in paris. yet, we see they were able to inflict a lot of damage. let's go to tom costello who covers aviation for us. also very familiar with this airport, with this region. he has family that lived there many, many years. what can you add? >> a couple things. delta airlines flight 80, atlanta to brussels, is sitting on the ramp, unable to move the people off the plane because it is mass chaos on the ground at the airport. you've seen all these people being evacuated from the airport tarmac or rather the terminal out on to the ramp. the numbers of people, hundreds, even thousands of people, waiting to figure out where to put them. it's not easy because there are no trains, there are no busses, there are no taxis, there are no subways. everything in the city is shut down. additionally, delta airlines 42,
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new york to brussels, has been diverted to amsterdam. both of the planes, we're told, are safe. to give you perspective, brussels airport is in zaventem, a small town -- actually my in-laws live right there. seven miles from downtown brussels. we can tell you there is train service and subway service also into that airport. when you talk about the entire subway system also being shut down following the terrorist attack on the subway system, this paralyzes the entire region. i also wanted to make note of the fact the european air traffic control headquarters is on the backside of the brussels airport. that, according to some video we've seen this morning, has been surrounded by heavily armed police tactical units, as well, this morning. about 20,000 people work at that airport alone, and it is not necessarily the biggest in europe but certainly is a critical airport, serving as the gateway into the capital of
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europe, but also, of course, as a gateway to the united states and into africa and across europe. there are the subway pictures we've been watching this morning throughout the morning. >> tom, stand by there. we'll check back in in a moment. nbc news analyst sean henry, the former executive assistant director of the fbi joins us now. the investigators now, law enforcement now in brussels and belgium at large have two major jobs. one, they have to try to prevent anything further from happening. two, they've got to begin the investigation as to how this happened. where do they begin? >> both of those things are really kind of locked together. as they continue this investigation, they're going to be developing intelligence of who might have been involved. they're coming on the backside of what happened with abdeslam. the intelligence they're collecting from that. absolutely, the top priority will be preventing any further attacks. again, matt, it really starts with identifying who these
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cohorts are here, what they're pulling out of their ongoing investigation. there have been hundreds of searches. there have been dozens of arrests in the weeks preceding this. there's a lot of intelligence there that investigators will be combing through to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together. >> when you see the images, sean, especially those images inside the departures terminal at the airport, what's your first thought, your gut reaction? >> this looks like a catastrophic attack, and it looks like a large payload. it's very unclear what type of device this was. i think about people in an airport. we've all been there, pulling a large suitcase behind them. that could potentially conceal explosive device that's a lot more substantial than what you might see on a suicide vest, a suicide bomber. again, unclear how the explosion was concealed, how it was brought in, how it was delivered, what the triggering device was. it certainly appears, just from preliminary looking at this, that it was larger than what
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we've typically seen with suicide vests. >> you hate to put it in these terms, but is this is attack that would be hard or easy for somebody to pull off? >> you know, when you think about planning that goes into this, there's coordination because you've got multiple sites, multiple events. you have a group of people who have to conceal their communications to try and stay below the radar. there is a sense of sophistication in that. especially when there's been so many arrests in the preceding weeks, searches, et cetera. they're trying to evade police while continuing to plan and execute this type of event. an airport, we talked about the soft targets, there certainly is security at airports before you get to the gates but, again, we've all been in the large, cavernous areas. you get out of a car, taxi or bus, walking in, not a lot of security there. to that extent, not having to pass through traditional security devices, security
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check-points, there's a lot of vulnerability there, savannah. >> sean henry, thank you. stay by. we'll check back with you in a little while. >> we'll turn again to andrea mitchell, in havana traveling with president obama this morning. he was expected to give a big speech. has the president been briefed? >> the president has been briefed. susan rice, the national security adviser, is with him. the national security staff communicating, of course, back to washington and to all the intelligence officials. the director of national intelligence, james clapper, had recently testified about the high level of threat from isis and other groups. of course, we don't know who the perpetrators were of this apparent suicide attack, but that would be the most likely suspect. some felt related to the arrest on friday of abdeslam in belgium. obviously, there's been a lot of criticism of the officials in belgium, as well as some criticism of the french
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officials. they have been trying to step up coordination since what happened in paris in november. as well, john kerry is here, and now the secretary of state did have a planned interview, we are told, with telemundo. he was doing spanish language television today. we don't know if that was going to happen. i was supposed to interview susan rice at 9:30 eastern today. we don't know if that'll still take place. they're scrambling now to re-write the president's speech today, to put out a statement and decide whether we see the president before his planned speech on cuban television. unprecedented event as that was to be, that was supposed to be his speech to the cuban people. he was going to broadly address the human rights issue here, which became such a point of contention, even in that unprecedented joint news conference between raul castro, the president of cuba, and president obama yesterday. there's been a lot of firsts here. some of which may not now take place. whether they adjust the
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schedule, how they adjust the schedule, he's due to leave here this afternoon and go on to argentina, where they had a very important commemoration of the end of the so-called dirty war. i was told that there might well be declassification of the american cia in that dirty war in the '70s and '80s in argentina. there's a lot we don't know about the president's schedule, but he's been fully briefed. >> a lot of moving parts, as you suggest. andrea mitchell traveling with the president in havana, thank you. more details from keir simmons. what can you tell us? >> that's right. nbc news has confirmed that at the metro station, the blast there in central brussels, 15 people have been killed. as soon as you saw this picture, this image of one of the carriages, you really feared that the extent of the deaths and injuries that might be cause bid somebody like that, and now we know. we're told 15 dead.
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we don't know how many have been killed at the airport. there, you can see pictures of other passengers fleeing, trying to get away. they know that an explosion has happened. they are evacuating from a carriage down the rail line, which you know is dangerous in itself. it gives you a sense of the panic that was caused. i was mentioning at the airport, we don't yet know how many people were killed there. reports from there, matt and savannah, suggest that that may be a high toll. certainly of injured. again, just looking at the pictures of that airport, the glass blown out, the debris strewn around, it's hard to imagine there haven't been a serious number of casualties from that. >> you look back at the images of the metro, of the train there, that explosion apparently happened after that train had left a station. looks like it happened -- well, that looks close to a station, but the images we saw a second ago seem like people evacuating
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in a tunnel somewhere, away from the station, and trying to -- right here -- make their way aboveground. >> of course, the fear we'vemorl would rise, apparently that has come to pass. at this hour, we know of 13 dead at the airport scene. now we're getting reports this morning that the numbers are rather high from the metro attack, as well. a brussels transit spokesperson saying 15 dead, as many as 55 injured at that attack at the subway station. we've been seeing these terrifying images of passengers evacuating in these dark and smokey tunnels. >> imagine what life is like for the people of brussels this morning. there is no air transportation in or out. there is no train service in or out. cell phone service is sketchy, to say the least, although they are allowed to text and use social media. clearly, life has come to a standstill, at least for this morning in brussels, belgium. >> we'll have more on these
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attacks. we'll continue to follow the breaking news and check in with our correspondents. we have new images and first-hand accounts of what has transpired there. we'll put it into context as we continue our breaking coverage. first, on a tuesday
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