tv First Look MSNBC November 18, 2015 2:00am-2:31am PST
[ gunshots ] breaking news this morning. dramatic raids play out overnight as place exchange gunfire with suspects in the paris terror attacks. right now, at least one person is dead, five arrested, in raids targeting the suspected linchpin, the man at the center of it all. plus two air france jets departing from the u.s. diverted en route to paris after bomb threats are called in. meanwhile, russia steps up attacks on isis headquarters in syria, joining the air campaigns of france and the u.s. but is it too early to call it
an alliance? and politics on full display. president obama lashes out as republican leaders push back at his plan to resettle syrian refugees. it is 5:00 a.m. on the east coast, 2:00 out west, this is "way too early." good morning, it is wednesday, november 18th, i'm chris jansing, reporting live from paris for this special edition of "way too early." it is now 11:00 a.m. here and all morning long, we have been watching elite french police and military conduct raids in the saint-denis neighborhood. i know many of you have traveled here before, so for reference, i'm at the place de la republique. we are due south of where these raids have been going on and those raids are very close to the stadium where some of the initial attacks took place. suspects are in custody. at least one is dead, another
still holed up in a raid that began around 4:20 a.m. local time. the reported target of the raid, the so-called linchpin, or mastermind, abdelhamid abaaoud who police believe was in the apartment along with several other heavily armed people. police stormed that building, and according to wire reports, two officers were injured as both sides exchanged gunfire. the paris prosecutor's office says one woman in the apartment activated her explosive belt at the beginning of the assault and is dead. according to wire reports, one other person was killed, as well. and four men and another woman in the apartment were extracted by the special operations raid department. take a listen to some of the sounds from the gun battle, and then later, explosions. [ gunshots ]
>> the reports from saint-denis were terrifying. you can just imagine that people who only a few nights ago faced their stadium being the target of a terrorist attack, awakened in the middle of the night, in the dark of night, only to hear gunfire, and then explosions. one 43-year-old woman was holed up in her apartment. she said we heard so many booms, i'm shaking. we are very scared.
i can't stop crying. we won't go near the windows. we are too scared. joining us now, malcolm nance, who is executive director of the terror asymmetrics project. malcolm, good morning. and talk to us about the emerging profile of abdelhamid abaaoud and how important it would be if he is, indeed, among the people who is either killed or in custody? >> it is critically important that the french police determine whether they've killed abdelhamid abaaoud or that they've captured or that he's escaped. he is the mastermind of this organization, and although i don't like to use the term mastermind, he is the operational commander of what appears to be all of the forces allayed in this terrorist attack. it is of infinite importance that they determine his death, or whether he's out there back on the street planning a restrike. >> now, they have taken some people into custody. how important could they be,
obviously depends on who they are, it depends on what their links might be, but who will be talking to them? what kind of information could possiblybe obtained from people who are now in custody? >> well, the intelligence effort that's going on in france is a national effort. they're going to -- all of the french intelligence services from the external dgse down to the french national police, the gendarmes nationale and all forces in between are going to be interrogating these people. now, the reason that they were probably arrested is because that facility, that residence was under surveillance by external and probably covert intelligence personnel who used national intelligence assets to track them into that residence. and they will probably seen going up to the door or near the door or communicating with those people. so that makes them persons of interest. so it's going to be very important that they fess up right away, and find out what
they were doing there, what they knew of the people that were in there, because now we're talking about crimes on a national scale. >> and if it's abdelhamid abaaoud he is someone who has been in their sights for a very long time, who has slipped away from them before. just in january there was a major raid in belgium, two of his colleagues were killed, but he wasn't there. talk about how complex on operation like this is. i mean, they have pulled off, just over the last 48 hours or so, 300 such raids. but obviously nothing at all like this. >> well, the french have absolutely gone into a massive, massive national manhunt. and, in fact, this is an international manhunt. because in the national command center, they're not only going to have french forces, armed forces, intelligence agencies, they're going to have interpol representatives from all the european union nations, which surround france, the united states, and other nations which
have an interest in this. and it's very important that they do. because, mr. abaaoud is not only the ground force commander for isis in paris, but he may, in fact, be the amir, which is a regional commander that isis designates for their outer provinces. and he may, in fact, be in charge of all terrorist operations in europe originating out of belgium and france. so it's important to know, did he die in this attack? or did he escape? and if he has escaped, then you're going to see this manhunt play out again, all over europe. >> malcolm nance, thank you so much. malcolm who has been helping us all throughout the night as this has been unfolding. we've also been watching this story play out on social media all morning long, including this snapchat video from around the start of the gun battle with quick, multiple gunshots ringing out in the neighborhood, at 4:30 this morning. joining us live on the phone,
nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engel, who witnessed much of the raid last night. richard, take us back, tell us what happened, and has going on now. >> well, i'll start with what's happening right now. there is still a police cordon in place. the situation is much calmer, however. but now the cordon is in place mostly to allow investigators to see what they were dealing with. to conduct some forensic collection. they've set up a tarp around the building that was raided. going back to what happened this morning, we heard the reports of gunfire here in this neighborhood. around 4:30 in the morning. and it is not very far from here to central paris, only about 10 or 15 minutes by car. we quickly arrived here. as we arrived, police were still setting up a cordon, and they were very tense. anyone who approached the police
was told in no uncertain terms to back up. they raised their rifles, they shined search lights on us, they stopped motorcycles, they stopped cars, they ordered people to stay indoors. police were focusing on one building, on the third floor apartment of one building, and they were with laser pointers and with search lights. a helicopter was hovering above, also with a search light. but they weren't only focused on that apartment. they were fanning out in the area. there must have been 100, perhaps several hundred, riot police, ambulances, fire trucks, many kinds of emergency services. the reason it's hard to know if they were 100 or several hundred is that this is a populated area. there are lots of side streets. there are lots of shops. it is a poor residential area, primarily muslim immigrants from north africa. not only, but there's a large
concentration here and they were blocking off all of the side streets. soldiers have also been called in. we've seen french soldiers in uniform. and that is the status of where things are right now. >> i know that you've had an opportunity throughout the course of the morning to talk to a number of residents of that neighborhood. what have they told you? >> they told us that this is a neighborhood that is -- has crime problems, that has drug problems, they did not seem surprised that there was this terrorist raid. we are very close to the stade de france, the soccer stadium, where this paris massacre began with those three suicide bombings. it's just a few minutes' walk from here, in fact. they did not seem surprised. people were, by and large, staying inside as the raid was going on. they're starting to come out now. still, most of the shops are closed, but they are starting to open up.
people here told us that this is not the kind of place where normally there is extremist activity, but at the same time, like i said, they did not seem surprised that there was a raid here. >> there was a point at which they were evacuating people and bringing them to the town hall, and making sure that that at least immediate area was secure. they didn't know if the situation was with explosives and so on. but you say shops are opening up. the mayor had said earlier that they were going to close transportation into and out of the city. schools are closed today. but does it almost look as though people are going about their business, or starting to? >> no. they are certainly not going about their business. they are just coming out, because the police did order everyone to stay inside. they did not evacuate many people. we were here for hours watching this one building that was the subject of this raid. and we were watching police, riot police in tactical gear,
shields, weapons drawn, until what the military like to call lined up in stacks. they were lined up in rows waiting to enter into the building. and they evacuated some people. i think we saw about 10, maybe 15 people evacuated. one of the -- one of the -- they were families. there was women, children, one man who looked like he was pulled quickly out of his apartment. he was not even fully dressed. and they were brought in to a nearby building for -- by police. i don't know what the police were asking them but they were evacuated. but most people were just told to stay inside. >> do you have any sense now of what the focus is of what police are doing? how far are you, richard, how close are they letting you get to the actual scene? >> well, i am now probably a couple hundred yards from the building itself. they've set up a very extensive
cordon, because this area is not just -- it is quite densely populated. lots of side streets. so that requires a lot of police and a lot of vehicles to block all of those side streets. so there is a full circular cordon on all of the streets surrounding this particular building. and people are mostly coming around to stare, to look, a lot of journalists have arrived at the scene now, setting up their positions, and their live cameras. this is -- it doesn't feel entirely over, but at this stage it feels like we're in the cleanup phases. they have set up a tarp to the building so that they can protect it from view, and allow the investigators to collect whatever evidence they might find. and, of course, prosecutors are concerned that what happened initially is that when they arrived on this building, they went in, hoping to find that main suspect, the alleged terrorist mastermind, abaaoud,
who the french say conceptualized and plotted this attack, a man that only yesterday most people in france were being told was still in syria, they went in, apparently looking for him, and instead a female suicide bomber, or female bomber, blew herself up, and injured some police in the process. there may be -- we know from paris prosecutor that she died. and that there may have been a second person who died, as well. and that others were taken into custody. >> we also know that they thought they've gotten abaaoud before, once they thought he had died in syria. his family believed that. another time they did the raid just in january, in belgium, found two of his cohorts, but not him. so we will see yet if abdelhamid abaaoud is, indeed there in saint-denis. richard engel who has been up all night covering this for us
and will continue through the day. thank you, richard. mean time those heightened fears of terrorism forced two paris-bound u.s. flights to be diverted after they got bomb threats last night. air france says one flight was from los angeles international. it landed in salt lake city. another from washington dulles was diverted to halifax, nova scotia. the airline says the threats were received by phone after takeoff. one passenger, who departed from l.a.x., tells nbc news about two hours after takeoff flight attendants began grabbing plates, and announced the plane was making an emergency landing. after landing in salt lake city, he says buses arrived to take passengers to another location to be interviewed. the fbi has since released a statement saying there is no evidence right now to suggest the threats were credible. but they say, they're working to determine their origin. and still ahead on "way too early," we continue to follow the latest from here in paris. dramatic police raids playing out overnight. reportedly targeting the mastermind of the attack.
we don't know yet if he's among the five suspects arrested overnight. officials also say there's one suspect left inside the apartment. we'll keep you posted with the latest. plus, isis now in the crosshairs of russia, france and the u.s. we'll have the latest on the assault playing out in syria. this special edition of "way too early," live from paris, continues in a moment.
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gunfire, explosions and a standoff in france, as authorities strike back at the terror network that plucked the city of light into darkness. a raid has taken place north of paris in the suburb of saint-denis. the reported target, abdelhamid abaaoud, the so-called linchpin of last week's attacks in paris. the paris prosecutor's office says a woman in the apartment activated an explosive belt at the beginning of the assault. she is dead. four men and one woman were extracted by police, and they're in custody.
wire reports say a total of seven people have been arrested. another is believed to be inside. national police say five officers were lightly wounded, and that operation is ongoing. french president francois hollande is holding an emergency meeting at the elysee palace to monitor the raid. meanwhile france is seeking to up the ante on isis with yet another wave of airstrikes. the latest round has targeted raqqah, the islamic state's de facto center of operations. "the wall street journal" reports earlier in the day, french jet fighters dropped 16 bombs on two targets. a command center, and a training center. also yesterday, european officials unanimously backed a french request for support, with military missions. and president francois hollande is set to meet with both american and russian counterparts next week to broaden the coalition. but obstacles remain. hollande has been an unending critic of the assad regime and has argued it was assad's tactics that allowed the rise of the islamic state.
also yesterday, the u.s. moved a marine security team at the request of the state department to bulk up security at the embassy. russia also stepped up its airstrikes against isis militants in syria yesterday after concluding that a bomb had brought down one of its passenger jets over egypt last month. president vladimir putin pledged to hunt down and punish those responsible for carrying out the attack. he ordered the russian navy to coordinate with french naval forces in the mediterranean. the move comes after russian airstrikes pounded islamic state targets in the syrian stronghold of raqqah with long-range bombers and cruise missiles. all of that early tuesday. still ahead, the battle over resettling syrian refugees shifts to congress, as president obama pushes back hard against republican governors. we'll be right back after this. conquer the weather.
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that, or refuse, or at least suspending resettlement of syrian refugees in their states. either permanently, or until after a security review. meanwhile, white house officials held a conference call yesterday with governors from 34 states about their refugee settlement program. and here's what president obama, traveling in the philippines, said yesterday. >> these are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they're so tough that just talking to putin or staring down isil or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there. but apparently they're scared of widows and orphans coming in to the united states of america as part of our tradition of compassion. now, first they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates. now they're worried about 3-year-old orphans. that doesn't sound very tough to me. they've been playing on fear in
order to try to score political points. or to advance their campaigns. and it's irresponsible. and it's contrary to who we are. and it needs to stop. because the world is watching. >> well, when the president returns to washington, he's got a major fight on his hands. those comments come as house speaker paul ryan says the refugee program should be suspended. new york senator chuck schumer also said yesterday that the program may need to be paused. meanwhile, senator john mccain strongly disagreed with the calls by some republicans to ban muslim refugees, but accept christians. >> -- christian, and i believe all children are god's children. and so say we will only take christian children -- by the way, what about jewish? what about jewish refugees? i think it's -- i don't understand someone who would say in this humanitarian crisis that we would only take children who
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