tv The Place for Politics 2016 MSNBC March 25, 2016 7:00am-8:01am PDT
rash, hives, blisters, muscle pain with fever, tired feeling or blurry vision. common side effects are dizziness, sleepiness, weight gain and swelling of hands, legs, and feet. don't drink alcohol while taking lyrica. don't drive or use machinery until you know how lyrica affects you. those who have had a drug or alcohol problem may be more likely to misuse lyrica. now i have less diabetic nerve pain. and these feet would like to keep the beat going. ask your doctor about lyrica. hi, everybody. i'm thomas roberts. we begin with breaking news. several key developments unfolding right now in the war on terror and the brussels terror attacks. in just the last few moments, a senior u.s. official telling nbc's richard engel that isis's second in command, was killed in a raid by the u.s. yesterday morning, details on that coming ahead for you. but we go on to these breaking developments out of brussels and
new raids taking place as we speak in schaerbeek. this is the same area where the brussels attackers lived before carrying out tuesday's deadly bombings. also new this morning, nbc news confirming a u.s. based brother and sister were among those killed in the attacks. they have been identified as sasha and alexander pinczowski. a short time ago, john kerry met with belgium's prime minister in brussels paying his respect to the victims. >> on behalf of president obama and all of the american people, i offer our deepest condolences to the people of belgium and all of the families, all those individuals who have suffered an inconceivable loss in the last few days. >> we're also learning about a fifth suspect in the bombings from belgian media. those reports say police sources describe this fifth suspect as armed and dangerous.
belgian media also quoting police who say they detained seven people after raids throughout brussels, but the prosecut prosecutor's office has not given details on who was detained or whether they'll face charges or not. we're getting these new images from inside the attacker's apartment where authorities say the bombs used in the attacks were assembled. the apartment is located in schaerbeek. authorities said they found bomb making materials as well as nails and bolts. we have our correspondents in belgium. we want to start with ayman mohyeldin. he's in the schaerbeek neighborhood, the area where the newest raids are taking place. what can you report this morning? >> yeah, thomas. this is very an ongoing operation. we apologize for the shaky camera. we have been pushed back from the street where we were set up. you can see off to my shoulder in the distance, a variety of belgian forces currently working in this operation. what we have been able to see are explosive units.
the explosives teams responsible for detonating any controlled sustance or suspicious devices found. a short while ago, we saw members of the team get dressed in uniforms, the heavy ones, protective gear and moved some type of object onto the train tracks or rail tracks behind us. we also saw mechanical robot that is common with these types of scenes. now, police continue to push members of the media and the public back. a lot of folks here have been looking out from their windows down on to the scene of the ongoing operation. we have heard a few explosions over the course of the past few hours. cannot tell if those have been controlled or not, but they have happened not too far away from where we're standing. we're also hearing from one belgian security source who is telling us that an individual has been neutralized. that's not yet clear if the individual was arrested, detained or perhaps even shot. that information is still trickling in. the federal prosecutor has not commented on this specific raid
taking place. we're now an hour and a half or two hours into the ongoing operation. what we do no is over the past 24 hours several raids have taken place, including in the neighborhood of schaerbeek. last night, we also went to one of those raids or one of those operations. we saw belgian police there, tow away a vehicle that they were examining throughout the course of the night. but throughout the raids that took place yesterday, we understand that at least seven people were arrested. we don't know much about the identity of these individuals, but the federal prosecutor says in the series of operations that took place, a total of seven people were arrested. not yet clear if they're going to be charged with any type of activity or not. >> again, this is an ongoing raid right now. we saw the video of what's taking place with authorities on site. since before the capture of salah abdeslam, explain, or have the police explained how many raids they have conducted in this time period? prior to the attacks and now post-attack?
>> well, prior to the attack, most of the investigation and the raids that were taking place in belgium were in connection with the paris attacks. obviously, there was a lot of connections between what happened in paris and the fact that salah abdeslam and members of the paris cell were from belgium. that led belgian authorities to carry out dozens of raids in connection with the paris attacks. what we have seen in the course of the past several days in connection particularly with what happened here in brussel on tuesday, yesterday was a significant day in terms of ongoing operation. perhaps one of the busiest days for belgian police. shortly after the attacks on tuesday, belgian police were tipped off to the location where they believed the explosions or the devices that were used in the bombs were made. that was in schaerbeek. they raided that apartment. inside the apartment, they found large quantities of hydrogen peroxide, nails, screws. they found elements they believe could have been used in that explosive device that was used at the airport and at the subway station.
since then, the raids have now intensified. as we mentioned yesterday, there had been several raids, not just in brussels but also other parts of the country. and that's what's led to the arrests. this morning, this is perhaps a little bit of a unique situationen the fact the raid is taking place in daylight. last night, these raids took place later in the evening, perhaps under the cover of da darkness. this is somewhat of a unique situation since the paris attacks. as you can see, a big part of this area has been shut down. police have blocked several city blocks, if you will, from this particular neighborhood. we're in an area and that area now has been completely shut down as the ongoing operation continues. there are about five major roads that are pouring into this square, and all five of them, at least from where we're standing and can see, have been for the time being, blocked off for pedestrian traffic. this time of day, this area would be a lot busier than what we're seeing now. you can see as we have been reporting, that various members of belgian security agencies are
here on the scene. we have the police and further down closer to the scene of where this operation is taking place, we have the eod, which is the explosives ordinance division, responsible for trying to detonate or trying to diffuse any devices or bombs that may have been discovered on the scene during the operation. >> ayman mohyeldin reporting on site of the active raid taking place in the schaerbeek neighborhood. just after 3:00 in the afternoon there. come back if you learn new information about what's takes place. i want to bring in chris jansing for more on secretary kerry's visit to brussels and belgium's counterterrorism efforts and the confirmation about the brother and sister killed in the attacks. what more have you learned? >> sasha and alexander pinczowski, we learned it had been confirmed they died. they're new yorkers who are dutch citizens and were here visiting their parents. they were at the airport, and
apparently, on the phone with their mom just giving her a status update as they were going to be heading back to new york en route to a wedding of a friend in north carolina. when an explosion was heard on the end. they had not been seen or heard from since. and over the last three days, as you can imagine, it has just been hellish for their family and their friends, trying to find out exactly what had happened to them. this morning, the confirmation, the family released a statement saying that plans for their burial are now being made. she had gone to college in manhattan. she got a business degree. he had a longtime girlfriend of six years who has also been reported as his fiancee. she had been posting on facebook. you can imagine just how desperate those postings were, tr trying to find out what had happens to her longtime boyfriend. all of this being revealed as secretary of state john kerry arrived here to meet with officials both at the eu and officials here in brussels.
he came to offer his condolences. you heard him a little earlier on. also, he had time to sit down with our richard engel who talked to him about the ongoing war against isis. here's a little bit of that conversation. >> we have been told by an expert briefed on this case that the taxi driver who brought the militants to the airport heard one of them saying, anti-american things, on an anti-american tirade in the cab on the way to carry out the attack. it suggests that americans were at least part of the target. is that the working theory you have? >> i don't have a working theory, richard. when you say we have heard, as an old trial lawyer, you know, that's heresy of an order i can't even begin to wrap my hands around because i don't know who said it or whether they said it or whether it's true. i'm not going to speculate. there's no question that these
guys set out to kill people. and obviously, if they planted their bombs near delta and american and so forth, we weren't far from their minds, i would assume. that's my own assumption. it's an assumption. but i can't speak to what they said or didn't say in a taxi. >> do you think europe has a handal on the level of the isis infiltration? isis problem here? >> i think europe can do -- europe has done a lot. particularly the government of belgium has done a lot. before this event took place. they had already had our foreign fighter surge team her a month ago. they're the ones who apprehended salah abdeslam. that may or may not have initiated this. >> you hear him take about the foreign fighter surge team. that's a group of americans who have been put together and the belgians had specifically asked for this to help them in their
search for how to deal with foreign fighters. in the meantime, there are still at least two americans that are unaccounted for. this is the married couple we have talked about. justin and stephanie schultz. they're 29 and 30 years old. again, they have not been heard from since the incidents here. the deadly explosions here. they were waving good-bye, at the airport waving good-bye to stephanie's mother when they were last heard from. so one of the things certainly that secretary kerry will be doing while he's here is looking into the questions that are still being raised about americans who may be missing or even dead in this attack. thomas. >> chris jansing reporting there in brussels for us. thanks so much. i want to go to richard engel. we saw richard there in the sit-down interview with secretary of state john kerry. richard, you have more information now. this breaking news we just got in the last hour about the second in command of isis, killed in a raid. explain what your source or
sources have been able to explain. >> first of all, thomas, you may hear in the background some classical music. i'm here in brussels at a spot in the center of the city where people have been gathering to mourn, also to show resilience in the face of the attacks, and now they're being entertained by a classical music concert. just keep that in mind. about this breaking news, what we have been able to learn from a senior u.s. official is that yesterday morning, in syria, there was an american commando raid. u.s. special operations forces in that operation killed the isis second in command, most offer known by haji imam. this is the person who was until he was killed, the leader from isis who managed the day-to-day operations of the group. he managed the relations between the isis affiliates in iraq and
syria and libya. was a key link between the militants and isis' top leader, the amir himself. albaghdadi's pressure has increased on the group, has become more elusive, more of a fugitive, making it difficult for him to actually run isis. in his place, this man, until yesterday, was running isis. we were told -- i was told that the raid to kill him unfolded like this. in the early morning hours yesterday in syria, american commandos landed in a helicopter. they stopped haji imam's car. there was an attempt to capture him alive. the situation escalated, not sure exactly what happened there, but was told it escalated and haji imam and three others in the car were killed. some intelligence was gathered from the vehicle. but obviously, the attempt was
to capture him alive. and if that had happened, it would have been truly a gold mine of information considering his position. but nonetheless, it was a very significant blow to isis. just as people in this city and around the world were coming to terms with the isis tragedy that happened here. >> richard, are you learning from your source whether this was an active target to get him since the attack in brussels or something that had been ongoing prior to that? >> my understanding is that this was part of an ongoing operation. american special operations forces have been steadily increasing their presence, both in iraq and syria. there have been a number of raids in iraq and syria that we have reported on. there have been other raids we have not been reporting on. and there's been a consistent attempt to capture or kill
senior isis leaders. if you remember just a couple months ago, jihadi john, his nickname, the executioner of isis, was killed in a drone strike in raqqah. the isis finance minister also captured quite some time ago. and i think we're going to hear from the secretary of defense in a short time that the isis military chechen, was also recently killed by american special operation forces. a lot of pressure has been put on the group, with particular attention being focused on the inner circle. and this is -- this does disrupt operations for the group, no doubt. when i spoke to secretary kerry a short time ago, he said that because isis is under so much pressure in its home base, that's one of the reasons that the group is lashing out and carrying out external attacks like in paris and unfortunately like here in brussels a few days
ago. >> from that interview with the secretary of state, what was his characterization of current eu intelligence sharing and what needs to be enhanced to do that work better? >> well, he talked about how the u.s. is working, particularly to help address the foreign fighter problem. that is really the main challenge that europe faces. let alone its open borders and the migrant crisis. but particularly it's the thousands of european nationals who have traveled to join isis, almost always going through turkey, and then getting military training there, expertise in combat, in bomb making and coming back to europe. at one stage, many european officials thought that perhaps these isis leaders were returning and that it meant they were no longer active. i think that is no longer the case. these isis fighters who went to syria and iraq are coming back
with the intention of carrying out attacks back in their home countries here on the european continent. >> richard engel reporting in brussels. as richard mentioned, defense secretary ash carter will be holding a news conference in a few minutes with more about the raid. we'll bring that to you live. joining me now is former tsa administrator and head of fbi counterterrorism efforts john pistol. good to have you with me. we have an active raid taking place in schaerbeek, and nbc news has confirmed both the brothers in the attacks were on government terrorism databases. so we're watching this one raid unfold. but we know there are thousands of names on multiple databases. but explain why the eu has issues with sharing intelligence, specifically with other countries like belgium, to be able to crack down and capture these bad actors before they can act? >> yes, good morning, thomas. part of the challenge,
obviously, is you're dealing with other two dozen sovereign states that don't have a unified intelligence agency or a law enforcement agency such as the cia or fbi here in the u.s. so the question becomes, how do they best take disparate systems, both in terms of human collection, human intelligence, perhaps signals intelligence, how do they take that disparate information and then try to integrate it into a way such as we do with national counterterrorism center and make that into a meaningful product that can not only be a strategic view of what the trends are and risks to european safety and security, but then tactical information that can be used in an operational way such as might have been used in a way to prevent the attacks in brussels on tuesday. so it's a two-fold system of how do you collect and then how do you analyze, disseminate, share,
and operationalize all of that information. >> when we think about belgium and that country, are there privacy laws that are hamstringing their operations to be able to be more proactive? >> that's something we found obviously since 9/11 in terms of trying to share even just passenger name recognition, name records for people flying to the u.s. with just basic information, and that's between the eu and the u.s. but when you multiply that worldwide, you have people traveling from the middle east or north africa, who are using europe as simply a hop to the u.s., that compounds that. each country along with the eu has the privacy laws and that have provided challenges in the past. good news is they have been working through those with the u.s. state department, department of homeland security,
to operationalize information that could be of value in hopefully identifying and preventing attacks like this. but it is an ongoing process. >> richard engel sat down with secretary of state john kerry just a short time ago in belgium, talking about what needs to be done to enhance better eu intel sharing. take a listen. >> what does need to happen in europe, definitively, is the information sharing has to take place with respect to passengers on airplanes and with respect to the prior screening of people. if that were to happen, that would be a better leap forward for yoeurope, we believe. it's on the table, on the agenda. i believe european parliament may take it up in the next week or so. that is something we believe could help. >> so john, explain using america as a case study post-9/11. what they can learn and maybe implement moving forward to recognize that certain security
protocols in our country might benefit crippling terrorism in their own countries. >> there's a couple good points that secretary kerry raised there. one is just the underlying data you have for passenger travel. again, taking by air, with nearly two million passengers here in the u.s., post-9/11, of course, congress implemented laws that said anybody traveling has to have name, date of birth, and gender put into a database before they can fly. and that's used to ping against or compare against a terrorist watch list, which was nascent prior to 9/11, and then made much more robust. so with the 250,000 or so people who fly to the u.s. every day, those people also are compared to the watch list. euro europe, as the european union, does not have a unified watch list such as we have. and different countries have
varying levels of a terrorist watch list, and even though there's european police organization, that's not the same as what we have in the u.s. that's one issue. how do you unify terrorist watch lists, if you will, to compare against on the passenger name records that secretary kerry mentioned, that's another issue. each country, each sovereign state has their individual laws, which they have tried to cobble together through the european union process to say let's have a one-to-one interface with the u.s. in particular, but other foreign countries, so there can be a robust sharing of information which has always been problematic and frankly compounded by the post-snowden disclosures and everything. but working past that, how then can we have a one-to-one sharing rather than the two dozen plus sovereign states of europe, how does that work? so that's been an ongoing process, frankly, since the 9/11
commission recommended a number of changes, obviously, in u.s. construct and application. and europe has been making good progress, but unfortunately, as the prbrussels attacks show, i wouldn't be surprised if we see some type of 9/11 commission that is created to examine the shortcomings just as we had here following the 9/11 attacks and the question being, is it a european only, european centric, or eu centric type of 9/11 commission or do they broaden the scope to bring in outside experts, lessons learned, for example, from the u.s. john pistole, thanks so much. just to brief all of our viewers if you're just joining us, we're looking at live pictures out of schaerbeek, that's in a neighborhood right outside of brussels. an active raid going on right now. there were several overnight raids in this area. just after 3:00 there in the afternoon. this is also the area where
authorities have confirmed that the alleged attackers assembled the bombs that were used in the attacks. saying that the materials found in a certain apartment in schaerbeek for the bomb making materials included chemicals, nails, and bolts. they're on a different raid right now, according to ayman mohyeldin, where they have bomb detonating machinery on site. we'll have that and much more as we continue on a very busy friday morning. back in this country, we will have a briefing from defense secretary ash carter coming up shortly. the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, general joseph dunford, also from the pentagon, joining the briefing. they'll talk about isis. they'll also talk about the breaking news in the last hour, about the second in command leader in isis killed in a raid yesterday. much more ahead. stick with me. we've created a new company. one totally focused on what's next for your business. accelerating innovation.
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welcome back, everybody, to msnbc live. we have two different images on the stied of the screen, showing the active raid taking place in the schaerbeek neighborhood just outside of brussels where authorities had originally raided an apartment linked to the alleged bombers in the brussels attack where they found bomb making materials. this is an ongoing raid. a new one today after several overnight raids. keir simmons is live for us in brussels. can you talk about schaerbeek? the neighborhood itself, and what the characterizations are? i have heard some people say that these alleged isis attackers have petty records of crime that have now shifted into radical terrorist inclinations. so explain the two different patterns that are emerging from schaerbeek. >> well, right now, schaerbeek, as you can see from these
pictures, there is that ongoing raid. but it feels as if these communities here in brussels are subject to continual raids. overnight in the same area, there was a raid where seven people were arrested. now, we are hearing witness accounts that there has been an explosion. people are saying they have heard an explosion. the military are there. you can see from the pictures a large area is cordoned off. we don't know what they're doing, but clearly, we know broadly speaking, they are hunting for the suspects in connection with the attacks tuesday, even as far back as the paris attacks. talking to people in the communities you are told is that they are feeling under intense pressure by the police, clearly. also by the media. now they know they're in the spotlight. there are places where there is a very good deal of property. there are places where they are
a quite transient community. people moving in and moving out. the fact that in some parts of the city, the youth unemployment is 50%. those things are cited by people you talk to as part of the issue. at the same time, they tell you about that there were jihadist recruiters in these neighborhoods, openly recruiting people to isis. saying come and fight in syria. over a period of years. and now, many of those people are coming back into the communities, and their family and social ties are very, very strong. their friends and family are going to protect them potentially because family is more important, for example, than loyalty to the state, to the police. that isn't felt very strongly. moe of these communities feel as if they're subjected to unfair treatment by the police, by the state. it's a very difficult mix of people who have been to syria, who have come back, who are radicalized, islamized and at
the same time, these almost mafia-like communities that are protecting people because if you like, they're one of their own. >> very insuler, as we have been learning about this. salah abdeslam, who was captured last friday, had been able to resubmerge himself within this community after being involved in what we witnessed and covered in paris, the attacks that happened there in november. and being part of that. but explain also with the raids that are taking place now, there had been a time period from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. that raids could not be conducted. how has that shifted? >> well, look, i think the important thing for everybody here is to try to find the suspects in connection with the attacks on tuesday. because remember, when those attacks happened, they were out there investigating, trying to find suspects in connection with the paris atactions. there's a profound sense here that they really need to trace people before there is
potentially another attack. they need to establish whether the links are and what most importantly, i guess, what they don't know, who are the people who have come back from syria, been perhaps isis cells who are waiting to launch an attack, and people that they don't know about. so that has got to be the priority. that is certainly the focus. but there is also, by the way, thomas, increasing criticism of the intelligence services in this country and across europe. i think it's an indication of the disconnect between some of these communities and the broader state and country here, that those intelligence agencies have found it so difficult to get information. it's also an indication of how underfunded they have been, honestly, and the numbers of people who have been coming back, and the numbers of people you need in a security intelligence agency simply just to follow all of those folks. but we are hearing reports now, turkey is saying it warned belgium about one of those in
the paris attacks who, you remember, was blown up with a group in a suburb of paris after those attacks. turkey saying that it warned this country about him before those attacks. so there are real pressures, one minister here, for example, saying that he admitting some failures, saying he offered to resign to the prime minister. the prime minister coming back to him and saying, we don't want you to resign. we want you to concentrate on trying to solve the problem, on finding these people. >> we're watching on the left-hand side of the screen the active raid images on. the bottom right, waiting for ash carter to give a briefing from the pentagon. you bring up abaaoud, one of the masterminds in the paris attacks killed days after in a raid. the belgian raid issue, i think, for people to understand, that they were not allowed. there was a restriction against
authorities being able to conduct these raids between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., and koois i because there were so many raids that were being conducted and upending lives that this was a way to provide some type of order but also as you point out, a way to help with funding issues, that they didn't have the wherewithal to enact the intelligence services on the ground. >> yes, and i think, too, it's an indication of the way that politicians across europe have been scrambling to try to figure out how to tackle this issue, because on the one hand, they know that, well, people have said to us in these communities, they have said look, here are all the reasons we believe some of our young people have been recruited to isis. once they are recruited to isis, it's too late. you can't change that. it's very difficult to get someone out of that situation. the point is there is an understanding that you have to have a tough policing operation
to find those people and stop them and prevent them from carrying out the kind of attacks we know they want to. but on the other hand, people say, okay, but these kinds of police operations, the amount of pressure we feel under, can exacerbate the sense amongst particularly the young community that they are being treated as guilty before they even have a chance to prove their innocence or rather innocent until proven guilty. that, some argue, just increases the sense of alienation in communities. and sows the seeds for more people to be recruited by the jihadists. clearly, i said to one politician in this city yesterday, i said, look, all of that is fine, but the truth is there are many, many young people who are unemployed, who are without jobs, who are poor, who do not turn to jihadism. that cannot be the simple explanation. there are a multitude of reasons
why this has happened in this particular city, and a number of cities around europe. and some of it is just this perfect storm of the fact that these syria crisis, the syria several war has been happening within the distance that they can reach, and that they're able to come back again, and the fact that there is access to weapons and access to the materials to make explosives. >> keir simmons reporting on the scene in brussels. thank you, sir. again, we have been watching the active pictures coming to us out of the schaerbeek neighborhood where a raid is taking place. we saw police unloading privacy barricades, screens to give a proper work space. they loaded one back into the truck. and on the top of your screen, we're waiting for ash carter from the pentagon to give an updated briefing on what we know about what's taking place, the terrorist attacks that happened in brussels as well as the reports of the second in command from isis, killed yesterday during a strike. back with much more in a moment. ght,
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want to take you back to schaerbeek, the neighborhood just outside of brussels where there's an active raid taking place. this is the same neighborhood where they believe, authorities that is, believe that the attackers from the incident there in brussels used an apartment there with bomb making materials to craft the devices used. now they're back in a different spot. how close are they to that original apartment, do you know? >> it's about a five-minute drive. not too far away. schaerbeek is a pretty big district. it has small pockets of different neighborhoods. in this particular neighborhood, where we are in the past couple minutes, there have been heavier presence just in and around that particular area down by the tracks, the train tracks. not too far away from where we're standing. when we first arrived on the scene, about an hour and a half ago, we could clearly see the
explosive ordinance teams carrying out some kind of search. they were collecting some kinds of forensics on the tracks themselves. this was after reports of gunshots, reports of a detonated device. since then, you can see they have blocked off the entire street to prevent the media from shooting what is taking place down there. a suggestion this is now an active crime scene. information we have from one security source who spoke to us based on information they got from the special elite police force involved in these types of operations say at least one person has been neutralized. the suggestion being that one person was killed. what we sue on the tracks from our camera, we were able to see the explosives ordinance device as well as the mechanical robot, you know the men wearing the heavy gear, the protective gear, ontracks. as i was saying, they were gathering evidence, forensics and making sure there was nothing there dangerous. we're waiting to hear officially from the federal prosecutor's office or the belgian police
about the nature of what took place here. according to at least the eyewitnesses here, there was an explosion of some sorts, also gunshots of some sorts. as i was saying, we're getting a very preliminary report that at least one person was neutralized during this ongoing operation. still, the entire neighborhood where we are, this main intersection of streets, is still blocked off for cars to drive in and out. residents, a lot of people looking out of their balconies, trying to make sense of what's happening. the raid kind of unique in that it's taking place in daylight. there must have been intelligence that led them to the scene. we don't know if they were targeting a specific building or a person who happened to be in the vicinity. by the looks of what is happening on the scene, moe of the activity occurred outside of a building, not inside a particular building, thomas. >> real quickly, back to your reporting about one person being neutralized, according to
authorities. we had the belgian media saying police were also looking for a fifth suspect in the bombings from tuesday. do you know of any connection that this fifth suspect would have to the schaerbeek neighborhood? >> well, we know there are a few people that belgian authorities are looking for. obviously, everybody now recognizes what is known as the man in the light jacket. this was a man seen in the surveillance footage or photo released by belgian police. they have been looking for him actively since tuesday. they have not released his identity, his name. in addition to that, there is another individual that belgian police have an arrest warrant for. that individual, he is not necessarily known to have been connected to this brussels attack, but what we do know is he was wanted for his involvement in the paris attacks going back to november. that is based on the fact that there is footage of him with salah abdeslam at a gas station, and salah abdeslam obviously a person that belgian authorities
wanted in connection with the paris attacks. he was arrested last friday. there have several arrest warrants out for individuals and it's perhaps one of these people that was neutralized could be in some way connected to the brussels attacks or the paris attacks. we don't know yet. >> ayman mohyeldin reporting for us. thanks so much. also, we want to point out, we have been watching the live shot on the screen. this is going to be the press conference held by defense secretary ash carter and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, joseph dunford in a few moments. richard engel is in brussels and a sit-down with secretary of state, john kerry. and it was your reporting earlier talking about the second in command for isis being killed. and what does this mean in the grander picture of the war against isis when we have seen in the past folks that are willing to rise up, to take a spot of this person killed and continue their mission. >> no doubt there will be new
leaders to emerge within isis. but every time the u.s. military kills someone who is significant, who has a lot of battle experience, it sets the organization back. you have been showing that shot of the pentagon briefing room and those two empty chairs. i can tell you today in washington, across multiple agencies there has been a lot of discussion about this announcement. who is going to announce it, when, how strong is the language going to be? are they going to announce that it's 100% certain that they killed him? are they still going to be a little bit more cautious about making the announcement? if you remember a few days ago, the military came out and said that it believed that the military commander of isis was killed. a chechen. the isis went back, however, and said no, he's still alive. u.s. officials that i have spoken to still believe that the chechen, the military commander of isis, was in fact killed a few days ago.
but these kind of discussions are going on right now. i think that's probably a reason we're seeing the delay at the press conference. how far do they want to go? do they want to couch this language, move assets out of area to make sure there are no american or friendly personnel at risk because of this announcement? all of these calculations are under way right now. but what we are expected to hear any moment is ash carter and to make some sort of announcement confirming there was an american special operations raid in syria, thathe u.s. believes that the number two leader of isis, a man generally known as haji imam, was killed in the raid, there was an attempt to capture him and three other militants were killed. but a lot of conversations going on in washington over the last several hours about this very announcement. how far to go, what to say, and what to do to make sure that this announcement doesn't have negative implications.
>> and when we talk about the broader picture, especially from the u.n. aspect of this, richard, and talks of any type of cease-fire within syria, and the ongoing issues of what this means for folks that are caught in the cross fire of living through isis terror, iraq rebuilding, and syria, and bashar al assad, can you explain how that fits in to the broader picture? >> of course. there are two or more but two principle tracks in the campaign to defeat isis in iraq and syria. one is the military side. operations, air strikes, operations like the one yesterday morning early in syria when american commandos landed in syria and surrounded the car containing haji imam and killed him and others, and the many air strikes that have taken place. that's one side. the other political track is the
attempt to have a cease-fire, and an attempt to have a lasting political settlement. those talks are under way. there have been a round of talks in geneva, and now russia seems to be more involved than before, if you remember, russia stepped in to back up the regime of bashar al assad. now, russia pulled its troops, the majority of its troops out of syria. so russia's position is stronger at the negotiating table. the syrian government's position is stronger at the negotiating table. frankly, the political dialogue has thus far not reached much fruition. this conflict has been going on for five years. the region is awash with refugees. refugees still in the thousands are leaving those war zones and trying to make their way to europe and to safer land. and sometimes, unfortunately, isis is using this confusion to
sneak its militants across borders, to go back and forth to syria, to get training, to move personnel, and that is at the heart of the issue that europe is dealing with right now. >> richard, it seems like there's also this constant tit for tat when we hear about an exercise that would kill or capture someone who is operating for isis. and now, we'll go to this, and rich rd, we'll come back to you, if you can wait with me. we have secretary ash carter sitting down with general dunford. >> good morning. and thank you all for being here. i want to start by reiterating that our thoughts and prayers remain with all of those affected by tuesday's bombing in brussels. as you know, this tragedy has hit our military community as well. and our hearts go out to the injured airman and his family. like paris, brussels is a strong
reminder of why we need to hasten the defeat of isil wherever it exists in the world. today, the united states is as committed as ever to our european friends and allies. our enemies are one and the same. and together, we continue to do more and more to bring the full weight of our vast military capabilities to bear in accelerating the defeat of isil. after chairman dunford and i spoke with our commanders this morning, let me update you on some new actions we have taken in just the last few days. first, we're systematically eliminating isil's cabinet. indeed, the u.s. military killed several key isil terrorists this week. including, we believe, haji imam, who was an isil leader,
senior leader serving as a finance minister and who also is responsible for some external affairs and plots. he was a well-known terrorist within isil's ranks dating back to its earliest iteration as al qaeda in iraq. when he worked under zar kauai. the removal of this isil leader will hamper the organization's ability to conduct operations both inside and outside of iraq and syria. this is the second senior isil leader we have successfully targeted this month. after confirming the death of isil's so-called minister of war a short time ago. a few months ago, when i said we were going to go after isil's financial infrastructure, we started with a storage sites where it holds its cash. and now we've taken out the leader who oversees all the funding for isil's operations.
hurting their ability to pay fighters and hire recruits. as i have said, our campaign plan is first and foremost to collapse isil's parent tumor in iraq and syria. focusing on its power centers in raqqah and mosul. in syria, motivated local forces that we support recently took the town of shidaudy, repelled isil's counterattacks and ultimately severed the main artery between syria and northern iraq. and as a result, it's become much harder for isil's leaders and forces to travel between raqqah and mosul. i'm also pleased to see that iraqi security forces have moved from their staging base and are advancing to new positions as part of the early stages of operations to collapse isil's control over mosul. the u.s. marines we have sent
near mockmore, where staff sergeant carden gave his life, are now providing artillery fire at the request of the iraqis. to help support the isf advance against the enemy and protect their forces. so in both syria and iraq, we're seeing important steps to shape what will become crucial battles in the months to come. as our partners move forward, we're continuing to bring relentless pressure on isil commanders in mosul. and we have taken a significant number of actions this week. one of which i have already mentioned, but second, we targeted abu sara, one of top leaders charged with paying fighters in northern iraq. next, we targeted a number of isil associates who were directly involved in external plotting and training. and these precise actions came after recent strikes that destroyed a significant kwaunlt of improvised explosive devices
and bomb making equipment that could have been used against our partners headed for mosul. we believe these actions have been successful and have done damage to isil. as chairman dunford noted earlier this week, the momentum of this campaign is now clearly on our side. the united states military will continue to work intensively with our coalition partners to build on this progress as our counterparts throughout our governments work to defend our homelands at the same time. one final note before we turn to questions, yesterday, i spoke with my saudi counterpart, deputy crown prince and defense minister, we agreed to convene a u.s.-gulf cooperation council defense ministerial in riyadh ahead of president obama's participation in the usgcc's
leader summit the following day. this will be an important forum to build on our forum in brussels last month and to strengthen u.s. gcc defense partnerships including by reviewing and discussing the way ahead for joint regional defense initiatives that we all committed to during the 2015 u.s. gcc camp david summit last may. general dunford and i are now prepared to take your questions. we have limited time, but we are prepared to do that. i am going to ask you to respect the fact we're not going to go into further details about how the coalition conducted the operations i mentioned earlier. any more details than that could put lives and our future operations at risk, hinder the effectiveness of our campaign, so we're going to ask you to be restrained in that regard as we intend to be as well. let me ask the chairman.
>> i will just join you in expressing my condolence for those affected by the attacks in brussels, in particular, the families of the two americans lost and also to recognize staff sergeant carden, a great lead e who we lost last weekend in operations in iraq. >> mr. secretary, i realize you said you didn't want to go into more details. i was hoping you could confirm this happened in syria, the latest death of the isis senior leader was in syria, and more broadly, can you talk a little bit about, we all saw a lot of al qaeda senior leaders killed repeatedly over the years, the number three was killed, you know, every six months or so. what do you think this actual death suggests in terms of plots, particularly those involving the west? does it really mean anything, or do they simply just replace them?
>> okay. i'm turn it over to joe after this. >> general dunford, the marines -- >> why don't i take the first question first? on the question of leadership, striking leadership is necessary, but as you note, it's far from sufficient. leaders can be replaced. however, these leaders have been around for a long time. they are senior. they are experienced, and so eliminating them is an important objective, and it achiefs an important result. they will be replaced and will continue to go after their leadership and other aspects of their capabilities. i would say it's necessary, not sufficient nlt, but it's important. >> the marines this week in their support of the iraqi offensive operation, is this something we will see more of, do you think, as time goes on in the fight to get to mosul?
and can you talk about the accelerants the secretary has talked about before and whether this is a key part of what you want to see the military do more of in iraq over the next several months. >> we have talked for some months about setting the conditions for success in mosul and facilitating the iraqi forces and staging around mosul to isolate mosul. that has begun. the marines there were in direct support of that. we put the battery there to support the americans that are there, advising the iraqi forces. and also in a position to provide support to the iraqi forces. from my perspective, this is no different than aviation fires we have been delivering. this happens to be surface fires, but no different conceptualy than the fire support we have been providing all along. with regard to further accelerants, the secretary and i expect there will be increased capabilities provided to set the conditions for their operations in mosul, and those decisions haven't been made yet, but we
certainly do expect more of the kinds of things that we saw in ramadi. albeit a bit different, tailored for operations in mosul, but the primary force fighting will be iraqi security forces and we'll be in a position to advise and assist capabilities to make them successful. >> it appears to be part of more of a ground cambougombat role t have seen before. >> no, it's not. we have surface fires in al assad and other places for example and we have used the emin the past. so this is not a fundamental shift in our approach to support the iraqi forces. this happens to be what was the most appropriate tool that the commander assessed needed to be in that particular location. >> secretary carter, haji imam was in a iraqi prison up until 2012, released in 2012 shortly after u.s. forces were pulled out at the end of 2011. do you see this as a cautionary
tale for releasing these prisoners who are already caught and captured? >> a number of the leaders of isil were in detention in iraq back in former years, including the head of isil himself. an iraqi detention. so it is important that these are people who have experience. they're people who have shown dedication over the years. and that's why it's so important we eliminate them. >> does it give you pause about releasing prisoners from gitmo? >> as far as gitmo is concerned, that's the very reason why we need an alternative detention facility. to gitmo, because it's not safe to release everybody or transfer to the custody of another country everybody in gitmo. so that's the very point of that. >> general dunford, we have just heard this week there are actually