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tv   First Look  MSNBC  March 22, 2016 2:00am-2:31am PDT

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much for your reporting in london. i so appreciate to date on what is going on. with this explosion, coming out of brussels. alstair jamison from london with the updated -- updates of what's going on in brussels. i'm dara brown with nbc mousse. we have continuing coverage of the explosions that have up had in brussels at the brussels airport. we have confirmation, media is saying that there were two explosion at the airport in brussels and unconfirmed reports there's explosions in the subway stations in brussels. the thousands of people have been evacuated from the airport. this happened roughly a little after 8:00 a.m. local time on a tuesday morning in brussels as people were checking in to the international departure area, departure hall 1 of the brussels airport.
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we did have eyewitness accounts of what had happened. apparently the explosions went off, glass was flying in the front area. it was a lot of panic as the people did not know what was going on. obviously with two explosions emergency crews are on the scene. fire department are on the scene. and the thousands of people have been taken outside of the airport. they have been evacuated. the airport has been shut down. the metro has also been shut down through brussels and the ministry has elevated the alert level to four which is the highest, the maximum alert level in brussels. and we have been having this continuing coverage, the updates obviously the death toll has been getting higher. it's now up to 13 people now confirmed dead with 35 people injured and what -- i'd like go back to alstair jamison, who is with nbc in london. if you can give us a little report of what's coming in to you there in the london office. >> reporter: absolutely. you mentioned there that already
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the airport has been closed down it's on lockdown. that's correct. in fact, in the last few moments the main airline based there, brussels airline, part of the star alliance with united and lufthansa, they have announced that the airport will remain closed until at least 6:00 tomorrow morning. so obviously, a lot of travel disruption as well as the actual crime scene from the explosions. those -- the airport is tweeting to those people who are stuck airside, who are stuck on the side of the terminal where the planes are saying please remain calm, we'll have you on your way in due course, but at the moment they're trying to secure the scene in the check-in hall of the main terminal, departure hall 1 which is used by international airline, including american, in fact. the witnesses and the pictures
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and accounts from the scene say how the explosion went off, caused parts of the scene to chance collapse shattered glass everywhere. a lot of legs were injured. people want to secure the immediate area around there and also to make sure those people who evacuated, who fled from the terminal buildings, we saw people running and screaming out to the parking lots and the perimeter areas they want to make sure all those people are safe and secured. also, seeing on social media and on belgium media reports within the last few months accounts now starting to emerge from those metro stations downtown in central brussels including particularly the shuman station which is near to the european union headquarters in downtown brussels that there have been some kind of explosions on the metro system. people are reporting being led out of stranded trains through tunnels. and emerging through stations and there are pictures of people
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being treated by paramedics on the sidewalks near those stations. so although it's not been confirmed by the authorities yet, something is clearly under way at the scene of these downtown metro stations as well. this is the kind of coordinated -- potentially coordinated attack i should say that the authorities had feared and had warned about when they arrested the belgium terrorist suspect salah abdeslam the other day and the indications they got from the weapons they seized at the scene of the raid and from intelligence they had that either people that he was known to or other terror cells had been planning to restart something. that was their phrase. that they were planning to carry out some kind of attack. and who could have predicted that that would have taken place in only a matter of days at the city's main airport. as you mentioned earlier, this takes place in the unsecured zone. as you arrive into the terminal area. this is what authorities have
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feared the most, that it would target an area where people are pre-security. cannot been be monitored all the time. although the airport is heavy on law enforcement. lots of soldiers and security services all around the airport, the entire of belgium is on a high terror alert level for recent months and weeks and it was on a complete lockdown over the christmas period with fears that the metro would be targeted. they have had plenty of practice if you you like, and plenty of concern in the back of their mind this would take place. and the airport today and others throughout belgium have been raised to the maximum terror threat level, which means obviously long lines, even at those airports which are open and functioning. the public transportation to and from brussels airport is closed off, the access roads all of that is completely secured by authorities. incoming flights are diverted to other european airports.
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a heightened state of alert. >> we are getting reports from the federal police there's an explosion at the station, and you talked about the shuman station being of concern. we have the federal police confirming there are two explosions at the airport. one at the malbeak subway station. i want to go back to talk about the arrest of abdeslam and police said they were going to restart something else. now, after the paris attacks it's taken them five months to find abdeslam in brussels.
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how deep are the terror cells in belgium? do you know how deep this is, and how simple after an arrest which was just days ago that they could follow up with an attack? actually, i'm going to go to alstair mcdonald in brussels. you are right in the main hub of what's going on there. what can you tell us? >> well the streets are emptying, people are being told to stay where they are, to stay indoors. it certainly a pretty -- it's certainly a pretty grim mood. it's clear that the airport is all sealed off with those explosions. we have been told the suicide bomber killed up to perhaps something like 13 people. and we have now a metro station, possibly an explosion on the metro or between the two stations. we have seen wounded people being brought out in the european corridor of the brussels, so yeah it feels like
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a city under siege. everybody is off the streets. >> and with that, i'd like to bring in ayman moynidine. >> yeah, let me pick up where alstair mcdonald left off. can you give us a sense -- i know you're saying if you can, that the city feels very much under siege. give us a sense of where you are right now and what you're seeing. we'll start from there. >> well i'm sitting in the reuters bureau sitting with people trying to cover the story. i'm looking at the streets, it's the mid-morning, in a busy commercial area but there are relatively few people out. there's not much traffic. >> i understand have you gotten any information yet from the european union in terms of the institutions in and around the
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subway station that may have been shut down as a result of at least this one explosion that we're hearing that -- at the moll abeck station? >> people have been told to stay in their offices or stay at home. although were told that the people close to parliament are working but not many people out on the streets. >> can we recap, how many specific explosions have we confirmed from the belgium authorities have taken place? >> well, there seemed two sites at the airport and a shooting and the eastern part of the brussels near the european institutions. >> we are getting confirmation as well that mass transit and
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subway system has been shut down. is that correct? >> that's correct. >> have we gotten confirmation on the number of fatalities? >> we have relatively firm reports of 13 dead at the airport airport. but again, the authorities have not forth coming. we have a report on one broadcaster only saying there were ten killed on the attack on the metro, but that's one report for the time being. >> let me go back over the course of the past 72 hours or so since the arrest of abdeslam. there's been word about whether or not he was cooperating with authorities and whether or not his contacts were being pursued by the authorities. was there a sigh of relief or was there stepped up anxiety that now that he had been captured something like what we're seeing today had been set in motion? >> i think there was concern. the ministers had been saying that this -- there were more
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people out there and who they were not tracking and they could not be sure that they knew where they were or what they were up to. belgium has been on high alert since the attacks in paris on november. they have never reduced the threat level. they raised it briefly in brussels and again today. so the authorities have always been on high alert, but this kind of operation is clearly very difficult to defend against. >> some of the minutia in terms of the information coming out from his lawyer that he was going to try to fight extradition, we know the french president francois hollande wanted him extradited to paris to stand trial. but there was some push back from his lawyers suggesting that "a," salah abdeslam as we mentioned was cooperating with authorities but was going to fight extradition.
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do we have any information as to whether or not he had been interrogated, had been questioned by belgium counterterrorism officials, had he been cooperating? >> well his lawyer said he had been cooperating and investigators have said that he had told them a number of things including about his involvement in the paris attacks, that he had planned to blow himself up alongside -- along with the other nine attackers. but that he changed his mind. that's as much as we know. what he had told them about the activities of other militants in the city and what they might be planning we don't know. but it seems fairly clear that the authorities were not aware of this particular threat before it happened this morning. >> all right. i'm going to ask you to stay with us on the phone and cross over real quick to london our colleague alastaire jamison has been following this with us.
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are you with us? >> yes. >> have we been getting confirmed reports on the explosions? >> we do know that authorities now have confirmed the increased death toll, at least 13. that really comes as no surprise given the pictures that we saw circulated in the immediate aftermath of the attack. an awful lot of people suffering. some quite terrible injuries in the explosion, in the crowded check in hall area of the airport just after 8:00 this morning. what we have not yet had confirmed, any detail, is this ongoing incident on the subway. we know it's shut down and something has taken place on the subway system and that explosions have forced the evacuation and the people are being treated by paramedics on the sidewalks near to the entrances of those stations including the one close to the
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european headquarters so we know that something is going on. brussels' main line station has been evacuated in the past few minutes. people are being taken out on to the streets outside and that echoes what alastaire at reuters was saying, on a transport lockdown if not indeed a wider lockdown as people have -- stay off the streets and are unable to travel around. also reports on belgium media that the attack at the airport was a suicide attack citing police sources although we cannot confirm that. that does tally with what you were saying that authorities had indicated that this terror cell that had been raided the other day, that there are indications there were others out there. that were prepared to become suicide attackers and were prepared to carry out their
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attacks in western europe even as it turns out in the doorstep of brussels. this is a source of immense frustration to intelligence and the security people in the united states, that in europe their counterparts have said essentially there's only a certain amount they can do, only a finite number of people they can track. they can track the people as far as aliases and the known whereabout, but can open borders wand people changing their identity and the existence of stolen passports and the sophistication of everything, there's only so much they can do. one of the things that the paris attacks brought home was the extent of the involvement of belgium, particularly maelbeek where the moroccans do live because a lot of them turned out
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to have connections to the area or have been planning the operations from there. that has illustrated the importance of brussels as a jihadism inside europe and it's tested the law enforcement authorities as they try to keep track on all the potential isis operatives. of course, one of the problems with those carrying out attacks in the name of isis is that they're not doing so as part of some wider planned coordinated effort, but doing it on their own, but in the name of isis which makes it harder for authorities to keep track of weapons and where these people are and where it is they're planning to attack. we know that salah abdeslam had travelled a lot in the months prior to the paris attacks and indeed has been on the run hiding pretty much -- you know, in plain sight in western europe
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crawling with law enforcement for several months and had managed to evade capture for so long. clearly, even though this -- these attacks have taken place today there is the fear they could happen elsewhere as well. >> stay with us. if i can go back to brussels to alastaire macdonald. the u.s. embassy has ordered u.s. citizens to shelter in place. for some of the viewers who are not familiar, describe for us what a typical or average tuesday morning would have been like at around 8:00 a.m. in a european capital like brussels. >> well it's the rush hour. it's a bright, sunny morning. brussels is an unusually traffic-heavy city for europe, but the metros and trams would have been full of a lot of people coming in from the suburbs and the countryside and on the suburban train network.
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and there's a lot of heavy traffic. a lot of people drive to work. and all of that would have been disrupted. the airport is on the main ring road around the city. it's a city of a million people, it's not particularly huge. but it is the time that everybody would be coming to work. there was a good deal of a disruption although it took time for news to filter through. i came through the streets at about 8:30 and it seemed pretty normal. most people seemed unaware, everything was running. but by 9:30 -- it's now after 10:00 in the morning, streets are getting progressively empty, people have been told to stay indoors, stay where they are. so that embassy recommendation is in line with what the national crisis center is telling people in brussels. >> as a resident of brussels you have travelled in and out of that airport, as i have gone in and out of that airport, security very tight. at least certainly by all european standards.
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how much are you surprised by the fact that this particular explosion seems to have taken place in the departure hall and describe for the viewers who are not familiar. obviously there are several layers of security in and out of that airport, describe for us that departure hall in terms of is there any security to go from just outside of the airport into the departure hall or once you're in the departure hall and then on the way to ultimately the -- >> no, as we understand it, where the explosions took place it's a public space and anybody can -- obviously lots of people walk in with large amounts of baggage. so there is no security. it is entirely -- i say no security. i mean, there may well be monitoring and discreet security. but there's no -- there are no searches so security that relies on that kind of undercover discreet cameras and people watching. >> we have on our screen what appears to be a distill image
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from inside the airport. you can see departures as well as a lot of debris as part of that explosion. it seems to be in that public space. did you get a sense since friday after the capture of salah abdeslam that security across this city had been beefed up? we clearly heard from our reporters on the ground in areas such as maelbeek there was more police and security but that was connected to the ongoing operation to that raid. did you get a sense across the city of brussels and the country in belgium was security beefed up at all? >> it's hard to say. we were already at high security. so i passed several pairs of soldiers on patrol in full combat gear but that's been for a while since the attacks in paris. they have been more active. it did seem on friday afternoon after the arrest of salah abdeslam that it did seem, but
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we had no figures to back that up. that the presence of troops on the streets was a little higher, but they have been here all the time. and the city has been close to maximum alert for many months. now of course we are at maximum alert and that means essentially a lockdown of transport and we are told that schools -- children are being sent home from school. >> let's go back if we can and just as somebody who lives there again, give us the sense over the past several months since the paris attacks since the ongoing manhunt that effectively gripped all of europe, obviously as well in brussels, the change in the mood among ordinary belgians on the day to day basis. the additional security, the disruption to their life. people have watching this and saying what has that evolution been? >> i don't know that people have been particularly affected it.
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it's slightly uncomfortable but i think in general, across europe people have been used to this for decades. so we have all gone through at various kinds, various different kinds of threats in most people's lives. so the fact that there might be random attacks is something that people have long grown used to living with. so i'm not sure that in general that it's had a great effect on people's lives. and in the paris attacks after a few days people get anxious about going to places where there's a lot of people gathered. over christmas and new year which is a big event in the center of brussels. there was sort of a decline in people gathering around the christmas markets. so on. but i wouldn't say that until today there has been a great impact on social life. >> it seems also as well if i can that just on friday we were
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hearing as i mentioned the french president francois hollande, that there will be further arrests, more connected to the capture of salah abdeslam. did you ever get a sense -- someone who covers this story, that the warning signs that we were getting from european officials either downplayed or did not accurately capture the threat of terrorism across europe or did you get a sense or do you get a sense that european officials are aware that this is a dramatic problem that they have now going on? >> yeah, i think people have been aware for many years that this is a possibility and you know, that there are large numbers of people who are living and able to carry out these attacks. i don't think there's a great sense of surprise either on the part of the authorities or to be
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honest amongst the ordinary people. >> is there any validity in asking why brussels? the ringleader in the paris attacks, several of those that participated in the paris attack came from brussels but some people are watching and saying why is this happening in brussels now? >> well, you could also say why not? but clearly, there has been -- brussels has been a focus of activity. it -- belgium has provided the head of the population by far the most foreign fighters going to syria. and the country is -- is home to a large number of radicals. that much we know. up to now, they had focused their attention on france next door. but brussels of course is the capital of the european union, the headquarters of nato.
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a high profile -- although it's a small city it's a high profile spot at the center of the european structures and the european institutions. so it's always been understood to be a high profile target. and i don't think there's any great surprise there. >> and have we heard at all this morning from the belgium prime minister? >> yes. sharm el shell is very active, we know they raised the threat level to the maximum level by one notch, so they're certainly active, yeah. >> they have not identified at this point yet any of the individuals believed to have been involved in this attack? >> no. >> okay. if i can ask you to stay with us, if possible we want to cross back over to london really
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quickly and check in with our colleague alastair jamieson in the london bureau. >> absolutely. to emphasize how much of an ongoing situation this is, brussels airport is tweeting out to people who are stranded on the air side of the airport that is where after the planes are, many had to leave the terminal out on to the runway or leave the planes out on the runway, including those who have arrived. many thousands of people milling around there. and the airport has tweeted to them to say, stay calm. remain where you are for now. and the city's emergency management is asking people not to use the telephone networks. not to saturate the 3-g networks. if you want to contact people, use instant messaging or use your data, use the internet. but the networks are at full capacity across the city as
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people try to communicate and obviously emergency services are among the people that rely on that network. so they're asking people just to stay off those networks if possible. the u.s. embassy are advising people to stay where they are. this is a picture of a city that's essentially under a lockdown in many areas. calm, but unable to move around. and following the advice of the security services. in terms of the metro attack that we know that -- an explosion that's taken place on the metro still details emerges about that. but what struck me is the similarity similarity similarity of the possible attack and the way it's unfolded it's very similar to the 7-7 attack in london in the sense that it took place just before the morning rush hour. and there was a great deal of
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confusion about what had gone on initially. in the london attack it had been reported as a power surge because trains stopped, there was smoke, people didn't know what was going on. communication underground was impossible and people emerged from stations thinking there was a technical fault or a fire. only after a long time did it emerge there had been these terrible terrorist atrocities and certainly the pictures we are seeing of people being treated by paramedics on the sidewalks at the entrances to the stations does indicate this is merging to be something that was more serious than at first thought. but authorities still don't have all of information on that. but certainly the timing of it and the fact that it's coordinated apparently with explosions happening elsewhere does bear similarities to the 7-7 attack. >> do we have a sense of a time line when the first explosion happened and the time between the first explosion and the
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subsequent explosions we heard at the station? >> absolutely. it took place at the terminal shortly after 8:00 local time, around 3:00 a.m. eastern. it was in the half an hour after that that the reports started -- first report started to come in of what had happened on the subway. so the airport attack -- or the airport explosion was first. it was after that in the first hour after that that these reports started to come in of something taking place on the subway in central brussels. that is exactly the source of -- a series of explosions in many venues that authorities had feared and have prepared for and had put the city in lockdown back over the holiday period. as you recall when you were there. and you will recall how a city -- when the attacks never took place, the city returned to
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normal. it was a new normal inafter people got used to the terror threat. >> i'm going to ask you to stay with us. we'll come back, a lot more information. it's 5:30 on the east coast. we are covering breaking news out of belgium where there have been at least two explosions at the brussels airport. according to the federal police at least one person is dead and several others have been injured. all airport operation have been suspended. we understand that federal police have confirmed one explosion at the maelbeek subway station. smoke is coming from that station. according to officials, all public transportation in the city -- that includes buses and the tram metro system have been shut down until further notice.

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