tv CBS Morning News CBS March 22, 2016 4:30am-5:00am EDT
this is a cbs news special report. good morning from studio 57 newsroom at cbs headquarters in new york. we have some breaking news out of brussels, belgium. this morning, there have been two powerful explosions at the brussels airport. the cause is unclear. charlie d'agata joins us on the phone. he is in belgium. he is on his way to brussels. charlie, give us the basics. what do we know so far about
anne-marie. the explosions happened around 8:00 local time. belgian media is reporting that there were two explosions, and we've seen some twitter feeds, we were racing last night to bruge for evening news, and we were racing through the airport. we had seen some twitter pictures of windows that had been smashed out. it apparently took place in the departure area of the brussels main airport. the entire place was evacuated. you've seen some pictures of this frenzied evacuation. now, some belgian media is reporting there could be several dead in these apparent explosions, or these explosions. and shortly -- a short time ago we're also hearing reports of another explosion at a subway station in brussels. this is a couple of blocks from the u.s. embassy. so it would appear that certainly the belgian police are
that are taking place this morning into an area that had already been in lockdown because of the tense situation over a high-profile arrest on friday. >> let's talk a little bit about that arrest, salah abdeslam, one of the key figures in the paris terror attacks. can you tell us about what happened on friday and how that all went down? >> reporter: yes. well, we got news that there was a major police operation taking place in the neighborhood of molenbeek in brussels. and there has been a four-month search for the last key surviving member of the paris attacks in november that killed 130 people. salah abdeslam. he was the only one to get away. and there's been a manhunt that has been going on from this isis-directed attack, one that isis claimed responsibility for, and that's an important thing to mention there. this is the only one that got away. they've been sevening for him for four months.
he tried to run out of the building. the anti-terror police right there, he was shot in the leg. he was dragged into a car. and then he was taken to a high-security prison in bruge. that's where we were last night reporting on that story. the concern after that arrest, and belgian authorities and french authorities put that warning out that this man has information on major isis players, key isis players. and there is a concern that once he started speaking to prosecutors and investigators, that he was going to -- he knows where everybody is. and there is a concern that those people might be going on the run. most importantly, the key figure that they're looking for now is najim laachraoui, the alleged bombmaker for the paris attacks. his dna was found at several locations from those attacks. and yesterday belgian and french authorities put out a sort of all points bulletin asking for
find this alleged bombmaker. obviously, the concern is not that he was involved in the paris attacks but that he may be involved in further attacks. i have to also add that when they arrested abdeslam, they also found that he had gone to a different location in some brussels neighborhoods where there were lots of weapons. that led them to believe that he was not only in hiding, but he was planning further attacks. so in that scenario, now we're threat. you have police in the areas like the airport and the neighborhoods, molenbeek and belgium, and that atmosphere that these apparent attacks -- we have to say that -- apparent attacks have taken place not only at the airport but maybe even at the subway station here this morning. >> in fact, charlie, we do have a report that is confirming that the explosion was heard at the molenbeek metro station in brussels. and that the area is now closed off.
morning three explosions, two at the airport, one at a metro station, a train station, if you will. you know, authorities in brussels must be coming under some sort of criticism at this point. i mean, not only were people concerned that salah abdeslam was able to leave france and go back into brussels, but that he essentially went back into his old neighborhood and was able to hide out for so long, but here we have what looks like -- now, we don't know if they were terrorist attacks, but we have three explosions taking place at a time when, you know, everyone would be on high alert, when authorities, you would think, would be -- would be ensuring that the public is safe. and somehow these explosions were able to be planned and pulled off. >> reporter: exactly. and all roads go back to molenbeek. it's outrageous.
outraged that they're very high on intelligence and surveillance, wasn't able to flush out a man who not only slipped away from the paris attacks, having survived, crossed the border back into belgium and found his way back to his old neighborhood of molenbeek. we've been in that neighborhood, obviously. we were here on friday just after the raid took place. it is walking distance from his family home. it's five blocks from the house he grew up in. but it also gives you an idea of this very tight community. molenbeek itself has been a hotbed of islamic extremism and a birthplace of jihadis for at least a decade. there are several international terrorist attacks that have led back to these streets of molenbeek. and as you said, if that is an attack at the train station at molenbeek, it just shows you that that is ground central for this fight that they're taking on. we spoke to french prosecutors and belgian prosecutors yesterday.
is this fight? how many more are out there when they announced they were looking for two more? they said we simply don't know. the french prosecutor told us that he's got 250 cases that are ongoing now, active cases, and they have 750 or so of people that are either in jail now, have been indicted, or are on the run, and they're searching for them. that gives you a level of the scale of the threat that they're dealing with in trance and in belgium. >> indeed. you know, just more on that molenbeek metro station, it appears to be close to the eu -- close to eu headquarters or at least eu institutions, which may be part of the reason why it was targeted. of course, it is in also molenbeek, so that would be in sort of, as you mentioned, ground zero for a lot of this stuff. you mentioned that salah abdeslam was making his way to an area where there were more
do you have any idea what was being stored and just how many weapons were available? >> reporter: yeah, well, you know, we have to rewind the clock back to november. so they immediately start this international manhunt. and they thought he may have even gone to make his way back to -- not back to, i should stress, going to syria because, again, we have to underline that this is an isis-directed operation in paris. so as they started clearing out, and there were dozens of raids, many of the hundreds of houses in these areas are all around brussels, not just in molenbeek. it was on tuesday that they found -- they were going into a place that they didn't think anybody was in there. there wasn't any electricity or power or water going into it. they thought it was an abandoned building. so it was what they would call a routine raid. and they entered that location. and they were fired upon. and there was one person who was killed and two people got away. and they thought that that was
they started tracing his phone apparently, we're learning, then got to this other location friday. that's when that raid took place. now, on that tuesday raid, they found reps. there are even reports that they found detonators there. that led authorities to believe that abdeslam was not only in hiding, that he had gone to ground, but he is still very involved in what may be further attacks. so it's in that environment, again, the search for the bombmaker, but when they went public for it yesterday, they clearly need help here. they haven't been able to find this guy. they're asking for the public's help. have you seen him? there are pictures that have been distributed to the media and other places looking for this man. that's how an immediate a threat it is. and then this morning we wake up to find out that there's been two explosions at the airport, station. you can imagine that the belgian authorities are reeling with >> yeah. we're showing some video of people running, just running from the airport.
speed like charlie said, we're looking at two explosions at the airport in brussels. the airport now is completely shut down. all flights to belgium have been diverted elsewhere. also, the subway system, the completely as well. another report of an explosion at the molenbeek metro station, buildings. so we're continuing to monitor that. essentially, the country has been shut down. a high state of alert, and authorities are trying to sort of get a hand on what has been unfolding all morning long. charlie, you're on your way to brussels now. i'm wondering, what is it like out there on the roads? i mean, can you see -- can you tell that something is occurring here in this country? >> reporter: well, we're racing
so we are in between bruge and brussels itself. so we haven't got into the city center so i can give you a flavor for what's going on there. but the reason that we're in bruge is because salah abdeslam, the paris attacker who was arrested on friday, he was transferred to bruge, which is a high-security prison. they don't have one of that nature in brussels, so they transferred him to a high-security prison, the place for high-profile prisoners, specially trained guards. all of his furniture and equipment has been bolted to the floor, and that has been where he's been kept. and it was after that arrest that the place wasn't already on alert, they cranked it up even higher. and now, as you said, it's at its highest threat level. and that will mean things like closing down the airport, things like closing down the public transport system. it would mean obviously a huge increased presence of police in public areas. but as we said, anne-marie, the place, after the arrest and
asking the public's help in the search for at least two high-profile isis suspects, it was already -- when we left brussels yesterday, last night, you'd see police everywhere, certainly around all the train stations. i wasn't out at the airport itself, but i imagine they were there as well, including a huge presence around that specific area of molenbeek, a brussels neighborhood in central brussels. a bit run down in places. this has been a hotbed of islam islamic extremism. from that area in brussels. so we're not just talking about belgium itself that has been attacked. we're talking about the paris attacks and others. >> yeah, charlie, we are learning now at least from a.p. is reporting that there were several injuries at the explosion -- at the metro station which is near the eu. we're also hearing from american
reports, cbs news has yet to confirm, but there had been some reports that the explosion, at least one of the explosions, at the airport occurred near or around the american airlines desk. american airlines has issued a statement saying that all of their employees and contractors are accounted for. so among those injured, among those injured or killed, at least, american airlines is saying that none of their employees are part of that, but there have been injuries at the metro station as well. can you remind us a little more about the suspects that brussels authorities had been searching for? they talked about this man who they believe was the primary bombmaker involved in the paris attacks. can you tell us what we know about him? >> reporter: yes. well, you know, this announcement came out from belgian authorities that there
public enemy number one is a man by the name of j najim laachraoui, after finding dna, they say, at several locations of those paris attacks where 130 people were killed. in addition to that, this comes after the arrest of salah abdeslam because it turns out that abdeslam was in a vehicle with laachraoui as they were traveling to parts of europe, notably hungary. i don't want to overcomplicate things, but where this all becomes connected is the migrant crisis that happened last summer when we saw so many people coming from syria. and i witnessed it myself. you know, one of those choke points was hungary. so when you start adding -- you know, connecting the dots, here you have the one person who did survive the paris attacks, salah
suspected bombmaker, najim laachraoui, headed down to hungary, it just gives you an idea of the network that they have to search for. but this is a person, not only was he the bombmaker, but he was clearly directed by isis, that's what they suspect. he clearly had strong ties to -- i'm sorry, i'm just getting -- he clearly had strong ties to the paris attackers. >> right. >> reporter: and if he's the bombmaker, he's clearly dangerous. and he's on the run. and he also, we point out, is the person they're looking for. every one of those explosive devices in paris worked. and having covered this person for as long as i have, they don't always work. they don't always go off the way they are planned, so this man knows what he's doing. >> yeah, indeed. and this has been a bit of a problem for authorities in
the porousness of the borders, the ability for people to travel down through turkey into syria and then come right back without them being able to really keep track of them. >> reporter: this is one of the major concerns. and both the belgian and french prosecutors noted that yesterday in a press conference that you have thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of unaccounted people. we know that they come from syria. we've interviewed them ourselves. and when you have something like 1.1 million migrants and refugees who have flooded into germany alone, i was at those checkpoints. they're not counting these guys in. the people that don't want to register, that don't want to identify themselves, won't. and then you have the smugglers network. and then you have people that are making false passports. and that, again, is part of this investigation. the one that they're looking for including najim is thought to have been traveling under a
forged belgian passport. this gives you an idea of the complexity and also the level of coordination from this isis-directed attack. i mean, they are taking advantage of everything. tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of unaccounted refugees, a highway stretching from syria to europe, and well-connected groups in places like molenbeek here in brussels and in france where they can move people and weapons in and out of these areas. i should also note coming off a report over the weekend that they found crates full of, you know, cell phones. just disposable cell phones. they know how to commute, disappear, move weapons back and forth, work detonators, they know how to make explosive devices using household items. the level of sophistication has shocked french and belgian intelligence officials.
are getting reports now out of belgium's public broadcaster that the explosion -- at least one of the explosions at the airport was indeed a suicide attack which means that -- >> reporter: okay. >> -- somebody walked in with explosives, you know, possibly strapped to them. it wasn't a matter of planting a bomb and walking away. just to bring everyone up to speed, what you're looking at now are images from brussels airport. there have been reports of two explosions there. we're now learning that one of those at least was the result of a suicide attack. other one. it occurred in the departure lounge. there have been some reports airlines desk. that has yet to be confirmed by cbs news. but american airlines issued a statement saying that all of their employees and their contractors are okay.
explosion at the molenbeek metro station. the train station there. the airport has been shut down. down. the photo that you're seeing right there is of the outside of the metro station. you can see there's some smoke billowing out. the metro station is also close to some eu buildings, possibly an eu headquarters there. this all is happening with the backdrop of a very high-profile ed connected to the paris terror attacks. and there was a concern that he as well as others were planning several other attacks when he was picked up on friday. he is now in custody. salah abdeslam. but belgian authorities say that they were searching for others including a man who is known for his bomb making skills. charlie d'agata is on his way to brussels right now.
morning long about the challenge that authorities are facing. it seems like this neighborhood, mollenbeck, has become a hotbed for jihadists who are able to move back and forth throughout the borders, across europe into syria and make their way back. and charlie, it has become very challenging for authorities to sort of break into this community. i mean, i think a lot of people would find it very surprising that, you know, this man, salah abdeslam, who was probably one of europe's most wanted was able go right back to his neighborhood. exactly. right under the noses of anti-terror squads. this would have been one of the most spied-on areas in the world because of the number of terrorist attacks that all lead back to mollenbeck. now, we spoke to the mayor. they said, look, you can't search every house.
that area itself. and in speaking to the home secretary, i asked what everybody's asking, what took so long? and he said, we really don't understand the complexity of the network here. that they are able to communicate without being surveilled, that the neighborhood itself is very tight. we spoke to georgetown professor who was featured in last night's report, and he said they do not snitch on their neighbors. and the reason is these are brutal people. these are people that killed 130 people in paris. they're not about to pick up the phone and call the police and say, yeah, he's down at the end of my street. i know where this person is. so you not only have an allegiance, a loyalty to the people in that neighborhood, but you also have a level of fear. but still, people here in belgium are outraged to find that this person is the only one to get away from the attacks in paris, salah abdeslam, not only
but he was hiding out in an area that is five blocks from where he grew up. now, i have to stress that the belgian prosecutor said we are just assuming that he was there the whole time. you know, he's been on the run for four months. maybe he just reappeared. his fingerprints have shown up on a couple of residences in that area. but we don't know. as he said yesterday in his words, there's no gate on dna and fingerprints. we don't know when he was there or if he had been there for four months. but they think that he wasn't just in hiding, but he may have been planning further attacks, and that triggered this national -- international manhunt for najim laachraoui, the alleged bombmaker, obviously connected with abdeslam and connected to the paris attacks. and it was literally just yesterday, they said we need help finding this man. and then today they're dealing with what they're dealing with. i guess the nightmare scenario
out there and he was making bombs, how many suicide vests are out there? where are they? >> indeed. >> reporter: how are they moving? >> exactly. just to bring people up to speed, what you're looking at here is the exterior of a metro station i believe in mollenbeck where an explosion has occurred. you can see the smoke coming out. and this is close to the eu headquarters. we're hearing that eu -- the eu has asked for its employees to stay home, not come to work today. that's one ex- plosion in brussels. what started this whole thing off, though, were reports of two explosions at the airport we are now learning that there was at least one suicide bomber at the airport. you're watching video of people quite literally running for their lives out of the airport. the airport is completely shut down. in terms of number of injuries and number of people dead, that still has yet to be confirmed.
dead at the airport, and there are several injuries. the a.p. is reporting that at the metro station, people were seen with facial injuries. at least one person removed on a stretcher. just a lot unfolding now in brussels. and in terms of security, they are on high alert. the airport is completely locked down. the metro station is completely locked down. and things are very, very tense. just to bring you up to speed once more, two explosions at the airport. one explosion at a metro station close to the eu headquarters. and a lot of very, very, very tense, on-edge people in brussels today. charlie, you know, when i think about the fact that salah abdeslam is now in bruge in prison, yet -- now, we don't know how coordinated these attacks are, you know.
but i would think of him as he's called the mastermind, one of attack. he would be the ringleader. removing him clearly did not slow anything down if, in fact, these explosions are all connected. which i would think would have authorities thinking, there are other people out there, other people who can pull the strings, other people who can take over in terms of ordering a suicide bomber to move into place like it's believed a suicide bomber was at the airport or somebody else to plant a bomb. >> reporter: yeah. it just shows you the level of sophistication and coordination with this isis network. you know, the french and the belgian prosecutor both said that this is ongoing. they're not just dealing with this one terror cell. the one remaining survivor. if you take care of that terror cell. no, they're talking about multi terror cells.
to us and others here in belgium is not only was this man in hiding in that neighborhood, abdeslam, his fingerprints were found at a place where they found, in the words of the french prosecutor, lots of heavy weapons. they found detonators. so this wasn't a man who just went to ground. if he's on the run from authorities, you would imagine he'd still be involved in isis operations. he would just be too hot. there would be too much attention on him. it seems that was the case. certainly wherever he was hiding, further operations were being planned, that's what they believe. so yes, if you arrest somebody like abdeslam, the person he's identified he's running with, he was thought to have gotten the detonators for the paris attacks, shuttling fighters back and forth. france. french prosecutors said he was supposed to blow himself up at the stade de france, but he backed out. according to abdeslam himself. the conversation that he had. so yes, you arrest somebody like
known isis cell directed from isis headquarters in syria, and then the next day, you have what appears to be another active cell ready to go that quickly. people that have suicide vests already in place and suicide bombers. that's important, too. they have suicide bombers who they have weapons. places. and not only get to places, but anne-marie, as you said, the whole place at a heightened level of security since the arrest on friday. so places like the airport, you would have thought, and places like the metro station and other areas, they have an increased security presence there. even with that increased security presence, they know how to get around it, apparently. apparently, that's what's happened today at the airport. >> yeah. you know, i've heard people before, you know, use a phrase along the lines of you cut off the head of the monster, and
just to give you a few more details here in terms of confirmation as we're getting it in, belgian broadcaster vrt is saying that 13 are dead, 35 severely injured. now, we're not sure in terms of the location, but i'm going to presume that that's at the airport. the belgian crisis center has confirmed that there were two explosions at the brussels airport with several victims. and also that the explosion happened at the departure hall. charlie, i know that you're on your way. we may come back to you now. i just want to talk to suzanne lynch. she's from "the irish times." suzanne, can you hear me? >> yes, good morning. >> give us an idea of what your location is, and what have you been hearing? >> i'm here in central buflz russels just south of the city. like all journalists, i got the story many morning, immediately
but as soon as this story started emerging, we began to hear other stories in the center of brussels. it looks like there are at least two parallel incidents going on now. at least 10, maybe 13 according to some reports now, people have been killed this morning in attack at brussels airport which is to the east of the city. but now there's also been incidents in some of the metro stations in the center of brussels, particularly a metro station that's just 500 meters away from the headquarters of the european union institutions. so it's very much a developing and very worrying story here this morning in brussels. >> so suzanne, are you hearing that more than one metro station may have been attacked? >> yeah, there are some reports that up to four have been attacked, but that is not clear because there have been live pictures from the metro station. one metro station melbeck has been attacked. the next-door station which is right at the eu institution,
there has been an attack there. however, it may well be that people have moved along the tunnel and come up out of the shuman entrance if you like. these metro stations are extremely close together. so we're not actually sure, in fact, if there was a separate explosion or just at melbeck station. there's definitely something happening there. smoke can be seen emanating from that station. >> now, suzanne, you're based in >> yes. yeah, i live here, covering for the "irish times" newspaper, so i've been here for over three years. >> give us a sense of what the mood has been like since friday, since that high-profile attack of salah abdeslam, a key figure in the paris attacks. were people nervous, or were they relieved to hear about this arrest? what has the mood been like in brussels? >> i think what happened last week when these arrest happened,